What having a third miscarriage has taught me about life

Last week, I experienced my third miscarriage and D&E surgery, and I’m ready to talk about it …

There’s always a little bit of embarrassment around talking about this topic. Did I do something wrong? Is there something wrong with me? Is it ridiculous to write about miscarriage for a third time? All of these thoughts have been swirling in my head, as I debated whether to devote a full post to this situation again.

The first time I had a miscarriage, it was unexpected and new, and I wanted to share my experiences with you. The second time, it was incredibly heartbreaking, and I needed to share my experiences to sort through my feelings. And now, the third time … it’s just … unfortunate, and yet, it’s also eye-opening, and that part does feel worthy of expressing in words.

While in the past I’ve detailed every moment of my doomed pregnancies before leading up to the miscarriages, I’ve talked about my doctors’ appointments and I’ve even explained the procedures, my time at the hospital and my recoveries — I’m not sure I have it in me to get into the nitty gritty with this one.

Here’s the gist: This pregnancy was rough on me and I was the most unwell I’ve ever felt in any of my four pregnancies this time (yes, I’ve now been pregnant four times). But no, I never really let myself get excited or get my hopes up — to protect myself — and it’s a good thing I didn’t. I found out I was pregnant at 3 weeks and 6 days. I found out I was miscarrying at 7 weeks and 1 day. So it was only a few weeks I lived in limbo, and I’m truly thankful it didn’t go any longer than that (knowing that it would ultimately end), because last time went to 10 weeks, and I had so much hope by then, and the letdown was awful.

Let’s talk about what I’ve learned this time around with my third miscarriage …

What having a third miscarriage has taught me about life

Third miscarriage by A Lady Goes West

A change in perspective

During my second of three ultrasounds with this pregnancy, when I found out that the embryo inside of me was not measuring properly and the cardiac activity was merely an unreadable flicker (a sign that a miscarriage was pending), I was sad, frustrated, and truly embarrassed to be a repeat candidate for a third time. But when I got home that day and saw my mom, Brady and Rudy waiting for me, something in me changed. Hear me out …

I already have so much. I don’t need this pregnancy. I will be okay.

If you look around social media, and in my case, also look around my community, it can seem like everyone has two, three or four kids. When we lived in California, I never felt strange about only having one kid, because it was so much more normal and accepted there, and it was 100 percent the choice we wanted for our lives. Expanding our family was not a thing. Our plan was always to have one.

But now that we’ve been back in the Southeast, and in Charlotte in particular, sometimes I feel different for having one kid, and I occasionally desire an addition. And perhaps I’ve even belittled what I already have too. I don’t know how many times I’ve answered the question about “how many kids do you have?” with “only one.” And as of today, I’ve decided and committed to never answer that way again. I don’t have only one kid. I have a kid. I grew him in my body, I birthed him, I breastfed him, and I am his mother, and that’s a huge deal. It’s a huge deal that I know some women will never get to experience, and I did. And now, I’ve never been so very grateful for my little crazy-haired creature than I am today, and I know Dave feels this with me. Having one child is not less than, it is more than. And it is enough.

The path to my first (and only full-term) pregnancy

I’m not saying I wasn’t grateful for Brady before, because I was. It took me a long time to get pregnant, especially after once having a doctor tell me I’d never get pregnant without IVF. But I did. I changed my diet, I got weekly acupuncture, I drank herbal concoctions, I completely altered my exercise and work routines, I gained 20 pounds, and I was able to jump-start my natural cycle, recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea, and a year later, I got pregnant naturally and had a great pregnancy with no complications (outside of a delivery fiasco, which sucked at the time, but doesn’t seem so bad now that we’re 5.5 years out from it).

When I was in that pregnancy, I knew how much it meant to me and to Dave. I was so close to the struggle, that it stayed top of mind, you know? It may not have been in the cards for us to have a baby like we did … and we did it! Almost every day, I felt deep gratitude, and that was such a good feeling.

And throughout these last five-and-a-half years, we’ve loved being parents to our little guy so much. Yet, over time, somehow I’ve forgotten that having a baby is not a guarantee for everyone, and I’ve forgotten what a miracle Brady was and is for us every single day. He’s the funniest, silliest, sweetest and best guy, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about him. He brings joy to every moment.

