Many of you know I miscarried twice, and I’m super open about that on here. I wanted to start this series so others had a platform to share their experience, and so those going through loss can find a sense of comfort in knowing they are not alone. The first post in this series is from one of my very best friends. Please feel free to comment words of encouragement below for her.
Dan and I have been together for five and a half years, married for almost two. Throughout our relationship we have had ups and downs but nothing significant that we couldn’t handle. Dan is a calm person, a jokester, man of few words, smart as hell and the most thoughtful individual on the face of the planet. His calm demeanor frustrates me at times as I tend to be high strung and I worry about things I cannot control. At the end of the day his calmness and sense of humor grounds me and brings me down to earth, no matter how irritating it can be at times!
I am a registered nurse and Dan, a personal trainer. We both value our health and are hard workers. We are proud of the life and the home we have built. We have an adorable cat named Cali and the cutest pup you’ve ever seen named Ellie. We are active and we love to travel and explore different cities across the country.
We were ready for kids about a year after we were married. We had always talked about it and Dan had always especially loved the idea of having a son. We had a trip planned to go to England in August of 2018 for my cousin’s wedding, so we decided to put off trying until the early months of 2018 so that I would still be in the safe zone to fly if I were to get pregnant right away. It was frustrating making the decision to wait but we knew this was something that we wanted to do, a last hurrah if you will, before we started our family. As the beginning of the year neared, I became more and more obsessed with researching tips and tricks on how to get pregnant quickly (OPKs, Basal body temps, cycle tracking, Ava bracelet, etc.) The first negative pregnancy test took a toll on me. It was like a kick in the gut. I immediately started assuming that this was our fate, we would never have a baby. We did everything right so why didn’t it work? Was I infertile? Was Dan? Only our closest friends and our sisters knew we were trying. I told them to stop asking how things were going because I couldn’t handle the stress. I felt like baby announcements were popping up more than ever and I couldn’t help but just feeling plain jealous.
May came around and my breasts had been painful for just over a week. Not in the ‘I’m about to get my period’ way but they actually felt like someone had kicked me in the boobs and bruised the crap out of them. I wondered if it was from working hard at the gym but as a week or so passed the pain was only getting worse. On May 26, 2018 I was still about a week away from my expected period (my cycles are longer than average, anywhere from 36-42 days) but I just couldn’t stand to wait any longer. I was too nervous to take a pregnancy test so I took an OPK as I had learned that they test positive when they detect the Hcg hormone. When I got a raging positive OPK I decided to go ahead and take a digital pregnancy test. The three minutes felt like days but I walked out of the bathroom and forced myself to stay away as long as I needed to.
There it was, clear as day: ‘Pregnant.’ Oh… My… GOD… I was home alone for the morning and Dan and I were heading to Long Island, NY with our friends for a big day of drinking. I didn’t have time to plan a cute surprise for him so I left the pregnancy test on the vanity in the bathroom and waited for him to go in. I was able to video his reaction and I’ll never forget that moment.
I still can’t believe it. The month we let it all go and didn’t stress was the month we got our positive test. I had also started some self-care that month that I continue to this day including acupuncture, chiropractic and floating. I truly believe that our relaxed approach helped us immensely.
I am not a big drinker and my friends never let me live it down. I was preparing myself mentally and physically for this day trip with our friends. We knew we’d have to tell a few select people that day to keep me in the clear from having to drink. A combination of cranberry and seltzer disguised my lack of drinking and the remainder of the group was clueless! I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be sober amongst such a crazy bunch.
We made the decision to wait until Father’s Day to tell our families. We bought them all personalized gifts and couldn’t wait to tell them our news. Unfortunately my side of the family started going through some difficult times including my dad losing his job, my grandma in England becoming extremely ill, and a young family member losing her life to cancer. We just knew we couldn’t wait three more weeks to break the news. They needed a bright light in all of that darkness.
We videotaped every single reaction, our families, friends, even our 18-month-old niece pulling out a “big cousin” T-shirt and handing it to her mommy who lost her mind with excitement. These memories would last us a lifetime and we couldn’t wait to piece them all together into a full announcement video.
