Anna Maria Locke

The stuff no one tells you about having a miscarriage

2018Anna LockeComment
Miscarriage is birth and death simultaneously...ecstatic connection and unquenchable loss. The uterus dilates and contracts, as in the process of birth. In its wake follows an ancient grief, the grief of grandmothers and women who have lived before, pouring forth…
— Tami Lynn Kent, Wild Feminine

Trigger warning: in case you can’t tell by the title, this post talks about miscarriage and is relatively graphic so if you are currently sensitive about those kinda things, feel free to stop your scroll!

In May, I had a miscarriage.

It has been equal parts the worst thing that I've ever experienced, and the most fascinating thing I've ever experienced.

I'm ok. 

I'm ready to share.

I know getting this off my heart will make me feel better, as well as provide encouragement and solidarity (or at least TRUTH) to other women, so cheers to facing and moving through discomfort and hard shit!

That’s the purpose of this post.

I'm writing this for my own benefit and healing, as well as to provide a resource for other women going through miscarriage, or who know a friend who has gone through it. Besides the hot mess vortex of message boards or the cold and clinical medical perspective, it’s hard to find a blog post or resource that tells you exactly what happens when you go through a miscarriage, especially the physical side of things, and especially if you don't know of any family or friends who have gone through it too.

It blows my mind how common miscarriage is, and yet how no one talks about it! Until it happened to me, I knew literally 4 women who had gone through this. But when it happens to you, it's like you join a secret club and you learn that a large percentage of all woman over 30 that you know (especially mothers of multiple children) has had at least one loss too.

I want to talk about the stuff no one talks about.

The stuff that happens to us, for us, and by us on this crazy adventure called life. Because we're never alone, and when we speak our truth, we open the door for so much magical healing and connection.

Here's what I've discovered and learned in the past two months (that have felt like two years):

First of all, no one tells you that the typical 40 week countdown of pregnancy starts with the first day of your last menstrual cycle, NOT the date of fertilization or even ovulation, so by the time you find out you’re actually pregnant you’re already 4-5 weeks along.

No one tells you that getting pregnant is actually a little more complicated than you’ve been led to believe by your high school health instructor.

How awesome would it be if high school girls were taught menstrual cycle awareness in health class, not just about abstinence and STD’s? If we learned how to understand and appreciate our complex yet powerful bodies? That would be so empowering.

Instead, we spend decades actively trying to prevent pregnancy and feeling paranoid, living in fear, suppressing and hiding our natural cycles with pills and hormones, when really we’re only fertile for a short window of a few days each month and our eggs only live for 12-24 hours after ovulation. Men, on the other hand, are fertile 24/7 and can shoot a load of sperm practically on demand … but of course birth control, reproductive rights, and fertility are not considered MALE issues by society, the medical community, or politics. Le sigh.

I found out I was pregnant April 5th.

We had just returned from Hawaii back to the cold, rainy Chicago and it felt like my jet lag wouldn’t go away. I was exhausted and due for my period to start, had extra sore breasts and was a few days late but my cycles range from 29-36 days so wasn’t overthinking it. My friend Deidre was convinced I was pregnant so I took a pregnancy test, and sure enough saw a suuuuuper faint line on the pee stick. Apparently ANY line, even a faint one, indicates the presence of hCG hormones aka pregnancy.

A lot of pregnancy feels like your life has become a string of days spent trying to impatiently pass the time between doctor’s appointments. It is the craziest most frustrating feeling to not be able to do anything except trust things are developing fine until you have your first appointment or ultrasound. I find it extra crazy that in our society you have to keep your pregnancy a big secret until you’re 12 or 13 weeks and have made it through to the safety of the second trimester, when risk of miscarriage is very tiny.

I understand and respect why women want to keep the news a secret until it’s “safe” to share, especially if it involves your job or workplace. At the same time, I think it is complete and total bullshit that the whole time you’re trying to conceive through early pregnancy -- a period of time that lasts at least several months up to years on end -- is such a taboo hush hush period of time in a woman’s life. This is the time we should be rallying together to support each other and celebrate our womanhood regardless of what happens, NOT the time we need to feel isolated and alone!

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But back to the story.

I was pregnant.

We gave it a nickname.

I downloaded all the pregnancy apps and read all the pregnancy books. (Highly recommend Expecting Better if you're a paranoid hypochondriac like me!)

I stopped going to hot yoga.

