I have written this in pieces over the last five months. Every time I had to step away because it was too painful to remember. But I think more miscarriage stories need to be shared. I wrote this for myself, to remember all the joy, all the pain, and the short life of our sweet baby boy. I wrote this for friends and loved ones who want to know my story, or possibly to better empathize with friends going through a similar experience. And I wrote this for anyone who lost their own baby and feels all alone, because I am with you. I hope after reading, you will hug friends and loved ones a little closer, because life is precious.
I grew up listening to Les Mis. The music helped me express emotions I could not express myself. When I think about my miscarriage, I’m reminded of these lyrics:
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,
There’s a pain goes on and on.
(Empty Chairs and Empty Tables)
I really had no idea how difficult it would all be. Sure, the actual childbirth was physically painful, but the emotional scars are sometimes more than I can bear. I have always had sympathy for those who have struggled through miscarriage or child loss, but I never knew how devastating and crippling it would be. I never knew that the pain would last not just weeks, but long months, probably years. That I would feel an unexplainable and profound emptiness when a friend announced her own pregnancy. I did not know that I would develop a social anxiety, how my personality would completely change from social & outgoing, to cautious & reclusive. I did not know how often I would fall to my knees in tears, with no adequate consolation.
I did not know.
One of the hardest parts was that the world around me kept spinning. I, alone, was (and sometimes still am) trapped in my grief, while everyone else moved on with their lives. It creates a loneliness I can’t even describe. That is the main motivation for me to share my story, to let others who may also be struggling through this season of life know that they are not alone.
We found out we were pregnant in June. I shot a wedding the day before, and I was exhausted. Way more tired than I should have been. I even came home and took a nap between the ceremony and the reception. The next day, which turned out to be Father’s Day, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I took 4 more, all positive. I can’t even tell you how elated I was. I excitedly got a few things together to tell Adam. I got his favorite candy (Junior Mints) and taped a note to the back that said, “You’re going to be a father!” Then I set up my laptop to video his reaction. As you can see, we were both shocked, but so excited. I miss that feeling.
Most of the summer is a blur now, but I just remember being so happy & hopeful. I’m not going to lie and say pregnancy was perfect. I was sick pretty much the whole summer. Peanut butter toast was the only thing that didn’t make me throw up. I was exhausted and nauseous, but I would give anything to go back.
I was of course nervous at our first ultrasound at 8 weeks, until we heard that quick and steady thump-thump-thump-thump. A little of that nervous tension eased. Then we had another ultrasound at 12 weeks, and I remember the doctor commenting something like “wow, you’re nervous, aren’t you?” at the 12 week appointment. And I was like – well of course. I knew that miscarriages were so common in the first trimester. I felt like I was holding my breath until we were out of that high risk window. But then we again saw him bouncing around in there, and I was brimming with love. I thought we were safe.
My stepmom and sisters came to visit Labor day weekend, when I was 15.5 weeks. I pulled out my little doppler and found the heartbeat for them. It was such a neat moment to share that with them. Hearing the heartbeat so many times and just days before made the revelation that he had passed so much harder to accept.
Friday, September 8, 2017, I went into my 16 week appointment. My 12 week was so short (15 minutes), I didn’t think it was worth it for Adam to come. We just planned that he would be at the big 20 week appointment. By this point, I had heard the heartbeat so many times, I finally felt everything was okay. So when the doctor wasn’t able to find the heartbeat with the handheld doppler, I wasn’t even worried. I was like, come on, I just heard it 5 days ago. Maybe this guy just doesn’t know what he is doing. Then we went to the room where I had my first ultrasound, and I saw my baby’s profile on the screen. He was so still, too still. I heard the worry in the doctor’s voice, and that’s when I started to worry, though I still didn’t believe something was wrong. Then I went to a third room with an ultra sound tech, who officially told me there was no heartbeat. I don’t remember anything, just asking “Are you sure?” This wasn’t right. I was just having a nightmare. We had just heard the heartbeat 5 days before. I was in shock. They used very gentle tones and had apologetic expressions, but I still didn’t want to believe. They took me to the doctor’s office, and I just cried. I called Adam, and told him something was wrong and that he needed to come. It was the longest 15 minutes. I don’t remember very much of what the doctor said. I just remember that there was no hope that our baby was still alive. And when I tuned back in, I remember him saying we were so far along, we’d have to go to the hospital to give birth to our baby. He said as early as that evening, but we took the night to let it all sink in. But honestly it didn’t even help, because sleep evaded me anyway, and I was haunted by that empty swooshing sound where a heartbeat should have been.
