In late June, I surprised my husband after our housewarming party with a positive pregnancy test. We’d been trying since we got married and were lucky enough to get a house big enough to raise a family in. Dating is not a sure thing, but estimates would have put our pregnancy at 6 weeks when I tested positive. We decided to keep the pregnancy close to the chest until our first ultrasound appointment 3 weeks later.
Like most healthcare appointments, my husband and I were very nervous leading up to the date. We were happy to find an opening at Lankenau, very close to our home and well-renowned for their maternity care. At the first appointment, the doctor was very knowledgeable and reassuring about the pregnancy. He helped us answer several questions about our expectations and we felt like we were in good hands going forward. After some talk, the doctor decided to finish the appointment with the ultrasound. The next few minutes felt like an eternity as they prepared. He searched for a moment and paused; we knew from what we were seeing that something was wrong. The doctor mentioned that what he was seeing looked more like a 5-6 week appointment rather than a 9 week ultrasound. He bluntly diagnosed a “blighted ovum” – the body was preparing for a pregnancy but there was no baby developing.
We went over the dates again with the doctor and he made it very clear that there was zero chance I was pregnant with a viable embryo. I burst into tears—I felt that my body had failed me. The doctor then informed us that I would likely miscarry at some point in the next two weeks and that if that wasn’t the case, he would prescribe misoprostol to induce the miscarriage. Our world shattered and we now prepared for a different reality leaving our first appointment.
After gathering ourselves, we left the hospital and went home to grieve. With the help of friends and family, we picked ourselves up and tried taking steps forward to put the loss behind us. I waited every day for the miscarriage to happen—the anxiety that came with waiting for the inevitable to happen became too much. I decided that I didn’t want to wait for the miscarriage and asked my doctor for the prescription. He obliged and I took the misoprostol. The medication made me ill and I felt like I was in a fever dream nightmare until morning. However, I noticed that rather than the expected heavy bleeding that comes with taking this medication, I bled very little. I reached out to our doctor the next day, and we made an appointment for the following week.
When I arrived to the follow up appointment accompanied by my mother (as my husband couldn’t get off work), the doctor entered the room and began discussing an ovarian cyst (he had confused me with another patient and had no recollection of who I was or why I was there). After being briefed on my case by me, he performed an ultrasound. Staring at the screen, we realized we were looking at a developing 9 week old baby—the doctor fell silent. The air left the room, and the tension was palpable. Why was there a baby now when there wasn’t one 2 weeks prior? How did we have a baby after taking the misoprostol? A million questions ran through all our minds simultaneously as the new reality set in.
The doctor looked at me and my mother, and immediately recommended termination. He then changed his recommendation after some Google research (I wish I was kidding.) and we scheduled an appointment with a specialist. As to be expected, there is very little information about misoprostol exposure this early into a pregnancy let alone any pregnancy. My mom and I left the appointment knowing very little about anything beyond that I was still pregnant and I was 9 weeks along with a seemingly healthy fetus. I called my husband and he was dumbstruck. The doctor had made it very clear in that first appointment – there was zero chance of a baby. Yet here we were, with baby still growing. We were able to see a fetal specialist the next day. He confirmed that our baby was healthy, and that we would continue to monitor for any abnormalities that could be caused by the misoprostol exposure.
If at this point you are wondering wtf happened (as we were), the only explanation that makes any sense is that I tested positive very early on in the pregnancy. For those who are planning on having children, figuring out ovulation cycles is an art that is a combination of both luck and science. I have always had an irregular period, which made tracking my cycle even more challenging. My doctor never asked me about my period history nor did he seem to realize that could play a factor in the timing of our ultrasound appointment. From talking to the doctor, it seemed that we were actually 2 weeks behind the “timeline” based on the initial at home pregnancy test.
I’m happy to say that we have reached 39 weeks, and I am due next Sunday. I cannot wait to meet my miracle baby.
I should be having my baby today, but six months ago I went through the most physically and emotionally painful experience of my life. I woke up excited for my second ultrasound and my blood work that would tell us the sex of our baby. It was like any other Thursday: I got us ready and took my son Alex to school. I went for a 3 mile walk/run, and then to Valley Thrift because I still needed some props for my Beauty & the Beast table. It wasn’t until I went to the bathroom at Alex’s school that I saw I had spotted. The five minutes between that realization and picking him up lasted an hour in my mind; the two hours until my ultrasound felt like an eternity. I willed my baby to be okay. But when I had my ultrasound, my worst fears were confirmed: my baby, who I had seen dancing on the screen and whose heart I heard beating strongly inside of my body just two weeks before, no longer had a heartbeat.