Always keeping the door open to more

Over the last two years, I’ve mentally toiled with the idea of having another baby, and at times I’ve been totally interested, and at times, I’ve not been interested. And I think everyone who knows me well, knows that’s how I feel. Even in that gray space, I knew I wanted to give it a try. And yet, even after the first two miscarriages, as much as I wanted to shut the door on the idea, because of the pain it was causing me — I couldn’t quite shut it. But now, as of today, I know in my gut that the third miscarriage was the last try. For my own self-preservation, I can’t let myself go through this again, and I know that with absolute certainty.

I’ve always felt my heart and family was full and complete — never feeling like we truly needed anyone else. But I’ve also let myself focus on the “what ifs” a lot, and perhaps at times, I’ve led myself down a path to thinking we needed to have another child — maybe a bit for us — but also a lot for other people who were hoping for it an expecting it and maybe a bit for Brady’s future too. And if one of these three pregnancies had worked out and we had another baby with us now, we’d be completely elated, of course. That would be our story. But it’s not, and we’re okay with that too. Instead, this is our story. 

Finding my gratefulness and holding onto it

Now, some of you will say to keep trying. Brady must have a sibling. You’ll never regret the effort. You need a second baby. Go to a fertility doctor. You’ll change your mind when it’s too late. Adopt. Use a surrogate. Etc, etc. And while I love that we have these options for the modern-day family, I also know that my heart is not pulled in those ways. Nor is Dave’s. We have no desire to go down those paths. And we know that.

In fact, this third loss has truly cemented to us that what we wanted has always been right under our noses. I do not wish to spend another moment wondering “what if.” I do not wish to spend another moment thinking “if only.” I do not wish to waste more time in limbo. I will only spend the rest of my moments being so incredibly thankful for the family I have today and enjoying them to the fullest. I’m so lucky to be Brady’s mom, to be Dave’s wife, to be my mom’s daughter — and to have all those people right here with me in Charlotte. And while I don’t need anyone else in the world to understand me, I do feel the need to explain this shift in thinking … It’s an elevation of appreciation for my current situation, rather than another sad occurrence that drags me down and weighs on me. And I know for a fact that I haven’t felt a revelation like this before from any of the losses I’ve had in the last two years.

How I’m doing today after my third miscarriage

So how am I doing today? I’m recovering. At times, I’m sad. And this is the type of grief that won’t go away over night. But mostly, right now, I’m clear headed. I believe my D&E surgery went as well as it could, and after being pumped with painkillers, I started out the healing process in good condition, with only a few tears each day (I actually shed more tears during the actual pregnancy).

This time, I wasn’t scared of the hospital. I wasn’t scared of the IV. I wasn’t scared of the anesthesia. I wasn’t scared of the surgery. I wasn’t scared of the pain. I wasn’t scared of anything. Even my nurses told me I was pro in the situation, as they cared for me and prepped me for one last D&E. It’s not something I ever wanted to go through, but it’s something that has taught me a lot now that I’ve done it three times.

My first recovery was tough, because I didn’t know it would be so hard. My second recovery was tough, because I had been further along in the pregnancy and had much more healing to do. And this time, honestly, I was so sick during the pregnancy part, that the recovery part has felt easier, with only minimal-to-moderate cramping. I spent a few days laying low after the surgery (and watching a ton of TV), but every day, I’ve been stronger and more ready to return to life.

And by the way, because I know you’re wondering, even after a lot of testing, we haven’t ever uncovered a medical reason as to why I’ve had these three miscarriages, so they just haven’t been meant to be.

What’s next for me and for our family

Each day, I do think I’ll physically feel more normal. This week, I’ll return to my classes, tennis and social life. I do look forward to feeling strong and well, because even though it’s been a little less than a month, I haven’t felt truly good in some time, and I’m not someone who enjoys being under the weather. I’ve been having a very difficult time teaching my classes and doing life, and I don’t want to feel that difficulty any more. I also don’t want to carry around the weight of wondering if my pregnancy will work out or not. This last time, the weight of it was crushing to me and affected me very negatively. And that weight is now gone.

Moving forward, I’ll also close the door on the questions about our future, and honestly, that is a huge thing off my plate. I’ve wanted to have certainty and haven’t had it these last few years. But today, I have certainty, and Dave and I are on the same page 100 percent. We will no longer spend any time picturing a different future, because we want to focus on our gratefulness in the here and now with what we have in front of us.

My third miscarriage by A Lady Goes West

To be very honest, I do feel a little bit of fear about putting this out there. But because I’ve always been so open … it just doesn’t make sense to all of a sudden go silent on my thoughts and plans, now that they’ve changed so much with this final and third miscarriage.

