I’m supposed to be pregnant.
That’s the line that often runs through my head these days, especially as my due date nears. It’s a haunting, sinking thought. I’m not sure what to do with it.
I’m not sure I should really tell anyone. What can they do about it? What can I do about it? Go to Spoonlickers again? Tell my husband again? It’s a hard place to be. No one really gets it unless they’ve been there.
But who has been there? Who has had a miscarriage?
No one really knows that either, since no one really talks about it. I’m hoping to break a little of that silence today.
It’s Okay to Talk About Miscarriage
For years and years and years I wanted another baby. There was a tug in my heart, an ache in my belly, that told me we weren’t “done.” I’d tell my friends all the time that “there was another one in there.” I just knew it. I’d joke that the baby must be a future President or something. It had big plans for our world, and it was ready to come OUT.
The thing is, we already have four kids. A fifth seemed crazy. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was one more in there. It was a true battle of head versus heart. So one brave day last summer, after many, many talks, my husband and I gave it a try. Boom. Pregnant. I was terrified and excited. It was a huge leap of faith.
Things progressed nicely at first. I had my first OB appointment, where we saw the first glimpse of our baby and heard the little heartbeat. Incredible. Instinct told me she was a girl, and I was in love. We left that appointment happy and full of plans. We later went to a big family wedding, and it was fun for my husband and I to share secret glances when I turned down a drink, passed on the Caesar salad, or when family members asked about more kids. Little did they know that #5 was already on the way. I tried to savor every moment of this pregnancy.
Then one Saturday morning I began spotting. There was something else that could have caused it, so I tried not to worry. By Sunday I was cramping, too, and feared the worst.
I couldn’t get in touch with my doctor. I needed his calm voice, telling me it was okay, or even that it wasn’t. Just something. Answers. Many, many phone calls later to other medical professionals, the decision was made for me to sit tight, think positive, and call my doctor’s office first thing in the morning. That was an awful, awful weekend.
On Monday afternoon I saw my doctor. He confirmed what I pretty much already knew: I was miscarrying.
I will never, ever forget staring at that ultrasound screen, seeing my baby for the last time. I cried and cried and cried. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I would never see her again. I would never hold her. I wondered how long my doctor would let me lay there. How do you say goodbye? Eventually he held out his hand to help me up. I gripped it and just cried harder. And then he gently turned off the machine, and we went to another room to make plans.
I would have a D&C first thing in the morning. There was a bunch of talk about where to be and when, what prescriptions to fill, what to do in the meantime, etc. Thank goodness I had a wonderful friend with me to remember it all and guide me through it later. Because at the time I couldn’t hear any of it.
I was consumed with one big question: what was going to happen to the baby? I asked, and was told in nutshell that due to my early stage of pregnancy, the hospital would handle disposition. I nodded as I listened. It sounded so reasonable. On paper, yes, that would make sense. But hadn’t I just seen the baby? Hadn’t I felt her all along? Didn’t I have a video of her sweet heartbeat? It just didn’t sit right with me, but I was so exhausted that I didn’t have it in me to ask more questions. I just wanted to go home.
The next morning, I arrived at Spectrum bright and early. My husband dropped me off at the front doors while he parked the car. I sat in a wheelchair, looking out at the dark sky, quietly crying. Here I was, back at the hospital, pregnant with another baby. Just like I knew I would be. But this time I wouldn’t be leaving with her. All I could do was hold my belly and cry. I kept my hand there the whole time. I wanted her to know I loved her, and I wanted to be as close to her as I could.
Right before the D&C began, I asked again about the baby. What was going to happen to her? I was told the same answer. I nodded, and was out.
Later that day, at home, I felt pretty good. I don’t know if it was the drugs, exhaustion, or relief that it was over. My sister had come for the day, and we sat in the sun, napping. I really love that memory.
When I woke up, I began thinking about the baby again. I couldn’t stand the idea that she was sitting around somewhere at Spectrum. Call me crazy, but that’s what I felt. I was desperate for more information, for options. I called the hospital switchboard, and after a few transfers, found out about Bereavement Services.
Bereavement Services was the answer to my silent prayers. They were kind, understanding, supportive, and had answers for my questions. The social worker I met with was the first person who said to me, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Plenty of people had said, “I’m sorry,” but it was the word “loss” that stopped me in my tracks.
Loss. That’s what I was feeling. It was a very validating sentence.
I made plans for the baby, and with that I rested a little better. I honored her life, and it gave me the closure I needed. I think I spent about five days huddled up in bed with a “belly ache,” and after that, life kicked back in. My kids needed me, and I eased back into the swing of things.
For the next couple of weeks, I probably cried every day. Little things would set me off. Or nothing at all would set me off. I’d just cry. Lots of “whoosh” moments, when an ache hit me so hard in the chest all the air escaped my body. Sobs that rang in my ear, clenched my heart, sent pain to my fingertips. It was hard. Eventually those moments came fewer and farther between. Milder, too. But they’re still around. I hear you never forget.
And then there’s the wondering. Wondering how I’d be feeling, how my baby bump would look. Wondering what it would be like to feel a little baby move around again. Friends announced their pregnancy on Facebook with an ultrasound picture. It sent me to the floor in tears. They are due the same time as me and I couldn’t help but think, “that’s what my baby should look like, too.” I think that in the months and years to come, I’ll always do the math and know how old our baby would be.
We didn’t tell too many people about the miscarriage. A few people at first, a few more as time went on. There’s this weird quietness around miscarriage that I can’t figure out. No one talks about it. As one friend put it, there’s no “protocol.” And she’s right.
No one knows what to do when a woman miscarries. Pretty much everyone knows what to do when a woman is pregnant, and pretty much everyone knows what to do when a woman gives birth. But what do you do when she doesn’t?
Even worse, I wasn’t sure how I was “supposed” to feel. I was sad and devastated. I was sore. I didn’t want to do anything. But was it okay to say that? Out loud? So many women have had much, much worse experiences with miscarriage, even stillbirth. Was I taking it too hard?
The answer to that is that I still don’t know.
One mean thing about miscarriage is you come home full of pregnancy hormones, probably some aches and pains, probably some kind of drugs, but no baby. You have reminders all around you – maternity clothes, pregnancy emails, prenatal vitamins, maybe even some baby gear. But no baby.
In retrospect, I think I needed the same things a new mom needs: support, meals, help with the older kids. I know my husband needed the help since he was caring for me, the kids, doing all the driving and all the cooking, on top of his two jobs. He was a champ. (And if you know him, give him some kudos, please!)
I decided to share my story not for sympathy, but to open the door for more conversation. To let another mom, another couple, know they’re not alone. And most of all, to know it’s okay to ask for help. Miscarriage is hard. It’s a loss, and it takes time to heal.
To all the grieving momma’s out there, I’m with you.
To my little angel in the sky, I love you.
Read part two here.
If you or someone you know is grieving, there is help. Talk to a friend, ask your doctor, or visit:
- Cameron’s Garden, a new program through MomsBloom for bereaved parents. For more information on Cameron’s Garden, email Angie at [email protected] or call 616.828.1021.
- Still Standing Magazine, an online magazine embracing life after loss and infertility.