I felt like my body had betrayed me and I had failed. I was in shock during the hour after finding out, waiting to talk to the doctor, etc. How could this have happened when I had such a great pregnancy with Alex? How could this have happened when being a mom is who I am? I had to call Adam with the worst news I’ve ever had to share with him, and then pick up Alex from my parents’ house because life continues. That night I went to bed knowing the baby who was once thriving inside of me was now lifeless, and with what was the beginning of labor pains, and the most physical of emotional pain I have felt. Six months later, my body still aches every time I think about it, like a muscle memory I never wished to attain. The gravity of carrying both life and death inside of you is not something you’ll ever forget.
I couldn’t be scheduled for my D&E until Saturday, so on Friday I went to get my pre-surgery Covid test and shopped for paint for my castle project, then I went to Bill’s to get donut holes for Alex to have Saturday morning at my mom and dad’s while I had my procedure. I also did two loads of laundry at home.
Even while having an active miscarriage, I wanted to make sure my family was taken care of.
As the day went on, I started to have a lot of pain, and it was throbbing in my back and hips and shooting down my thighs—it felt like contractions, and it wasn’t until later I found out an active miscarriage is basically labor. Why didn’t they tell me how this would feel?? Everyone who says a miscarriage is like a heavy period? False. It started to feel worse after my errands, but by night the pain was so excruciating I couldn’t stand up straight when I walked or even sit up straight. It was an incredibly long day.
I had to be at the hospital by 7am on Saturday, so we needed to drop Alex at my parents’ house even earlier. He was soo excited to be out driving when it was still dark out—there were Halloween lights and decorations that we had never seen before during the day, so he was thrilled about that. He still talks about how fun it was to get up early and drive in the dark during Halloween time; even though it stings when I remember why we were driving so early, the fact that he holds it as a special memory makes me happy.
At the hospital, I had to go to the Labor and Delivery unit; I was checked in and taken into what would be my prep and recovery room for the morning…which happened to be the same recovery room we were in when I had my c-section to deliver Alex. The same room in which I met and held my firstborn, was the same room in which I had to say goodbye to my second. I held it together until we walked down the hallway past the newborn portraits—a special form of torture for any woman who will never get to see the face of the baby she is there to have taken from her body.
The procedure went smoothly, and when I awoke from anesthesia my body felt so much better physically; I was too far along to have my miscarriage at home, but I can’t imagine enduring that pain for any longer than forty hours anyway. I was given paperwork with a certificate of death and a list of groups I could contact for grief support. Our baby’s remains would be buried at Calvary Cemetery.
I was 11 weeks along, and we hadn’t had the chance to tell many people yet, even though I was confident everything would go just as smoothly as when I was pregnant with Alex. It’s problematic when we feel discouraged from sharing news of pregnancy until after the first trimester.
From the moment I saw my positive pregnancy test, I was carrying our child. I talked to my baby every day, encouraging its tiny soul to flourish inside of me. I pictured our life as a family of four before we had even conceived, so when I heard my baby’s heart beating for the first time and saw my baby moving, I had no reason not to plan—not to hope.
We still hadn’t told many people yet because we wanted to tell Alex first, and were just about to announce our great news when it all came crashing down. So when I had my miscarriage, since I had only told a handful of people, the story I was now sharing put my loss at the forefront, instead of celebrating the life I was lucky enough to create and carry in the first place. It became a very confusing process for me to navigate.
Those who did know will ask how I’m doing—but how do you tell someone that you don’t know that you’ll never be okay again and that your whole entire heart has shattered into a thousand pieces and no matter how hard you work to put it back together, there’s always going to be entire shards that are missing now. Forever. How do you put that kind of hurt on another person’s heart? I just felt so responsible for protecting everyone else from my suffering, but in doing so I cheated myself out of my own grief.
The holidays were hard—I felt stupid for ordering my skeleton maternity shirt for our Halloween pregnancy announcement. I tried to stay joyful for Alex, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly bitter at Christmas time when I should have been halfway through my pregnancy and wearing funny Christmas maternity shirts and thinking about how we’d have a seven month old addition to our celebration the next year, and what a fantastic brother Alex was going to be. Even though he hadn’t known I was pregnant, he talked about having a sibling all of the time, and what a good helper he would be to me. It broke my heart that I couldn’t give that to him.
