They happen to 1 in 4 women yet it’s something that is rarely talked about.
For some reason there is this giant taboo around something that happens far too often. When a friend or family member dies you mourn. You have a funeral and you put the deceased to rest. People offer condolences and give you time and space. You have time off work without question. People understand.
But not for miscarriage.
Because most of the time people do not even realize that you’re mourning; that you are hurting. They didn’t know you were keeping the biggest most exciting secret of your life. They didn’t realize you were bursting with joy day in and day out; envisioning who this little person you and your significant other created would be.
On September 19th, 2019 I became one in four women. I was told I had had a missed miscarriage. And it was by far the worst day of my entire life.
Matt and I lost our first child and while the hurt and pain is still raw I have found comfort in reading other women’s stories. Reading those stories and knowing that no matter how alone, broken, or empty I feel, others have been there and have felt the same way. So I am here. Sharing my story of how I’m mourning the loss of someone I obsessed over, thought about every hour of every day and became connected to in a short period of time but never got to physically hold in my arms.
I’ll start at the beginning of our story. August 21st, 2019; probably one of the most exciting mornings of my entire life.
That little word read across a tiny stick made my heart pound out of my chest in a way I had never felt before. I told Zara she was going to be a big sister because Matt had already left for work and I just had to tell someone. Waiting an entire day to tell Matt felt unbearable. But as soon as he found out he was just as shocked and excited as I was. We were going to be parents and as scary as that sounded, the excitement of that title was way higher. We went on over the next couple weeks to tell our parents, siblings and a few close friends we could manage to schedule alone face time with, the rest we figured we’d get time to see in person and tell them after our first doctors appointment.
The waiting for our eight week appointment seemed liked a year.
I downloaded all the apps. I bought organic food. Looked up every ingredient in any food before putting it in my mouth and completely stopped drinking coffee. I watched my own heart rate like a hawk while working out. I made our (but mostly my worry-wort self) list of questions to ask the Doctor. We talked about who our little poppy seed would be. How would they act? Would they think we were cool parents? What were names we liked? What were names we didn’t like? I pinned nursery decor on Pinterest. Thought about strollers, car seats and all the baby clothes. Our minds and hearts were consumed with the joy and overall uncontrollable excitement of what the next couple months, then years would bring.
The time came for our eight week appointment, our first appointment. We walked into the waiting room and I remember being so nervously excited. We finally were going to see our little, by that time according to the apps, blueberry via an ultrasound and hear that heartbeat. In the furthest back edge of my mind I knew that miscarriage was a possibility but I just didn’t think it would happen to me.. it wouldn’t happen to us.
I laid back on table. Matt grasped my hand. It was silent for what felt like a very long time but the radiologist soon said “You’re measuring about 7 weeks and two days.” Which in my mind I really didn’t think twice about since this was our first appointment and that was really only off by five days. Maybe I was wrong with my last missed period date. And then she went to listen for a heartbeat.
She tried again but this time told me to hold my own breath.
An immediate sense of anxiety and fear rushed over me but again I thought to myself, ok well if I’m measuring a little shy of eight weeks that could be the reason. There’s still a chance everything is fine.
The radiologist left the room and said we could go to another waiting room to wait for our appointment with the doctor. The next few minutes felt like hours. Matt and I sat waiting for the doctor. He could see the anxiety building in my face and told me to just wait to see what the doctor has to say. We sat there holding hands trying to remain calm. Only a few minutes later the doctor came in and with the saddest eyes and told us those dreaded words no expecting couple ever wants to hear.
“I’m rather certain this is a missed miscarriage.”
I was shocked. Certain? How was she certain? I still felt very much pregnant. If anything my symptoms that last week were worse. The nausea, the food aversions, the unbearable exhaustion… it was all very present still.
Initial tears didn’t come. I was shocked and felt confused. Maybe she was wrong? Is she sure?
The Doctor started discussing the options of next steps. Wait it out. Give me prescription medicine to help my body recognize this was a non-viable pregnancy or surgery. What? I thought. How is she even saying all these things. She has to be wrong. But then she said I’ll give you both a minute to take this all in and left the room.
I looked at Matt. I felt a pit in my stomach that was expanding until it got to a point of overwhelming pain and the tears began, they were uncontrollable.
I slowly regained my composure and a couple minutes later the Doctor came back in. I said I wanted to be certain before taking any further action and asked for clarity around how we could be certain. She recommended a blood test to check my HCG levels. Blood would be taken that day and then 48 hours later to see if my levels increased. With a viable pregnancy they should be doubled within that timeframe.
Since our appointment was a Thursday we had to wait until Monday to get my blood taken again. That weekend was the worst. I wanted to be hopeful but I also didn’t want to get my hopes up. What if they are right? But, what if they are wrong? Was the constant song and dance in my head the next three days. I spent a lot of the time going in and out of crying and didn’t want to move from the couch for essentially the entire weekend.
