It’s no surprise that 2020 was a difficult year for me as well as many other people. In October, my grandfather was diagnosed with Covid and four days later he died.
I found out the Friday before Thanksgiving that we were pregnant, and I was actually kind of shocked because it had taken half the amount of time to get pregnant as it did with our son. I am a religious person and I most definitely thought that this was a gift from my grandfather to us, something to get us through the heartbreak and a baby that we had hoped and prayed for.
A week after I found out that I was pregnant, confirmed by blood test, I had started to have some bleeding. I didn’t think that anything was out of the ordinary considering that I had had bleeding with my previous pregnancy. I had an ultrasound done to confirm everything was okay around six weeks and two days and was told that I would follow up in two weeks for another ultrasound. Those weeks were stressful leading up to the next ultrasound but I truly believed that everything was going to be okay. The night before my ultrasound I found out that our son was a close contact of a Covid positive person at daycare and would be quarantined through December 26. That was devastating because the thought of even gathering for Christmas was off the table at that point. I knew that I had to go to the ultrasound. I knew that I needed to have it done or else I would go crazy for another week and I wasn’t a close contact.
I went to the ultrasound and the ultrasound technician was making small talk with me asking me about my previous pregnancy, what I was doing for the holidays, small talk. Once she was finished she told me that she had to have the radiologist take a look at the images because it was a follow up ultrasound. I remember thinking that this was strange because the last ultrasound they called me to let me know the results. I also just had a feeling something was off. Call it “mom intuition,” if you will. The radiologist came in and looked at the images. The ultrasound technician gave him my gestational age and he took a look again. He looked at me and said, “There is a little baby in there, but I’m so sorry there’s no longer a heartbeat.” The fetal demise was most likely five days prior. These are words you never forget.
The ultrasound technician was really sweet and she told me she already had Covid and if I wanted to take off my mask I could. She told me that I could get dressed when I was ready and she would go talk to the doctor and see what the next steps would be. I got dressed and attempted to use the phone in the ultrasound room to call home and tell my husband that I would be a little bit later because the baby was dead. After some time the technician came back and said my doctor was out on vacation through the new year and a different doctor would see me.
I had to sit in the waiting room because there were no empty rooms for me to wait in. I’m sure that way it would’ve felt really long regardless of how long I actually waited but I waited roughly 30 minutes in the waiting room bawling my eyes out. Near pregnant women, new babies. When it was finally my turn, the medical assistant wanted to take my weight. I asked her if it was really necessary. She added that I could pass but it would be charted as a weight refusal. I told her I found out my baby is dead and you want to take my weight. She told me she didn’t know why I was there as I was just added to the schedule and that she was sorry.
I waited in the room. I don’t know how long for the doctor to come in. I wasn’t on the schedule and clearly they fit me in. I don’t recall much of what he said except for it’s very common, and there’s nothing I could’ve done that caused this. He told me that when you have a miscarriage you basically have three options: you can wait and see what happens, take medication to cause you to miscarry or you have a surgical procedure most commonly known as a D & C. He went over all the risks of all of three and honestly, I was scared to death and I was sitting in a room all by myself having to make these major medical decisions without anyone that I know and trusted to confide in. Partly because of Covid and the thought of being in a hospital for surgery scared me as well as the risk factors I chose to wait and let it happen on its own.
A week and a half later I went in for repeat lab work to measure the progress of my hCG dropping. It was still at 40,000 units. I really just wanted to talk to my doctor that I knew and trusted about all of this. He did call me back once he returned to work and it was decided we’d have a follow up appointment in a week. Because of Covid, it was a virtual visit and my mental state was spiraling.
I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking that maybe they were all wrong. I felt like my body had failed me again by not letting go of this baby.
We decided that we would take the medical management route. That day, I picked up my prescription and I would take them on Saturday. My doctor wanted me to be off of work for two weeks. I thought one week would be enough time and I had a bonus day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
I had to take the pills every four hours until they were gone. The first two pills I had to stick up my vagina and would repeat that until I started bleeding. The pills were a hexagon shape and I could feel them scrape me inside as I put them inside. An hour later, I started to bleed. The pain was so excruciatig. Anyone that tells you it’s like a heavy period has clearly never had a miscarriage before. While I was given pain medication, I didn’t take it as it makes me feel weird and I don’t like that feeling.
I found a text message recently that I had exchanged with one of my friends and described the pain I felt the day of my miscarriage to feeling like death. It’s kind of fitting because part of me did die that day.
I scoured the Internet for 2-3 weeks trying to figure out when it would happen and what it would feel like, how would I feel, what would I experience and was left with little to no luck. I felt so alone physically and was alone except for my immediate family because of Covid. I think that’s part of the problem with miscarriage, that we feel so secluded. Unless you’ve had one you don’t understand what we go through and will go through for the rest of our lives. I knew of people that had experienced pregnancy loss before me and I didn’t think it was a big deal. I know now that I was very wrong.
It was a couple of months after the fact that I felt very strongly about how I was treated as a patient in my encounter the day I found out and in subsequent lab visits. I felt that the system was flawed within the hospital. I had completed the survey after my visits but never had heard anything from anyone regarding my concerns. That bothered me and it wasn’t until I read a book about baby loss and the writing prompts in the back asked what you wanted to change post loss. This experience was what I wanted to change. I couldn’t have my baby back but maybe we could be given some dignity and compassion while we are having our hearts ripped out of our body. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I thought nothing would happen because how could I make any change happen.
After submitting my complaint to the hospital, a week later I received a phone call from the manager of the department wanting to find out more about my story apologizing for everything that happened. Over the course of a month or so I received three or four phone calls from her with updates on their improved protocol and steps that would occur when someone finds out their baby has died. I literally cried when I read the email of all the finalized steps that they had taken. Going so far as to have baby free rooms for patients to wait in. No one needs babies all in their faces during that time. Honestly, I was a little bit angry with everything. I wished somebody would have done that before I had ever had that experience, but was happy knowing that it would be a bit easier on those experiencing baby loss.
I connected with many miscarriage accounts on social media after my miscarriage. Many had said it would get better with time though it doesn’t feel like it now. I didn’t believe it and never thought I’d ever get out of this brain fog while the whole world continued on around me. Flushing your fetus down the toilet feels awful. I recall saying hello and goodbye and hesitating to flush. I was angry that I didn’t know that there was another way, that I could’ve done something differently.
Through my interactions with the hospital, I was connected with one of the chaplains. She was a lovely woman and the first person I felt true compassion and care for our situation and through everything I endured at the hospital. They do a communal burial of all the babies lost too soon (with parental consent). She allowed us to bury momento of our choosing even though our baby was not physically present. I finally felt that my baby’s was honored and would be remembered. The memorial service was perfect and touching and I cried through the entire thing. I wished I didn’t have to be watching it but was happy that someone finally was allowing us to grieve in a more normal way.
Shortly after this memorial service happened I had a dream. In my dream my grandfather was there and he was with a little girl. He told me that he was now 97, four years older than when he died. The girl was four years old and he explained that this was our daughter. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. Dreams are strange sometimes. I had no idea if this was a sign of a future daughter or our baby that had passed. It seemed more logical that because my grandpa was dead that this was our daughter that left us too soon. My husband and I decided to give her a name, one we had agreed upon shortly before my miscarriage.
It’s a few days away from her “first” birthday. I’d give anything to have her here with us. But know she is smiling down on us, proud of the work we’ve done to make things better. My sweet Hazel, I hope you know how much I love you.