DISCLAIMER: This post contains graphic descriptions of events in my life. The symptoms and conditions stated are that of my own personal experience and should not be considered advice or commonality. These words were hard for me to relive and may be hard to read. This was originally written in October 2018. But because October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I wanted to revisit it on the new blog. It is also edited at the end to include updates and resources I have found helpful over the years.
As we wear pink to remember the women who fight bravely for their life, let us also bare blue to remember the babies born sleeping, those we carried but never met, those we met but couldn't keep.
I've sat down many times the last few weeks to write this out, but every time my fingers touched the keyboard my mind would drift, my heart felt clenched, and my eyes swelled up with water.
But today, as Andy naps and I think about how he has learned to walk this week, there's a spec more joy in my soul and I feel that I might be able to type with dry eyes (or at least start).
A few weeks ago, on September 21, I experienced my first miscarriage. It was the single most excruciating moment of my life. And that's not an exaggeration. The only other time I remember feeling so utterly helpless and at a loss was getting the phone call from my fifteen-year-old brother, as I was 200 miles away at school, that our dad died.
It's that sensation in your legs before they collapse, the wonder at how you're still breathing because you swear your heart has stopped, the sound of someone crying while you feel a hot stream roll down your cheek.
Those are just minor descriptions, the only I can clearly and cognitively capture from my brain palace and articulate in - what I can only hope are - coherent words.
I was thirteen weeks pregnant with our second baby when I lost her. As happy and excited as I was, anxiety consumed me before the test even read positive.
Probably three weeks before we took a pregnancy test, I had a severe panic attack. My panic attacks are physical nightmares; sweaty palms, racing heart, pressure on my chest, numbing limbs... it's THE WORST. And they can trigger at any moment, for any reason; stress, fear, excitement - whatever! I remember being curled up against the bathroom wall, trying to savor the chill of the AC as droplets poured down my face. I remember my hand instinctively hovering over my belly. I remember the fog that was hindering my thoughts shout out "what if you're pregnant"? And I remember dismissing the noise because my period had just ended a week before.
Once the storm had calmed and all was well, the thought dissipated with the panic and life carried on chaotically - because life with an 8-month old is anything but calm - amirite? Our booming baby boy was growing ever more independent, crawling everywhere, attempting to stand and walk... I almost didn't realize I was late. It's hard to focus on your own self when you're consumed with a tiny human. So within the week we made our way to the store to grab a test and see what the future was to hold! I remember laying Andy down for a nap and grabbing the candy looking wrapper and heading into the bathroom to await our fate. Call it what you may, I had that "mother's intuition" before the three minutes had passed, that the stick would read positive. And it did, ever so lightly (which is why I took two more to be EXTRA positive). Cue the anxiety. Let me be clear here - I was not NOT happy or excited. However, I had an eight-month old who would barely sleep for more than four consecutive hours a night, a husband who had just finished his first semester of his apprenticeship, two houses to keep up on bills for, and a pup we were bringing to physical therapy twice a week. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. But still - so happy. When I was pregnant with Andy, several of my favorite gal pals were also pregnant. This was awesome. Growing up I didn't have many close girlfriends and I never really gave much thought to starting a family, so I never expected, or even gave much thought to, experiencing something so special with those close to me. It was the best. Even now, I cherish those days where bonds grew and you could talk through the frightening feelings, the nausea, and the exhaustion, and not feel like you were alone on an island. It's also the best to know Andy has friends already. This time around, I knew of a handful of friends who were also expecting again! Once more, it felt like a great time to be pregnant. As nervous and overwhelmed as I was, I heard the Lord tell me it was going to be ok, and I did the best I could to comply.
The next couple months were hard. Attempting to adult on no sleep can only lead to negative outcomes; grouchiness, impatience, attitude - everyone in our house was feeling it - even Baloo. I would ashamedly yell at Andy when he would wake for the fourth time during the night - something that (rightfully so) did not sit well with my husband. And the cycle began. The stress was real. The days were long. I was exhausted.
