I am a member of several clubs I never wanted to join; lost parent, hyperemesis gravidarum and miscarriage. None of these clubs would you volunteer for, but once in, only your fellow members truly understand your grief and pain.
15 years ago we lost a baby. It seems like a lifetime ago but also feels like yesterday. I can remember the doctor flippantly and coldly telling us there was no heartbeat and immediately turning off the screen. I can remember how we sobbed. I can remember how kind the nurses and doctor were when I went in to have a D&C. I can remember wanting to reach out to all my friends who had miscarriages before me and apologize for not knowing what to say because I didn’t understand until now. I remember how much the loss effected my husband. I remember how that loss colored every pregnancy afterwards, I don’t think I took a deep breath until the 20 week sonogram for all of my subsequent pregnancies.
Around our oldest daughter’s first birthday I found out I was pregnant. We had just moved to a new state, I was navigating the first year as a new parent and I had mixed feelings about the news. After the initial shock we were excited and made an appt. for a 10 week sonogram. Our conception and pregnancy with our oldest was extremely easy and we naively thought all would be well. Being in a new state we went to a new OB. She started the sonogram, we saw the baby and she immediately said coldly and unemotionally, “there is no heartbeat.” Bill and I were in shock and maybe more shocked by the tone, it all happened so fast. I wanted the doctor, who was a woman, to say she was sorry. I wanted her to explain what happened, or tell us “why”, but none of that happened. We held each other and cried. The OB came back in and told me I would need a D&C Dilation and Curettage Procedure . Her office scheduled me for the next day and we went home. Our heads were spinning from sadness and unanswered questions.
We arranged for my in-laws to watch our daughter and we went in early for the D&C. We got to the hospital and they didn’t have me scheduled until the next day. I was beside myself, the doctor’s office had given us the wrong information. It felt like a kick while we were already down. Everything had happened so quickly the day before that I had so many questions about the baby, could they tell when the baby had died? I had nightmares that the doctor shut off the sonogram so fast that maybe she missed the heartbeat. We were able to schedule a level 2 sonogram that afternoon. The technician and doctor that performed the sonogram were so kind and patient in explaining what we were seeing and that the baby really was gone.
That night, as we grieved, our daughter got really sick and was running a very high fever. We called in some reinforcements and my mom drove 2 hrs to help out. The morning of my D&C my mom was with me in outpatient surgery and Bill was a floor above us in Pediatric Emergency Care with our daughter. It felt surreal and unfair. I can remember how kind all the nurses and surgical staff were to me. I am not sure they would say this in today’s medical environment, but they told me it would all be okay, that I was young and would have more babies. After the D&C we went home. That night we had ice cream sundaes and watched Finding Neverland, probably not the best choice since I sobbed through most of it.
The physical recovery from the miscarriage was pretty easy. The mental recovery was much harder. I felt like I was in a fog, just going through the motions and feeling numb. I also felt a lingering guilt, did I DO or NOT DO something that caused the miscarriage. Having our beautiful busy one year old kept me going those weeks right after. The loss really impacted my husband too. I think we were both taken aback at how strong our grief was for a baby we had loved for such a short time. In that time we had already started to dream, would that baby be a boy or girl, would that baby look like me or Bill. In that moment in the doctor’s office when we were told our baby was gone, all those hopes and dreams evaporated so quickly, so coldly and without explanation. I was also surprised by how many people we knew had had miscarriages. After we lost our baby so many friends and aquaintances told us their stories. I got pregnant a few months after our loss. The miscarriage really colored the subsequent pregnancies. I held my breath during the 10 week ultrasounds and really didn’t take a deep breathe until the 20 week sonogram.
At the time we had HMO health insurance and we didn’t have a lot of options for Obstetrics. When we spoke with a different doctor, we had the opportunity to tell her our previous experience and I felt like she was genuinely sorry. It was nice to be able to talk about it and we’ve generally had excellent care. We’re much more knowledgeable these days and one of the lessons we learned from this experience was to be an advocate for yourself and not be afraid to express when you’re unhappy, unsure, or need more information. It might make the difference in your mental state to feel like you have all the information necessary to care for yourself physically.
To all my fellow miscarriage club members; I see you. I am so sorry for your loss. You are not alone. Your grief and sorrow are real. No one should ever tell you how to grieve; this will look different for each of us. Support your partner and vice a versa. Reach out and talk to others who have lost a baby. Prioritize your mental health.