To sustain life, human beings have basic necessities: water to drink, air to breathe, food to eat, and a roof over our heads, to name a few. Though not as tangible as the others, hope can also be considered essential for survival. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It can be as simple as hoping the day will bring sunshine instead of rain and as heart wrenching as hoping that a pregnancy won’t end in miscarriage. It’s one of those feelings that we take for granted until we lose it. Everyone hopes for something. Hope is a light at the end of a tunnel. When you hope for something you work for it, you put all you have into it. We work hard at our jobs with the hope of being able to buy a home or travel the world. It drives us, moves us forward from day to day. Without hope, what do we have?
When my husband and I started trying to conceive a family, we had no idea what lay ahead. We were hopeful that it would happen quickly and relatively easily for us. No one expects infertility will happen to them. But it did. Every new infertility specialist we met brought us new hope. At least we felt like we were doing something… like we were taking control over something we had little control over. After the first round of IVF didn’t work, our hope wavered, but we figured it was just a fluke and carried on with the hope that the second round would bring us a child. With a positive pregnancy test the second round of IVF, we were elated!! Our dream was coming true… until we went in for our first ultrasound at 7 weeks to find out that I had a blighted ovum. The embryonic sac was there, but there was no baby in it. I went for seven weeks thinking I was pregnant. Heartbreak along with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness washed over us. Without hope we felt empty and lost. At this point we had two choices. Every person has a choice. We could give up on our dream of having a child, allowing this hopelessness to consume us, or we could keep fighting, ever hopeful that the next round would bring success.
With 6 attempts and 1 live birth, we have had our share of hopelessness. So how do people maintain hope after tragic loss? Well, every person is different, but we can share what helped us through it in the hopes that it might help others going through a similar situation.
What’s the Alternative?
It took me more than one miscarriage to figure this one out. With that much emotional pain, the brain searches for something, anything, to hang on to. We grasp for any little shred of hope that things might be okay. We can either let heartbreak and despair drag us down so far that there would be little hope of coming back, or we can pick up the pieces. We can choose to look the devil in the face and say, “Not today; not now.”
I remember distinctly when we made the decision to not let this break us… to not give up. We were emotional wrecks and stumbled out of the house to grab something to eat for dinner since the last thing we felt like doing was cooking. We were at Subway, chewing our sandwiches through our tears, when this hit me. We spoke about choices, our options for what might be next. As we spoke about it, we could feel the hope starting to build again. It felt like we would be okay. Our son wouldn’t see this defeat us. If we had given up after our first miscarriage, Hudson wouldn’t be here. He learned, just as we did, that when there is a choice, always choose hope. Always keep working for the most important things. Never give up.
It’s Okay to be Sad
When miscarriage happens, it feels like you just got hit by a train and an onslaught of emotion derails you. Your mind goes into shock and despair. It’s important to feel those things and process them in order to heal. Check out this amazing article from Resolve, The National Infertility Association, on Grieving and Growing:
I remember feeling like I just needed to escape, to run away from the hurt in my current life. Of course, running away isn’t the answer, and it’s not going to solve or take away what happened. But when your mind is tired from the hurt of it all, from replaying the “what if’s” in your mind, it helps to submerge yourself into different worlds through reading. I would tell myself that I was just going to take a break from thinking about all the heartache for a while and read or watch a movie. Taking a break from the heartache helped - a lot. Your mind will undoubtedly return to it, but having those breaks was a must for me.
Surround Yourself with Life
Get out of the house, find some nature, watch a funny movie. After loss like this, seeing that life goes on outside of the darkness, even in the midst of heartache, helps. Find support groups with others that are going through similar situations so you don’t feel alone. Take walks and just be outdoors to breathe in the life of Mother Nature. The sun is healing. As my father has always reminded me, “happiness is in the feet.” Go outside and take walks, sit in the sun, go to the beach. Surround yourself with family and friends. Take it one minute, one hour, one day at a time, but keep living your life. Don’t isolate yourself.
Take Care of Yourself
In times of tragedy, we tend to go inward. We retreat into our minds, we isolate ourselves, we wallow in our hurt. Little things like eating meals or taking a shower become unimportant compared to the tragedy we’ve experienced. The only thing that matters at the time is your pain. However, give yourself permission to do whatever you need to take care of yourself. Your mind and body will tell you what you need to do. Your job is to listen to them. Do things that feel good to you—take baths, read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends and family, or whatever else feels nurturing and self-caring. Allow yourself to cry, rage, and express your feelings when you need to. Know that you are not alone. One in every eight couples experience infertility. There is help out there and there are options.
According to Bishop Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” It’s important to acknowledge and process your pain but to also look ahead, re-establish hope. Even a small amount of hope will give you motivation and purpose. It will help pick you up out of your darkest day and lead you into the light. Pretty soon you are picking up speed and the light is getting bigger. When every part of you feels like giving up, hope will make you try one more time.