It’s hard to find representation in fiction for the horrible things that happen in life. I think that the reason for this, in short, is because nobody wants to read about cancer. Nobody wants to read about ALS. Nobody wants to read about miscarriage. These are the things in our society that we prefer not to talk about. We’ll talk about how people are “strong” and “brave” when they suffer from terminal illness, or heartbreak, or injustice. But in our books and movies, we don’t want to talk about the ugly side of it. Who would buy that book? It’s sad, heartbreaking. Uncomfortable. There are plenty of self-help books for that demographic, right?
I am going to share my story with you now, and it’s going to be ugly and uncomfortable. It’s not going be filled with fun GIFs and pretty pictures.
While I was going through everything, I would have done ANYTHING to be able to dive into a piece of fiction with a young woman facing the same devastating injustices as me, and taken strength from her choices. But there are no books like that. Not that I found. Because my story doesn’t have a happy ending.
So, here it is. In case there are any other women out there looking for a kindred heart, real or fictional. I can’t give you any book recommendations for dealing with the pains of a missed miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, or second-trimester miscarriage. There were no books that helped me, and most people I knew in real life didn’t know what to say. Instead, I found comfort in blogs.
So I’m putting this out there for the next woman who needs to know she is not alone.
Warning: There are triggers here for miscarriage and prenatal loss. If you have experienced either of these things, please proceed with caution.
September 5, 2016
My husband and I were at a Gabriel Inglesias show for our anniversary. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe, and I remember thinking: is laughing this hard okay for the baby?
I was 13 weeks pregnant with our first child. We found out at 6 weeks and couldn’t be more thrilled. In 2014, my husband went through chemotherapy, and we weren’t sure if we would be able to conceive. In every way possible, we were on top of the world.
On September 5, 2016 our life was perfect.
September 6, 2016
We walk out hand in hand, my husband and I. Out of the ultrasound room and into the waiting area. My hands are shaking. My heart is beating so hard, I hear it in my head like a drum – boom, boom, boom. I am left to my thoughts in that stiff silence, desperately avoiding eye contact with the pregnant women and new mothers seated around me.
Nobody has spoken the truth, yet, but I think I already know.
I pull out my phone and type in a quick Google Image search: 13 weeks ultrasound. I am a good researcher. If the technician won’t tell me anything, I already know it’s bad news – my search just confirms it. I hand my phone to my husband.
“This is what the picture should have looked like,” I whisper to him. He takes it, scrolls through a few images, and hands it back.
“I’m sure everything is okay,” he whispers back to me. He has that deep, faraway look in his eyes that tells me he’s building a wall and floating away. He does this whenever something bad happens.
I put away my phone and look at the other women in the room. I feel like an impostor.
It is a small eternity before we are called into the doctor’s office again. A short, bearded man with a hard face and blunt eyes tells us that the ultrasound shows 6 weeks. I’ve had a missed miscarriage. Since it’s been almost two months, my body is at high risk of infection and we need to act now.
No I’m so sorry. No This happens to many women. Just an appointment for surgery and be gone with you.
September 13, 2016
I go for my surgery at 8:00am. My husband comes with me. We do a puzzle in the waiting room by ourselves. I tell the receptionist, who joins us, I’ve never had surgery before and am nervous. She tells me not to worry about it.
I sit in my room for a long time waiting for the IVs to be attached, and the blood to be taken, and finally to be wheeled into surgery. I’m depressed and terrified rolled into one. It takes three tries to get blood – I’ve always been a difficult one. We watch reruns of Charmed for a couple episodes, then Supernatural comes on. I am wheeled into surgery in the middle of a ghost hunt.
I remember a brightly lit room that reminds me of a gymnasium, and a silver light with holes that looks like colander. My husband says when they wheeled me back, I kept asking for Sam and Dean. I don’t remember.
Just like that, our first baby was gone.
