I'm Pregnant, But I'm Not: The Days Between Diagnosis and Miscarriage
I typed. I deleted. I typed. I deleted. I typed some more...and wept. Grief is raw, difficult, and incredibly trying. Grief over losing a child is its very own category. If you're reading this and have not personally experienced this kind of loss before, I understand this may be uncomfortable, but keep reading. There is something so powerful about empathy required in being able to understand another person's loss journey. If you have been through pregnancy loss before, you may relate to this and I am so sorry that you do. If the title wasn't enough, let me warn you that this may be triggering to anyone who has experienced miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and infant loss.
There are various ways that parents find out they have lost their baby. Ultrasound, bleeding, cramping, or abdominal pain are some of the ways women may discover their baby has passed. For me personally, we found out at our first ultrasound. It was January 23rd. The entire morning just started off terribly. I am a prior Army Veteran, and my husband is currently active duty Air Force so we have military health care. If you have ever been to a military health clinic, you know the frustration that sometimes comes with that often.
The entire morning of that day just felt off to me. From forgetting my military ID to not being given a warning that just the week prior, they changed policy stating children were no longer allowed back into the viewing room, I was a mess. So for the first time in all 3 pregnancies, my husband had to wait outside. (Now, this was pre-COVID when this felt far heavier and more devastating. I felt like I was the only one. Just 2 months later, this would become the norm for expecting couples everywhere, and I am so sorry I ever complained). I was 10 weeks pregnant. The baby appeared as though her heart had stopped within just a few days prior around 9 weeks.
Since that was my third pregnancy, I knew by the subtle looks on the ultrasound tech's face and the way she asked me certain questions like, "have you been experiencing any spotting, cramping or back pain?" that something was wrong. And worse, I heard my husband and two children giggling in the hallway. They were innocently waiting for the scan to be complete so that they could come in and see the baby. I felt empty. I felt like I had failed. What do I tell them? They are expecting to see photos of their baby sibling. Why did my body fail? Why me? Why my baby?
What followed that day was 13 more long days of impatiently waiting for my body to pass the baby on its own. I remember having a glimmer of hope that they were wrong. God can heal her! But what if He won't. He is still good...right? My faith was tested, strengthened, and solidified more than ever imaginable in those 13 days. For us, the choice to wait for my body to miscarry naturally was the right one (though incredibly agonizing); though I 100% understand the desire and choice to choose the surgical option.
I expected to feel sad. I expected to go through 17 different emotions in one day. I expected to be exhausted. But what I didn't expect, was the emptiness and anger that came every time I was in public. The anger came from the juxtaposition of going through internal turmoil that wasn't apparent on the outside, and having to act like nothing was wrong at work, with clients, and my family. My sadness felt like a burden. It made people feel uncomfortable because they didn't know what to say. Sometimes, when we don't know what to say, we should just say..."I'm so sorry."
But instead, these are some of the things I was told. "Your baby must've been needed somewhere else." "God just needed another angel." "This must be part of a plan." "Everything happens for a reason." "At least you can try for another." "Your hands are pretty full anyway, it may have been for the best." "At least you were pretty early." Have you been told these? Have you told somebody these phrases? Knock it off. It's not helpful.
You see, the fact of the matter is for me, our baby died. Being told that it was for our good or for a reason that will better us as mothers, is hurtful, insensitive and can be the catalyst for intrusive thought patterns. "Is this my fault"? "Did I do something wrong?" "Should I have taken more vitamins?". "WHY. ME?" "Was this God?" "How will I continue to live?"
When we finally met our baby after those 13 long days. I was at home. I had been having contractions all night prior, but was able to get somewhat of quality rest. I began spotting and my heart sunk. It was the confirmation of what the ultrasound found (or the heartbeat it didn't find rather), and I sobbed. I was scared. After 13+ days, what was I going to see? What would I feel? I had delivered both of my living babies unmedicated, and felt more pain from my miscarriage because of the emotional pain it took to not run away from the process. I SO understand why the medical and surgical resolutions to miscarriage exist. And I questioned why I hadn't just done that option by day 12. I knew there wasn't going to be a prize at the end of labor. No crying baby. Nothing to snuggle. No newborn to nurse. Nothing. Just...the remnants of what could have been. Ouch. It hurts. It still does. At just 10 weeks gestation. She had 10 fingers and 10 tiny toes on her little paddle-shaped feet. So peaceful. So clearly a tiny version of my other babies. It took me about 10 minutes to get the courage to look at her. We caught her in a "miscarriage strainer" that I peed into every time I went to the bathroom. My amazing husband may have had the hardest role during it all. When I knew that I passed her, I handed him the strainer to confirm while I trembled in fear. Then, he lovingly took her out of the sac, and placed her on a tiny satin cloth. It was one of the most difficult moments of our lives; but also the most beautiful. We got to see all of God's design in such tiny, but enormous ways. But I have no regrets of the route we took. I can honestly say I feel blessed that our children got to see and hold the gummy bear-sized baby that they know as their baby sister, Hope.
This is my story. And I can't begin to know what your story is. Maybe you never saw your baby. Maybe yours didn't have a name yet. Perhaps you didn't make it to your first ultrasound. It's quite possible you weren't at home. Maybe you even had feelings of relief. You were probably terrified. But I'm willing to bet a lot of the same feelings and experiences exist. This blog is not for sympathy, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. But to highlight the raw, dark experience that pregnancy loss often is for many families. It's so much more than just an ultrasound photo that never turned into a baby scrapbook memory. It's more than just an empty place in our hearts. It's something that stays with us wherever we go- in every experience we have.
"How old would they be today?" "I wonder what kind of baby they would have been." "Would they grow up to play sports?" This is loss. It's an eternal loss, while the sympathy and meal trains are temporary. The hesitation that comes when someone asks how many kids you have; it never goes away.
Today, we honor your babies. Your loss. Your empty spot. And we honor you. We support you. And we are here for you. We understand. And we know that one person's experience could never determine another's. Whatever you went through, we are so sorry. It is not your fault. And your baby is loved.