We went into the hospital the next day at 1pm (Saturday, September 12). I remember feeling like a shell of myself. Walking, but not fully in control of my body. It was not how I dreamed of going to the hospital. I didn’t have a bag packed or a birth photographer ready. My family wasn’t on standby, excited to welcome our bundle of joy to the world. I went to the floor where everyone else was having healthy babies, to deliver my deceased little baby. It wasn’t right.
They hooked me up to a bunch of different machines I don’t remember. I remember I hated the IV that was put in my hand. It felt pinched and caused me to feel my pulse throughout my body. Every four hours they would use dry rubber gloves to roughly push four dissolvable tablets into me to force contractions. We had no idea how long it would last, it could take anywhere from 8 hours to 48. Sometime in the middle of the night, I started to feel the contractions. The intensity climbed until the pain was unbearable, and I resorted to an epidural. I just wanted to stop feeling.
Getting the epidural was so painful. I remember sitting on the side of the bed, my legs dangling off, and Adam bracing me, telling me it was going to be okay. I’m not sure exactly what was going on at my back, but I think the anesthesiologist hit the wrong spot initially, because it hurt more than it should have and I felt bruised there for the next week. Once that was done, I felt so much better. I didn’t feel, and I could finally rest in between the interruptions. At around 11am on Sunday, September 10, I gave birth to our baby boy. He was so little compared to a full term baby, that the contraction inducing medication caused the sack to slip out of me. They cleaned him up, and then we were able to hold him. By this time, my mom and sister had flown in to be with us. And they got to the hospital just a little after the birth. We all held him for a long while; he was too little, still translucent, not fully developed, but he was still our baby. We cried together and held him and loved him.
We chose not to have a funeral. I was already emotionally wrecked, and I couldn’t handle it. So we decided to have the hospital cremate him. I had no idea how hard it would be to leave his little body behind. I didn’t want to stop holding him. This was our only time with him, and I didn’t want to leave, but eventually it was time. Leaving the hospital empty handed was awful. I can’t stop crying just thinking about it. I miss our baby boy every day.
Going home was a blur. Our families were there trying to help, but it was so hard. Nothing could really help, except time. We had planned a gender reveal party for the next week. My family still came in and we just spent time together.
I dealt with reminders everywhere. Apps tried to congratulate me for hitting a new week. Emails I was excited about before reminded me of what I lost. Friends & family announcing pregnancies left me feeling emptier than ever. All these milestones I thought I’d hit never came – that cute pregnant Halloween costume, Christmas with a baby bump, or our last Valentine’s Day as a family of two. Every month brought new challenges and the tendency to isolate myself from anyone or anything that might hurt me further.
After the initial shock wore off, I thought often about our baby boy I would never meet. I would never know if he would have had Adam’s blue eyes or my olive skin. If he would have been laid back or passionate. If he would have played soccer or basketball. I felt like a horrible mother because I knew nothing about my baby. How could I carry on his memory if I didn’t even know him? He is my firstborn child, and I want him to be remembered. That is something I’m still worried about. All I really know is that I love him fiercely, and I hope that everyone who hears our story will be more loving because of it.
Slowly I have been able to find more happy moments in between the sadness. Now it’s been over 5 months since that day. Today is our due date. February 21, 2018. It seemed so far away. Today I should be giving birth to a healthy baby boy. It’s still hard to accept that I’m not, and that it will be a long time until we have living children. Our baby boy was so wanted, so loved, gone too soon.
I have noticed a few silver linings throughout this difficult experience. (1) I have more empathy and understanding. I hadn’t experienced significant loss before, and now I have. I can better “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” And I genuinely believe I’ll be able to guide others through similar experiences. (2) I am more aware of those around me. I remember driving home from the hospital, feeling devastated. I looked into the car next to me. I thought about how that person had no idea the pain I was going through. And then I thought about how I never know what others are going through. I feel a greater pull to give the benefit of the doubt to others. Everyone has a story, everyone wants to be listened to and understood. (3) We were excited for our baby before, but now after so much excitement and loss, our children are already so very wanted and loved. I’m hoping this will make me a more patient & loving mother someday. These silver linings don’t take away the pain, but they help me realize that I can find some good in what I went through.
Today is especially difficult given what should have been, but I’m healing. Adam and I are thankful for the love & support of so many around us. I’m still “in” the pain, but I thought that would be the best time to write my thoughts. I truly believe that vulnerability can connect us like nothing else, so I’m putting myself out there. Please reach out if you are going through something similar & need support, or if you want to know how to comfort a friend going through a miscarriage. Thank you for reading my story. I hope it inspires you to hug your children & loved ones a little tighter.