February 15, 2017
My breasts ache and stomach flip-flops. I stand in the bathroom, alone, watching a timer, but I already know the answer. I’ve known it for about a week and a half, since I was sitting at my desk and felt like someone stabbed me in the side. Our tuxedo cat curls around my feet, meowing impatiently. He doesn’t know what I’m doing – all he knows is that it is time for his breakfast and I haven’t fed him yet.
The timer isn’t even half over. The second line appears. I toss the stick away and sigh. I should feel happy, I know I should. Instead, all I feel is fear. I have to get through the next two weeks, then I can be happy. Until then, all I can think is: I’m going to have another missed miscarriage.
I go to wake my husband and let him know.
April 2, 2017
I have seen the baby on the ultrasound. This time, the ultrasound tech is very chatty. We put the picture on the fridge and smile every time we see it. 7 weeks, healthy baby. Everything is good.
Still, I purchased a Doppler because I’m terrified. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat will assuage my fears.
April 15, 2017
Just a little. Just a tiny little bit.
I think my heart is going to stop. This is the second day in a row. The first one, I thought I was just seeing things. Being paranoid.
Thank goodness for the doppler. A quick inspection tells me that the baby’s heartbeat is strong. Nothing to worry about. I wake my husband and tell him we’re going to urgent care, because it’s Saturday and the doctor’s office is closed. They told me I could go to the ER, but it doesn’t seem that imperative, right?
Still, my hands are shaking again.
Urgent care sends me to the ER.
The ER does all the tests they can muster. Lots of blood is taken. They wheel me down to the ultrasound room. The tech is sweet – she tells us she just ran a marathon that morning. She shows us our baby, even though she’s not supposed to. The baby is bouncing on its head, spinning in circles. I imagine it’s happy. She prints a picture and slips it to my husband, warning him to hide it because she’s not supposed to do that for ER visits. I like her.
After a full day of testing and anxiety, I am diagnosed with a minor infection, and sent home with antibiotics.
Everything is fine.
May 22, 2017
I should have just blown through the red light.
Why not? Everyone else does.
I think this over and over and over again as I sit in the room and wait. The nurse has already been in, there will be an ultrasound soon. Just in case, they tell me, because you asked for it.
Well, of course I asked for it. The doctor heard the heartbeat and said that everything is fine, but all I know is that I am four and a half months pregnant and I was just rear-ended. Hard. My SUV is a mess. And I need to see my baby.
The ultrasound tech does not show me my baby.
“Everything’s fine,” she says.
May 23, 2017
Everything is not fine.
The cramps start near midnight and wake me up. The doctor told me to expect some pain. He told me that sometimes the effects of a car accident don’t present themselves until 24-48 hours later. I clench my fists and start to cry. Everything hurts. Everything is pain. I am pain.
Eventually, I am able to go back to sleep. I wake a couple more times in agony, but I can push through it. Pain is not eternal. As soon as the doctor’s office opens, I call to let them know I am experiencing severe cramps. After all, the doctor told me to call if anything was wrong. This feels wrong. I am told they’ll leave a note for the on-call doctor.
My supervisor allows me to work from home, to be closer to the doctor’s office. It’s good, because every half hour or so, I find myself on my hands and knees, crying, my entire body twisting and writhing. I call the doctor’s office again. I try really hard to impress on the receptionist that I was in a car accident yesterday, and I’m 18 weeks pregnant, and something is wrong.
They say they will leave another note for the on-call physician.
I’m helpless. There’s just me and the pain and they don’t sound worried. Is this normal? This doesn’t feel normal.
And yet, through all this, I daren’t breathe the word miscarriage. It’s impossible. We have been so careful. Everyone knows – friends, family, work. I’m halfway through the second trimester and well out of the danger zone. All I think is “something is wrong” and that is enough panic.
My pajama bottoms are soaked through and a bucket of water splashes to the floor, soaking into the rug.
My heart stops.
I know exactly what this is.
“We need to go to the ER,” I shout to my husband. “Right. Now.”
I am good in an emergency. My husband is not. He freezes. I go into action.
I need to change. Without caring much for fashion, I grab a comfortable old skirt from the closet. It’s black, threadbare – I’ve had it since I was in high school. I pull it on, leaving the soaked pajamas in a pile on the floor.
