‘Is it my fault? Did I do something wrong?” — Councilmember Christy Holstege
PALM SPRINGS — The day before Christy Holstege had a miscarriage in April, she enjoyed an afternoon playing on the slide with her energetic toddler, Aden. She was ill-prepared for what followed.
“I think I felt the regular emotions of anyone. Emotions of anyone going through a miscarriage,” Holstege told Uken Report in an interview. “So, I looked back and said, ‘Is it my fault? Did I do something wrong?’ You look at all your actions. My doctor assured me it was nothing I did that.”
Holstege said she is aware miscarriage is a sensitive topic, but she welcomed, and even encouraged, questions.
“It’s OK,” she said reassuringly. “It’s important for me to talk about it openly.”
She is, for all intent and purposes, an open book about it. She has Tweeted about and posted to other social media channels.
The miscarriage rate for women ages 20 to 30 years old is 9 to 17%; for women ages 31 to 35, it’s 20%. At age 40, the miscarriage rate is 40%, and on average, 80% of pregnancies in women ages 40 and older will end in miscarriage, according to Healthgrades.
Guilt is one of the common reactions nearly all women experience after a miscarriage. Whether the loss was so early the woman didn’t even know she was pregnant or she was only days from her due date, it’s hard not to wonder if you did anything wrong and what you could have done to prevent it.
Miscarriages happen in around 15% of pregnancies, and they are usually because of chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. It is important to note, however, that the actual miscarriage rate is likely higher due to the number of early pregnancies discovered on a home test before a person’s period is even due, according to Forbes,
“That’s why I think it’s so important to talk about it and break down the stigma associated with miscarriage, Holstege said. “Because when we don’t talk about it or we don’t know how common it is, women and people do look at themselves and blame their selves. Obviously, it’s not our fault when we have a miscarriage. So, that’s one reason I felt all those feelings. That’s one reason that I want to speak out about it now so that other people don’t have to have those feelings and can be educated that miscarriages aren’t the pregnant person’s fault.”
Longing to have another child, Holstege started in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in January to get pregnant. It is a type of assisted reproductive technology where sperm and an egg are fertilized outside of the human body.
An embryo transfer was completed on February 23rd, and she learned about two weeks later that she was pregnant. She had two embryos implanted as she and her husband, Adam Gilbert, did with their first child.
“I knew that there was a 10% to 15% chance of having twins,” Holstege said. “And that was a risk that we were taking in order for the IVF to have a better chance of working.”
The first time she did IVF was so difficult, she said, so she wasn’t very public about doing it. She was serving and working full-time and publicly serving on City Council. I was actually doing shots behind the scenes, in between meetings, during meetings and going through all of that, she said.
“But the second time, it was important for me to publicly talk about it because these are things that families go through every day,” Holstege said. “And because I’m pregnant and parenting and serving an elected office, I think it’s really important to highlight what people like me are going through while we’re doing either our regular day jobs or even serving on City Council.
From all indications, she was carrying twins. She did not know the sex of either. The elation did not last long.
On April 4, she posted to social media that over the prior two weeks she had miscarried two embryos — on two different occasions.
“I went to the ER for bleeding at Desert Regional on March 19,” she said. “I had one miscarriage of one embryo then because I had bleeding and tissue passed consistent with a miscarriage. But at the hospital, they found a heartbeat. On the 27th, I went in for a routine ultrasound at seven weeks. That’s usually when there’s some fetal activity that the ultrasound can pick up. That’s the day that I found out that there was no fetal activity. There was no heartbeat that they could find. They saw an embryo in there. And then I had to wait a few days and go back on the 30th, and that’s when I found out that there was a missed miscarriage.”
With the aid of the prescription Misoprostol from her physician, she physically miscarried at home.
That happened over that weekend. She had an all-day City Council “visioning session” on that Monday.
Some people in the room were aware of what had happened, others were not.
Granted, several weeks have passed since the ordeal. She speaks calmly and almost matter-of-factly about the loss of two embryos.
“It’s devastating to experience the miscarriage,” “Holstege said. “Obviously this was a very wanted pregnancy. We had done IVF and planned many months. And I had taken a lot of medication in order to get pregnant through IVF. So emotionally, yes, it was very devastating and difficult to go through. I’m talking about it matter of fact, because I know one in four women experience a miscarriage.”
It’s so stigmatized that we don’t often talk about it, but I know how common it is, she said. So, I talk about it matter-of-factly because I know it’s a regular occurrence, unfortunately, and I know the risk of trying to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term.
In her Tweets, she talked about the great gratitude, really, that she had for living in California and being in a state that grants access to Misoprostol and medication that also induces miscarriage and abortion because so many states are restricting that access.
“I just felt grateful to be able to get medical care when I needed it, have a good, safe conversation with my doctor, and be able to have dignity through this process, even though it’s a difficult one,” Holstege said. “But I think it’s important to talk about, because it happens every day for working mothers and working families, and they carry on with their lives. They go back to work the next day, and there’s so much stigma in our society. We don’t talk about it enough.”
There was no public display of an emotional breakdown. She said she dealt with the personal feelings about it personally at home with her family.
“I’m an elected official. I’m a female politician. I’m not often allowed to show emotion or cry publicly or be upset in the same way,” Holstege said. “But I wanted to not just hide it from the public, but Tweet about it, talk about it, share that it happened, so that people know what I and others are going through.”
Holstege is now 36 years old and is running to represent District 47 in the state Assembly.
Will she try to get pregnant again?
“I think so,” she said softly.