Do not bear the burden and loss alone. These babies belong to all of us and we mourn them together.
My first pregnancy was completely unexpected. My husband and I had only been dating for six months at the time and had known each other for about a year and a half. I was scared, nervous, and unsure of our future. We were madly in love, but weren’t even living together yet, much less engaged or married. I was also worried that the previous month of drinking for friends birthdays, happy hours, and cinco de mayo would have some sort of adverse effect on the pregnancy. I had not prepared my body in any way and certainly had never taken a single prenatal vitamin up until that point - about six weeks in. The pregnancy progressed without a problem, my husband and I married at the San Diego County Clerk’s office on a beautiful Monday afternoon in late October, and I delivered a healthy baby boy, Michael William (named after both our Grandfathers) on January 7th, 2012. All was good in the world.
Six months later our family moved from San Diego to the east coast and after a struggle to find a job that I felt secure in and enjoyed, we were finally ready to begin trying for a 2nd child in January 2015, Michael had just turned three. Although I had carried and delivered a health baby already, this was the first time we were actually planning a pregnancy so I downloaded the ovulation tracker app, made sure we had sex almost every day of the fertile week, and inspected my cervical fluid on a daily basis. I was definitely a bit obsessed.
After all the unnecessary stressing, we found out I was pregnant in late January and were ecstatic. We told our immediate family (who of course told other family members) and close friends because we just couldn’t hold back. We had no reason to think anything bad would happen since I had fully prepared my body this time and had such a healthy first pregnancy. I stopped drinking after my fertile period, had taken my prenatals since my last period, and was eating as healthy as possible. I called my OB to tell them the news and schedule my first appointment. Since I had a negative rH factor, they had me come in the next week for a blood test and to make sure my body wouldn’t reject the new fetus in the event that he or she had a positive rH factor. I had received all needed rhogam shots throughout my last pregnancy so that I wasn’t too worried.
The following weekend I had a birthday dinner with some old friends and since my husband has to travel every year on my actual birthday, he always makes sure that I have a great pre-birthday weekend of fun. We had sex on Saturday night since he would be gone the following week, but the next morning I had streaky red discharge. Of course, this worried me, but it was a Sunday and I had read many places that blood in early pregnancy is normal, especially for a second pregnancy. I called the OB on Monday morning, and although I didn’t have an appointment until Wednesday, they told me to come in that day to be checked. They did another blood draw and my OB examined me. She said that she didn’t see very much blood and that besides my cervix being a bit irritated, everything looked ok. Sigh of relief!
The next day was Tuesday, my birthday, and it was a pretty uneventful day. I went to work, picked up my son, went home, and did the whole mom routine. When I got into bed that night I put my hands on my belly and talked to the baby, saying things like, “I hope you’re ok little baby” and promised that there would be so much love for her (convinced it was a girl) out here and the most perfect big brother that would love and protect her forever.
The next day I went to work and around 9:30, I received a call from my doctor. She said they compared my blood draw hcg levels from Thursday to Monday and the numbers are just not growing as they should be and that unfortunately I was in the early stages of miscarriage. I was standing in the hallway outside my office and all I could reply was “Really, there’s nothing that can help or stop this?” She told me no, unfortunately, there wasn’t, but if you want to come in now, that would be fine (my appointment wasn’t until 2:30pm). Interestingly enough, I have this strong feeling that my doctor would have called me the day before since the blood draw results are usually available the next day, but since it was my birthday the day before, I believe she waited so that she wouldn’t leave me to have that memory associated with my birthday. I’ll never know for sure, but I do truly believe that and fully appreciate her for sparing me.
I went back to my desk, collected my things, told a friend what had happened and left. I called my husband on the way out to my car and told him what was going on. He stayed positive and supportive, encouraging me to not lose hope completely until I saw the doctor. I am realistic and had already accepted that it was over, but his positivity was comforting. In this situation, I knew we needed to be there for each other, especially because he was so far away. We would both need to seek out some support since we didn’t physically have each other. They didn’t examine me at the office, but I spoke with my doctor and she said that basically hgc levels are supposed to double every 48-72 hours, but mine had only grown from 340 to 450, not enough to sustain the pregnancy and that it was no longer viable. My progesterone levels were at a safe level, but not as high as she would’ve like. She had actually prescribed me a progesterone supplement last week, which she told me at this point to discontinue. It was really over.