My boobs grew an entire cup size which was awesome, not gonna lie.

I had the WORST food aversions to vegetables, chicken, and leftovers, and only wanted to eat cheeseburgers and fries and oatmeal. So many fries.

I didn't experience the extreme fatigue I'd heard about, but my energy was definitely lower and I was incredibly spacey. It felt like I usually do during my period, except extra strange.

We spent an entire evening picking out baby names.

We broke the news to our parents over my birthday weekend and celebrated with my mom and dad here in Chicago.

We told Ben’s grandma that only the best grandmas are promoted to “great.”

We planned to tell my grandma when we visited her in the Quad Cities over her birthday/Mother’s Day weekend.

I started mentally rearranging my work and travel schedule over the next year.

We started mentally rearranging our furniture so we could convert my office into a nursery.

And FINALLY around what would have been my 8th week I went in for my first ultrasound appointment to get a more accurate estimated due date.

You can usually detect a heartbeat and see an embryo via vaginal ultrasound at around the 6 week mark, so I was nervous and excited to finally see something, make this pregnancy feel real, and confirm there was actually something growing inside of me and I wasn’t just having what felt like a bad hangover 24/7.

Another thing they don’t tell you - to measure and view your reproductive organs and embryo they do an internal ultrasound which means a giant wand is shoved right up into your vajay. I had experienced this before so luckily it wasn’t an unexpected suprise! Yay womanhood.

So I go into this ultrasound expecting to see a little jellybean hanging out inside my uterus.

Instead, all to be seen was a yolk sac - the precursor to an embryo, and everything was measuring at about 5 and a half weeks along. The tech didn’t seem concerned because this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, it usually means I must have ovulated and conceived later than we thought.

But it was still a pretty crushing shock, especially since I had been so in tune with tracking my fertility and knew deep down that something was wrong.

I scheduled a follow up ultrasound the next week to see if the embryo had developed (they grow fast!), and also had my hCG or pregnancy hormones tested to make sure they were increasing.

That next week was the longest 8 days of my life.

I spent way too many hours on the internet, binging on message threads and reading about other women’s experiences. I know this doesn’t sound like the best thing to do, but I really needed to feel like I wasn’t alone.

It was so hard to have zero control over the situation, and impossible not to worry.

To make matters more stressful, a few days later I started to spot. Again, spotting in the first trimester doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong, but it wouldn’t go away. And then it turned into light bleeding. And then my nausea let up and my breasts stopped aching. I tend to be a hypochondriac, but I still knew that it was ending.

I journaled a list of all the things I could do this summer if I wasn’t pregnant.

Get back to my high intensity workouts.

Lose the 10 pounds I’d put on.

Drink all the beer and margaritas.

Have energy to pour into my business goals.

The following Thursday Ben took the morning off work so he could come to the follow up ultrasound with me. I was bracing myself for the worst, and just wanted to know what was happening and gain some certainty over the situation.

I didn’t think of it as “preparing for bad news” because miscarrying didn’t seem bad or wrong to me, it was just neutral.

The ultrasound did show that a fetal pole had developed (the first stage of an embryo), and the tech could detect a slight fluttering she measured as a heartbeat, but it was extremely slow, and everything was still measuring at only 5 and a half weeks along even though I should have been over 9 weeks by then. So yay growth! But …

I feel extremely grateful for our ultrasound tech, she was a mom herself and so friendly and positive and told us we still shouldn’t assume the worst until we got the results of my blood test back.

So we went home to wait for the doctor to call since I chose the earliest possible ultrasound and the office wasn’t even open yet. Annnnnd then the attending OB was called into an emergency delivery. So I had to wait for several hours. My bleeding kept getting worse and worse, so I knew what was happening before she called back and shared that my hCG levels weren’t rising and that I would have a miscarriage. She said it was ok to pass everything at home, but to go to the emergency room if I started bleeding very heavily.

I didn’t really have any feelings at that point, I was just grateful to have answers and know what to expect, or at least to know what was happening. After the longest week ever of worrying it almost felt like a relief.

Except then I just had to sit around and wait for the miscarriage to actually happen, and had no idea what it would be like or if I’d have to go to the ER.

Ben went into school to teach his afternoon classes but my friend Amanda came over to be with me, and we sat on the couch and binged American Idol because watching talented teenagers chase their dreams was just what I needed to escape my reality.

Amanda eventually had to leave for work too, but I felt stable enough and although I had started to cramp, it wasn’t unbearable pain.