My symptoms didn’t take long to completely take over. It was hard for me to stay awake longer than a few hours at a clip. I was fatigued ALL. THE. TIME. The pregnancy rhinitis is something I never knew was even a thing and I don’t think I was able to breathe through my nose from the week I found out I was pregnant! I had some food aversions such as steak, which was becoming less and less appetizing to me. I was either starving or severely full with no middle ground. My nausea, however, was few and far between. This was worrying to me, as most of my friends had dealt with awful morning sickness throughout their first trimesters. It put me more at ease when my mom told me she hadn’t had morning sickness during either of her pregnancies. I even took another pregnancy test weeks into the pregnancy to prove to myself that I was still pregnant!
At nine weeks and two days, we packed up the car and headed to my hometown of Montreal to visit old friends and check out the city. We had an unforgettable trip with amazing people (I also had some delicious “mocktails!”) They were thrilled to hear our news and couldn’t wait to come visit us in Connecticut when our little one arrived in January. We climbed to the top of Mount Royal and took an amazing picture of the two of us pointing at my tiny little baby bump showing that baby C was with us in Canada!
We drove home on the Sunday so looking forward to our very first prenatal appointment the following day at nine weeks and 6 days. As excited as we were, I knew I would be petrified until I knew that everything was okay with the baby.
Dan met me at the office early in the afternoon. We had both booked off some time in our work schedules to be there. We walked into that building together ready to see our little miracle with no idea what kind of horror we were in for.
They called me in alone initially, saying Dan could meet me in a few minutes. The nurse handed me a cup and I went to the bathroom to give my urine sample. When I pulled down my pants I saw a spot of blood in my underwear. I had never been so taken over with fear in my entire life as I was in that very moment. As I exited the bathroom I told the nurse what I had seen. She was reassuring, saying that this was normal sometimes and ‘you are in the right place!’ It did NOT reassure me.
Next we went over what to expect over the coming months including the blood work, how often they’d like to see me, etc. They gave me lots of gifts including books and magazines and sent me off into the examination room. Dan was allowed to join me at this time. He even got to witness his first pap smear and see what we women have to go through each year! I was, again, taken aback and scared when the OB-Gyn told me that she had to wipe away some old blood from my cervix in order to obtain the pap smear. Next, it was time for the ultrasound. It didn’t take medical background to realize fairly quickly that something was wrong. My doctor’s face went from a smile to what seemed like a whole lot of nothingness. She was quiet for what felt like a lifetime and then she just came out with it. “I’m not seeing what I’d expect to see at 10 weeks and I cannot find a heartbeat.” She told us a few things including the idea that we may not be as far along as we think and for this reason she can’t “call it what it is” just yet until we get some blood work to confirm. We knew how far along we were, and we knew that even if this was the case that we were still far enough along to hear a heartbeat. The rest of the visit was a blur. What I do know is that I was in no way prepared for what would happen next. As we didn’t make any conclusions at the time of the visit, we did not discuss options such as passing the baby naturally, taking the pill or having a D&C. I was handed orders for blood work for Hcg levels and told that I was to go tomorrow and then exactly 48 hours later in order for them to determine if my levels were rising or falling. They would check up on me over the next few days and discuss the results and we would go from there.
As I walked out of the office, baby books still in hand, the secretary looked at me with a smile on her face asking me if I wanted to book my 14-week appointment. She had no idea what had just transpired… I broke down and just said “no“ and walked out of the office, Dan holding the weight of my body as I walked.
As we got down the hall to the stairs, we said nothing. What do you even say in a moment like that? The pressure was building in my face, my eyes were welling up with tears but no words were coming out. As we got to my car, I wondered how I would ever drive myself home. We had come separately but I knew that we just needed to get ourselves there. Dan held me as I let it all go in the parking lot. He was trying to hold it together for me but I knew he was just as shocked as I was.
He drove slowly in front of me, making sure no cars got in between us, checking his rearview mirror often. My radio was off and I sat alone with all of my thoughts, tears racing down my cheeks as I drove…
When we got home, I put the baby books on the counter and walked to the bedroom. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed with fear and felt as though any control over my body or over my life had disappeared.
I hadn’t yet told work about my pregnancy but, after some time had passed, I decided to call my supervisor and fill her in on my situation. She was incredibly comforting and understanding. She told me that she, herself, had experienced a miscarriage before having her two children and felt my pain. She took care of my busy schedule for the following day and told me to focus on myself and take the time that I needed. I was scheduled to be the nurse on call for July 4th, which was the day after next, and she kindly took care of that day for me as well.