I feel many emotions. I have felt a lot of pain. I have cried a lot. (And I’m pretty sure for the rest of my life, when I hear Miranda Lambert’s “I’ll Be Loving You,” I’ll always fall apart — feeling a deep connection to that song after my second miscarriage, where I truly was heartbroken for the baby I lost.) But right now, as of today, I am truly okay, even though these three losses will always be part of our journey, and we do not take them lightly.

Making a decision is freeing

Decisions are hard. And living in the in-between is hard too. I’ve felt the toll of indecisions for a couple years, and it’s not something I want to feel any longer. 

The thing is, although some people get to decide what their family looks like, some people do not, and I want to tell each and every one of you this: Whatever you do, think about yourself first. Your happiness. Your life. Your choice. Your well-being. It’s up to you. If you feel pulled to keep pushing in a certain direction, then push. But if you start to waver, then reevaluate why you’re trying to do what you’re trying to do. Maybe the answer is right there in front of you. I’ve got my answer now.

I don’t feel like I was forced into this decision just because of my circumstances. I know plenty of women/families who have gone through way worse situations in order to get the family they want, and they never gave up. And I know this because so many of you have shared your miscarriage experiences with me, and I’ve so appreciated your openness to share.

My path to a decision has included quite a bit of physical and emotional pain, but honestly, just the sheer fact that I now know the answer sets me free from so much of that pain. My gratitude for what’s here in my life has never been greater, and I’m truly thankful for this feeling.

I already have so much. I will be okay.

Thank you for reading

I want to thank you for reading this post about my third miscarriage and letting me share my thoughts with you. And I ask that you remember that this is my story, and mine alone, so please don’t pass any judgment if it’s not something you understand, just as I wouldn’t pass judgment on you for your choices. Be well, friend. Hold your loved ones close, and do your very best to appreciate what’s right there in front of you. Today. And always.

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Here’s the week-by-week recap I had started for my fourth pregnancy:

Week 4: I found out I was pregnant one day before the four-week mark, and I was quite surprised. I had been feeling period-like symptoms, and had even started bleeding, so I was almost certain it was a period. However, something made me think otherwise, so I took the last of my home pregnancy tests left over from a big box I had purchased last year. The first was positive, the second was negative, the third was positive. I held this news all afternoon and told Dave over the dinner table — full of nothing but dread for what could be ahead, with zero ability to be excited. I had a sore chest, light bleeding and that’s about it. I scheduled a doctor’s visit on the day I turned four weeks, and I was so hydrated when I went in that the urine test came out negative. I also did an HCG blood-test that day and came back 48 hours later for another one — and those tests showed that my HCG levels had risen as they should (350 to 900), so it was a good sign. I told my mom, and I told a few of my girlfriends at brunch — and it felt good to not have to hold this information in, especially because of my nerves. 

Week 5: I started out week five waiting to hear back from my doctor’s office. When they finally got back to me, they wanted me to schedule an ultrasound in four weeks from then, and I wasn’t about to sit around and wait that long — knowing that I was coming off two miscarriages and had already had some bleeding. I asked for more HCG testing, so they let me schedule two more blood-tests to check on my HCG levels. This week, I felt very tired in my workouts and I also felt a wave of fatigue in the afternoons — much more than normal. I also had a sore chest and felt incredibly bloated and negative, and toward the end of the week I had some bad cramping and some more bleeding too, which didn’t seem like a good sign to me at all. Emotionally, I tried my best not to get excited or attached to the idea of the pregnancy for fear that it wouldn’t end well. In fact, if I found myself thinking about it working out, I would immediately stop myself. This was tough. 