Pretty soon after she left, I went to the bathroom and passed a small gush of blood and two larger globs of tissue, which wasn’t as traumatizing as I had feared but still the saddest thing that had ever happened to me.

So at 7:45am that morning I learned our little tadpole had a heartbeat of 58-62 bpm (for a healthy baby it should be at least twice that).

By 4pm in the afternoon I was flushing it down the toilet.

That is what crushes me the most.

After that the bleeding never got worse, so I had Ben pick up my favorite burger and fries on the way home (my biggest pregnancy craving), and we cracked open two cans of bubbly we had in the fridge because I honestly just wanted to drink.

It was the saddest and most surreal day of my life.

Side note: having a miscarriage three days before Mother's Day?


But wait, there’s more! The miscarriage doesn’t end when you pass the tissue and fetus!

Everyone is different, so there’s really no way to tell what will happen to your body. Sometimes you need to have a “D&C,” short for dilation and curettage, where they literally dilate your cervix and suck or scrape out the remaining tissue if your body doesn’t pass it on its own.

I didn’t need a D&C because my bleeding was never too crazy heavy, so I let things happen on their own time. It still took me almost two weeks to stop bleeding. It was like the neverending period from hell.

Think of it this way: when you have a regular period, you’re shedding your uterine lining that has been building up for 10-14 days or so. When you have a miscarriage, you’re shedding the fetal tissue PLUS the uterine lining that has been building up for weeks and weeks to make a nice cushy home for your baby.

I went in the next week for a check-up, and my doctor removed some of the remaining tissue which might have helped reduce my bleeding, but then I just felt like someone had punched my uterus from the inside for the next couple of days.

And then the following weekend (so 8 days afterwards) I flew to Florida for a retreat with some of the health coaches on my team. I knew a good girls weekend would be really good for me, and it was, although I was so depressed even hanging out with my squad couldn’t really lift my energy. I also avoided the pool or ocean because I didn’t want to risk infection, which was kind of a bummer. At least I could drink my fave kombucha margaritas! At risk of sounding like an alcoholic, being able to have margaritas this summer has been the biggest consolation.


Monday morning we planned to clean up the AirBNB, before flying back to Chicago that afternoon. At around 7am I started having cramps again, and they quickly intensified to the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I’ve never felt anything like this before and now I’m curious to actually go into labor to compare the feeling, because it felt like I was having contractions.

Every 30-45 seconds or so the pain would ease up for 5 seconds, and then another wave would hit. This went on for a little over 2 hours and I didn’t know what to do. I took three ibuprofen which seemed to do absolutely nothing for the pain. I tried to drink a little water and eat half a banana, which I promptly vomited right back up. I felt like I was literally in hell. Couldn’t think, couldn’t move, couldn’t talk. The weird part was that my bleeding never got worse - if anything, it was lightening up.

I called my doctor’s office to see if they could remotely prescribe me some pain killers but they told me all I could do was get to urgent care and then come in when I got home. So Amanda (who I am starting to think of as Saint Amanda) drove me to the nearest urgent care, where they gave me a shot of pain reliever (in my butt, HAHA) and a prescription for Vicodin so I could survive the plane ride home.

Within an hour the cramps eased up (PRAISE THE RISEN CHRIST) and I never ended up needing anymore meds, although I started to cramp again around 3am the next morning by the time I finally made it home (oh yeah, after an 8 HOUR FLIGHT DELAY, go figure) I popped a few more ibuprofen and went to sleep.

I think it was my uterus saying “F this sh*t, I’m done” and taking one last stand to expel any remaining tissue because after that the bleeding stopped fairly quickly.

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Stuff no one tells you about having a miscarriage:

No one tells you that if you let things pass on their own, the tissue you’re losing might start to smell STANKY, sort of like rotting meat. Because that’s literally what it is. (I warned you this was gonna get graphic!) But NO ONE TOLD ME THIS and WebMD told me a bad smell was the biggest sign of a uterine infection which can spread to your blood, make you infertile, and cause all sorts of deadly complications. So of course I lived in a state of paranoia for several days, convinced I was going to die.

No one tells you that your hormones will go crazy as you have the biggest hormone crashes of your life. Your body thinks that it’s having a baby. You might experience the worst depression or mood swings ever.

