This draft has been sitting in my folder since April 3. Almost 3 months have gone by and I have opened and closed it more times than I could count. It’s been written in my planner on my running ‘to do’ list ever since I started it. Still, I haven’t been able to bring myself to put it all out there, for myself or anyone else. I wonder if it’s ‘too much’ to share or if people will think it’s appropriate or not or if anyone really cares and ultimately, I think that’s exactly how a lot of people going through this end up feeling in this mess…that’s what it all is, a mess. A mess of feelings, a mess of emotions, a literal physical mess.
I keep coming across things that remind me of my pregnancy:
New nursing shirts, still in their packaging from the mail, when I cleaned out the closet. The pregnancy test when I cleaned out the bathroom. The bag from the CVS pharmacy that Dave had to go get for me when I cleaned out the kitchen. Each item come across, one more round of sadness. One more round of guilt. One more round of wondering what the hell went wrong, why, and if it will happen again. One more round seeing the empty screen on the ultrasound machine and Caitlin’s face when we told her what had happened. We just got a bill in the mail for that ultrasound, too. We didn’t have insurance for one month and the ultrasound was, of course, during that time frame…literally less than a week away from getting our new plan. So to add insult to injury, we’re stuck trying to pay an absurd bill with no insurance help, not for the procedure that was supposed to have been done, but for the nurse to take one 5 second look at the screen and tell me I’d lost my baby.
We found out I was pregnant January 31 and it while it was a total surprise because we hadn’t planned on it, I also know my body usually runs like clockwork so taking the test was really just a formality to confirm what I suspected. Seeing the 2 lines though didn’t bring me happiness, in fact Dave came out of the shower to find me sobbing in bed. He saw the test on the counter and came to hug me and my first words to him were “But how am I going to run the half marathon I’m signed up for in January?” – and I was serious. In that moment, I could only think of having a newborn, not being able to train, and wondering how I could do something that could wait until literally any other year. When I say I suffer an immense amount of guilt over losing this child, it comes back to this moment. This moment where most women are so excited to see that little line show up turned into a moment of paralyzing fear that something unplanned and unexpected was coming our way and my selfish needs and plans for myself were going to be interrupted. It’s not that I didn’t want baby #3 – I very much did, but I wanted it to be planned out and on our terms, not a total surprise. It took a while for Dave to calm me down and see the good in the situation and after a few days of letting it all sink in, I became just as excited as I had been over Caitlin and Alex’s pregnancies.
I soon began to experience the typical symptoms of pregnancy. My blood levels confirmed everything was good. Caitlin was so happy to find out she was going to get a new baby in the family and we were excited to share the news with friends and family – so we did, early. We knew there was a risk in that but took it anyway because we loved our little Valentine’s Day announcement. Everything seemed normal.
Fast forward about 6 weeks to March 27th when I go back to the Dr for my routine visit and first ultrasound. I was just about 13 weeks along – cravings, hormonal disaster, tired, queasy…all the fun stuff. I knew as soon as the heartbeat didn’t pop up on the doppler with the familiar sound of a galloping horse that something was wrong. I had a growing suspicion over the last few weeks something wasn’t right – I didn’t ‘feel’ pregnant. I didn’t ‘feel’ it with Caitlin or Alex either though, so I chalked it up to regular pregnancy anxiety. Nothing bad had happened so I never had any reason to assume anything was wrong with our baby. I immediately went to get an ultrasound where it was confirmed that I had lost our baby, presumably many weeks ago…What. The. Fuck. Wasn’t my body supposed to let me know something was wrong? Shouldn’t it have told me, in some way, that things weren’t right? I never cramped, never bled – my pregnancy symptoms continued on, ‘reassuring’ me that everything was fine when in fact, they were the exact opposite. The doctor attributed this to my body just wanting so badly to be pregnant, clinging on to what it had for as long as it could. This was one of the hardest things to hear in that moment because it was like the real, internal “mama bear” was there – my body was fighting so hard to keep something that just wasn’t there anymore.
I was given 3 options: wait and see, find a “good time” to take 24 hours to take meds to induce the miscarriage at home, or go to the hospital for them to help. I actually wanted to laugh because they all sounded so terrible. I remember asking the doctor “Wait and see? It’s apparently been a month and my body still hasn’t done anything, I should wait even longer to see what my body decides to do with this?!” – this option was, for me, the most emotionally nerve wracking. I didn’t want to take a ton of meds (thanks Google for your horror stories), and I really didn’t want to go to the hospital for them to take it all out of me… I just wished my body hadn’t failed me. I wished that my body had told me something was wrong to begin with and didn’t trust it to do it at this point.
So, we filled the prescriptions. Dave came home with a giant bag full of crap I didn’t want to take. It was only a few days before Easter weekend, we had family coming into town, and I didn’t want to think about this mess. I took the bag and hid it in a cabinet in the kitchen. So, I decided to wait and see. In that waiting, I prayed so damn hard for something I never would’ve imagined before. I knew my outcome wouldn’t change but I prayed all weekend for my body to just pull it together and do.what.it.needed.to.do to finish the process. I left church on Easter morning with everyone around me singing “Go tell everyone the good, good news” while I was full of anger and sadness.