Today, I should be feeling all of the emotions I felt the day I went to the hospital to be induced for Alex: excitement and fear…so much fear…but also so much calm and readiness. I was so lucky to be having my baby. My body was aching and ready, and my mind overcame every doubt because I knew in my heart I would be able to nurture him and give him the best parts of myself. As soon as I found out I was pregnant this time, I think my attachment was immediately so much stronger because I knew how amazing the outcome would be. I already made a really awesome human, how lucky was I to get to do it again? Unfortunately, Noah’s story had a different outcome, and though he’ll never join us on earth, it comforts me to know I will hug him one day in Heaven.
I never thought I would so heavily mourn the loss of someone I never really met. I just didn’t know. It happens to sooo many women, but I’ve only known a few women who lost their babies, and their pregnancies were so much further along than mine; they all had to delivery their stillborn babies, while I got to sleep through my procedure. I didn’t think I had any right to compare my grief when I had a first trimester loss. But grief counseling has helped me acknowledge my loss as real, and my feelings as valid. My experience and Noah’s existence, however brief, matter.
My greatest source of support has been my friend Jenn, who lives states away, but has checked on my constantly since the day I reached out to her. She has always been so eloquent and forthcoming about losing her babies Hope and Anakin, and she was one of the first people I knew I could trust with my complete disclosure and heavy heart over the past six months. She’s also the reason I’m finally sharing my story because if I can make just one woman feel less alone, it’s so important I do. It’s just taken time to get to the point where I feel ready.
Even though I only got to carry my baby for two and a half months, I still experienced five months of post partum symptoms, which was another thing I had no idea to expect. But it makes sense: my body was pregnant and grew a placenta and produced an extreme amount of hormones in that two months, so I still had to have that adjustment period. I just didn’t know it would be as long as my full term pregnancy. Human biology is miraculous, but so so weird.
During the past six months, we’ve learned that for a variety of reasons, we won’t be having another child. But I feel so incredibly lucky to have Alex: my perfect and wonderful soul, and some days I still don’t believe I was so blessed to get to be his mom. That is a privilege not lost on me. But I can’t deny the fact that I am still processing so much, and grieving the life I always envisioned us to have. I know nothing in this world is certain, (and that lesson has hit us more than ever lately) but I do know that I will do my absolute best to make sure Alex knows every day how loved he is, and that he has the most fulfilling life possible. He is everything to me, and I’ll never let him not feel that.
Today, I’ll work as much as I can and I’ll have ice cream for dinner and I’ll love who I hold dear, and every day I’ll continue to hold Noah’s memory in my heart. Forever.
Nothing can prepare you for these words: “I’m sorry, but your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat”.
In January 2021, we announced our pregnancy to the world via social media. We found out in December that we would have another addition to our incredible family. We were shocked, excited, amazed and so happy. We went to an 8 week ultrasound and saw the most adorable little baby with a PERFECT heartbeat. It made all of the doubts disappear and bring everything into reality. Our children were so excited, especially my son, Elijah. He prayed for over two years that we would have a baby boy. The past two Christmases he has put “baby brother” on his Christmas list.
Needless to say, this was going to be the best Christmas gift EVER! On February 8th we went to get our second ultrasound. This time the baby would be quite a big bigger, 12 weeks and 3 days to be exact. It was finally our turn to go back into the room to see our precious gift! We all got settled and the room was full of excitement and anticipation. I held a small screen in my hand and my baby girl was laying next to me, while the other two kiddos were sitting with their daddy watching on the TV. She began to show us our baby, the baby was PERFECT. All three kiddos were so excited. The smiles were big and hearts were full. Then I heard the words that no one ever wants to hear, “I am sorry, but your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.” My heart sank, I immediately felt like time was frozen and my world stopped spinning. Her words replay in my head over and over, even to this day.
Ryon came over to comfort me, The kids were all crying and confused. We prayed as a family and then began to walk the hardest road I’ve ever had to walk.
I carried our sweet baby for almost a month after finding out I wouldn’t get to meet them this side of Heaven. On March 3, 2021 I had a D&C. It was the most excruciating decision I’ve ever had to make. I left the hospital empty handed, but I know that he/she is in the arms of Jesus and that one day I’ll get to meet my 4th amazing child.