Week 6: I got the results for my two HCG tests, and my levels were 9,000, then 13,000 two days later. The levels probably should have doubled, but they only went up about 40 percent, which wasn’t a great thing, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. When I went to get the second blood-test, apparently I was dehydrated, because they couldn’t get my blood after four attempts, through my arms and my hand (ouch). It was awful. I had to chug a bunch of water and go back later to a special lab to try again, and that attempt was successful. Because I was having bleeding, because I was coming off two previous miscarriages and because I had had that whole ordeal with the unsuccessful blood draws, I was able to convince a nurse to find me an earlier ultrasound appointment, and so I scheduled it for the following day. On six-weeks-and-one-day pregnant, I got an ultrasound, and there was a fetal pole, but no heartbeat. Once again, it wasn’t a good sign, but it wasn’t the end of the world either, because it was so early. My doctor said, “it’s a 50/50 chance things could work out.” Then, she told me to come back in a week for another ultrasound, so I scheduled it for a week later and pulled out of my first real tennis match, which was supposed to take place at that time. The rest of week six included some light bleeding, major fatigue, a general unwell/sick feeling, and I even had a weird sore neck which lasted for four days and drove me insane, on top of the other unpleasant symptoms I was dealing with. Basically, this week, I felt like total crap, and it was really hard to be positive. I spent far too much time Googling my situation to try to find similar stories to know what my chances really were — but that didn’t get me anywhere. We had our 11th wedding anniversary, and instead of going out to celebrate, I laid on the couch watching reality TV, complaining about how sick and miserable I felt. I hadn’t done that in a long time. I started to think I had more than just pregnancy symptoms, because I started to feel worse and worse. I was tired, my heart was racing, I had nausea, and I even started coughing and had an awful headache. This was a rough time. 

Week 7: On the day I turned seven weeks, I got another ultrasound, and I had to go to South Carolina for it, because my office had no availability. I got very confusing news this day, which didn’t sit well with me, because I felt so incredibly awful and was dying for good news and certain news. The ultrasound showed no growth, but a cardiac flicker had appeared that wasn’t there last time, so all hope was not lost. However, once the doctor came in to read me the results, she basically told me that there was a 90 percent chance I would lose this pregnancy too, but she didn’t know when. She also told me that I wouldn’t be able to “manage the loss” legally until the cardiac flicker went away. Luckily, she sent me to another doctor to reevaluate, and the next day I drove to Uptown for a second opinion. By the grace of God, I got an answer that day, as the ultrasound showed no measurable flickers, and although it was not a good answer, the weight/wait of not knowing was officially over. I scheduled the D&E surgery for the very next afternoon.

And that was it.

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  1. I am so sorry you have experienced this again. I can’t imagine the pain but I am also glad you finally feel like you’re at peace with your decision. Sending you lots of strength as you continue to heal Ashley!

    1. Hi Shelby! Thank you so much for your sweet words. I will continue to heal, and it always feels good for me to share about the process. Take care, friend! 🙂 xoxo

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this Ashley. I am so so sorry. I have experienced miscarriages, and I know it is devastating and defeating. It is not easy to place such intimate life details out on the internet, but I can promise you that someone reading this post will be uplifted and encouraged your words. Please know you are loved, and the choices you and Dave have made for your sweet family are respected and supported. You are a gem, and I do hope that you experience deep peace in the coming weeks, months, and years.

  3. Ashley, what a beautiful post. I’m so sorry for your sad news, but happy for you that you are finding some peace. I have one daughter about the same age as Brady and live in a small town where having one kid is rare, so I totally get that part.

    You are also the third person I know who has had a third miscarriage in the past year. I feel grateful that we live in a time when women feel they can share this information more openly and not suffer alone.

    Wishing the very best for you and your family and sending love all the way from British Columbia, Canada from a long time blog reader.

    1. Sarah! Thank you for sharing with me, and thank you for reading. I really appreciate your sweet words, and I agree — getting it out there and talking about these topics takes so much of the shame away.

  4. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing. So grateful you have closure and your family is perfect and beautiful the way it is.

  5. I am so sorry you have experienced this. Thank you for your vulnerability, honesty and strength in sharing your story, I know it will help so many to feel they are not alone and that whatever decision they make for their family is the best for their family. You have a beautiful family. I am thinking of you and sending healing thoughts.

  6. I am so sorry you have had to deal with this loss and pain. I don’t say this to bring hope or change minds or anything of the such, but to just share it. My friend/neighbor had 9 miscarriages and after the 9th decided to finally give up. They must not have taken any measures to prevent anything (I didn’t ask) because she’s 42 now and is about to have a baby.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m sure it was difficult. Wishing you healing and peace as you move through this. 💕

  8. Ashley,
    I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and I want to thank you for being vulnerable and sharing with your readers/followers. I truly think you have helped many others by sharing your story and knowing they are not alone. You have a beautiful family and I love the way you have shifted your perspective into one of gratitude. My twin sister is in a similar situation and often times I tell her that the road she has walked is her unique path and she doesn’t have to explain herself to anyone in regards to her family choices. Give yourself lots of grace during this time and enjoy a yummy dessert and/or glass of wine. Take care!

