Grief for your baby never ends. Time passes, and maybe you even have another child, but after you’ve carried a baby in your womb and that baby isn’t born, you never get over it. I will always wonder about the minute my baby’s heart stopped beating and what I was doing at the time. Did I recognize in some way that something significant had just happened? Was it when I was talking to my stomach during my morning shower? Or maybe it was during an innocuous conversation of what we will have for dinner. We don’t understand how precious every second is until we do. This is my miscarriage story.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and I’m sharing the story of my miscarriage from three years ago. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing it. People say it’s important so that others know they aren’t alone and how common loss is, but when I experienced my miscarriage, it didn’t comfort me to know others had suffered the same. If I’m going to tell my story, it will be authentic and honest, for better or worse. I didn’t want to hear about others’ miscarriages. All I wanted was to make the gaping hole in my heart stop growing before it completely overtook me.
When my son Sebastian was nine months old in 2012, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. Severe post-partum. One day I will likely share this story, too, but I can tell you it was the worst period of my life. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body, I felt listless and separated from myself. I felt raw and exposed, fearful and ashamed. It was an act of courage for my husband and I to start trying for another baby two years later.
I know what made me try. My love for my son. Sebastian is my heart. He is the reason I was put on this earth. He added such richness to our lives that his pureness and genuineness made us want another baby. There are a million reasons why he is special to me, but the fact that he loved me unconditionally through post-partum is near the top. We made it through, together.
My husband and I found out we were pregnant in October 2015 and we shared the news with Sebastian and the rest of our family, not bothering to wait until it was “safe.” We were so cocooned in our love bubble that it didn’t occur to us to wait. When we carved pumpkins, I put a heart in one of them so that I could show the baby later in pictures that we already loved him.
My best friends and I were turning 40 within a few months of each other that year. My milestone was first – my bday is on Christmas, and the three of us headed to New York City to celebrate. We had never gone on such an epic trip before together, and we excitedly checked our bags and grabbed breakfast at the airport. The sitting area was festively decorated and holiday music chimed in the background. I made sure to not go through the security screening because I was pregnant. An airport employee patted me down instead. Because I was pregnant.
Until I wasn’t. When I used the bathroom one last time before we were to board, there was blood on the toilet paper. There I was in the airport bathroom with “Jingle Bells” playing in the background, on my way to celebrate my 40th birthday with my best friends and blessedly pregnant after such turmoil. And then this. I was literally losing my baby in front of my eyes. I was distraught. I encouraged my friends to still go on the trip, and I hailed a cab through my tears. I cried all the way home by myself. In my heart, I knew it was bad news. My luggage had already been checked, so it was still going on the epic trip, but me and Baby weren’t.
My husband Kevin was at work and met me at the doctor’s office. Nothing can prepare you for the black emptiness of an ultrasound screen. In movies and television shows, you see happy couples looking at the screen in awe as they wonder if it’s a girl or a boy, and we had experienced that, too. But this was something completely different. The doctor confirmed that there was no longer a baby.
For the next few days, I had to help my son enjoy Christmas while grieving our baby. Every time I used the bathroom, I feared wiping because I would see more blood. I will always remember sitting on the toilet, looking at the toilet paper, and thinking that I was flushing more and more of my precious baby each time. I dreaded taking showers because I had talked to Baby every morning, but now the bathroom was full of silence.
I had a D&C to scrape the remaining fetal tissue from my body. I returned to counseling and altered my medication plan with my psychiatrist. When you experience a miscarriage, you are vulnerable to everything. A newlywed at work made a joke about not wanting to get pregnant yet, and I had to leave the room to cry. A family member wished us congratulations at an event before someone could tell her the news. And we had to tell Sebastian that Baby stopped growing. We told him that Baby was a star in the sky watching over us.
Miscarriages color any attempts at another pregnancy. After receiving clearance from our doctor that we could try again, I received a positive pregnancy test. Except that I started bleeding heavily the next morning. I had no idea that chemical pregnancies existed before then, but this made me fearful all over again about going to the bathroom and not knowing what I would find.
When I became pregnant after that, I worried constantly. I was nervous every time I used the bathroom for the first few months. I work at a high school and would often walk on the track during lunch. I would fear that the sweat I accumulated was blood and work myself into a frenzy by the time I left the track and went back into the building some days.
The first ultrasound was a milestone. As we walked down the hall toward the ultrasound room, I began sobbing. Images of the black, empty ultrasound screen flooded my mind, and I was petrified of what we would see. That’s when I first laid eyes on my beautiful baby girl, Julia. She was alive and healthy. She punched her little arms and kicked her little legs so hard, as if to say “Mommy, I got this. I’m ok. Don’t worry.” The image of her tiny but mighty body helped to dim some of my fears. I still worried throughout the pregnancy, though, and even up until the end about stillborn births, but Julia was born on April 14th, 2017, in perfect condition.
I take back what I said. I know now why I’m sharing this. I will never forget my son’s due date, July 7th. We were going to name him Jonathan. My miscarriage will always be a source of sadness, but like many events in our lives, it can be two things at once. It is a point of sadness, but also one of strength. I got through it and am still standing. I was on my knees in tears for a long time, but I’m still here. I’m a good mommy, wife, and counselor. I am strength.
And if you’ve experienced fertility issues, a miscarriage, stillbirth or anything related, so are you. I share this to provide this cyber hug and tell you that we can define our experiences how we want. Yes, they are sources of sadness and always will be, but they are also tremendous sources of strength. These experiences showed us what we can handle. I never want to endure that again and don’t wish it on anyone, but dammit, I got through it.
If you are in the middle of this, please seek help from your loved ones and a therapist. You can get through this. You are not alone. That might not be comforting right now, but there is value in knowing that there is a silent group standing with you forever and always.
This is dedicated to my baby Jonathan, whom I still think about often. You will always be in my heart, and I will always wonder what would have been. Your plump cheeks and baby giggles weren’t meant to be, but I can still hear them in my head. If any of you reading this are walking through grief right now, I wish you peace. None of us knows what the future holds, but I wish you the best.
In my case, had I not experienced my miscarriage, my husband and I would’ve stopped having children. We were going to stop at two kiddos. So, while I will forever grieve my second son, no words can describe how grateful I am for my Julia. No words. I will never tell you “everything happens for a reason,” but two things can be true at the same time – grief for one child and gratefulness for the future.
Much love, friends.
Please do not hesitate to email me with how this article impacted you or to share your own story. Please, too, share this with any friends who are experiencing loss and if you think this would help.
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