After you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, you almost take that experience for granted. After you’ve had three with no complications or scares, you might end up believing that it will always go that way for you. At least, that is what I believed about myself. After my third child was born, we decided to wait a while before we would try for a fourth. When we started to try again, I was surprised and discouraged that it was taking much longer to become pregnant. After almost a year of trying, it finally happened, and I was expecting our fourth child. I was happily pregnant, despite the terrible all-day sickness! I had wanted to have just one more baby for the longest time, and I was euphoric at the thought that in just a few short months I would be holding another precious newborn.
The first ultrasound, at 11 weeks, was perfect and showed a nice strong heartbeat, and a tiny baby dancing around in my belly. I was so relieved! We told our kids that day and they were elated! Two weeks later, I started spotting, which was not normal for me. The nurse tried to reassure me, telling me that many women spot only to confirm that there is nothing wrong. However, I knew in my heart that this wasn’t true for me. They scheduled an ultrasound to “put me at peace.” The ultrasound showed that my baby had stopped growing shortly after my first ultrasound. Though I was 13 weeks along, the baby was measuring only 11.5 weeks. There was no heartbeat.
We scheduled a dilation and curettage (D&C) for the next day, a Saturday. I was showing no signs of miscarrying spontaneously, and my doctor did not want to risk complications because I was so far along. My body still believed I was pregnant. Since it was a Saturday, they had to perform the procedure in the maternity ward. There was a mother in labor in the room next to me, and they wheeled me past the nursery on my way into the operating room. Mercifully, someone had the forethought to close the nursery blinds. I woke up sobbing, feeling completely empty. The nurses were uncomfortable. I suppose they were more acquainted with tears of joy in the maternity ward. My doctor explained that everything looked normal and that it was most likely a one-time thing. Possibly a chromosomal anomaly that prevented the pregnancy from continuing. I could try again after three normal cycles if I felt ready. He sent me home to recover.
Within three cycles, I was expecting again. The joy was countered with quite a bit of fear. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle another miscarriage if it were to happen. But the odds of that were very low. I was sicker with this pregnancy than with any of my others. I hoped that was a good sign. At seven weeks I started spotting, even more than I had with the first baby when I was miscarrying. An ultrasound revealed that all was fine, and that the baby’s heartbeat was strong and fast. I was relieved, but still terrified. At eleven weeks, I had my first regular appointment and ultrasound, which again revealed that everything was perfect! My doctor was as relieved as I was. I scheduled my next appointment for four weeks after that.
I kept promising myself that I would stop being scared after I reached thirteen weeks and passed the point of miscarriage with my last one. Of course, the fear was still there. At fifteen weeks, my morning sickness improved and I tried to feel grateful. But I knew that was too early for me to be feeling better based on my past pregnancies. I had my appointment the next day, so I tried to feel hopeful.
In the doctor’s exam room, I relayed my fears and he said that it was completely normal to feel that way after suffering a loss. He measured my uterus and told me that it had grown, but I could tell that it hadn’t grown as much as he had expected. He took out the Doppler to listen to the heartbeat and warned me that it may be hard to find since the baby was still very small. He looked for the heartbeat for what seemed like hours. I knew what this meant, but I didn’t want to believe it, and neither did he. He asked the nurse to bring the ultrasound machine into the room so he could “stop worrying this poor woman!” Of course, the ultrasound showed what we all knew. There was no heartbeat.
In the following weeks, we did every test that there was to do. Chromosomal testing was completely normal. My baby was a girl. I had no blood clotting disorders; all of my hormone levels were within range; I was anemic from losing too much blood during the D&C; the HSG (hysterosalpingogram) showed normal uterine anatomy, clear fallopian tubes, and no adhesions. It is a strange feeling to almost want them to find something wrong with you! But, no answers. After the first miscarriage I was forced to share my news because I had already announced the pregnancy about a week before. I felt ashamed and embarrassed but the response was amazing. So many women contacted me to let me know that they had experienced a miscarriage (or more) as well. Many of them explained that they had felt so alone until they read my words. They thought they were the only ones who had gone through this pain. Since then, I have felt compelled to share my story. I hope that it will de-stigmatize pregnancy loss and that women will be able to get the support and love that they need.
It has been four months since we lost our second baby at 15 weeks. Almost a year ago we lost our first baby at 13 weeks. Time has softened the pain and smoothed it throughout my soul, but there are still days and moments where the pain is almost too much to bear. These losses will always be a part of who I am. I know that now. I wouldn’t change that, because that would mean my lost children never existed, but they did. Their hearts were beating and their tiny feet were kicking and I loved them. And I love them now. Sometimes my mind flashes to those silent, terrifying moments in ultrasound rooms, doctors’ offices, OR prep rooms, and recovery rooms, and I can’t breathe. My heart almost stops because of the acute pain. I think of my dear doctor frantically searching for my daughter’s heartbeat, while my living daughter was quietly reading in the corner of the examination room. Me, not breathing. Not daring to hope. The unspeaking ultrasound tech, clicking away with a grim look on her face.
I can’t adequately explain how it feels to have the hope and the life and the faith completely drain out of you. Those vital things have slowly trickled back into me over the hours, days, months, but they were gone for a time, and will never be quite what they were before.
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. Remember these mothers. Remember their babies. Realize that one in four pregnancies will end too soon. Realize that most of these mothers will never know why, and many of them will never hold their own babies in their arms. Understand that many women that you know may be carrying this burden in silence. Love them, pray for them, and don’t forget them. Especially don’t begrudge them for never quite being the same again.