Our hearts are grieving but we want you all to know that God is still good. He’s never changed during this whole process. He is a loving father and he’s close to the broken hearted.
We appreciate your prayers as we move forward toward healing and restoration.
In March of this year, we finally received the gift we have been waiting on so long. Positive pregnancy tests! I cannot begin to tell you the immense joy emanating from simply seeing two lines on the pregnancy test. For the last few years, I was riddled with anxiety and sadness from just getting negative results, but now it was finally happening.
We first saw our baby “Feijãozinho” in our 7 week scan on the 29th of March. A wee little baby. A tiny blip in my tummy. Our reality was unfolding beautifully and our love grew more and more for this wonderous miracle. We had another scan in our 8th week and we heard Feijãozinho’s heart beating for the first time. I have heard heart beats constantly in my nursing career but trust me when I say that it was the most beautiful heart rhythm I have ever heard: strong and promising. My husband woke me up in the mornings by nuzzling my stomach, I fell asleep to him talking to Feijãozinho. We started planning for the future that had been our heart’s desire for the longest time: a future where I am Mamãe, João is Papai, and we have our baby Feijãozinho. Our weekends were filled with going to baby fairs, going to maternity shops and choosing car seats and buggies. Every waking moment revolved around our child. Our love, hopes and dreams have all been placed in a baby-shaped basket.
We went around in a baby haze, continuing our daily routines but very mindful of the precious cargo we were carrying. I received my first appointment at the Coombe for May 6th. I left work on May 5th wishing my colleagues a lovely weekend and telling them excitedly we’re seeing the baby the next day for our 12 week scan.
We had no clue as to how our reality would change the day after. The morning of the scan, I was sending my friends and family photos of my baby bump. I went in the Coombe, got through my booking appointment, had my bloods taken, then rang my husband to meet me in the Maternity scanning department. I remember feeling irate as all the ladies who arrived after me got called in first. It might have been the Universe’s way to try to spare us from the pain a few minutes longer.
We went in and did our routine checks. The sonographer located the baby but fell into a deep silence. After a few seconds, she ran the color flow.
It was after that she said the words which broke my husband and I: “I am sorry but your baby has no heartbeat..”
I had to wait a week to get another scan done and I am not going to lie, there was this little voice of hope in the back of my mind wishing for a different outcome. Doctor Alex and rANP Sinead unfortunately confirmed what we already knew. I was then faced with a decision whether to wait for my body to expel the fetus naturally, take medication that will induce labor, or go for surgery. I went for the latter.
Today marks the day that our angel baby was physically separated from my body. There is a feeling of finality around the whole experience and a lingering wistfulness around the loss but my heart remains hopeful. Before I went into the hospital, I whispered to our angel baby to look after me. Feijãozinho sent nurse Joanne in St Gerard’s Ward, nurse Rita and Kuya Alfred who held my hand in the OR until I went under. I woke up to my kind and empathetic nurse, Patience, in the recovery room. Feijãozinho pulled through and looked after his Mãe and I know our baby will always be with us and that he’s being minded by his Lolo Ato & great grandma Mayet.
I look at my husband and who has been rock through this whole ordeal who never fails to give me as much affection as I want with a smile on his face. I know that my broken heart mirrors his but he has bravely put his own needs over mine and has been looking after me like a trooper. I couldn’t have picked better husband and my love grows for him deeper from all the challenges we have been through.
Our baby has gone to heaven now but we will forever be his parents. We cannot wait for the day that we get to meet again, but until that happens, we pray for the strength to carry us through every day while hoping and praying for a healthy Earth-side baby.
This is our story that I am sharing to the world as no parents should suffer the loss of their child in silence. I am 1 in 4 & I am 1 in 8.
Our first daughter was born in October of 2016. I naively thought that it took “forever” to get pregnant with her, it took 3 months (insert eye roll here). It was a very uneventful pregnancy that ended with a somewhat eventful delivery. My water broke at 36 weeks and 6 days and our beautiful daughter made her Halloween debut. Fast forward through postpartum depression, moving 12 hours away from our support system, the death of close family members, and 2 years later, we decide we are ready to try for a second child. This is where our long journey to Nora begins.