“I can’t think about that now. I’ll think about it later, when I can bear it.”
The quote comes into my mind, strong and hard. Scarlett O’Hara. Gone With the Wind.
I wish I was as strong as Scarlett.
My water just broke. My water just broke.
I slip on flip flops and toss my husband his keys. What a sight I must be in my tattered old skirt, the Snape t-shirt from my Wizarding World crate, and a pair of sparkling flip flops with rhinestones on the straps! I dial the doctor’s office.
“My water broke. I’m going to the ER.”
This is clearly not what the receptionist was expecting to hear. She pauses, then advises that I should go to my local hospital instead of theirs – it’s closer. Time is of essence. I agree, that was my plan anyway. We are in the car now, driving. I call the ER as well, to tell them I am coming. Can’t hurt, right?
As it turns out, this is a good move. They are ready for me when I get there. I am checked in immediately and they run the circuit of tests they did before. Then they send me up to the midwives.
“I can’t sit there,” I tell them in the waiting room, and I feel like I’m being rude. The chairs in the waiting room are plush, nice-looking. “I’m still leaking,” I say and feel strongly that I shouldn’t have to. I don’t know why I care about their stupid seats.
They get me a wheelchair without a plush seat, easy to clean. I sit. I wait. It’s funny how when you’re terrified, things seem to take an eternity.
The midwife takes a look, but she doesn’t need to look hard.
“Your water definitely broke,” she confirms.
“I know,” I don’t say, but really want to.
“At this point, there’s not much we can do. I’m going to call your doctor’s office and have them get ready for you.”
Great. More travelling. Will someone tell me if my baby is alright? The midwife gives me a box of tissues and a pad thick as my fist. I’m still leaking, so ridiculous as I feel, this helps.
The downside of living in a rural area is how far away everything is. I work an hour and a half away from my house. My doctor’s office is 45 minutes away. The drive is another thing that takes forever.
I feel like with every minute, my baby is dying.
At my own doctor’s office, they run all the same tests. I am in a bed in a big private room. In the delivery area. Somewhere near me, a happy mother is giving birth to her child. I don’t hear it, I don’t see it, but I know it. The fact that I am in here tells me they expect the baby to be gone.
It is the beginning of the end.
Finally, I cry. My husband holds my hand.
When they do the ultrasound, they won’t let me see. The nurse gives us sad, pitying glances. I know she means well, and she is very nice, but I hate it. When the doctor finally comes in, I am glad to see which one is on call. This one is helpful, compassionate, and smart. I like her very much. She is also honest.
“There’s no more amniotic fluid,” she tells me kindly. “The baby’s lungs aren’t quite formed yet, and baby needs that fluid. It’s not going to magically regenerate.”
“What are my options?”
I know this already. I’ve been avidly researching on my phone and I don’t like what I’ve found. But I needed to do something to keep my mind busy.
“At this point, most patients choose to deliver the baby.”
The question is on my lips, and my husband’s, too. He gets to it first.
“And the baby?”
She hesitates. This tells us what we need to know.
I swallow my tears. There is a lot of them. There is so many. My heart has melted and turned into tears. “The heartbeat…?”
“Still strong.” The doctor looks like she’s going to cry. If she cries, then I will cry.
I struggle. “I can’t just terminate my baby. I can’t.”
It is true, and a sentence I never thought I’d have to say. She doesn’t argue with me. I expect her to, but she doesn’t. Instead, she very frankly lists the odds of survival, of defect, and risks to me. I nod like I’m listening, but I’m not. I’ve already made up my mind. Our baby is so, so very wanted. I sing to the baby in the morning, on my way to work. I haven’t felt baby kick yet, but I should. Any day now, in fact. I will do anything. Whatever it takes.
We are agreed, once my husband makes sure that my health comes first. I’m given lots of antibiotics to ward off infection. I’m put on strict bed rest for the next six weeks. 24 weeks is old enough to try and deliver with hope of survival. Six weeks is nothing.