  9. This is such a touching post and thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sure it will help so many other women. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. You have the absolutely perfect family and the cutest one too!

  10. I’m so sorry you have had to go through this again. So glad it has given you clarity. Loss can be crystallizing. Grateful you shared your thoughts with us here and I hope you feel respect and love from everyone in your life. You and your husband deserve the ability to decide about your family size. So glad you are both on the same page; your ability to be positive in this situation is inspirational.

  11. Love you, Ashley. Your readers appreciate your honesty. I can learn a lot from this post. As you know, I yearn for so much more in my life. It is hard to see literally everyone around me with husbands and children. I need to focus on doing my best at my job and work on myself and just be the best Courtney I can be and hopefully love will find me someday. Thank you for your bravery, openness, and courage.
    Here for you always.

    1. Thank you for always reading and being there, Courtney. It’s so hard not to look around at what others have, but I know you have a lot already. Keep doing your best, my friend, and I’m sending you a lot of love for you to get what you want out of life! 🙂 xoxo

  12. Thank you for sharing this ❤️ my mom always had a quote in our house that said “for a happy life, want what you have” and that’s all I could think of reading this. Love you guys and Roo and Brady, too 😊

  13. Ashley, I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain you and Dave are experiencing. As many others have commented I thank you for sharing these vulnerable times with your readers. These posts can be very comforting and help many feel they are not alone. And I agree with you on feeling immense gratitude for what and who we have right now in our lives. It is not easy for me to sometimes stop the what ifs in my head and I commend you both for closing the door and feeling at peace with that decision. Lean on your loved ones, enjoy those treats and know your readers are here for you for the happy and hard life stuff. 🥰

  14. Ashley, I am so incredibly sorry for what you and your family have been through. Family planning, pregnancy and children come with such vulnerability and a lot of emotions. My heart was breaking for you when reading your post. But also, I am so inspired by how you deal with this situation. I think it is so graceful and humble how you focus on what you do have and your trust in your fate and in what is meant for you. I am thinking of you and wish you the best going forward ❤️

  15. Sending hugs for you and your family. You didn’t need to share but you did, and without knowing you may have reached someone else going through the same situation and pain. I have never experienced what you have gone through, but hearing your story I hope that if someone reading this is going through the same, they find comfort in knowing they are not alone. 💕

    1. Thank you for saying that, Natasha! I really appreciate you — and it’s always my hope that with sharing someone else feels a little lighter with what they’re carrying. 🙂 xoxo

  16. You are an amazing woman. Not many would be able to share all that you have shared. I am so sorry for all you have gone through, but you have a beautiful family and you deserve a joyful time with them!

  17. Oh Ashley I am so sorry for your loss. These losses are so heartbreaking and will stay with you forever. I love that out of the pain and sadness you have found some clarity and light around what it is you want for the future and being ok with your lovely little family as it is right now. I know what you mean about feeling as if you don’t fit or are different for only having one child. I also answer like that ‘only one’ when I am a proud one and done mother! After a struggle with HA and having to go through fertility to get my little miracle I feel blessed and grateful but also the questions linger at times of ‘what if’. Thank you for sharing with your honesty, authenticity and openness about your story. My thoughts are with you as you heal this third time xx

    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing with me, Courtney. I hope you also can try to never say “only one” again — ONE is so much. Sending you love right back!

  18. I am so sorry for your loss. Your openness and vulnerability are the reasons you are the one blog I always read every single post.
    You have found peace and joy in your difficult experience.
    Much hugs to you and Dave

  19. I am behind in my blog reading but I couldn’t not comment. I am so sorry for your loss. I have also had 3 miscarriages, and I know it’s not easy. However, I am so glad you seem so at peace and content with your decision to stop trying for another child. It’s a very brave decision (as trying again would have been) but it truly sounds like the best decision for your family, and it is so good to hear that you and Dave are on the same page – that is so important. Letting go those what-ifs can be hard, but it’s so important to be content with what we have, as you are. All the best to you and your (just the right size) family!

    1. Christine! Thank you for reading and for sharing with me. I’m so sorry to hear about your losses, friend. It doesn’t get any easier even when it keeps happening. I really appreciate your kind words about our situation — you are so sweet. Sending you a LOT of love for what’s ahead for you! 🙂 xoxox

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