In early 2019, I got pregnant and then went through a missed miscarriage. I got positive tests, faint ones, but still positive. My period was over a week late so I made an appointment with my doctor for the first ultrasound. About a week or so after that I started having bad back cramps that my doctors office dismissed as just normal pregnancy pains. The next day, I started bleeding heavily and ended up in the emergency room where I was told my HCG levels were very low and they could not find anything on the ultrasound. This was my first experience with the world of miscarriages and it was devastating. To make matters worse, when I followed up with the OB/GYN I was seeing at the time, she told me that no one really looks into the cause of miscarriages until you have had three.
In 2020, I had my second and third miscarriages – these were also early. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss the fact that it had taken quite a while to get pregnant again and I had just had 2 more miscarriages. I was 33 at that point and worried that my age may be playing a part in everything. At that appointment, I expressed my concerns and was thankfully taken seriously by my doctor. She ran as many tests as she was able to and then referred me to a fertility specialist when all of her tests came back with no answers.
Through fertility testing, we were diagnosed with secondary infertility. What a frustrating world to be in. You’re told that you should feel lucky that you have one child at least, and everything happens for a reason. I hate that phrase. Yes, I am so lucky to have my daughter, but I also feel like my family isn’t complete yet, and would love to give her a sibling.
Our fertility doctor suggested we try IUI and was pretty confident that we would get pregnant that way. We did three medicated rounds and finally got pregnant. I went in and got it confirmed via a blood test on a Thursday and was told to come back Monday to make sure my HCG levels were rising. By Saturday, I was not getting positive digital tests (yes, I continued testing at home, because I was paranoid it wasn’t going to stick) and by Sunday, I was bleeding. Monday’s blood test confirmed my fourth miscarriage. It had been 2-2 ½ years of trying and the miscarriages were just taking a toll on me mentally. I told my husband that if our next round did not work, I didn’t know if I could keep going.
Round 4 of IUI was next and what do you know, it worked. I got a positive test about 4 days early and the lines just kept getting darker, I couldn’t believe it. We went in at 6 weeks to get our first ultrasound and saw baby’s heartbeat. I still couldn’t believe it. We also found out I had a small hematoma and I was put on pelvic rest until the next week when they would scan again. At week 7 the hematoma was gone and you could see the little heartbeat fluttering strong. I was released to my regular OB/GYN and scheduled my first appointment with them. We were so excited and started telling our family and close friends when we were about 8 or 9 weeks along.
I cautiously started to plan for baby’s arrival, we had a due date of February 11th 2022. I still couldn’t believe I was pregnant! I wouldn’t let myself get too excited though, because I was scared it was all going to end. We found out baby was a little girl and started thinking of names. My husband and daughter were so very excited. Then, I started spotting around 11 or 12 weeks. I thought for sure it was the end. I went into the office for another scan to see what was going on. Come to find out, I had another hematoma and was put on pelvic rest again. When I went back for a follow up ultrasound at 15 weeks, we were told it was gone. I was relieved and let myself finally get excited about baby girl. We started getting out all of our baby stuff and set up the room for her, I got the registry going, and we started narrowing down names and finally landed on Nora Blake. Everything felt right.
My next appointment was for our anatomy scan at 19.5 weeks. Covid was ramping up again and my doctors office changed their policy about who was able to come into the office. Children were no longer allowed, and on that particular day we unfortunately didn’t have anyone to watch our daughter, so my husband wasn’t able to go. I was nervous for some reason, but everyone assured me that everything was fine and it was just my anxiety. But deep down I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
During my scan I noticed that Nora wasn’t moving around all that much, but she had a strong heartbeat so all was fine. I told myself there was no reason to be anxious. Then the ultrasound tech started scanning her heart and kept scanning her heart. I tried to not pay attention to it too much and asked her if I had an anterior placenta because I wasn’t able to feel her move much. She responded that she would answer that in just a minute because she needed to keep checking for something really quick. She then told me that there didn’t seem to be a lot of amniotic fluid and she was having trouble taking some measurements, she needed to go get the doctor to double check.
Cue instant fear and tears. I was so scared in that moment, and alone. The few minutes that she was gone felt so long. Finally, my nurse practitioner came in and looked at everything. When we went back to the room I called my husband in tears and told him that something was wrong, I didn’t know what yet, but something. When she came back in the room she explained to us that there was not much amniotic fluid, there may be a hole in her heart, they can’t find her bladder and she’s also measuring two weeks behind. She was going to refer us to the high risk OB group and her nurse would try to get us in as soon as possible.