May 26, 2017
I make it three days, and then I know something is wrong.
For the last two days I’ve lied stiffly on my left side. I take copious notes of everything – what I eat and when, how much water I’m drinking, when I pee. My medication and any little twinge is recorded, too. My parents visit. They bring me bright yellow carnations. I love them. My husband gets up at 6:00am and makes me scrambled eggs. My back hurts. It’s all worth it.
And then this morning comes and it is grey outside and I know instantly something is wrong. My doctor has me come in early – my mother was supposed to bring me today, but instead my husband is taking the day off.
He holds my hand. He never lets go.
The doctor takes one look and turns to me with her kind, sad eyes. She says something that still rings in my head, like funerary bells tolling:
I say it in my head. I scream it.
We’ve been so careful. I’ve done everything right. I want to be the 1%. We can fight through this, I believed it. I want the happy ending.
I am not so lucky.
They take me down to labor and delivery through the back elevator. They don’t make me go through the waiting room with the infants and big rounded bellies. I hate these women, but it’s not their fault. I hate them because I hate the world. Right now, I hate everything.
Except my husband. He is still holding my hand.
In the privacy of my room, we make a lot of phone calls. To my mom, who is coming up to be with us. To my dad, my brother, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law and his wife, our best friends, my supervisor. The most difficult call to make is my mother-in-law, who takes the news like a punch to the gut. Is it horrible that we don’t want to feel bad for the loss of others right now? We are so busy tending to our own broken hearts.
My mom comes. She talks to us. We stay distracted – avoiding the difficult topics is something my mom is good at. We don’t need more empty words, another “I’m sorry for your loss.” It sucks. Can someone say it like it is? It sucks, it’s horrible, it’s unfair, and I hate everything to do with it.
It doesn’t take long. A couple hours.
The baby comes quickly and smoothly. I try not to think about it, try not to wonder what I’m feeling. It hurts. I push. I don’t want to. What choice do I have?
It is a small relief that we do not hear the baby cry. Without properly formed lungs, I am not sure the baby could have cried. Still, the thought haunts me: Was baby alive? Did our child die cold in the world, in extreme pain? Or did I deliver our baby’s corpse?
I’ll never know.
The placenta came soon after. Everything was easy, and it disgusts me. It was so easy to lose our baby. So easy to be hollow.
September 15, 2017
As I write this, I know it’s been almost four months since my second trimester miscarriage. The dates of everything stand out in my mind. They’re black marks on the calendar. It’s been a horrible year.
I’ve reached the place where it’s no longer socially acceptable to discuss my miscarriages, even though they shape every day of my life. The day this post will appear on my blog, is my baby’s due date. I will never meet my baby, and even if we are able to conceive a third time, that child will be laced with fear. He or she will never replace the ones we lost.
My body feels… broken. Emotionally and physically. I’m in pain sometimes when I shouldn’t be, and my heart hurts all the time. I’m told this is all normal, and it will pass. I don’t think it will, though. Maybe the physical pain, but not the emotional.
The doctors say that the accident had nothing to do with my water breaking. More than one doctor, at more than one hospital. I’m told I have an incompetent cervix, and there was nothing they could have done. They don’t say this, but I feel it: the baby was always doomed. I constantly blame myself, even though I know I shouldn’t. My body can’t carry life. Not well. Do I dare even try again and go through all this once more?
Everything hurts, still. Sometimes, when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, I find myself thinking about the injustice of the world. About the people who treat their children horribly, who complain about them, and I think I would do anything to turn back time. On those nights, I sit up and cry. Ugly tears. I sob and sound like a wild animal. These are the things the grieving must do, and I am grieving so many things. The loss of two children. An attic full of baby toys. The names we picked. The future we saw. None of that exists now. No other child could replace the ones that are gone. The words I cannot speak. Mothers Day and Fathers Day are not for us, even though we have children… we just don’t have them anymore. We are childless – we can never kiss our children good night, or read them stories, or sing to them.
We can only cry for the empty spaces where they should have been.
