Not the Post I Planned to Write
I had a much happier post that I planned to write this week. It was supposed to be a post about a baby we would be expecting at the end of May. But unfortunately, this post is a sad one. It is long, and for that, I apologize. Don’t feel obligated to read it if you don’t want to. It might also be too much information and too graphic for some, so if you don’t like to hear about blood, childbirth, and other similar topics, you might want to skip over some parts or just not read it at all. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Instead of telling you about a baby we expected to be born in late May, I’m writing about the baby we lost. After going around and around for several months about whether or not to try to have one more child, we decided to give it a try. The plan was to try until the end of the year and if it didn’t happen, we would take it as a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be.
Our other two children took two months to conceive, so I was actually very shocked to see the very faint line on the pregnancy test at 10 days past ovulation on the first try. I was so shocked that I took a different brand of test later that day and got another faint line to prove that I really was pregnant. Anya was super excited, as she had been praying for a baby every night for quite awhile. We told family and close friends pretty quickly. I know a lot of people choose to wait much longer in case something happens and those same people probably thought it was a bad idea for us to do that, but in hindsight, I’m glad I told as many people as I did; it has been many of the same people who have provided all the support we have so desperately needed.
I had a lot of anxiety during this short pregnancy. Anxiety about finances, getting everything done around the house, just pretty much anything you could think of. Besides anxiety, I was tired a lot and somewhat irritable at times, but I never got the nausea I had with my other two pregnancies. This worried me, even though everyone else assured me it was probably just because this pregnancy was different than the others.
The day of our ultrasound, we signed our daughter out of school early so she could go. Some might say this is a bad idea, and for some people, they would be right. I hesitated to do it, but we did discuss with her the possibility that things might not be ok with the baby. Looking back, I don’t regret doing this because we have always been very open and transparent with our kids, and we are truly in this together. Our son was too young to really understand what was going on, so he was mostly just along for the ride.
I was really nervous about the ultrasound (more nervous than any of the others) because I still harbored that fear that things were not ok with our baby. Unfortunately, I had been right all along. As soon as the tech turned on the ultrasound screen, I could tell something was missing though I was hoping and praying that I just didn’t know what I was looking at. When the tech didn’t say anything right away, my heart started to race and it felt like my stomach had dropped out from under me. After a few minutes of silence, she said “I’m not seeing a baby.”
I will never forget those words and the way I felt immediately after hearing them. “I’m not seeing a baby.” I don’t think she meant to make me feel worse, but it made me feel like I had never been pregnant and the past month that I thought I had been pregnant, I really wasn’t. The truth is that she didn’t see a baby because the baby had never had the chance to grow big enough to be seen on the ultrasound. Either that, or the embryo never made it into the sac. But there had been a baby. The gestational sac, though abnormally-shaped, was there but measuring almost 2 weeks behind. I was in shock.
Our doctor said he was “cautiously optimistic,” but reminded us that if this pregnancy didn’t work out, we would be able to try again soon, which was honestly no consolation at the time, though I know he was trying to be optimistic and make us feel better. He scheduled an ultrasound for the following week in the hopes that maybe dates were off and something would show up in a week. I was hopeful, but I knew my dates were correct. Of course, I was praying for a miracle, but I knew the reality was that we would lose this baby.
Of course, I was a mess the rest of the week. I cried more times than I could count and I cried every single day. Finding out that you are pregnant and then finding out that you have been carrying a baby that is no longer alive is a really strange feeling. It made me feel a little betrayed by my own body, like it had tricked me into thinking there was a life still there, when really it had passed two weeks before I ever knew about it. I cried and I cried and I cried more. I prayed that if I was going to lose this baby, I would be able to do it naturally, without surgery or medication. (We don’t know what the sex of our baby was, but just to make things less confusing, I refer to the baby here as “her,” really only because our daughter thought the baby was a girl.) I spent time talking to the baby and telling her that if she needed to go, there was no need to stay and it was ok to leave. I told her that I loved her and I had so wanted to hold her and be with her and nurse her and be her mom on earth, but if I couldn’t, then it was ok to go. I told her all about how she had been wanted and loved from the very second we found out about her. I told her about her big brother and big sister who had been so excited to meet her.
The talk I had with her must have worked, because that night I had cramping while trying to sleep and I wondered if it would be much longer. The next day (Wednesday), I began spotting in the afternoon and I knew it was coming soon. I came home from work and laid on the couch, but it stopped and of course, I was still praying for a miracle, though I knew it was only a matter of time.