MUCH to my amazement, my body kicked itself into gear after the day of Easter celebrations was done. I went to the bathroom as I was getting ready for bed and realized “Oh, ok. This is actually happening.” Unfortunately, though my body tried, it didn’t get the job done. All I could imagine was my doctor telling me how much it just wanted to hold on to the baby which upset me even more. So, Monday evening I took the medicine and hoped that things at home would be as okay as possible.
I had to take pills to induce contractions. Can I just say, as a mom, how fucking hard it was to take those, knowing what it was going to do to my body? THEN, I had pain pills to take for the contractions and then anti-nausea pills to take because the everything else was going to make me feel so sick. It was a LONG night. The pain was unreal and, while childbirth sucks, at least you know your pain is going to get you the ultimate reward. This was pain that had zero reward in the end; only sadness. Feeling everything leave my body over the course of the entire night felt like hell, emotionally and physically. I think my experience was maybe a little ‘worse’ than typical because my body held on for so long, almost 13 weeks, so it had much more to get rid of than others who find out earlier. 3 months of my body thinking it was pregnant meant 3 months worth of cleaning out in one night, and I would never wish that experience on anyone, ever. Then after all of this, I needed about 5 more weeks of blood checks to confirm my blood levels were going down – the process seemed never ending.
Dealing With It/The “After”
Dave and I took a while to process it all. We also deal with grief very differently so I totally shut down for a little while; I don’t usually do well talking about things in the moment. Telling family was hard and making the follow up post on Facebook was tough too, it made it ‘real’ to put it out there for everyone.
I know I didn’t do anything wrong and there is nothing I could’ve done to prevent it happening, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still feel immensely guilty for the loss. Last year was rough and I feel like maybe it was karma or a way of punishing me, or that I deserved it for all the crappy things I said and thought when I found out I was pregnant (insert another eye roll that I actually thought about a half marathon first – ugh).
As soon as I came around to my happy place in the beginning and we started planning for the new baby, we moved Alex into Caitlin’s room so that the new baby could have its own nursery while maintaining our guest room. The room became baby central with old clothes and baby toys. It looks like a BuyBuyBaby bomb went off in there, but here we are 3 months later and I still haven’t been strong enough yet to go in there.
Telling Caitlin was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was the first talk about death she’s had; she was only 3 and so excited about the new baby. One morning shortly after the miscarriage, she reminded me to take my vitamin (prenatal) to help the baby grow strong – Dave and I gave each other that look and we sat down on the couch with her to try and explain what happened. In 3 year old language this was basically “The baby stopped growing and isn’t in my tummy anymore. We won’t have a new baby yet.” We talked about the Daniel Tiger episode when his fish dies and she understood what had happened. After hearing her sweet little “Oh no!” she asked me “Mommy, is it because I snuggled you too much last night?” — insert all the tears. On top of having everything happen, hearing your sweet, innocent child ask you such a question was heartbreaking. It’s amazing how at such a young age, they can internalize something like that and ask if it’s their fault.
The question of “are you going to try again” was asked at the doctor’s office literally less than an hour after we found out about the loss. We had no clue how to answer that when we were still trying to process we wouldn’t be getting the baby we had planned on for the last 3 months. I still want a third baby but the anxiety is high – I wonder how worried I’ll be if I do get pregnant again, constantly stressed over what could happen now that I’ve been through the worst.
I’ve always been a very relaxed mom but I can say this has definitely brought out more anxiety and “mama bear” in me. Knowing I lost one baby, even though I couldn’t have done a thing about it, means I am even more willing to go to the ends of the world to make sure my two kids are protected and taken care of. It’s amazing what a blessing they are and how much joy they bring to our lives.
Something I’ve learned through this process is that people don’t talk about this stuff. It’s taboo, and I can’t really figure out why. Yeah, it sucks, but it’s part of life. Why don’t we talk about the crappy things? I ran into the same thing with breastfeeding when I found out how hard it was. It’s like people are afraid to speak the truth and considering about 1 out of 4 women experience a miscarriage, the chances are very high you know a few people it’s happened to. I was shocked by the comments I received along the lines of “Oh, it’s happened to me too, we just don’t talk about it” …wait what? WHY?! And while I was happy to have given people support unknowingly, I was also floored that I got messages from multiple friends thanking me for my transparency and honesty in my pregnancy journey because they had gone through similar and it was nice to know they weren’t alone. If this wasn’t such a ‘bad’ thing to talk about, we wouldn’t feel so alone when it happens to us.
So, if you’ve made it this far and you’re sitting here wondering why I actually wrote as much about this process as I did, it’s because if there is one random person who Googles it or one friend who hasn’t reached out to someone who reads this and finds any kind of comfort, then it’s worth it. It’s most certainly not easy to share all this. It hurts. Part of it is my own way of journaling, so it’s there for me to refer back to, but part of it is also honoring my idea of being a mom who tells it like it is. Maybe someone will find support through this who wouldn’t otherwise, or maybe you’ll read this and think I’m crazy – that’s fine too 🙂 Just know that no matter your journey, you’re not alone. I know that journey isn’t always rainbows and unicorns and I’m happy to talk about it no matter how happy, sad, frustrating, or exciting it may be.