No one tells you that getting your period back might not make you feel happy. It might make you relive the miscarriage again and make you feel like you’ll never stop bleeding. It might make you sad that your body is back to “normal” like your pregnancy didn’t even happen, like it was all a dream.

No one tells you that it will feel like a knife to the heart every time another friend announces their pregnancy on Facebook. And that it will seem like EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER is getting pregnant.

No one tells you that social events will be excruciating. Having to make small talk and pretend that everything is fine when on the inside you are falling to pieces.

Things that have been interesting to discover:

Your maternal instincts kick in as soon as you know you're pregnant. It doesn't matter whether or not you have a "real baby" or even an empty gestational sac inside of you, or if you're even excited and happy to be pregnant. You will love that theoretical baby with all your heart and soul.

I have felt a new range of emotion deeper than anything I’ve experienced before, like a new level has been unlocked in my creativity, feminine power, and general humanity. By expanding our capacity for grief and pain, I believe we inversely expand our capacity for joy and love as well. At least that’s what it felt like for me, and the thought of being able to hold that limitless joy gives me a lot of hope.

I’ve also been interested to discover my deep resistance to expressing negative emotion. My first instinct when sharing my sad news is to apologize for bringing down the vibe of the conversation or group. WHAT? 

I have this deeply rooted fear that if I allow myself to be depressed, angry, or sad, I’ll be rejected - by society, in my job, even by my husband. I know this sounds crazy when you write it out, but inside my crazybrain the fear is real and has triggered some deep opportunities for emotional healing.

This has allowed me to re-frame how I relate to my job as a coach - it’s not just about being a beacon of positive energy. Coaching is about keeping it real, holding space, and sharing the full spectrum of human experience.

It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be “low vibe” if that is in alignment for you.

We HAVE to process our feelings, if we shove them down and ignore them it’s like trying to hold a beachball underwater, it will eventually pop up and explode unpredictably.

It is important to be vulnerable and open up in order to receive support and experience connection.

I do NOT feel like my body failed me, or blame myself at all, which I was relieved to discover. It’s tempting to want to second guess every decision we made or drink we had before we knew we were pregnant, or feel like a failure when we have a miscarriage, but our bodies are resilient and it’s actually pretty rare to miscarry an embryo or fetus if you and the baby are healthy and everything is developing normally. Most miscarriages happen because of chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo, and the embryo basically aborts itself since it won’t be able to grow and develop. I trust that this wasn't my fault, and that it was just one of those random shitty things that happens for no apparent reason.

In the end, I am so incredibly grateful that it’s literally my job to take care of myself, and that through coaching I’ve built a community of other women to support me through the ups and downs of life. A few of my clients had miscarriages earlier this year, so being able to connect with women who have been through the same thing has helped so much. Finally, the ability to stay home and take care of myself without having to use up sick days or go back to work before I was ready has been a huge ginormous blessing.

I am grateful that I know my body CAN get pregnant (although knowing this doesn’t make loss any easier or less sad), and I’m grateful to have had the fascinating and miraculous experience of pregnancy for five weeks.

And I am SO GRATEFUL for all the work I’ve done with menstrual cycle awareness, it has given me such an appreciation for my body and allowed me to enjoy getting my period again each month because it meant another month I could experience my full cycle! I actually love being on my period because it’s my time to chill, rest, and do deeper visioning and inner work. My entire business and creative flow revolves around my cycle and I knew I’d actually miss it once I was preggers.

I actually did get my period back this week, just 26 days after the miscarriage. It’s definitely been heavier and crampier than normal, but I’m glad my body is getting itself back on track. My energy has also been improving, and I feel a little physically and emotionally stronger every single day.

I’m not sure when we’ll start trying to conceive again.

For now, I want to enjoy the summer and be fully present in the moment. Despite the grief and hormonal craziness, having my body back just for me again feels really good right now.

If you want to follow along with my journey, I share more personal updates and real talk on my Facebook page, and especially inside my private wellness community which you’re welcome to join here! It’s a positive, encouraging space to connect with other women who are working towards embodying our best selves every day. And in case I haven't emphasized it enough, COMMUNITY IS SO FREAKING IMPORTANT!!

Thank you for listening and allowing me to share my story.

xo Anna

p.s. If you're wondering what to say to a friend who has experienced miscarriage (or basically any kind of loss), a simple "I'm so sorry for your loss" and a giant hug are the best :)

Also "do you want to talk about it? Because I'm here to listen" (when you are actually in person//on the phone).