I started to worry about the baby inside me. But that's just me. I'm an anxious person - I have been my entire life. So I did my best to dismiss the negative thoughts that seemed to be violently threatening my mind. Mike would do his best to reassure me and attempt to rekindle my memory about how anxious I was with Andy as well. Needless to say, when it came time for our routine check up Monday afternoon, I could not wait to hear the baby's heart beat and feel some relief. As we all sat in the room waiting for the doctor to make her way in (persistently feeding Andy his Puffs to keep him at ease), I looked over to Mike, my fingers nervously intertwining within themselves, and unconsciously uttered, "I'm scared." Naturally he restored my confidence. The door opened, the doctor came in, and the common procedure ensued. I did, however, explain my anxiousness to the doctor and she, as always, was wonderful in consoling me. After the routine questions were asked, it was time. Time to hear the heartbeat.
But it never came. For an anxious person, this - I thought - was a nightmare. My doctor did not seem concerned but instead calmly reassured me and went to grab an ultra sound machine to help comfort my worries. She came back in and as soon as the gel hit the wand - there she was. My baby girl. Moving around ferociously! That was the reason we could not locate the heartbeat, but once on the monitor, we found it immediately. 160. Strong. We left that appointment feeling fantastic. Now I was excited.
So excited that I could not wait to get home and snap an announcement photo. Andy and Baloo were terrific models (naturally) and within an hour I had shared the exciting news all over social media - although those closest to me already knew.
Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling completely normal; exhausted, trampled on, and ready to take on another day. But this morning was different. I noticed there was blood when I had gone to the bathroom. The faintest trace of pink. I did a surprisingly good job at calming myself and went on with my day. But every time I went into the bathroom, there was bloody discharge, and it was getting increasingly vibrant.
I called the doctor's office Tuesday night. I wanted to give myself enough time to wait it out, but also not have to go in and haul Andy out of the house if I didn't have to. (Because anyone with a baby knows that it's not just a "get in the car and go" sort of deal.) I briefly conversed with my doctor who wanted me to come in for an exam the next day - which was great by me because it gave me enough time to prepare. Wednesday morning, I went into the office and had an exam. Everything was great. The bleeding seemed to be old blood clearing out of my system - nothing to be alarmed about. Just to be safe, we did another ultrasound. That was two within three days - I never got to see Andy so much as a little nugget - and I loved it (who doesn't love a chance at an up close image of the babe inside). Baby was perfect. Insert my sigh of relief. But because I am RH Negative, I did need to get a shot so that my body did not think the baby was a virus and attack it.
When I got home, I had the WORST cramps. I attributed my pain to the exam - any lady who has experienced a physical exam in the downstairs department knows it is NOT pleasant. But the pain did not go away. It turned into a stabbing in my abdomen. I tried to tough it out, but the worry was starting to penetrate my thoughts. I started to google my symptoms, skimming over anything scary about miscarriage and associating my pain with the uterus stretching. By Thursday morning, the pain was so excruciating, I could barely eat. I could only stomach toast and had to keep Andy in his playpen so I could lay on the couch with a heating pad. I felt so silly, wanting to call the doctor's office again. I had talked to them every day this week for crying out loud. I feared that if I called again they would think I was just looking for attention. The hours passed and the pain would not subside.
Around 11 AM I called in and talked with a nurse. I told her my symptoms and she said she would talk to the doctor and get back to me. My OB office is terrific. From the nurses to the receptionist, and of course my doctor's themselves. They're efficient and thorough, and most importantly - kind. I received a call back within the hour and the nurse reassured me that everything was fine, and like I had done the previously, the doctor attributed the ache to the uterus stretching, and that I should take it easy and could take Tylenol if it continued to cause discomfort.
Days like this I am so thankful for Mike's schedule. Because he starts work at 5AM, he's home before 2 in the afternoon. I am always thankful for his kind heart and supporting nature. But I was especially thankful this day. He picked me up Tylenol on his way home and took care of Andy the rest of the day so I could rest. I took two Tylenol and passed out on the couch, hoping the agony would subside with sleep.
I awoke a short while later with no such luck. Pain this persistent starts to make you frustrated. That feeling of unknowing and uncertainty are enough to drive a sane person mad. I relentlessly called my doctor's office for the second time that day to double check the maximum dosage of Tylenol I could take. This time I spoke to a different nurse. She seemed a little more concerned than the last, and double checked my symptoms, but again reassured me that everything was alright. I was scheduled to have my genetic testing done the next day, which would have been my third ultrasound in a week. All I had to do was make it through the night and I could get some relief in the morning.
But I never made it to that appointment.
I put Andy to sleep around 7PM, and retired, once more, to the couch. About 45 minutes later he was awake again. Mike, being the man he is, instructed me to rest and he would rock the baby back to sleep. I still don't know if he understands the profound effect that would have on the succeeding events.
Suddenly, I felt something. It was like a gush of fluid was released from my body and I jumped up in shock and sleepiness to find my pants were soaked. This was not normal. I ran to Mike and explained that I thought I needed to go to the ER. Trying to contain all the courage I had, I called my mom and asked her to come watch Andy so Mike could drive me to the hospital.
I went back downstairs, as calmly as I could, and sat, anxiously waiting. I thought back to my pregnancy with Andy. My water never broke - although there was one instance I thought it did - turns out, I just peed myself. Maybe that's what happened here.
Then I felt it again.
This time, it was like a dam had broke and I could feel the flood trickle down my leg. I ran to the bathroom. And, blood. Everywhere. Instead of urine, my body dispelled blood. Fear soaked through my bones.
I looked down at the massacre advancing before me. And then it happened. I saw my baby. Perfectly in tact in the sac. No bigger than my pinky. My eyes clenched close and I heard myself cry out for Mike. I could hear him make his way down the stairs, holding Andy who still hadn't fallen back asleep. He rushed to my side, shielding our first born as best he could from witnessing his mother in such distress.
My husband is a strong man. Physically - absolutely. But mentally and spiritually - I don't think I have ever met anyone who could withstand what he has and still stand firm. He reassured me over and over that everything would be ok. He didn't try and tell me I had no clue what I was talking about, he didn't panic at the sight of me, and he continued to take care of our child completely composed.
I knew my mom was on her way and honestly, it couldn't have been more than five minutes I waited for her. But those five minutes felt like an eternity. As I sobbed secluded in the bathroom, eyes still tight, too terrified of what I might again see, I felt completely and enormously helpless - emotionally and physically... I was paralyzed by fear and anxiety. I was disabled in my bathroom, unaware of the blood pouring out of me.
Once my mom finally arrived, Mike helped me up and rushed me as quickly as he could to the car. I can still feel the shiver, still hear the silent sobs, and still smell the sweet breeze that was wrestling my tears through the open window, thinking the whole time that this must be a nightmare. This cannot be real life. I am aware of my anxieties, but I still took care of myself, I still took care of the baby. I understand I was nervous about how life would change and speculated if I could handle it - but I knew in my heart I could, and I knew that I wanted this baby!
I tried to pray. I remember starting to plead with God, if He was so Almighty then prove it. But I quickly stopped. I know my God. He is Almighty. He is good. Even if this situation was awful. And then, I had nothing. No words. No prayers. No thoughts. Just the sounds of the night air - and dread .
Mike dropped me off in front of the ER door. I must have looked ghostly, because a security guard hurried out to meet me with a wheelchair as Mike sped off to park and connect with me inside. Once in the hospital, I tried to explain in a choked up, tear strained voice that "I was 13 weeks pregnant and gushing blood". I can still recall the abrupt stop of the wheelchair and the shocked and horrified faces of the other patients and nurses before I closed my eyes to try and shut out the fear and shame.
It was as though I was aware of four hundred feelings at once and my mind couldn't acclimate to one so it just shut off. I opened my eyes to a nice nurse in a white scrub top. She had glasses. Her voice was soft and heartening. I explained what happened. I wailed out that I saw the baby. This kind woman who I will never forget, sat down and took my shaking hand. She looked at me with the most genuine eyes and said that they were going to do everything they could, but that sometimes, things happen and we don't know why, but everything would be ok.
To be honest, I'm most likely paraphrasing. After she sat and took my hand, I broke down. I could make out most of her words, but my mind was in no state of comprehension. I vaguely remember Mike meeting me inside and then being whisked away to a room. I remember the blood. Little droplets were trailing down from me - to the wheelchair - to the floor. I remember a girl with a sprained ankle on a hospital bed in the hall - holding her hand to her mouth in terror. I remember being wheeled into the room, the curtain closing, and having to remove all my clothes.
