Our first pregnancy was perfectly planned. I had prepared for months: charting my exceptional, well-rounded diet, avoiding alcohol, taking folic acid and prenatal vitamins – optimal health, perfect weight, excellent exercise regimen, charting my cycle with temperature and cervical fluid. We got pregnant on the first try month. I cannot describe the bliss and joy and fear and excitement and planning! Within hours of seeing the second blue stripe on the pee stick test, I behaved like most excited mamas-to-be: I was considering names, contemplating the cost of eyeglasses our kids would need and colleges they might attend. I sighed at board books and pacifiers, cute booties and beanies. I started browsing Babies-R-Us and I purchased pregnancy magazines and What to Expect when you’re Expecting – the paperback book AND the companion organizer.
Reading the organizer now brings everything back. I’m right back to 24 years old, married 3 years, embarking on parenthood, feeling the awesome reverence and newness of a growing life inside me.
The last six weekly entries are where it all fell apart. I found myself in another town, in an unfamiliar hospital, losing my baby as I bled in an ER. My mom was there… she would tell me later that her heart fell as she noticed my Pregnancy Organizer showing out the top of my purse on the floor next to my ER litter.
Week Number 6:
3/8 Major fatigue, dizzy spells, cramping in lower abdomen 3/9 Eggwhite cervical fluid
3/13 Told the family! Couldn’t wait! Spent the night giggling on the phone – has definitely made it very real! One spot of nausea at 1 am last night.
Week Number 7:
3/16 Small spot tan-brown. Very worried. Deep breast soreness. Major fatigue.
3/17 Very small tan-brown spot.
3/18 Small tan spot – called doc. Major gas cramping.
3/19 Some dark yellow discoloration
3/20 Definitely queasy. Spots of dark yellow discoloration.
Week Number 8:
3/22 No further discoloration. Have a pot belly and thicker waist, flatulence, fatigue, queasiness accompanied with belly aching. Backache and want to get out of my body – very emotional.
3/26 Appt with Dr Scannel! First visit – no FHT (fetal heart tones) audible yet. Uterus enlarged. Should hear FHT next visit! Some feelings of faintness yesterday AM.
Week Number 9:
3/30 Easter! Waist very thick with pot belly – am I gaining too much weight too fast? No clothes fit. Breasts sore, large, full. Energy at times, very tired at times – need rest, not necessarily sleep. Backache, hate car trips, queasy at times, fruit and chocolate cravings. Acne and weird hairs.
Week Number 10:
4/6 Very thick waist, huge hard pot belly – am gaining too fast! Can’t stop with the sweets and chocolate (my poor little one suffers!) No prolonged queasiness – episodes brief and sporadic. Deep soreness in breasts, stubborn face and body acne. Don’t feel tired – just fat!
4/7 So emotional – so upset! Am I crazy?
4/8 & 4/9 Small light brown spot in panties.
4/10 Slow leaking dark brown with menstrual cramps (am in Arizona with Marc as he is interviewing with a new job and I am scared to death)
Week Number 11:
4/12 Leaking dark brown discharge continues with tiny clots accompanied by low pressure and achiness. Blood discharge started approximately 1:30 pm. Went to Tucson Medical Center ER – heavy bleeding and clotting accompanied by pressure. We waited 3 hours before a doctor finally examined me. Physical exam revealed enlarged uterus and closed cervix. Vaginal ultrasound revealed no fetus, only enlarged uterus, blood and tissue. Delayed plane flight back to Massachusetts and D&C recommended.
And just like that – my world ended. I remember one ER nurse offering condolences. The first show of sympathy that fateful day – it touched me deeply. And the OB on call who saw me and did my D&C the following day was very, very considerate, empathetic, and kind as well. The rest of the staff were crass and apathetic. I cried in the shower at the hotel after the ER, blood still leaking from me. My tears mixing with the shower water falling on my head. I tried to cry quietly, but I’m sure my husband and parents could hear my sobbing outside the bathroom. My baby was gone. I was empty. Why was this happening to me? I had done everything, EVERYTHING right… and still my body had betrayed me. I was suddenly learning the horrible lesson about just how little control we mortals have – even over our own bodies. Our control is an illusion. But why was this happening to me? I was 24 and despite doing everything “right,” my pregnancy had failed… and there was definitely a loud voice inside me that worried incessantly: Would I never have a baby? Was I unable to have children? Had I done something to cause this? Was I being punished?
The following morning was the surgery: an outpatient D&C. My parents waited with Marc in the family waiting area. He admitted to my mother that he secretly hoped the doctor would find a baby still in my uterus when they went inside me. She held him and he cried.
There are so many, many tears. More tears than you can imagine. And they keep coming, even when you think there cannot possibly be more. And then more than that. Oceans and oceans of tears.
Marc was my Rock. But I realized soon how a father must get forgotten with a woman’s miscarriage – his grief isn’t recognized as much as hers. Marc faced a terrible thing: there was so much blood and he had to face a bargain with God: please save my wife. I realize I have to forfeit our precious new baby, but please, I cannot lose my wife too. The powerlessness and pain a father must process is immense. And later, we made sure to honor his grief and pain as much as mine. I make sure not to forget Fathers.
Our miscarriage was the first real tragedy we faced together. Our lives forever changed. We boarded the plane back to Massachusetts the next day. I held my body tight together with my arms as I was still sore and recovering from the D&C. I watched the ground outside the airplane window during takeoff. I watched the beautiful brown and green mountains of Tucson and it’s small short buildings grow smaller out the window. And I was hollow… I was leaving my baby behind.
I went back to work after recovering. I was surprised by my unstable emotions (normally, pregnancy hormones do not stabilize for approximately 2 weeks after the D&C, and you don’t feel normal until they do) – one moment I was powerful and in control, the next, I was running to the bathroom, broken and weeping. Overall, I was entirely full of shame – I felt like people were judging me – like they thought I was a liar since I had no evidence of the baby I’d lost. I was so vulnerable and so embarrassed. Honestly, these are normal feelings after miscarriage. Very soon so many of my coworkers approached me with their stories. So. Many. Stories.
I had a molar pregnancy before my daughter was born.
I had 2 miscarriages in between my first and second son.
I just had a miscarriage a few months ago. The doctor told me it was normal, but I still don’t understand – why was it happening to me? You know what I mean? After all, I have 2 children. But of course that doesn’t make it any easier.
And I was struck dumb. All these women. All these stories! Why didn’t anyone talk about it… until after the tragedy? This overwhelming aloneness and horrible grief and loss… I wasn’t the only one. It seemed to be an experience of so many, many women! Even my own mother, between my brother and my births, had had a miscarriage at 6 weeks.
These stories compelled me. My miscarriage compelled me. I would collect these stories in my heart and add them to my own. I would learn all I could about MISCARRIAGE. I would understand it. I would find purpose for my pain as I grieved and researched. And ultimately, I would endeavor to help, listen to, share, and advocate for other women who would also face this life changing loss. I would make sure they would know they were not alone and they were allowed to mourn their very real loss – for as long as they needed. They were not alone. And women, our society, and culture needed to tell our stories. This was my purpose for my miscarriage, I was sure. I could help others.
I vowed to TALK about pregnancy loss. We don’t talk enough about it… it’s common and it’s so painful. And you are NOT alone.
Some people said terrible things to me:
Did they figure out what was wrong with you – why it happened? What you did wrong?
You won’t come to my baby shower? I really want you there! I don’t care if you’ll cry the whole time.
(That one was just 2 weeks after my loss.)
You’re still upset about it? It was a miscarriage! No big deal. You should be moving on.
(That comment came a month after my loss.)
I wanted to help other women. I wanted to learn the right things to say. – to help them mourn, to acknowledge their pain and grief, to help them heal. This was a very helpful model to follow:
* * *
The company Marc had interviewed for was devastated for us when they heard the news. They actually had already planned to offer Marc the job in Tucson! And it was a bold move to leave the East Coast, but such a great opportunity. And we accepted.
In June we left Massachusetts and drove across the country to start a new chapter of our lives in the Southwest. We bought our new home in July and moved in. And I was pregnant again in August. But, remember, we were forever changed. The naivety and pure joy of pregnancy was forever gone. Instead of announcing: We’re PREGNANT! I would say: The test is positive! But I’m only # weeks and a miscarriage could happen again.
I ended up working at TMC – the very hospital in Tucson that had taken care of me during the miscarriage. My job was as an RN on the Mother-Baby unit.. I found the most AMAZING freestanding Birth & Women’s Center coupled with TMC, where I could safely deliver in a bedroom with a bathtub and assisted by a Nurse Midwife.
April came. My parents arrived with plenty of time for our baby’s birth. I was due 4/26/98. But I went into labor on 4/13 – exactly a year from the date of my miscarriage D&C. I delivered my first beautiful baby Ken on 4/15 after 38 glorious hours of labor and 40 minutes of pushing. My parents and husband were all with me in the French Colonial room with the 4 poster bed. My midwife had me reach down and grab hold of my baby and bring him to my chest. I held him close in my arms. He was warm and active and crying and soft and absolutely perfect.
Just a year before, my world was over. And now my world changed forever again. My journey of Motherhood began.
* * *
There is Motherhood after Miscarriage. Talking about pregnancy loss more could make it less taboo. Ignorning it only leaves women to that place of aloness – when there is an entire sisterhood of support available. We don’t honor the loss enough. It makes many people (mostly those who haven’t experienced it) uncomfortable, even though it is incredibly common. It is a real loss, requiring bona fide gieving and mourning and honor and space. And you are NOT alone. It’s not a fun club to belong to. It absolutely sucks. And after your loss, you’ll find yourself bumping into pregnant bellies everywhere, as if the universe is intentionally mocking your miscarriage. But the network of sisterhood is vast. It has been 23 years since my miscarriage. Every Christmas, my husband and I place an ornament on our Christmas tree honoring the baby we never held… a little teddy bear with wings.
We went on to have FOUR beautiful babies between 1998 and 2003, until we felt our family was finished. All our children know the story about the baby we lost. I never had another miscarriage, although I was always ready for the next one that didn’t come. Marc and I have healed, although our lives bare the mark of miscarriage’s impact. We’ve gone on to face other tragedies together… and oh so MANY blessings!
I keep this artwork in my home; the image is particularly powerful for me:
#pregnancylossawareness #miscarriage #motherhoodaftermisscarriage #youarenotalone
#iam1in4 #talkaboutmiscarriage #pregnancyloss #sisterhoodofmiscarriage #notyourfault