The next morning (Thursday), I had more cramping and by the afternoon, I was bleeding again. This time, it was bright red. We went to the Fall Festival ( a big festival in our city) that night but by the end of our time there, the cramps had worsened and I knew that it was really happening. It was starting to become really painful, so we packed up the kids and headed home. Even though I had asked for this and prayed for this, I could never have been prepared for how heartbreaking it all was in the end.
When we got home, I saw that I had been bleeding more and I got in the hot shower to help with the pain. I saw some of the blood start to leave my body and when I saw it go down the drain, I lost it. Somehow, we got the kids to bed and I tried to work on some things while the cramping worsened and eventually became contractions. I was basically in labor until around 2:30 in the morning. I had to use hot packs on my back, breathing techniques, and different positions to deal with the pain. A little after 2 in the morning, I was so exhausted that I finally took some Tylenol. The contractions were getting closer together, but eventually it must have subsided because I fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke up, I wasn’t sure what had transpired but I knew I had definitely lost or was losing the baby. There was no way I could have that much pain and still get to keep my baby. Later, that day I had labs drawn but my hormone level was still on the high side, though the nurse said it should come down pretty quickly if I had really miscarried.
I had more cramping throughout the day (Friday). In the early evening, when I went to use the bathroom, I realized that something was coming out. I had worried all day that somehow either the sac hadn’t come out or that I had somehow missed it. Apparently, I hadn’t missed it, because there it was. Around 5:00 pm on Friday, October 9, I delivered the tiny sac that had held our teeny tiny baby for only a few weeks. I had no idea I would feel this way, but in the moment, I couldn’t just flush it down the toilet. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it, but I started to panic when I realized I couldn’t just flush it. Luckily, we were able to save it. After reading online later, I realized that many people have had the same feeling and do the exact same thing. Up until that point, my husband had been planning to go to St. Louis for a race. He was all packed and ready to go, but after that, he just couldn’t bring himself to go. He stayed home, and we were so happy that he did.
That weekend, we spent the weekend doing things together. I was still having some pretty painful cramping but nothing like the previous days’ cramps. We went to a farm/pumpkin patch, we did a nighttime corn maze, and visited the zoo. We had a movie night and let the kids eat dinner in the living room, and we cuddled with our two babies a lot. On Monday, I got a call from the nurse who said the doctor suggested I still come in for the ultrasound. A part of me wanted to cancel because I didn’t want to be pushed into a D and C if there was still something left on the inside. I was still bleeding and wanted to give my body a chance to finish what it had started. She assured me my doctor wasn’t going to push anything, so I decided to do the ultrasound just for my own peace of mind. Even though I knew in my heart that my baby had passed on, I just couldn’t have a glass of wine, drink fully caffeinated Starbucks coffee, or break any of the other “rules” of pregnancy until I was positive there was no baby.
So to the ultrasound we went. I cannot even begin to tell you how it feels to look at the ultrasound screen where your baby should have been. Where there should have been a beating heart and the little figure that is your baby. Where instead there is nothing. I have never felt so empty inside. To have life growing inside you and then to have it taken away just like that is devastating.
I’m sure there are people reading this who are thinking, “What’s the big deal? It wasn’t even big enough to be seen. Just get over it.” These would be the people who have never had a miscarriage or people who have never been expecting a baby. Because it is a big deal.
Our baby was wanted and loved from the second we found out about her. We believe that life begins at conception (this is not a pro-choice/pro-life debate so please don’t make it one – this is simply what we believe about life) and this child was a baby that was fully expected to be born 9 months later and lead a normal, healthy, happy life. This baby had a big sister and a big brother who were so excited to meet her. In fact, Anya had already decided that she would be taking care of changing diapers, holding the baby, and feeding the baby when Mommy couldn’t be there. She designated Felix to be in charge of “distractionation” – I can only guess she meant that he would be in charge of making the baby happy when she needed to be distracted. We had discussed names, where the baby would sleep, and I had already set up a meeting with doulas we planned to hire for her birth.
So how do we move past this? Where do we go from here? I really don’t know. I don’t know, because I’m not there yet. I see myself going through the stages of grief, and right now, I feel a little angry. I’m angry at people for stupid things (mostly people I don’t know, like people at the grocery store or people I have to deal with at work). I’m angry at my body for not being able to protect our baby. I’m angry at myself for not looking into why I didn’t have the nausea, though I know there still would have been nothing we could have done even if we had known. I’m angry that I was given so little information at the doctor’s office. But mostly, I’m just really sad, to the point of depression on some days. I’m sure that’s normal at this stage, but it still sucks. I still cry every day and several times a day. I don’t always know when it will hit me; most of the time it just comes out of nowhere. I have very little control over my emotions, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Every single thing reminds me of the baby we have lost. Even when I see our two little ones playing together, I feel like something is missing. Like there should be another little one playing with them. Every time I go to the bathroom, I see what is left of our baby and it reminds me that it’s still not over. Even when I go to Starbucks to order coffee, I have to stop for a second and remind myself that I can have the caffeinated coffee because there’s no baby that I have to worry about anymore.
