How I Learned to Trust My Body Again After a Miscarriage
Including the five expert-backed tricks I used to shift my mindset—and ultimately get pregnant again.
For my 30th birthday last July, I received the best present in the world: My husband and I found out we were pregnant after six months of trying. It was a muggy midsummer evening, and we lay on our Edison light-lit porch looking at the fireflies and dreaming about our future. I had an inkling it was a boy, while hubby guessed girl. But it didn't matter-we were going to be parents.
About a week later, I woke up in the middle of the night with sharp cramps and ran to the bathroom. I saw a speck of bright red blood on the toilet paper, and while in my heart I knew, I tried to go back to bed.
The next two hours I was up tossing and turning, the pain becoming more severe and the bleeding heavier. This confirmed my biggest fear: I was having a miscarriage. As I lay there sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, my husband held me tightly saying, "It's going to be okay."
But was it? I felt numb, and my mind flooded with endless thoughts and questions. Was it my fault? Could I have done anything differently? Was it that glass of wine I had last week? Why me? I was dumb to get so excited so soon, I should have been more practical. The conversations I had in my head were endless and for the first time in my life, I felt truly heartbroken.
This is a natural reaction referred to as "mother's guilt," says Iffath Hoskins, M.D., a clinical associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Health, who treats recurrent miscarriage.
"There is an element of grieving, but you can't blame yourself," Dr. Hoskins tells me. She explains that the majority of miscarriages are actually caused by chromosomal abnormalities. "It's Mother Nature's way of saying this pregnancy wasn't meant to be, and in most cases, there's nothing you could have done," Dr. Hoskins says. On a hopeful note, she says the chance of going on to have a successful pregnancy is in the 90 percent range.
As I opened up about my experience to friends and family, I realized miscarriages are far more common than I had thought. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies will end in miscarriage, with chemical pregnancies (a loss shortly after implantation) accounting for 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages.
Even women I look up to with seemingly perfect lives and families revealed their secret stories of loss. Suddenly, I didn't feel so alone. I felt a strong sense of connection, sisterhood, and gratitude for being able to share my story, while encouraging other women to share theirs too. (Related: Shawn Johnson Opens Up About Her Miscarriage In an Emotional Video)
In this moment, I knew my husband was right: I was going to be okay.
We decided to take a few months off from trying to conceive so I could heal both physically and emotionally. When September came, it felt like a good time to start trying again. Since I had been pregnant before, I thought it would come easier for us this time. Each month I just "knew" I was pregnant, only to be greeted by yet another blank pregnancy test followed by good ol' Aunt Flo.
I'd map out elaborate scenarios of how I'd tell my family each month. In November, I planned to share the news during our annual Thanksgiving gratitude ritual. While everyone went around the table sharing what they were grateful for, I would say "I'm eating for two," and laughs, hugs, and toasts would ensue. Unfortunately, I never got to live out these scenarios.
After three months of negative pregnancy tests, I began to lose hope and wondered what was wrong with me. So at the end of November, I decided to try something a little bit out-there-and made an appointment with Jo Homar, a clairvoyant spirit messenger and intuitive healer I was referred to who offers a variety of services including medical intuitive readings and reiki healing sessions. After a phone session with her, she told me it was my mindset that was holding me back from getting pregnant and that the baby would come when the baby was ready-apparently not until around the fall of 2018. While at first I felt a bit discouraged and impatient, I also felt a huge sense of relief. (See also: Can Reiki Help with Anxiety?)
I followed Homar's advice and deleted all my apps and stopped trying that month. All of a sudden, a huge pressure was lifted from me. I ate loads of salmon avocado maki rolls, had fun sex with my husband only when we were in the mood, got wired off Nitro coffees, and made time for girls' nights filled with tacos, guacamole, and yes, tequila! For the first time in a year, I was totally okay with my period coming.
Except it didn't. To my surprise, two weeks later, I got my positive pregnancy test! "A Christmas miracle!" I shrieked to my husband.
No, I don't think it was magic, but I also don't think it was a coincidence that the month we stopped trying we got pregnant. I attribute our success to one big thing: trust. By trusting my body and the universe, I was able to let go of all the fear that was blocking baby from coming, and allow for it to just happen. (And trust me-there was a lot of fear.) And while experts don't yet know how exactly stress and anxiety can impact fertility, preliminary research shows a connection between stress and fertility, backing up the whole "you'll get pregnant when you stop trying" thing. (More on that here: What Ob-Gyns Wish Women Knew About Their Fertility)
So how the heck do you ditch the fear and trust in your body when all you want more than anything is to be pregnant now? Here are five tricks that helped me shift my mindset.
Take a break.
The period trackers, ovulation predictor kits, and $20 pregnancy tests can be extremely overwhelming (and expensive), making the whole process more like a science experiment. Since obsessing over the tracking was literally driving me crazy and consuming my thoughts, taking Homar's advice and letting it go for a bit was huge for me. If you've been trying for a while, consider taking a break from all the tracking and just go by how your body feels. There's nothing worse than "honey, I'm ovulating" sex, and there's something special about being surprised by a missed period.
Have more fun.
Let's be real: The whole trying-to-conceive process is far from glamorous, especially when you're living by an ovulation timeline or counting down the dreaded "two-week wait." That's why Homar suggests focusing on adding more fun into your life. "When it comes to the two-week wait, you can look at it from two viewpoints. Either you can remain frozen about the 'what if' or you can live life," Homar says. "Pregnancy is life, so why not choose to live life to the fullest during that period? If your focus is on fun, joy, and life, then that is what you are sending positive energy towards, which can result in a successful pregnancy."
Develop a meditation practice.
Daily meditation has been one of the most transformative practices in my wellness toolkit. I use the Expectful meditation app, which has specific meditations for those preparing to conceive, like "Trusting the Body." They even created a free Pregnancy Loss Support Guide including meditations and expert advice. (Related: 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation)
Expectful cofounder and community guide Anna Gannon says the app helps women who are trying to conceive manage their emotions and be in the present. "Meditation isn't a cure, but it's a tool," Gannon says. "It's a prenatal vitamin for your mind." Not to mention, studies show meditation can help enhance fertility, balance hormones, and reduce stress. Win, win, win.
Nourish your body.
For a while, I was obsessed with following the "perfect" fertility diet, and wouldn't even allow myself the occasional cup of coffee. (Related: Can Drinking Coffee *Before* Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?) But instead of focusing on becoming "fertile," experts say you should focus on improving your overall wellness. Aimee Raupp, acupuncturist and author of Yes, You Can Get Pregnant, explains that your fertility is an extension of your health. "Celebrate little victories like having fewer headaches or not feeling as bloated, and know that your fertility is improving along the way," Raupp says.
Envision your future.
When I felt hopeless, I envisioned my life with a baby. I'd fantasize about my belly growing, and hold my belly in the shower, sending it love. The month before I got pregnant, I got a temporary tattoo that said, "Actually you can," which reminded me that my body really can do this.
"If you can believe it, you can achieve it," Raupp says. She recommends spending time in visualization thinking about baby clothes, the colors of your nursery, and what life will be like with a little one. "We're programmed to think of the worst case scenario, but when I ask clients 'If you quiet your mind enough and get in touch with your heart, do you believe you will have this baby?' 99 percent of them say yes." Believe it will happen for you too. (More: How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals)