I decided to take the plunge and write about something extremely personal, something that is definitely going to put myself out there. Most of my friends don't know about recent events, and not because I didn't love them enough to share, but I was worried about this happening. Now that it has, I find that there are many who have experienced the same thing, but it isn't talked about because of how much pain and sadness it can bring to a mother. So, I'm sharing. I don't know if I'm ready, but I am going to take that chance.
Last Tuesday, May 22nd, was by far one of the hardest days of my life.
But, let's backtrack for one sentence....On April 14th, B's 5th birthday, we discovered that we were pregnant! After celebrating 38 days of knowing about our pregnancy, J and I went to have our first trimester ultrasound at 9 weeks 3 days. I was so excited, and so was he. I even looked up what a baby looks like at 9 weeks on an ultrasound and watched a couple videos of the movements. I was ecstatic and even told J that I may cry.
We anxiously awaited at the hospital for them to call my name and take us back, and after what seemed like forever (but was likely only a few minutes) the tech intern came out for us. We followed her down the hallway, and I kept thinking it was such a long walk for something so exciting, couldn't the rooms be closer? I laid down immediately on the bed and with the warm gel on my stomach, she began showing us pictures of our little baby.
I had to hold the tears back. We watched as she took measurements and overall anatomy pictures but any glimpse of the baby made us both smile. There was our little gummy bear. She printed off a picture and handed it to us, and after finishing the internal ultrasound she left the room to show a registered tech (since she was an intern), and I asked before she left about the heartbeat. She told me she just took the pictures and my doctor would receive the results and either call or send me a letter. J and I were left with our picture and stared in awe at our little peanut. He took his phone out and immediately took a picture of the picture, a proud daddy at his finest.
When the intern returned, she had a registered tech with her who wanted to take a couple more measurements. I figured the intern hadn't been as thorough as she should have been so I didn't think twice. It was over, and we were free to leave. I proudly clutched the picture in my hand and couldn't wait to show everyone. J asked why they didn't mention the heartbeat, and I told him maybe it's because they were techs and my doctor would let us hear it at the next appointment in a few weeks.
We parted ways and exchanged "I love yous", and before leaving I took a picture of the ultrasound and sent it with "Our little gummy bear!" as the caption. I headed to work.
A short while into my drive, I glanced at my phone and saw I had missed a call from my doctor's office. I thought it was strange, but figured they had received the results and were calling to give me the details. I returned the call but waited on hold for 10 minutes before being connected to my doctor's care team. I had no idea what was about to happen next.
The words are jumbled prior to hearing, "They were unable to detect a heartbeat." I have no recollection of what was said and all I could do was cry. Hard. We had waited so long, and although my dreams were haunting of miscarriages I did not, in a million years, think that those nightmares would become reality. I asked what I do next, and was told to either wait it out for my body to recognize it in its own time, or have a pill inserted that would dissolve and release the tissue sooner, inducing the miscarriage. Miscarriage. What a dirty word. What a dirty, filthy, horrible and acidic word. It burns on my tongue. It's engraved in my brain. I have a dead baby in me. It's all I can think about.
My initial emotion was pure pain, sorrow, and loss. I called J and cried into the phone that there wasn't a heartbeat and we had lost the baby. I talked to my doctor once more, accepting her condolences but praying to God that she would take back what was said, say there was a mix up of some sort. J kept calling me. He told me to go home and he was going to get off work as well. Since I had no choice but to turn around on the exit where my work was, I decided to stop and tell my boss in person what was going on, but I had to settle for a phone call, which was probably just as well in the state I was in. Thankfully, she was more than understanding so I turned around and headed home. I made a few more phone calls. My mom. My friend. My sister. J's sister. Each time repeating those murderous words. Again and again. Each time accepting their apologies and condolences, but feeling worse by the second. Home couldn't come soon enough.
When I got home, I spent a minute collecting myself, unpacked my lunch and wandered aimlessly around the kitchen. J came up to me and held me tight...I held him back. I tried fighting tears but they kept coming. The range of emotions I felt over the next few hours are ones that I never hope to feel again.
Pain, sorrow, sadness, and heartbreak at the thought that this was happening. That the baby inside of me did not have a heartbeat. What we had wanted more badly than anything in the world was within reach, yet so far away. It was surreal. I couldn't believe this was happening to us.
Guilt, thinking I had done something wrong, something to cause or deserve this. I ran over what I had avoided: smoking, drinking, deli meats, soft cheese; I took my prenatals every day and was easy on the nausea medicine; I fought through headaches instead of taking something to soothe the throbbing. I was sure to get enough sleep each night, I didn't lift, didn't overexert myself, and watched what I ate. I was taking care of myself...so what went wrong?
Horror at the thought of what was to come... How much would I bleed? How long would it take to happen? Will I see the baby come out? Will it hurt? How long will it last? Will it happen at work? What if it happens at night like my dream? What if J isn't there?
For a minute I felt hope and denial. I went online and searched for stories about mothers who didn't hear the heartbeat at 9 weeks and who had received a second opinion that proved them wrong. I was convinced the machine was defective and I would go in next week and they would hear the heartbeat on the doppler. They would be wrong. However, the miracle stories were few and far between, and soon any hope dissolved.
I felt anger, angry at all those mothers who did not deserve children, who took their pregnancies for granted by smoking and drinking, who didn't want babies, who were careless in their decisions to abort babies when others couldn't have one, who killed their babies out of rage and threw them in rivers; I was angry knowing I would have to watch a family member, who was due three days after me, go through her pregnancy and know that's the stage I was supposed to be at**. I was angry at the woman at the Save the Children kiosk who dared to ask if she could talk to me about the program. Didn't she know I was suffering? Didn't she know that I couldn't save any children, not even my own? MY BABY IS DEAD! I wanted to scream. CAN YOUR STUPID CAUSE FIX THAT, YOU BITCH? (Of course, I calmly said no thank you and went on my way, fighting back those horrible thoughts and hot tears.)
I was hurt. I didn't understand why God decided to put me through this. Why after wanting a baby for so long so badly and having a healthy pregnancy before could my body not handle this one? Why me? Why us? Why? What is this lesson supposed to be about? I had never had nightmares about miscarrying when I was pregnant with B, was this God's way of warning me? Of trying to prepare me of what was to come?
Determination set in for a split second. I decided I would face this head on and get through it and move forward. I would accept that these things happened and there was nothing that could be done. That this would not break me.
Then like shattered glass I felt broken again, absolutely helpless. My lifeless child was in me and there's nothing I could do to save him or her. There isn't one worldly procedure that would fix whatever had gone wrong. I could not provide life to this child. Ever. I would never hold him or her, console their crying, feed their stomachs and expand their mind. I would never be able to hug them, or kiss their little nose and chubby cheeks; I would never count their fingers and toes and teach them to walk and talk and love them day in and day out.
I put my foot in my mouth for every time I had stated I would lose the baby weight by working out during maternity leave; for every moment I worried about stretchmarks and cellulite and spider veins I stabbed myself repeatedly (figuratively, of course). I slapped myself for being envious of people who regained pre-baby bodies back within weeks. I hated myself for not being able to do this.
I begged. I begged God to wake me up, to make this nightmare go away, to take my pain and sorrow and lift me up to a better place. I yearned for the weight gain, the swollen feet and hands, the discomfort and sacrifices just to be able to feel my baby move inside me.
It was a day that I will never, ever forget. It is just the beginning of this whole process; once my body recognizes what isn't happening inside, the miscarriage will begin. I can pick myself up and go to work, go on with my life, but the pain behind my eyes will not be easily hidden, and the dread of the day that the actual miscarriage happens will haunt me up until and well beyond that point.
I'm afraid. I'm worried that this will happen in future pregnancies. That if we try, I will spend week after week heartbroken over negative pregnancy tests. I know miscarriages are common, but I never thought it would hurt this badly. It's no wonder those who experience it do not speak much of it.
I am eternally grateful to have such a wonderful, supportive husband who will let me lean on him even though he is broken too. I am so thankful to have a loving family and circle of friends who are here for me. I am comforted by the few stories of the women in my life who have experienced this and who understand my thoughts, fears, and feelings. I am relieved that we chose to keep this much to ourselves and family, friends that would be supportive if something this disastrous happened. That we didn't tell our young daughters and have to explain to them why they wouldn't be big sisters.
Over the last week I have learned quite a few things in grieving the loss of our child. It hurts to hear, "You can have another one." or "You're going to try again, right?" or anything about "next time". This was our baby, and he or she is not replaced by another pregnancy. I have not miscarried yet, so to even try to think about being pregnant again or beyond each day for that matter is painful and disheartening.
I have learned how badly J and I wanted another baby.
I learned that people can surprise you, whether they are there for you more than you expected them to be; or if you anticipated condolences and support from someone, they can completely invalidate how you feel. I take the latter with a grain of salt, reminding myself that nobody is intentionally trying to make me feel worse. Some are just giving me space, others are trying to distract me, and there are even some that haven't said one word about it and I can only assume they don't know what to say.
I have learned that many women have experienced this type of loss, and yes, have moved on, but it's OK for me to feel this way right now. I can take as much time as I need to grieve and heal. Time will allow me to manage these emotions better, and I will only grow stronger from it.
I knew before, but I can now completely validate that I truly have a freakish sixth sense when it comes to pregnancies; every dream that I have had about a specific person has come true, or the coincidences between my dream and the person in reality have been so strong it's undeniable.
Over the next two weeks, all I can do is wait (that's in addition to this past week of torture already). I wait for my body to figure out what's going on. I will go in to the lab weekly for blood work to test my hCG levels. If no progress is made by June 8th, three weeks following the halted development, the miscarriage will be induced. From the stories I've read, the "norm" is pretty terrible. This whole process is horrible. I just pray that it won't get to that point and no pills or surgery will be needed.
I am broken, I am terrified. I am shattered and hopeless and weak. But I will turn to Our Lord and pray for brighter days and ask that He carries me through this difficult time in my life. I will accept this cross He has given me to bear, and take this day by day.
In loving memory of our baby, whose heart stopped beating at 8 weeks, 6 days.
**I am no longer upset about this particular situation, it was a mere moment of weakness, and I truly see it as an honor that I am able to be a part of her life through such an exciting event as a pregnancy. It's all part of the grieving process and does not reflect how I truly feel.