A couple of months ago, Jeff and I found out that we were expecting our second child. We were thrilled! Adeline has brought us so much joy and we were so excited to have another baby to dote on, adore, and love unconditionally.
We told a few people we were expecting… Mostly because I am lucky enough to have a titled uterus, which makes it painfully obvious that I am expecting from very early on… from approximately 5 weeks. I even had to switch out all of my regular clothes for my maternity clothes at about 7 weeks because my clothes were already too small.
I went to my first OB appointment a couple of weeks ago. When the doctor did an ultrasound, he unfortunately could not find a heartbeat. The doctor said that there was a slight chance that it was simply too early for him to see the heart beating, but that it was likely we had lost the baby. I can’t say that I was terribly surprised because I had experienced a fair amount of spotting, and for some reason, I just felt like something was off. In fact, just the night before, I had told Jeff that I felt like there was something wrong. But still, I was devastated. The doctor told me to make an appointment for about 2 weeks later so he could do another ultrasound IF I hadn’t officially lost the baby by then. And then he sent me home… basically to wait to miscarry.
I have experienced so many emotions over the past couple of weeks. When the doctor told me that he couldn’t find the heartbeat, I was so grateful that he used the words “the baby” rather than “the embryo” or “the fetus.” Because to me, it was a baby. MY baby. A human life, despite what scientists or doctors or others may call it. I was so grateful that the doctor didn’t minimize what this baby was, or what this baby meant to me. I was also grateful that he gave me a copy of the ultrasound picture… That I have a picture of this baby, even if I never got to see him or her grow up. Even though I never got to hold, hug, or kiss him or her.
I have also felt so devastated. It is crazy how sad I could be given that I had only known about this child for a few short weeks. My heart literally hurts when I think about the fact that I will never get to meet, hold, or show love to this child. People have told me things like, “Miscarriage is nature’s way of saying that something is wrong,” and while I’m sure that’s true, it doesn’t make me feel any less sad. And in fact, it seems to invalidate the feelings of sadness I am experiencing. My heart is broken, and that’s okay. It’s okay for me to be sad. It’s okay for me to hurt. It’s okay for me to grieve this child who is not going to come to me. It is NOT okay for me to let others dictate how I “should” feel about miscarrying.
Anxiety is another emotion that I have become very familiar with over the past few weeks. When I first went home, I was incredibly anxious about when I would actually miscarry the baby. Every twinge I felt in my abdomen, I would think, “Is this it? Is this when the cramping and the bleeding will start?” I was afraid to leave the house because I was worried that I would be away from home when I started to lose the baby. It was all I could think about.
The day after my doctor’s appointment, I found the ultrasound picture the doctor had given me. I hadn’t shown it to Jeff simply because I had forgotten and had many other things on my mind. Showing Jeff the ultrasound must have been a trigger of sorts because I had a major anxiety attack. I started thinking about the idea of getting pregnant again– What if I couldn’t get pregnant again? And if I did, what if I lost the baby again? What did I do to make this happen? How could I stop it from happening again? Did I drink too much caffeine? Was it the Excedrin Migraine I took? Did I not drink enough water? Or is it because (I know this sounds silly) I had jinxed it by switching out my regular clothes for my maternity clothes already? I couldn’t stop the irrational thoughts and fears from plaguing my mind. This led to lots of tears and hyperventilation. Luckily, my husband is amazing and as he held me, he talked me down and I recovered. Of course, I had a splitting headache and was incredibly dizzy due to lack of oxygen, but all was well. I am so grateful for my sweet husband.
That brings me to the next emotion I have felt over the past couple of weeks. I have felt a whole lot of love. Jeff has been such a huge support to me. He has not invalidated the way I have been feeling. He has been compassionate and kind. He has done more than his fair share of cooking, dishes, and cleaning–not to mention how much he has done to care for Adeline. Jeff and I have grown so much closer and I am so appreciative of all he does for me. If I had been closer to my sisters and my mom, I am sure I would have had a “Girl’s Night” or something with them to keep my mind off of things, but because we don’t have any family around us, and although I have had many phone calls and texts from those I love who don’t live near us, it’s really just been Jeff and me. We have grown closer as a couple, and I am very thankful for that.
To those who wonder what to say to someone they know who has lost a baby, there are a couple of things I have found to be helpful, and a couple of things that are not helpful at all. First of all, I have just wanted someone to listen to me. I don’t need someone to tell me that I’m being irrational (because I know that already). Having someone point out to me that if I had carried this baby to full-term, there may have been something wrong with him, was not helpful at all. That just led to the thought, “Well, why did there have to be something wrong at all?” I just needed people to say they were thinking about me and praying for me. I needed someone to tell me that it was okay to grieve, and it was okay to be sad. One of the most helpful things was to talk to people who had miscarried before, especially if they had gone on to have healthy pregnancies later. They gave me hope. Luckily, I had a great support system (sisters, parents, friends), even if most of them live far away.
One of the most common things women who miscarry hear is, “One in 5 (or whatever statistic they have heard) pregnancies end in miscarriage.” As if that makes it okay. As if it will make a woman feel better. To me, that phrase is just about as comforting as telling someone who has lost a parent or a grandparent, “Well, 100% of the people who are born will one day die.” Please don’t minimize a woman’s pain by making her feel like just because miscarriage is fairly common, she shouldn’t feel sad about it. She has every right to mourn this loss.
I wish that I had known what to expect when I actually miscarried. Now that I have experienced it, I feel a little silly thinking that the little pains I felt during the past 2 weeks could have possibly been related to the actual miscarriage. So to those women who have not experienced a miscarriage, but wonder what to expect if it ever happens, here are some things I was not prepared for:
- It takes a couple of weeks from the time the baby dies, to the time you will actually pass the baby.
- I was not prepared for how much I would bleed. I will not be too graphic, but just know that, at least at 10 weeks like I was, there will be A LOT of blood. It will be bright red, and there will be fairly big clots. The bleeding will last at least a few days. And, unfortunately, you cannot use a tampon because of the risk of infection. Sorry about that.
- Your cervix will have to open enough to pass the baby, the tissue, and the placenta. That means that you will have a miniature labor. So it’s going to hurt. The pain doesn’t get as bad as labor when you deliver a full-term baby, but it’s not just a little bit of menstrual pain.
- Even at 10 weeks, it is alarming when the baby passes. I was not prepared for how well-formed and baby-like the fetus would be when I passed it. It was really traumatic for me, and I am so grateful that my husband was there to help me take care of things. I can TOTALLY see why women choose to have D&Cs rather than pass the baby naturally when they have a choice. I wish I could “un-see” what I saw.
I had actually expected to feel relieved once it was all over. The 2 weeks previous to this had been so filled with anxiety that IF I was going to miscarry, I just wanted it to happen. But once it was over, I felt no relief at all. It was like all hope was gone. Even though I had really felt in my heart that we had lost the baby, there was still that teeny, tiny bit of hope that I was clinging to–that hope that maybe everything was okay after all. And so, once I miscarried, I wasn’t relieved at all. I felt empty. It finally hit me that this child I had been carrying was gone. I had loved this child, and yet, I had nothing to show for it, besides a grainy, black and white ultrasound. A piece of my heart was gone. And I wasn’t going to get it back. I had thought I had done my grieving already, and that was partially true. But I had a bit more grieving to do. And that’s okay.
Finally, to this child I will not get to raise, I just want you to know that you were wanted. You were prayed for. You were rejoiced over. You were grieved for. And you were loved. Until we meet again, little one.