According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only 1% of women experience repeated pregnancy loss.
Of the approximately 3,418,059,380 women on Earth, that's about 34,180,594 women.
For perspective, that's about the size of one large town or very small city... compared to the population of the entire world.
People talk about miscarriage or pregnancy loss being a lonely experience. When a woman loses a pregnancy, other women start to creep out of the woodwork sharing their stories of what their own loss was like. It's true that miscarriage itself is fairly common - more so than most people think. It's estimated that 10-25% of pregnancies end in the first trimester. 10% of those are molar or chemical pregnancies, lost so early that many women never even knew they were pregnant.
Losing a pregnancy is hard - really hard. It's an experience that can gut you, whether you are 2 weeks along or 20. Still, I would be lying if I said that I felt much camaraderie at this point with other women who have experienced early pregnancy loss. It's not that I don't have empathy for their pain. Believe me, I do. It's just that my experience and my perspective has changed so much between the first and the last.
Now that I've lost three pregnancies in a row (four total in my lifetime) I feel as if I'm living on an island in the middle of the ocean. How can anyone understand the layers of fear, grief, and guilt that I wear everyday like so many uncomfortable sweaters? People reach out, and I appreciate the intention, but they don't know what to say. How could they know what to say?
I visited my OBGYN for the post-op followup two weeks after the D&C. When I ended up bursting into tears she put her hand on my shoulder and told me, "It gets better." I fumbled with words to form a reply, and simply shook my head muttering, "No. It really doesn't."
That sounds pretty defeatist, I know, and I'm not trying to say that my feelings will never recover from these losses - just that they will never recover entirely. After going through this so many times I know how it works. The pain doesn't go away, but you do learn to live with it, and in time, after it becomes a more quiet part of yourself, LIVING with it gets easier.
Eventually you find yourself paying less attention to the grief and focusing on other things instead. There's a bit of guilt that goes with that part, as if finding joy without your baby means you loved them any less. Grief is a complicated thing. That's why I say you LEARN to live with it. You don't start out knowing how.
One question I ask myself now and then is whether or not the losses have gotten any easier to endure. Being honest with myself about that helps me make decisions about how I'm going to move forward. It's part of how I wrap my head around the risk of trying again. The answer is a mixed bag. The pain of each loss is unique, and while it isn't something you can measure exactly, I am confident in saying that they all hurt just as much as they could.
The only thing that gets easier is the learning curve for living with that pain. There's more pain to carry each time, but each time I learn more about how to cope with it, how to move on and find joy in the good things still in my life. While that does give me some confidence that I would survive another loss, I know in my heart that there is a limit to how much pain I can carry, no matter how well practiced I become at shouldering the burden.
Some day soon I will cycle again and decide whether or not to roll the dice one more time. Until then, I'll simmer, practicing living with grief and collecting pieces of joy as I find them.