Next phone call was to my amazing mother who has rheumatoid arthritis, making going anywhere a huge effort. She rushed to my side along with my sister and played the mommy role that I so desperately needed in that moment. I had told Dan to return to his clients at work for a few hours, as I knew the events of the coming days were unknown.
I awoke in the middle of the night with paralyzing cramping. I had to get up and walk around the house to lessen the pain. Dan, who was sleeping with one eye open, asked me over and over if I was okay and if I needed anything. How does one sleep ever again when they receive this kind of news?
The morning came and we were able to sleep until about eight o’clock. It only took opening my eyes to prompt my crying. We laid for a long while, holding each other and cuddling Ellie who could not stop kissing my face.
Dan took on the responsibility of reaching out to our friends and family who knew about the pregnancy because he knew I couldn’t handle talking about it much more. I decided, though, to talk to my best friend Lauren who had been through two miscarriages of her own. As I had little hope after our awful appointment, I just knew this would be my fate as well. She comforted me, as she truly knew the way I was feeling in that moment. She was also the one who prepared me with graphic detail for what was to come (per my request).
I finally got myself together enough to get to the lab for my blood work, which of course was difficult as I had a new phlebotomist working on me who asked ‘how far along I was.’
I spent the rest of the morning lying on the couch, crying between some TV distractions. Again, I told Dan to go to work. My abdominal pain had reduced significantly and I was still only spotting here and there. I decided to go to my mom’s house where my sister and her were sitting by the pool. I grabbed my Ellie and headed over.
It started when I was about halfway there.
When I arrived and stood up from my car, I could feel blood pouring down my legs. The contractions were unbearable. I bypassed the pool saying I needed to go inside immediately. I parked myself on the toilet where I remained for the next few hours. During this time I sat in agony, my mom and sister by my side, blood coming out of me in loud gushes with large clots. As I was sitting there, the doctor’s office called me with my Hcg results- 23,000- which was much higher than anyone had expected. As she explained over the phone that this was a good sign and that my bleeding could just be an early pregnancy complication, I cut her off and told her what I was currently experiencing. I told her that I don’t see how this could be anything other than a miscarriage and that my hopes weren’t high.
My best friend Nikki arrived to my mom’s as I was sitting there, vulnerable and half naked on the toilet. I told my mom to call her upstairs to the bathroom. When she walked in there was nothing to do for all of us but to look at each other and cry. We hugged and sobbed as I sat there, still on that fucking toilet.
I knew my pregnancy was over when I felt the amniotic sac come out. It was a feeling that I won’t forget for the rest of my life. In that moment I felt emptiness and a visceral sadness that would stay with me for a very long time. I felt a piece of me die.
At that point I decided that I would leave the bathroom and try to sit in the living room with my family. My amazing (also nurse) sister went to the pharmacy to pick up some large pads and depends diapers for me so that I could do just that. I can’t believe that, at age 32, I was sitting in an adult diaper instead of planning for baby C to arrive in 6-and-a-half months.
After some time had passed, the only thing I wanted to do was get home to Dan. He had gone to the store and had a heating pad already plugged in and warmed up on the bed and some Advil ready for me to take. Even being the man of few words that he is, I never could have gotten through that night or the coming days without him. His thoughtfulness and kind heart never falters.
The next day, July 4th, was full of gruesome reminders that I was no longer expecting. Facebook baby announcements were in full force, as were maternity clothes and baby store ads- I made the decision that day to cancel my account. I spent the day in bed in terrible pain and the heavy bleeding continued. Friends continued to check in on us and I was surprised that my body was still producing enough tears.
As the day wore on, I decided that I just couldn’t spend more time looking at my ceiling. I wanted to try to get back to work the next day and save my valued PTO for something GOOD. My supervisor was hesitant but agreed and I went out to see two patients (still wearing a diaper, mind you). How I held it together in those patient’s houses, I will never know because the in between was a blur of tears and texts to my husband. How does the world keep turning when I feel like I am dying inside? How do I provide the care and comfort my patient’s need when I need it just as much as they do? Working was a bad decision that day and I was completely drained. I did, however, decide to work again the following day as it was Friday and I knew the weekend was near.