And then Monday came. They took my blood in the doctors office and then I left. I was in and out in a matter of ten minutes. A few hours passed and my results were online that I was able to access myself. I drove home from work so that Matt and I could look together.
Lower. My numbers had gone down and I knew exactly what that meant.
The next few days I began googling everything there possibly was about missed miscarriage. I went into all my pregnancy apps and “reported a loss”. Which sadly is a very easy option to get to within each app. Every one of them converted my app into recovery mode. Some had forums where other women discussed their experiences. I found reading their stories helped me. They helped me feel like I wasn’t as alone as I felt. They also helped me understand my options so I could have an informed conversation with my Doctor, which I did a few days later.
Two weeks after that day we had a D&C scheduled. I thought I was prepared but nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for that day.
What I now think of as the second worst day of my entire life.
Oddly enough one of the things I was dreading about checking into the hospital was if a nurse asked me “How are you today?”. I don’t know why but I didn’t want to be asked that question. But instead every nurse I met or talked to, in the most caring and genuine way, said “I’m very sorry you are here today and going through this”. While it wasn’t the way I thought I would be greeted, each time I heard it I broke down. The tears would well up in my eyes as quickly as I heard those words.
Changing into the hospital gown I was overwhelmed with emotion. This was it. This journey we had been on for the last couple weeks was coming to an end today.
Matt was soon able to join me after I had been “prepped” for surgery and as he walked back I was a puddle of tears.
The emotional toll of the day was the hardest part. Every nurse, the anesthesiologist, and Doctor were all spectacular. They explained everything and gave Matt and I the time we needed to ask any and every question. I couldn’t have asked for a better team of medical professionals to trust during what was such a vulnerable and emotionally draining day.
To me the surgery felt like it was all of about 10 minutes. I woke up to a nurse by my side, feeding me ice chips and a ball of tissues in my hand that I learned was from crying while I was waking up from the anesthesia.
The next hour or so was spent coming off of the anesthesia and letting the pain medicine kick in. Matt was able to come see me once I was in “Phase Two” recovery, dressed and sitting in a chair.
We soon were allowed to leave the hospital.
The nurse who had been by my bedside when I woke up walked us to our car and gave me the biggest hug saying “It’s going to be ok. You are going to be ok.”
And those are the words I just keep trying to repeat to myself.
Some days are harder than others. We’ll be surrounded by friends or I’ll be at work and I’m fine. And then there are these little triggers. Whether it’s hearing someone talk about a baby shower, seeing a pregnancy announcement on social media or little babies in the grocery store smiling and giggling with their Moms. The overwhelming sense of sadness just hits me like a ton of bricks and I find that pit in my stomach returns and shortly my eyes are welling up with tears.
I know that this overwhelming sense of sadness won’t last forever and I know that I am not alone in my struggle, but sometimes that just isn’t enough to calm the emotional toll miscarriage brings.
These days I allow myself to cry when I need to cry. I talk with Matt or family or friends when I need to talk. And I just sit in silence when I need to sit in silence. I’ve been focusing on what is right and best for me and trying to navigate this new normal.
If you are going through a miscarriage know that you are not alone. Know that your feelings of sadness, anger, pain, or anything else you are feeling on any given day are valid. And know that it’s ok to not be ok all the time. Being a normally positive, upbeat, glass half full kind of person this has been a new learning curve for me but I’m slowly getting there.
If someone you know is going through a miscarriage, know that sometimes the best thing to say is really nothing at all. In talking with some family and friends who have not gone through this themselves the most common response has been that they do not know what to say. What they have done is they have acknowledged my feelings, our loss, and offered to be my listening ear. They haven’t tried to “find the silver lining” in Matt and my experience or talk about “our rainbow baby” or “our next time being pregnant” and I’m immensely grateful to have friends and family like that. Because as someone who has gone through this, who is still going through this, I’m certain that sometimes the best thing to do or say is really nothing at all.
To me, to us, the short time we had with our child, even never having gotten the chance to hold that child in our physical arms, was precious and it cannot be erased by thinking about the “bright side” or “our next pregnancy”.
While I write this I still continue to grieve the loss of our first child. I know I’ll never be quiet the same but I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful for the future and I’m hopeful that by sharing my story I’m helping someone, somewhere who may be going through the worst day of their entire life realize that they too can be hopeful and that it will be ok.
Gwen Flowers wrote, “Grief is not something you complete, but rather, you endure. Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself — an alteration of your being.”
“I hope you know it is okay if your strength looks a little different in this season. I hope you know that the fire inside of you is still there, even if it burns quietly, and gently, as candles do on windowsills. I hope you know that it is okay to not feel the same and to notice all of the things that have changed, because all of this, absolutely all of this is very real. I hope you also know that even in the rush of it all, there is time and grace to heal. There is time to take your time here, seeking peace beyond understanding, even if you do not feel you are all the way there yet. Breath after breath, depth into depth, the steps that you take not only matter, but they reveal the quiet strength that has been in you all along, and has been growing ever since.” — Morgan Harper Nichols