As I sat in her office listening, she told me the next thing I needed to do was to get my rhogam shot once again, since blood was passing through me, to ensure my body did not reject the next pregnancy. Have I mentioned how annoying it is that I have a negative rH factor? Super annoying. She also said if I still wanted to, I could keep my appointment for the ultrasound that was scheduled for later that day. I decided I still wanted that, not sure why, but it was important to me.
As I walked from her office to the lobby, a little girl, probably around one and a half years old, was walking directly toward me. I moved out of the way to avoid bumping into her, but she moved back into my direction. She walked right into my leg, hugged it hard, and looked up at me and smiled. I had already been crying, but this sent me over. I cried and laughed at her innocence, I couldn’t really believe this was happening and was completely overcome by emotion. The nurse and my OB pulled her away and knew that it couldn’t have been worse timing - a woman being hugged by a baby right after hearing that she had lost her unborn child, ouch. But to me it was more like a sign from somewhere letting me know that I would ok and that the baby would be ok too.
It was super intense and that little girl will never know the impact she had on me that day. I walked over to check out and make my next appointment, still crying and the nurse followed. She handed me a tissue and when I looked up, she had tears in her eyes. Her empathy meant so much to me and at that moment I saw that her job wasn’t just a job, she truly cared for the women that walk through those doors. Maybe she knew my pain, I’ll never know. I could cry just remembering it though. After I left the doctor’s office (which is in a hospital) I went downstairs to maternity medicine to get my shot. As I waited, I called my mother to tell her what had happened. In between tears I made it pretty obvious that I needed her to come be with me, without saying it directly. She asked if she should come to me, and I just said “Yes!”. I couldn’t stop crying for a while after that, like a little kid who skins their knee and it doesn’t hurt until they see their mom.
The hospital staff was so nurturing and caring during my emotional breakdown. I came back later for the ultrasound and it just confirmed everything my doctor had indicated earlier. She told me what to expect in the next week and gave me a prescription for extra strength ibuprofin and told me to pick up some large maxi-pads for the bleeding (which hadn’t really begun yet - just some minor spotting that had been going on for about three days). She assured me again that nothing was wrong with me, and that this pregnancy was just not viable most likely because of a genetic mismatch. I drove to CVS to pick up the pads and painkillers (which I thought was a perfect way to describe miscarriage) and that phrase really prompted the whole idea to share stories of this experience.
I texted any friend or relative that I had told about the pregnancy, shared it on the mothers facebook group I’m a member of to get advice and learned that so many other women I knew had gone through this as well. This common bond was what got me through the next week, well that and my mom helping out with my three year old son. I told my husband to stay in San Francisco since my mom agreed to stay until he returned which would be two more days. I began bleeding the morning he returned. It was as if the fetus was waiting for its Daddy to actually pass. Life is so perfectly beautiful sometimes, even in the worse situations.
I experienced heavy bleeding and cramps for the entire weekend and my husband was wonderfully supportive and attentive. I took the next week off or work after strict instructions from my boss; she was also incredibly understanding and sensitive throughout the entire ordeal. It’s been just about a month since we lost the pregnancy and this morning I can see that my period is looming. I think for some, the first period is rough since it signifies that the pregnancy is really over, but I am overjoyed. I feel normal again and excited that my body is back on its cycle. It makes me hopeful that we can begin to try again soon, although it does scare me a bit too.
Only the future will tell if we are meant to have another baby, but this experience has made me so grateful for the amazing boy that came into my life so unexpectedly. It has made me understand that we can neither prevent nor force what is meant for this life. His innocence, laugh, smile, and love has helped me move forward in more ways than I can explain. My hope is that by sharing my story I can spare least one woman going through this the feeling of isolation. That she will know that she is in the company of many others and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. It takes incredible precision to create life and like many things has a lot to do with timing. So many factors have to line up in a certain way for the miracle of life to occur. If you have experienced miscarriage, give yourself time to heal and talk about it with others. Do not bear the burden and loss alone. These babies belong to all of us and we mourn them together.