I got another call from my doctor that afternoon informing me that my Hcg levels had dropped significantly from 23,000 on Tuesday to 5,000 today (Thursday). Although I knew the pregnancy had ended, her words stung. I was told that I could take a pregnancy test in another week to make sure the line had completely disappeared. HOW IN THE WORLD WAS I GOING TO DO THAT? I spoke to Lauren about what I had been told and she advised me: “Absolutely do NOT take that test!” My body would tell me if I did not pass everything and I could address it as it came.
We were invited to a Jack and Jill that our closest friends were hosting that Friday night and my anxiety was rising. I was not ready to be in ANY kind of social situation but I also wanted to try to get out of the house. Dan stood by me most of the night, bringing me water after water. I sat at a table with some friends feeling like I couldn’t engage or connect. My mind was just elsewhere. We won some raffles and went home after about two hours. I was both physically and mentally drained.
I slept well for the first time that night. I woke up much later than I usually do the next morning, around 9:00am. I took out some morning emotions as I lay in bed and watched TV. I didn’t do much moving at all that day… until I decided that it was time to get up, shower, curl my hair and get myself ready for something. Anything at all. We decided to take Ellie to a local winery where we sat in the sun and I had my first sip of wine in just about two months. It was the first time that I felt some happiness that week, there, on a date with my amazing hubby… still in pain and bleeding…
These moments were few and far between, though. I find it hard to comprehend how I can surround myself with so many people that care about me, yet still feel so alone. It’s a feeling that you can’t put into words. You can’t even piece the emotions together in a way that even you, yourself can understand. How does life just go on when I am experiencing such visceral grief? I have never experienced such loneliness in my entire life.
People will try to come up with ways to comfort you without realizing that they are just digging deeper and deeper, making you feel worse. Saying things such as “When it is meant to be, it will happen!” “This was God’s plan…” “At least you weren’t farther along…” “Now you get to try again!” “The hormones will make you feel really emotional…” “It’s so common…” When people say these things it makes you question whether or not you are entitled to your grief, and it is such an awful feeling.
A woman becomes a mother the second she gets a positive pregnancy test. She makes changes in her life to ensure that her baby is safe and protected. She makes plans for the future, picks out names, envisions coming home from the hospital, birthday parties, what the nursery will look like, etc. That baby becomes a person to her in that moment and she wonders what they will look like and who they will become. When the pregnancy is lost, she mourns the ideas of how it was supposed to be. Her child has died. Whether they made it to this earth or not, the loss is felt so deeply.
I personally feel betrayed by my body for not giving me a warning sign. Why did I have to wait for so long and fall in love with what could have been, only to have it ripped away a whole quarter of the way through my pregnancy? I continue to blame myself and go over every single action wondering how I could have changed this awful fate. Was it the day I forgot to take my prenatal? Did I eat something I shouldn’t have? Did I push myself too hard that day at the gym? I know that there is nothing I could have done differently but it is human nature to place blame. We would love nothing more than to try again for our rainbow baby but how are we going to feel when that positive pregnancy test does come? Will we feel robbed of our joy? Petrified or numb until we see that ultrasound 10 weeks in? The thought of that waiting period makes me physically ill.
Do I regret telling our friends and family about the pregnancy? Absolutely not. I can’t imagine going through all of this aftermath without their love and support. They have been a saving grace and an incredible distraction when I need it the most.
As I sit and write, it has been two weeks since my miscarriage. It has not gotten easier, but only more familiar. I wake up each morning sad, and then a distraction comes along long enough for me to smile a bit until I remember my reality. I can only imagine that this feeling is here to stay, at least for a little while, until it becomes another part of me and my story. My hope is that it makes me stronger and not bitter. I fear that my longing to become a mother has only grown and that it will heighten my anxiety as we begin to try again down the line. I know that I need to continue my self-care and never forget that this was NOT MY FAULT. I am 1 in 4 and I am a fighting machine. I didn’t get to this point without working for it. I love this life and, little one; we are so ready for you when you are ready for us.
Things that have helped me so far:
-Writing this. Putting my experience into a timeline/summary has been a type of therapy for me and has given us something more concrete to help us manage our feelings in a more meaningful way.
-My hope is that writing this might help another woman or couple who are going through the same thing to not feel so alone in their grief.
-Talking it out with friends and family, especially those who have gone through the same trauma.
-Listening to the “Managing Miscarriage” Podcast with Melissa Wittman where I will be a guest in October 2018. She brings on a new woman each week to talk about their miscarriage experience. By listening I feel like I can relate to something and I don’t feel so alone.