Miscarriage

Miscarriage

Hello friends. This is not an easy post for me to write. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to post this. But ultimately, I feel the need to share my experience, because the truth is, as isolating and terrifying as this experience has been, I am far from alone in what happened to me.

I have not yet had time to write about it here but in September we put an offer on a home and had it accepted. Not long after our offer was accepted we also found out that we were expecting our second baby!

I’ll admit that I was terrified when I saw those two pink lines show up. It’s the only reaction I’ve ever had to it. Julia was planned and this baby was definitely wanted as well, but there is just something about finding out you have a little life inside you that sends your head for a spin – for me anyway. Nevertheless, I was quickly excited as was my husband. It seemed almost insane how the timing of things worked out. We were finally getting our own home and we were finally beginning the journey of completing our family. We were so excited for all that awaited us in the coming months and for Julia to become a big sister. Our baby’s due date was initially June 7th (however I would’ve had an elective c-section so their birthday would have actually most likely been May 31st which is a significant date to me – the date my grandmother passed away.)

When I went for my first ultrasound I was met with some unsettling news. First, that the baby was measuring 6 days behind the date that I had calculated. I instantly felt worried because since we use NFP, and I am fortunate to have very regular cycles, I knew that this did not seem right.

The second part of the news was that the ultrasound tech felt that the gestational sac was abnormal in its shape. My doctor was not overly concerned but mentioned that it should be looked at during a nuchal translucency ultrasound around 14 weeks so he scheduled me for that.

Naturally, new anxieties began. I don’t even have time in this post to delve into how terrifying the idea of pregnancy after Julia’s traumatic birth is, but this news alongside that was not helpful.

Other than feeling worried about the baby measuring a little behind and the question about the gestational sac, the stress of moving during my first trimester, and all-day nausea, my pregnancy was relatively normal and dare I say, a little easier than my pregnancy at this point with Julia.

During the week of November 18th I excitedly attended my prenatal lab appointment. I was so excited because I was having blood drawn for the Panorama test, the one that not only checks for genetic abnormalities but can also give you the baby’s sex as early as 10 weeks. I did not have this offered to me when I was pregnant with Julia and the idea of knowing what we were having so soon was so exciting! It was something good to focus on while waiting for the ultrasound that would address the concerns about my uterus and my confusion about why the baby would be measuring a week behind (which I will add is not always a sign of anything being wrong. Many people have their baby measure days behind at the first ultrasound only to have it even out later on which is what I felt sure would happen at my 12-week ultrasound).

However, on the morning of November 24th, I woke up with severe lower back pain. I didn’t think much of it at first since I had been having some other joint pain recently. I chalked it up to a pregnancy symptom and the fact that sleep had been difficult recently since I’m usually a back and stomach sleeper but can do neither while pregnant. When I went to the bathroom that morning I wiped and saw something abnormal although not alarming. I called the office and was scheduled to come in for a swab.

After the swab, the midwife tried to hear the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler. I would have been 11/12 weeks. She could not find the heartbeat. I was not immediately concerned because we also could not find Julia’s heartbeat on a doppler at this stage of pregnancy. The midwife ordered an ultrasound.

When the image appeared on the screen I immediately knew. I had lost the baby. See, as I mentioned, I had a 12-week ultrasound with Julia. I distinctly remember how exciting that ultrasound was because she looked like a baby, not just a little speckle. And when I looked at that ultrasound screen this time it was different. There was just a tiny little speckle not very different from what I saw at my initial ultrasound. It was for sure not an 11/12 week baby. The tech gave the midwife who accompanied me in the room a look and they both exited telling me they needed to discuss measurements and would be back. But I knew. I knew I had lost the baby.

When the midwife returned, I was told that the baby had stopped growing at 8 weeks and I was experiencing what is called a missed miscarriage. The baby had passed away but my body had not yet realized that they had passed. For the last 3 weeks, I had been having pregnancy symptoms but the baby inside me was no longer alive. I felt as though I was in a state of shock. We all enter pregnancy with the hope that things will go well. I knew that the miscarriage statistic is 1 in 4 pregnancies. But no one wants to believe that they will become a part of that statistic. The heartbreak of miscarriage is something that no one should have to experience.