That's when I learned the extent of our situation. The nurses aided Mike in taking off my sweater. I looked down and saw my tank top was stained with blood. I think I started crying louder. They helped me onto the bed and blood covered the seat I had just left. There was so much blood. It was like living in a Rob Zombie film. The nurses were trying to encourage me not to look. But I didn't need to. I could feel blood contracting from my body. And there was nothing I could do other than hold Mike's hand and hope that, despite what I saw at home, there was still a chance the baby made it.
Doctor's came in and out. I had several exams - exactly what you DON'T want in that situation. What is worse than feeling helpless? Vulnerable. You may think it's the same until you experience it - then the difference is deafening. The amount of blood I was loosing was concerning to everyone who entered and the physical suffering was miserable. But there was only so much that could be done until we were sure about the well being of the baby.
About an IV and several tubes of blood-work later, the ultra sound technician came in, along with a resident of my OB. My throat felt tight and dry, and my hands were sweating as they gripped Mike with any strength or hope left inside me. But I knew. Even as the warm liquid gave way to the wand, and the technician searched the monitor, I knew. They were not going to find a baby.
Once finished, the technician left, and the resident came back in after a brief departure. And she confirmed my greatest fear - any expecting mother's greatest fear.
There was no baby in my belly anymore.
It was gone.
Mike held me so tight. I could feel his pain too. We've been together for almost ten years. Sometimes I think our spirits are weaved together and we can feel what the other experiences. I was broken. So was he. I didn't just lose my baby. He lost his too.
After that, time started to spin ever so quickly. It was as though the punch was in slow motion and the pain hit instantly.
The resident explained to us that now we had to make some decisions. I was bleeding. Bad. And there was still tissue and other descriptive words left inside that needed to be removed. I would wait for my OB to come down and perform an exam to determine what we would need to do or what options we had; like naturally letting my body dispose of the remnants or surgery.
Due to the amount of blood and material left in place, a D & C was the verdict. I was prepped for surgery right away; removing any jewelry and bobby pins, signing forms, and feeling a hair cap being placed over my head. Still clenching Mike's hand and still sobbing, I was rolled to the operating corridor. I said goodbye to Mike. He kissed my shaking lips and exhaustedly went to wait.
The staff was so kind. I think someone hugged me. I recall the nurses making sympathetic comments - but their words were just babel to my brain. They administered the anesthetic. I laid back and did not wake again until I was in a recovery room, Mike again at my side. I could feel an eerie ache in my abdomen. I remember trying to communicate my pain. They must have heard me because my hospital bill says "drug required" many times.
I was taken to a private room to rest and recuperate. When I was conscious enough to notice Mike, I was worried about Andy. He assured me that our only child was safe and sleeping at home with my mom. Once the sun came up, and my mind began to clear from the morphine, the realization that this was not a dream began to sink deep into my bones.
Mike left to pick up clothes for me to be brought home in. My wardrobe from the previous night had to be discarded for sanitary purposes. So, I laid in my room. Alone. Completely. No baby. Every time I tried to close my eyes I could see the tiny figure that had come to pass. I sat there trying to process the events that had taken place, that had led me to this hospital room.
I had a miscarriage.
It's only now, almost a month later, that I can really grasp what had happened. My body went into labor. That initial gush I felt, was my water breaking. The cramps that were giving way to the shortening breath and rush of blood were contractions. I delivered my baby in my bathroom. I saw her for an instant - a split second of time that I wish intensely I could relive. I would do so much differently; I would try to save her instead of recoil in panic and terror. The question burns inside me daily, keeps me awake at night still; would it have made a difference? I'll never know.
The doctor came in to see me. She explained that the procedure was as uneventful as they would want - meaning everything went well. She also revealed that due to the immense amount of blood loss, I was now iron deficient anemic, very close to needing a blood transfusion. As I sat in silence, attempting to retain all the information she was so gently disclosing to me, I closed my eyes and let the tears fall. She hugged me, like a best friend hugs you when you feel at your worst. She also made it known that this was not just a shock to me, but to her and the other doctors in our office too. They shared my heartbreak.
I was sent home later that day. Once we walked in our door I knew nothing would ever be the same. I clutched Andy in my arms and looked at him with amazement I had never noticed before. This child of mine was a marvel. He survived. He made it. He withstood 40 weeks inside my body. His sister barely made 13. Andrew Joshua was a miracle. All babies that are born alive are miracles. I just never clearly understood just how wonderous that is. Now, I don't get so angry when he wakes in the middle of the night. I don't mind the chance to hold him, even if it disrupts my rare slumber. I don't even mind how exhausted I am now that he can walk around (rather, RUN).
