May 2nd, 2022.
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.