I have really been on the fence about writing this post, for so many reasons. I worry that our family will think it’s crazy that I put this out there, but I know our family is always so supportive of me. I worry that it will look like I am just looking for sympathy. I am not, but it may look like that to some people and that’s OK. I also worry because I fear the responses. This may seem weird once you read my story, but responses are tough for me. On the one hand, it really hurts when a friend or family member doesn’t reach out after we tell them. On the other hand, there is not one solitary thing that anyone can say to make the pain go away- nothing. Since I don’t know what I want from my friends and family, they obviously have no idea what to offer me.
Here’s the story. Over Fourth of July weekend, Pat and I were elated to find out we were pregnant. I had a chemical pregnancy the month prior, and that was obviously sad, but in all honesty, the doctors and nurses were so dismissive (some of them didn’t even know what the term meant) that I thought I was crazy for even caring. For everyone who doesn’t know (because most people not in OB probably have no idea) a chemical pregnancy is essentially when you have a positive pregnancy test but then begin bleeding a few days later. Your hormones had begun to change, but the pregnancy didn’t “stick” for lack of a better term. Most people don’t know they are pregnant when this happens because it is so early. This also means that I was three weeks pregnant when I ran my marathon.
Back to the point though: Pat and I found out we were pregnant, and we were also getting ready to move to Colorado. We were so excited, and when we went in for our 8-week appointment the woman we saw set up an ultrasound for us since we were leaving soon. The ultrasound showed that the baby was only six weeks and no heartbeat yet, despite estimated due date putting me at 8-weeks pregnant. We were shuffled back to the doctors office where we saw my favorite doctor (it’s a group practice). He told us the ultrasound showed a six week sac, which could mean one of two things: 1) The dates were off. 2) We were going to miscarry. He said at this point there was really no way of knowing, and sometimes the body doesn’t register a miscarriage. It’s referred to as a “missed miscarriage”.
He was so kind and optimistic. He assured us that miscarriages are common, and it is a sign that your body is operating well, but it is still emotionally gut wrenching. I really appreciated that he touched on the emotional aspect, despite how common it is. He said we could ride it out, or come back in a week (the day we were supposed to leave for our 10 day trip around the country before settling into Colorado) for another ultrasound. He said that if the baby had grown, it’s a good sign. He was also hopeful for a heartbeat at that point, but sometimes seven weeks can be too early.
Over the next week I jumped onto my good friend Google, and looked for similar cases with positive outcomes. It turns out there are A LOT of cases with misdiagnosed miscarriages. I was SO HOPEFUL that this would be the case for us. We also finished packing our house, where we decided what went to Colorado and what went into storage. We sent all baby gear 0-6 months to Colorado.
When we went back seven days later, the ultrasound showed the baby as being five days larger, still without a heartbeat. The doctor we saw that day was far less hopeful. He was convinced we would miscarry. We left for our flight a few hours later and made it through the entire ten days of travel without any signs of miscarriage. I continued to feel sicker and was so hopeful that this was a good sign.
We arrived in Denver the following Sunday, and spent that evening in the emergency room. The miscarriage had begun… sort of. The problem was, my body still wasn’t fully miscarrying. When I finally got in to see an OB that Thursday, she went over my ultrasound with me, in great detail. She showed me everything and explained that my body wasn’t registering that the baby had died. She showed me that the bleeding hadn’t collapsed the sac the way it was supposed to. I asked her what I can do, and if there was any way to avoid a D&C. She said I could continue to wait for another week (it had been over three weeks since our first ultrasound), or I could take some pills to help the process along. If the pills didn’t work there was the risk of D&C.
I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I asked my doctor anyway: “what did I do? How could I have prevented this?” She assured me I did nothing wrong. That it is normal, and a sign that my body is strong. I told her “but I just ran a marathon.” “Good” she said. “We have marathoners, triathletes, Olympic lifters – they all come in and have healthy babies.” I encourage you to ask your doctor. Even though I KNEW I did nothing wrong, hearing my doctor tell me that made me feel infinitely better than anyone else saying it.
So, at 11 weeks, with a baby who stopped growing at six weeks, we lost our baby. The Monday after we spent the night in the emergency room, the movers arrived to move us into our house – including all of the baby boxes we had packed. I wanted to write this post because, before we had the miscarriage, I always read how people didn’t talk about it, but I never understood why. I would never judge someone who had a miscarriage, or blame them, so why don’t people talk about it? I also realized, it’s gut wrenchingly common. Before we went through this, I only knew of three people who had experienced a miscarriage. After word spread, people were coming out of the wood works to tell me about their miscarriages and those of women close to them.
I think I understand more now, why people don’t talk about it. Maybe I’m alone here, but the reason I don’t talk about it is not because I’m ashamed. I don’t talk about it because nothing anyone can say will bring my baby back. Nothing anyone will say can make the pain I feel stop. Nothing anyone can say will make all of the dreams we already had for our baby disappear. It is hard because OF COURSE people want to make you feel better. I want to make people around me who are hurting, feel better. It’s just not a situation that can be solved though. The problem solver in me is in a constant struggle. I want to feel better, but I don’t know how to make that happen.
The other thing I was shocked about, was how angry I felt. Maybe I am reading the wrong stuff, but no one ever really said they felt angry. I feel ANGRY. Anger is my default emotion anyway: when I’m sad, I’m angry that I’m sad. When I’m scared, I’m angry that I’m scared. So I could be alone, but I’m going to put it out there anyway in case it helps even one person feel less crazy. I felt really angry that people who never wanted kids, get to have a healthy pregnancy (it doesn’t mean these people don’t deserve pregnancy, it’s just how I felt). I feel really angry that people who are on drugs through their entire pregnancy and don’t care about the health of their kid get to have kids. Meanwhile, I was on the fence about my one cup of coffee during pregnancy. It makes me so angry that I work so hard to be healthy, and set myself up for healthy pregnancy and healthy family, and my baby was ripped away from me. It made me angry that I had no energy and was so so tired for several weeks after, despite the initial burst of energy I had. It made me angry that I couldn’t be as present of a mom for our son that we already had. It really upset me when people would say, “at least you have Nate.” I know I have Nate. I am not unaware of how much and how deeply I love him. It doesn’t lessen the pain of losing a child. It all just makes me angry.
I wanted to share this today because, writing about it helps and I want people to know they are not alone. Maybe you coped differently. Maybe I seem like a psychopath because I talk about my anger. Maybe you are just wondering what a friend or family member is going through, because they won’t or can’t talk about it. I hope this gives you insight. If someone in your life is going through this, send them a bottle of vodka and a pass to some boxing classes, and call it a day. Also remember, not saying anything is worse than saying the wrong thing. If you want to reach out to someone, even a simple “I don’t know what to say” or “how can I help” is better than nothing.