We were able to get in two days later and were met with the absolute worst news. Anatomically, Nora appeared to be fine, but there was no measurable amniotic fluid and she was incredibly small. We were told that she most likely would not survive because at that point I was only 19 weeks and a few days. We could terminate the pregnancy or continue to be monitored weekly to see if there was any improvement. We chose the latter. At that point our doctor’s best guess was placental insufficiency, she just wasn’t getting what she needed to grow, and unfortunately, there was nothing anyone could do.
Every week, we made the 45 minute drive to see our doctor and get another set of scans. Every week Nora was alive, but with little to no improvement. Every week we didn’t know if we should be hopeful or not. Every week we left our appointment with so many more questions. But every week was one more week with her, so we tried to enjoy it as much as we could.
At one point, around 22ish weeks, we started talking about the possibility of her maybe being able to survive and receive medical intervention if I went into labor, but only if she had finally grown. Unfortunately, the scans showed that wasn’t the case. And then doppler scans of her umbilical cord and liver started showing signs of reversal. We were told we probably had a couple of days left. Nora had other plans though because she held on another week.
At 23 weeks we went in and were surprised to see her still alive. That probably sounds awful to say, but we were truly shocked when we would go in each week and she would have a heartbeat. At that appointment, her dopplers showed a complete reversal of blood flow. She was not getting anything at that point and her heartbeat was starting to slow. We made an appointment to come in the next Monday rather than Wednesday to check and see what was going on. Our daughter’s fifth birthday was quickly approaching, so we wanted to know what was going on before that.
On Monday, we went to our appointment and during my triage with the nurse, we discovered my blood pressure was high. I thought it was probably because we were anticipating Nora not having a heartbeat and all the stress of the last few weeks catching up to me. She had me sit for a few minutes and checked again; it still had not gone down. Our doctor was worried that I may be starting to have preeclampsia and told us that it was time to be induced. I was 24 weeks now. We checked into the hospital at 10:00 that night and I was started on Cytotec around midnight.
At 9:52 am on October 26th, Nora was born. She unfortunately did not survive labor though. She was so small, but she was a little person. She had a head full of hair already and looked just like her older sister. Immediately after delivery, I was started on medication for preeclampsia. Then we got to hold Nora for as long as we wanted. The hospital staff were so kind. They brought us a memory box that had a small blanket, some hats, an angel gown, a tiny cloth diaper and a few other things. They also took pictures of her, got her handprints and footprints, and allowed us as much time with her as we needed.
On the 27th, I was discharged. I thought everything up until that point was difficult, but boy was I wrong. I had to finally face the reality that I was leaving the hospital without my daughter. I had to be wheeled past all of the postpartum rooms, and then on the way out of the hospital going to the parking deck I passed a new mom and dad getting a picture taken with the newborn. It was a punch to the gut. I had a 45 minute drive to get it all out of my system and pull myself together enough to go home and then tell my almost 5 year old that her baby sister was no longer alive.
The next few weeks were incredibly difficult as I navigated still being a mom to a living child, having preeclampsia and constantly monitoring my blood pressure, and dealing with typical postpartum issues. We still had no answers after those first few weeks. The physical exam of the placenta only revealed that it was small and it showed some calcification, but nothing major, and Nora’s autopsy revealed that while she was very small, she was perfect in every other way. I started going back to see a therapist and trying to work through the fact that I may not have an answer to why everything happened and how to move forward.
A few days before Christmas, we finally got an answer. The pathology report on my placenta finally came back and it revealed that I have something called Massive Perivillous Fibrin Deposition. The very basic explanation is that there was a bunch of “gunk” around the villi on my placenta and it prevents blood flow. It is an extremely rare condition and there is very little known about it. It appears that it may have a pretty high recurrence rate and there is no known cure to prevent it from happening. I am glad to have an answer, and to know that I truly did nothing to cause this. It is a scary answer though, and we do not know what things will look like moving forward, but for now it can help us get a little bit of closure. What I do know right now is that we are a family of four, and even though Nora is not physically with us, she will always be known and have a presence in our lives. We hope to be able to share her story with other families so they know they aren’t alone, because a journey like this definitely feels isolating and lonely.