I would have to return the next day for a Rhogam shot (due to my negative blood type) and to discuss my options with the midwife.

The options you are given in this situation are to, a) allow your body another week or two to naturally miscarry b) take a drug called misoprostol which will induce contractions and force your body to begin the process or c) go through a procedure called a dilation and curettage, commonly known as a D&C during which you have your cervix dilated and an instrument is used to scrape the uterine lining (this is done under general anesthesia).

Initially, after reading other people’s stories about taking misoprostol I was terrified to consider this option. The idea of going through the pain of contractions with only the aid of ibuprofen and a heating pad (though some doctors provide stronger pain medication) scared me. However, my body had only begun lightly spotting. If I waited another week or two I could continue to feel unwell and uncomfortable and also put myself at a risk for infection. A D&C was offered as an option but it comes with its own risks (potential uterine scarring and or cervix shortening) that I did not feel comfortable considering as my first option. After discussing the process with the midwife treating me, I decided to go with the misoprostol.

At her suggestion, I waited until the Friday after Thanksgiving since Kevin would be home (well, off from working at home) for three days, giving me the ability to ride this out without having to solo parent during the workday.

I will at some point in the future make an informational post about the actual process of having a medically managed miscarriage and what the process is like from start to finish. Reading other people’s experiences online helped me, to a degree, to prepare, however, I think compared to some of the [scary] stories I read, my experience was somewhat on the mild side.

About a week later I went back to the ob-gyn for a follow-up appointment and was met with some more interesting but sad news. I brought up to the doctor again, my concerns with the abnormal gestational sac and if this is something that I should be worried about since I never go to go to the nuchal translucency test to have it looked at more closely. She explained that this kind of thing [the sac] is unique to each pregnancy (as in, not something that would necessarily happen again) and after reexamining the ultrasound she told me that she believes that what the image is showing is the gestational sac of a pregnancy that began as twins but that experienced “vanishing twin syndrome”. In other words, the pregnancy may have begun as twins, however, one twin did not survive long enough to be seen at my first ultrasound. Typically when this happens so early in a pregnancy, the “vanishing” twin is absorbed by either the uterus or the surviving twin. [Hearing this was definitely shocking but also, in a way, made sense. I remember coming home after that first ultrasound and comparing it to Julia’s first ultrasound and feeling like they looked quite different. I didn’t dwell on it, but it definitely came across as strange.]

So not only did I lose the baby I knew about, but unknowingly lost another early on. I left that appointment feeling a mix of emotions. I was on one hand, relieved that the issue with the gestational sac was not something that would necessarily happen again or even necessarily responsible for my loss. But I also had, and still have, a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that for some span of time I was pregnant with twins. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to add twins to our family dynamic, however, I certainly would have rather gotten to keep them then lose them this way. It’s a “what if” that I feel will live in my mind forever.

My miscarriage has been difficult both physically and emotionally but I think the emotional pain has been worse. As nervous as I was when I found out I was pregnant, there was no doubt that I wanted this baby desperately and it’s hard not to be consumed by the thoughts of what could have been.

Miscarriage is such an isolating experience. Even though so many women go through this, so few are able to talk about it openly for a variety of reasons. It is not wrong to keep it to yourself. It is also not wrong to share your story. I am thankful for those who have shared their stories because it has been helpful to know that I am not alone in this. Meghan Markle’s piece in the New York Times about her miscarriage was sent to me [by my husband] as I was sitting in the waiting room at the ob-gyn for my Rhogam shot. It was a huge comfort and reminder to me that I was not alone and it was okay to talk about what I was going through.

My baby was wanted, they mattered. I had already begun to envision what next summer would be like with our two children soaking up the sun in our own backyard, Julia in her swing, and the baby in their carrier – as a matter of fact, I had just pulled it out of storage week before and washed it. I wondered how I would manage doctor’s appointments at the pediatrician with two young kids or how Julia’s preschool drop off would be like with a 3-month-old also in tow. But, I also imagined what Julia would be like as a big sister and how our second baby would have so much to learn from her. I had already begun to dream about next Christmas, while we decorated our Christmas tree the day before I found out I had lost the baby.