I have a ring on my finger for each of them. To remember and carry them with me, in some small way.
Grief is impossible to describe and it is different for every person. It is a hole in your heart and poison in your soul. You know the depths of it when you feel it, and yet it feels impossible to express fully. Darkness and loneliness become your companions when friends and family fail you. You are told, repeatedly, to see a therapist… but it only makes you feel thrown aside. Your friends don’t want to talk about how it felt. It’s not their job.
But it is, isn’t it?
There is nowhere to go now but forward and up. I do my best to take care of myself. On those cold, hollow nights, my husband comes and holds me and we are together in our grief. I couldn’t do this alone, but I can do it with him, and I am grateful.
That’s all I can say about this right now.
If you have suffered a miscarriage, please know that you’re not alone. Blog posts like this one helped me enormously during mine, and I thank those women from the bottom of my heart for speaking up and creating a discourse about it. I have suffered a missed miscarriage, a second-trimester miscarriage, and resurrect miscarriage. Since these are less common, I had a difficult time finding and relating to stories of second trimester miscarriage (many stories are about the loss of a twin, so if you are going through that, please know there are others out there like you). I hope that somewhere out there, a woman who needs it finds this story, and finds comfort in knowing she is not alone.
If someone you know is going through a miscarriage, PLEASE don’t be silent. Don’t be absent. Don’t shrug them off and suggest grief counseling. All you need to do is:
- Check in every day for a month or so. Not necessarily with: “Heyyy sweetie, how you doing?” but to show you are there. Even a quote, or a joke, or a photo (NOT of your kids!) to show you love her and aren’t avoiding her because you’re uncomfortable.
- Find something to say other than “I’m sorry”. The friend who helped me the most lived too far to visit, but she sent me a box with tea and chocolates and herbal bath tea along with a card which said, “This sucks and it’s so unfair. You are good people and this should not have happened to you. Take some time to take care of yourself, and call me any time you want to talk about it.” For me, that was what I needed. I am so grateful to her for understanding.
- Follow through on your promises. MAKE THEM DINNER. My husband and I were not eating after the second miscarriage – nobody wanted to cook, nobody wanted to clean up. Lots of people offered to bring us dinner and I said yes please… but the only ones who did were my parents. The company we work for sent us over enough catering for about a week (so nice). We really would have lied in bed all day or maybe subsided on McDonalds without them.
- Let her talk about her baby. After a miscarriage, you lose more than just your child. You lose your hopes and dreams, your right to be a mother. Many people’s marriages suffer due to the strain of grief and talking about the baby is incredibly therapeutic… and a grieving mother shouldn’t have to pay a therapist for the right to share her thoughts and dreams about what life would have been like. I want to talk about my miscarriages all the time. Not for pity or sympathy or hugs. It just part of who I am, just like books or my cats or my marriage. I think about my babies and miss them the same way you would miss anyone you had gotten to know a bit, then died. We don’t shame people for talking about their deceased grandparents or friends or anything like that… there should not be a stigma about talking about miscarriage. So make a nice cup of hot tea and let her muse about whether the baby’s eyes would have been brown or blue.
Thank you to everyone who got through this post. I know it’s long and heavy and uncomfortable. I’ve edited it so many times that I think I just need to let it go.
I really do think it’s important to have this kind of dialogue out there, so women know that they are not alone, not broken (even though gosh, it feels like it sometimes). Historically, there has been a lot of shame towards women who have had miscarriages – in the Tudor era in England, for example, women who lost children were considered unclean, because if the baby was lost either it was corrupted by a demon or by adultery. I’ve definitely read articles about how miscarriages wouldn’t happen if the mother had taken proper care of herself and the baby, and therefore they’re like an abortion via neglect: THIS IS NOT TRUE. Accusations like these, which may reign down from family, friends, or the government, are the reason why women need to speak up and share their stories.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. YOU ARE STRONG AND BRAVE AND I LOVE YOU.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, I promise.
And no more talk of babies, miscarriage, or pregnancy until I have some good news, oui?