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.
You’re sitting at your family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Your red sweater covers your flat belly as you sip on a festive cocktail. Your nieces and nephews run past in their little tights and dress pants, laughing and fighting over one of their newest toys. You smile at their joy.
Enter your nosy aunt.
“So when are you going to have one of those? You’re not getting any younger, you know!”
Your stomach drops.
It’s inevitable. It’s well-meaning. But it hurts nonetheless.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that you would love for your red sweater to be sporting a baby bump, but you took a test this morning and it was negative. Again.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that even though cocktails and the holidays go together like…well…cocktails and the holidays, you would give anything for the cocktail to be a ginger ale to pair with morning sickness.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that you smiled at your nieces and nephews because you can’t wait for your own baby to join the cousin crew and share the holidays with them.
The holiday season brings so much to those trying to conceive (TTC)*. When you’re waiting for a baby, your feelings may not match the “joy” the commercials, TV specials and light displays are trying to promote.
And that’s okay.
How to survive the holidays when you’re TTC:
When people ask when you’re having a baby/having more kids:
if you’re feeling honest: “we’re actually trying and could use your support. Here’s how you can help…”
if you want to give minimal information: “great question! We’ll have to see. This is hard for me to talk about and I’m not sure I feel comfortable sharing more at this time. I’ll let you know if/when I do.”
if you’re feeling sassy and never want them to ask again: “thanks for asking, Karen. I just took a negative test this morning and this will make the 5th one I’ve taken so who the f*%& knows!” NOTE: this one isn’t recommended, but will definitely add some dramatic flair to your yuletide evening.
When you’re exhausted from the parties, gift-buying, gift-wrapping, social interactions, school parties for living children and you somehow still need to find time to do the whole “trying to conceive” part:
talk to your partner: set boundaries for yourself if you feel it’s all too much.
share the load: give your partner a list of holiday chores to take on so that you have more time to focus on your time together. Maybe he is in charge of gifts for his family or maybe he preps the Christmas cookie dough this year. Being specific can go a long way.
go on a date: “what?! Who has time for dates, lady?! You literally just listed everything going on and then some!” Right. Sounds like you deserve a date more than anyone, no? Drive around with hot chocolate and look at lights. Get the good movie theater popcorn and watch a movie. Go out to dinner if possible. Hold hands. Whatever! Scheduling time together and prioritizing time together makes it easier to think about baby dancing together.
take this month off: let me explain. If it makes you more anxious to temporarily take time off of TTC or treatments, don’t do it. Doing what makes you feel the most comfortable is what will work best for you, your relationship and your family, period. This is simply for anyone who hasn’t been told that it’s okay to take a break if it’s too much: It’s okay to take a break if it’s too much!
When you thought you’d be pregnant by now:
I know. It hurts.
For some reason, Christmas and the holidays carry so much. Nostalgia, hope, and as I grow older, even prior to my miscarriage, I noticed another guest that showed up:
The holidays of your childhood get further and further away every year. People come and go and traditions change. This is heartbreaking and difficult and can show up in many different ways. Maybe you’re grieving the family dynamic you wish you had or the fact that you have to go to four Christmases because of step-families. Maybe the holidays haven’t felt the same since your grandmother got sick a few years ago, or maybe it hasn’t felt the same since you were 12.
Whatever it may be, grief already has a seat at Christmas dinner. However, you control how much or how little they get to speak up.
If you are sad because all you want is a baby for Christmas, that’s okay.
If you are hopeful because a new year is starting and it’s a clean slate, that’s okay.
If you are mourning the fact that you thought this would be “your year” for a baby, that’s okay.
Acknowledge all your feelings and hold space for them.
Make a plan to step out if something triggers you. Tell your partner in advance that you might need to take 5 minutes on the porch to breathe or skip the work party all-together.
Then, picture that bump in your red sweater, the ginger ale in hand or the sight of your little baby chasing after their cousins in years to come. And remind yourself that you are already a fantastic parent, even if you are still “in waiting.”
You can also picture yourself telling your nosy aunt to take a hike, if that makes you feel better.
May the holidays land gently for you as you wait for that “big, fat positive” under the tree.
*While TTC itself isn’t necessarily directly affiliated with pregnancy loss, I like to keep in mind the grief and waiting associated with TTC and infertility treatments. I will be sharing another post soon on navigating the holidays after loss.