It is so different for the mother in that respect. Before we even knew about our baby, I had to change my lifestyle completely, and I expected to keep up with this lifestyle change for the next 8+ months. It is difficult to just completely change my way of thinking, and even if I were to be able to put aside everything for longer than a few minutes, it wouldn’t take long for something to remind me all over again.
I don’t know if we will try again. And if we do try again and we are able to get pregnant again, I don’t know how I will get through an entire pregnancy without going crazy with worry. I used to think that God would never let something happen to our baby because He had to know that I wouldn’t be able to make it through another pregnancy without worrying myself to death; He would know I couldn’t handle it. I know that He has a plan; I honestly believe that, but at this point, it doesn’t make it any easier. The other times that someone close to me has died, I have had dreams that somehow answer my questions and give me some kind of closure. I can’t really explain it, but it’s like all the unfinished stuff gets taken care of in these dreams, and I wake up feeling more at peace and accepting of the situation. I am still waiting for this closure this time around.
What We’ve Learned…
There are so many people that have had this same thing happen to them, but for some reason no one talks about it. I get it. It’s really sad and no one wants to bring something like that up in conversation. But I get the feeling that many of us feel like we’re somewhere in the middle. Our baby wasn’t born yet and for many of us, not everyone even knew about our babies. So it’s not the same as grieving for someone who was alive in the outside world. Someone everyone knew and had met. But it’s still grieving. There was still someone that was lost.
For me, this experience has confirmed how I feel about all life being precious and worth a chance. I’m not trying to make this a pro-choice/pro-life issue, so please don’t take it that way. People can believe what they want to believe. I had always suspected and believed that life began at conception, but now I know for certain that it does. At least for me. If life doesn’t begin at conception, then why would I be grieving? Why would I be constantly thinking of the baby if she never really existed?
This experience has also shown me who my real friends are. There have been some who have stayed quiet. I won’t say that it doesn’t hurt, but I sort of get it. I mean, what do you say to someone who has lost her baby? Because let’s be honest. Nothing anyone can say can fix anything or make it all better. Even though it bothers me, I know that so many of them just don’t know what to say or do. Then, there was the day I had to spend 5 hours in a training at one of the places I work. There were something like 13 people in my group and for some reason, I could barely keep it together that day and spent much of the time holding back tears. I didn’t know everyone in the group, but I knew several and none of them even asked me if I was ok or inquired about why I was upset. Maybe it wasn’t obvious to them, but when I went to the restroom, my eyes were puffy and red, so you would think a group of psych nurses would have picked up on it. But whatever. It was a really horrible day.
Thankfully, there have been others who have checked up on me, given me some slack when I don’t respond to texts or emails for a day or two, sent me small gifts or notes, offered to bring meals or just stopped by with one (mostly because I have never been good at letting other people help me), and offered me stories of their own experiences so that I know I’m not alone.
This experience has also made me realize how much I need my faith. When we started researching miscarriages on the internet, we found a lot of information on a Catholic website. We were able to contact someone at our parish who relayed what had happened to the priest, and he called me personally to check on me. He suggested we set up a time to meet so he could see how he could help us. He also gave me his cell phone number so I could get ahold of him anytime. We met with him this past weekend, and it was so nice to be able to talk to someone about this. He was really wonderful about things, even though I was a complete mess. He is looking into options for what we can do with the remains so that we don’t have to make such difficult phone calls on our own. We were also told that there were others in our parish who have had this same experience and they may be able to set us up with a couple we can talk with about it. Meeting with him validated that it is ok for me to be upset about losing our baby, because he also believes it was a baby and not just “tissue” or “medical waste.” While we met with him, he was able to give us a private blessing written especially for couples in our situation. I know to some this might be weird, but it gives me some sort of comfort to know that he also sees this as a loss and understands why we are so devastated.
Finally, I have this overwhelming feeling that I need to tell people about this. Partially, it is that I think there should be more information about miscarriages for people who experience them, so they know they aren’t alone. But mostly, it is because I want people to know that there was a baby. That we had another child. And even though that child didn’t make it to the outside world, she was still a “real” baby and is/was a part of our family, if only for a short time. We have named her Quinn.