How My Surprise Miscarriage Taught Me My Greatest Strength

It was a Sunday in September and I was nursing one of the worst hangovers I’d had since college. Hours of restless sleep, lying completely still on my back in the dark, choking down stale crackers only to lose them again a few moments later; this became the day’s very unwelcome routine. The night before was the wedding of a good friend and I absolutely took advantage of the open bar. The peculiar thing is, a part of me couldn’t understand why this particular hangover was so bad. I ate a good meal, I actually hydrated properly, and I didn’t drink more than usual. It just didn’t add up. Then, as I forced myself into the shower that morning, it happened. 

I vaguely remember driving myself to the emergency room, but something I’ll never forget is the interaction with the doctor. Explaining in detail what happened, what I saw, what I was feeling –he knew. And yet, somehow, I didn’t. This conversation runs through my mind like an ominous scene out of a movie; girl arrives dazed and confused, doctor takes multiple tests and returns with some fatal prognosis. “Are you aware you’re pregnant?” he asks me, casually. “Excuse me, what?” I reply, mouth cartoonishly wide open. “It appears you’ve experienced a miscarriage. About 16 weeks at gestation.” My eyes fill with tears and the only three words I can muster are, “What…the…fuck?” 

After calling my husband to join me, and frantically searching my brain for any signs of pregnancy over the last FOUR months, I fall into a deep, convoluted space of despair. I couldn’t possibly be four months pregnant—I just couldn’t be. How did I go that long without knowing? Am I a strong candidate for a terrible reality TV show? How did I not have any signs of pregnancy, and if I did, how did I glaze over them so easily? 

It took weeks to fully understand what happened. Something I didn’t know I had—didn’t know I wanted—was there and gone in a matter of hours. I was mad and sad and confused. I started to notice things about my body that I hated more and more each day. Even worse, I hated myself. I couldn’t forgive myself for not knowing and each passing day was a reminder that instead of progressing in that pregnancy I was slowly moving toward an unavoidable silence. With each milestone date came a new sense of loss. 

The past nine months have been the toughest on my mental health. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety well over the past ten years of my life but this traumatic experience deepened my mental fog to a point where I simply couldn’t see a way out. I lost interest in the things I often find most enjoyable and my personality took a deep dive into a dark and cynical place. I didn’t believe I was worthy of great things—like a baby—and it affected everything I did. 

Only recently did I finally realize why this entire situation was a catalyst for positive self-affirmation. Discovering I was pregnant was a monumental shock to my system (both physically and mentally) and before I could even prepare to deal with that, I experienced a painful and highly emotional miscarriage. This thing, this doubled-up life event, was thrown at me so quickly and without warning, I had no recourse but to fall victim to its trauma all at once. With my heart broken and my mind drenched in fatigue, I chipped away at these flooding emotions and physical changes day by day. It didn’t get easier, but it didn’t get any harder either; it was an excruciating stagnation. It was here, in this sedentary bubble, that I realized this entire event was a glowing review of my resiliency. 

Doling out positive affirmations, especially after all of this, is an extremely daunting task. I understand that there is nothing I could have done differently, I didn’t do anything wrong and I certainly can’t change the past. But one thing I have found through all of this is something I love about myself: my resiliency. I opened up about how much this event hurt to those that were willing to listen and I continue to seek answers in healing. Having a miscarriage sucks—there is no other way to put it. It’s emotionally draining and physically confusing and when you get to the nine-month mark, it feels like someone is ripping your beating heart straight out of your chest all over again. But that’s just it; I made it. I made it to this far and I am so proud of mefor moving forward—every single day—toward acceptance and understanding of my greatest strength: resiliency. 

-Abby Oxborough

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Abby Oxborough is the Director of The Leadership Center at Sugar Lake Lodge, an all-inclusive leadership development training facility in Northern Minnesota. After traveling the world as a writer and English teacher, Abby has returned to Minnesota to pursue a Master's in Experiential Education, focusing on the benefits of getting companies outside of the office. She's an avid traveler, runner, writer, and purveyor of honest conversations about mental health. You can read more of her writing at abbyox.com.