The first day of my last period was 1/1/18. That’s easy to remember. Then I got pregnant. I knew immediately- not because of any womanly intuition or anything like that, but because I’m very, very regular. The day before my missed period, I wasn’t spotting like usual. The day my period would have begun, I bought 5 tests and passed them all.
After telling my husband, we told our parents, his grandma, and his sister. Then we told Katherine. All on day 1.
I bought books. Like, 8 of them. I wanted to know everything. I meal planned with my prenatal vitamins to make sure what the vitamins didn’t give me, the food did. We house shopped. We got a preapproval. We prepared to start a family.
Over the next few days, I tried to limit myself to telling one person a day. I told my boss. My brother. My dad’s mom. The rest of our grandparents. Our friends.
It took a lot of work to find a doctor who would do an early ultrasound. I didn’t want to wait for anything- I wanted to see my baby. And we did. At 7 weeks, 3 days, we got to see a fuzzy ball of static, and a flashing white heartbeat. I left the doctor’s office with two ultrasound pictures, went and bought a DQ cake, and put them in the kitchen at work with a note that said, “Please don’t let me get fat alone.” We were going to make a Facebook announcement, but hadn’t quite figured out the best way to do it yet.
At nine weeks, on a Monday, we went in for our second ultrasound. It was uncomfortably fast. She found the baby quickly, then politely asked who we were seeing. She went to get the doctor I hadn’t yet met. As someone who has always dealt with anxiety, I started a mantra in my head. “Do not borrow trouble. Do not make a big deal out of this.” Then my husband said, “Well, that was weird.” This time, my anxiety was validated. The doctor came in and told us that our baby did not have a heartbeat anymore. It was just gone. Sometimes this happens. They’re so sorry for our loss. 10%. Not my fault. No more growth.
The doctor kissed my forehead, and told me to get dressed so we could talk about next steps. I lost our baby. We scheduled a D&C for Wednesday. I just wanted it out of me. I don’t mean to be callous, but as if it wasn’t bad enough to lose the baby, I was walking around with it inside of me. How are you supposed to try to get past something, when you’re literally carrying it with you? I was a walking graveyard.
I called my boss. He was wonderful, and he told the office for me. They sent flowers. We told our friends. They all met up with us and we went to eat sushi that night. All of our friends and family surrounded us with love, and have continued to be unconditionally supportive while we get through this. I can’t imagine going through this alone. I understand that for some women, the pain of telling people is the hard part. For me, it’s starting over. It’s being alone.
Thursday, the day after the D&C was done, I thought I was doing well. I wasn’t bleeding at all. I got up, visited friends, cleaned some… I was ok. Friday, I went back to work. Saturday, we hosted a beer tasting (that had been planned for some time). Sunday, it hit me. I started bleeding- a lot. I hurt- bad, and I hadn’t before then. I sat around with my heating pad and curled up in front of the TV. I cried.
A week after we found out, I was still bleeding a lot. There was blood on and off for at least two weeks. Every time I felt like it was over, it would start back up. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real, and it’s like it never happened. This little person never really existed. But they did exist, and every time it stops feeling real, my body reminds me with a cramp or a blood clot. I’ve called my doctor’s office three times with questions since the procedure, and they’ve been wonderful. For someone who has always been very regular, unpredictable bleeding freaks me out. Maybe my body is still cleaning itself. Maybe it’s my actual period. Nobody can tell you how your body will react to a lost pregnancy. It seems that everyone really is different. I freaking hate the unpredictable.
From the moment we found out, everyone kept saying that it wasn’t my fault. That’s really hard to settle with yourself. I am a scientific person. I know that miscarriages happen. I know it’s 1 in 10. Still though- what if I didn’t drink any coffee? What if I didn’t drink for a month before the pregnancy? What if I started taking prenatals earlier? What if I was skinnier? Philosophically, sure, ‘this wasn’t my fault’, but scientifically, there must have been something I could have done to prevent it, right?
People like to say things, like “It happened for a reason” or “You’ll have a baby when the time is right” or “God’s plans are not our plans.” Please, don’t ever say those things to a family who has miscarried or who is struggling to get pregnant. It’s just not helpful. It only serves to invalidate their feelings, and comes across like they don’t have a reason to mourn. Their feelings are valid. Their mourning is valid. I got to a point where I’d call my mom and say, “life sucks, and this isn’t fair.” She would repeat back to me, “Life sucks. This is NOT fair.” I was sick of talking about it, but I wasn’t sick of crying about it. When the physical pain finally went away, the emotional pain really began, and it hurt. A friend described it as ‘post-partum depression, without the baby to hold.’ She was looking at my experience, but also speaking from her own. Looking at it now, she is probably right.
It’s been over a month now, and we finally got the results back on our fetal testing. Our baby would have been a girl. She would have had ’45 x’ or ‘Turner Syndrome’. While she would have been fine mentally, she would have had serious health problems, including infertility. She was missing a chromosome. Turner syndrome is a non-hereditary genetic mutation. It happens in 1 in every 1500-2000 pregnancies, and of those, 1 in 100 survive. Those 1 in 200,000 who occur and survive live to have serious health problems and physical deformities. This was not my fault, and while I would punch anyone else in the face who might think to say it to me or my husband, scientifically, it actually did happen for a reason, and that reason wasn’t us. That reason was a genetic deformity that our baby couldn’t survive with. Why did our baby have that deformity? Beats me, but it sure as hell wasn’t for a good reason.
I take comfort in science and data. My doctor says that our next pregnancy will have a miscarriage probability of 1 in 10. That’s a very naïve view of the statistics. People who have had one are 4% more likely to have another than someone who has never had one. Only 2% of women experience two pregnancy losses in a row. Women who get pregnant within 3 months of miscarriage are more likely to have a healthy pregnancy. The vast majority of women who have had one, two, or even three miscarriages goes on to have a healthy pregnancy eventually. The odds are in my favor.
I’d love to end this post with a suggestion on how to deal with this if it happens to you Firstly, I hope it doesn’t ever happen to you, but statistically, it will probably happen to (or has already happened to) someone who is reading Katherine’s blog. Secondly, I can’t tell you how to deal with it if it does. I can tell you that it really isn’t your fault. I can tell you that you are not wrong for how you handle it, however you handle it. You do not have to hide it, but you can if it’s easier that way. There are support groups online that may help you. I found some comfort in the grief section of the What to Expect app. Your feelings are valid. Your anger, fear, sadness- whatever you are feeling- is valid.
Statistically speaking, even if you do suffer a lost pregnancy, the odds are in your favor too. When I was pregnant, several people said, “Oh, you aren’t supposed to tell people yet, are you?” You know what you aren’t supposed to do? You aren’t supposed to tell a pregnant woman how to be pregnant. Period. Every time someone said something like that, I wanted to punch them in the face. If I had a time machine, I’d go back and do it. I hope every person who said that feels horrible that the implication of their words came true. Who are they to tell me that I should celebrate or suffer alone? Everyone’s journey is their own. Unless it’s solicited, keep your advice to yourself. The only advice I would ever give to a pregnant woman is to trust yourself. You are genetically wired to do this, even if you or a doctor had to help your body with the details. Do your research, but trust yourself. It’s going to be a long 9 months if you don’t.