I also dreamed about how things would be different this time. How I truly believed their birth would be a more controlled environment [elective c section] and hoped it would be healing for me too. That I wouldn’t start off motherhood the second time so traumatized as I was with Julia, that I would be able to truly soak in those baby days and enjoy raising my very last baby. I could go on and on.

What I am left with is what could have been and the journey of accepting what has happened. I know miscarriages in the first trimester are often because the baby had a condition that was incompatible with life. I had opted for most of the genetic blood testing available to me, so there is a good chance I will receive an answer as to if that was the case for my miscarriage. But still, knowing this doesn’t lessen the hurt or sadness.

I decided to share my story here for a few reasons. Writing [for me] is cathartic. It feels better to let it out than keep it all in. Maybe I don’t have someone in my life who has the right words to say in response to what happened to me (if those words even exist) but, by being vulnerable and sharing my story, as difficult as it is, I can still make something good out of it. I can still help someone else that is struggling and may have googled a keyword of this post seeking relatability, comfort, or just the knowledge that they are not alone.

After sharing my experience in the past about Julia’s birth injury I had a few people reach out to me with similar experiences. It’s not easy to talk about the things that hurt us the most. But if we talk about it we can help someone else to know that they are not alone. Meghan Markle and many other women’s stories have helped me and gave me hope that although this is difficult now, it doesn’t mean that I can’t eventually heal and feel happy again.

Lastly, I feel the need to express my gratitude for the people who took care of me at this time. My husband, who did all he could while I was experiencing one of the most difficult days of my life, to make it as “easy” as it could possibly be. My daughter, who, at only 3 years old is intuitive enough to know when something is wrong and only disturbed me to offer me her teddy bear, toys, and the occasional snuggle. The few family members in the know who reached out to me on Friday to check in on how I was doing. I really appreciated this.

And lastly, the midwife who took care of me from my swab, which for some is not a big deal but as someone who has had two traumas to this area of the body (one in childhood and one as an adult) is a very big deal, to receiving the news. She was so informed, gentle, and caring to the point where I felt the need to thank her more than once.
This midwife also accompanied me to the ultrasound. I can’t help but be thankful that the stars aligned for me to have such a medical team this time, even though I have suffered this loss. The pain is so much worse when you do not feel supported. In COVID times especially, it meant so much to have someone there for me while being given such heartbreaking news, as my husband was not allowed to be present.

If you read this post, thank you. It was not easy for me to share but it also felt essential that I did. If you have read this and experienced something similar please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I will talk to you. I will grieve with you. I don’t want anyone to feel alone in this terribly common and painful experience. If you want to, I’d appreciate any good thoughts or prayers sent our way. I wouldn’t usually outright ask for something like that but right now we could really use them.

And to my baby – thank you. Your short time here taught me new lessons and gave me more strength than I knew I had. I wanted nothing but to keep you safe and longed for the day that I would get to hold you. I know you came into my life for a purpose. I will always remember what I felt about you. Just like your big sister, from the very beginning, I got a sense of your essence. You seemed very gentle. I was nauseous yes, but never very sick. Even in losing you, the process was graciously gentle compared to what it could have been. Not easy. But I could have begun bleeding at home before knowing what was going on or before getting a Rhogam shot (important for protecting future pregnancies). But for whatever reason, either your soul or destiny decided that it would not be that way. Even in the very moment of our togetherness ending, I know the [physical] pain could have been worse. Everything about you was gentle. I know that we will meet again one day. You will always be my second baby – you will always count and matter. Your sister will know about you just like I know about my own angel sibling who came before me. I love you.

[Just a note to add: I’m not sure if it was confusing to go back and forth between mentioning a doctor, midwife, and another doctor. There were three different providers mentioned in this post. The first doctor did not really give me much insight into the abnormality in the gestational sac. The last doctor I saw was the one who took the time to look at it and tell me what she thought based on what she’s seen in her career.]

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