The past few weeks have been hard. When I start to think I'm ok and I accept what has happened, something will remind me of that day, that my baby is gone. I got the call this week from the doctor; the genetic testing they conducted on the remaining tissue derived from the D&C concluded that the baby was a girl. This could be my genes showing through, but in my heart, I know it’s true. Our baby was a girl. The thought had made me anxious before. I swore I did not want a girl. Now, I would give anything to have her back.
I know that my thoughts didn't cause this - nothing necessarily did, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that the guilt is almost unbearable at times. As you can imagine, that call made me a mess, and we still don't have any evidence as to what caused the sudden loss. I may never know. I am, however, ever so thankful for those ultrasounds. That even though she is gone, I got to see my baby multiple times that week on the monitor, alive and moving.
I'm thankful for a husband who understands, who rallies with me and senses the struggle. I've grown close to women these last few weeks who have changed my life by the support they have given me and my family. I have been shown kindness from colleagues I have never officially "met". And I've heard stories of other women who have experienced the pain that I now know.
These weeks have been hard. But there is hope. There is hope in the promise that my baby girl is resting with Jesus, knowing that the first person she saw when her tiny eyes opened ,was His face. She will never know pain, or suffering, instead only joy - pure and unabashed. And she gets to be with the rest of her family who awaits us in Heaven. I struggled with navigating this strange new hurt. I want others to know that they're not alone, to feel the comfort I have been shown. Which is why I sat here, tears rekindling, aches unraveling, fingers quivering. Because I believe someone needs to hear the story and know that even in the pain, there's a promise. That this unfortunate event happens. 1 in 4 is an alarming statistic. And one I am now apart of.
I am anchored in hope, and I believe that this awful and traumatic experience didn't happen in vain. This miscarriage has opened my eyes to a world that is undisclosed, taboo, too horrifying to speak of. Well, it needs to change. Yes, this is scary and it's hard to hear and read and speak about. But this is life; authentic, raw, and uncensored.
Since this tragedy occurred I have given birth to a beautifully healthy baby girl who will be 2 in February, and am currently sitting here, 28 weeks pregnant with a baby boy expected to join us in the New Year. God has been so gracious to us in our grieving and hoping and praying. Two pregnancies since I lost our sweet first girl, and the anxiety I experienced that fatal night is still with me most days. I don't think that you can experience a loss like that and ever really have it leave you. And ya know what? That's ok. Because I still hold my earth side babies a little tighter, appreciate them a little more, and praise God for His goodness and sovereignty in literally every part of our lives.
After the miscarriage, my amazing doctor advocated for me in ways that still seem incredible. With her direction I was referred to a Hematologist who ran extensive blood work to see if they could figure out what could have caused such a sudden loss. Turns out I have several blood clotting disorders and genetic mutations that they attributed to my miscarriage. Not only do I have Factor V Leiden, but also MTHFR, and the most alarming (apparently) - a lupus anticoagulant, that does not, in fact, have anything to do with lupus. Because of these abnormalities, my successive pregnancies have been littered with not only OB appointments, but also High Risk (MFM) doctor visits that include growth scans every four weeks, and Hematologist visits every month to monitor for any spikes in blood work. In addition to my general prenatal vitamins, I also am required to take 2 injections of blood thinners every day and a thyroid medicine. All of which are worth it to bring these precious miracles home!
The experience of that September night three years ago has allowed me to walk alongside friends and family in a way I would have not been able to. 1 in 4. That is still an alarming statistic to me. And one that I will forever be apart of. I am thankful for the opportunity to spread hope amidst such pain and it is my greatest desire that my story would encourage others to speak out and know that they are not alone. Together, we can break the stigma of miscarriage and infant loss.
Below are some scriptures that helped me walk through the pain and loss and make some sense (as finitely humanly as possible) of what and why this happens. I had many of these saved and set as the background on my phone for awhile to help remind me that God is greater than anything I may experience here. And this song by Hillary Scott & the Scott Family, I think I listened to it every day for a year, and still tune in sometimes when my heart is achy and I need to ball it out. I hope you find encouragement in these as well. And if you feel so compelled, I would love to hear others stories about the strength and courage we gain in this hurtful unity.