This is probably the hardest post I’ll ever write. No, I’m hoping this is the hardest one I’ll ever write. For those who are close to me, this may come as a surprise. Many people don’t talk about losing a baby, especially if it’s an unborn baby and you haven’t even announced the pregnancy yet. It is somehow less important; not as real of a loss. But to the mother who dreamed of that baby; if it would be a boy or girl, whose eyes it would have, what color hair, and even started contemplating names, it is a crumbling loss.
My situation is a little different. I didn’t have a miscarriage. My body would not, could not let go. I had what is called a missed miscarriage, missed abortion, or silent miscarriage. After having my confirmatory appointment and getting back blood test results – my hormone levels were right on target – we scheduled our ultrasound to see the tiny sac flashing with life and hear its quick whoosh whoosh heartbeat. We were so eager to see this little being. It was a few weeks before Christmas and we wanted to include this big announcement, along with an ultrasound picture in our Christmas cards.
When the ultrasound technician squirted the goop on my swollen, pregnant belly and started her search, I knew right away something was wrong. I saw the little sac, which was much different and much smaller than my daughter, Julia‘s had been at our first ultrasound. There was no quick little flash where the heart was beating. There was no whoosh whoosh sound of a tiny heartbeat. Then the technician broke the tense silence and asked if I was sure of the dates; could I only be five or six weeks along? Not a chance. I knew what had happened. The baby didn’t make it. There was no tiny living thing inside me. Just a sac filled with lost hopes and dreams that my body had been clinging to for three weeks.
What followed were more questions about dates from my midwife and another blood draw. Since my hormone levels were still on track for a pregnancy nearing the end of the first trimester, we had to start planning how to evacuate the baby. Sometimes the body will figure things out and do it on its own. For me, that wasn’t the case. We waited another week and my already tired body started to break down. This was beyond first trimester pregnancy fatigue. I could not even climb the stairs to get up to my bedroom on my own. Most evenings I lay on the couch while my toddler brought toys and books to me. I knew it was time to stop waiting and to say goodbye.
The following week, which was the week just before Christmas, we decided this was the best time to induce the miscarriage. I opted to take the pill (misoprostol) instead of getting a D&C (dilation and curettage). I wanted to do this in my own home and I was not prepared to undergo a surgical procedure, although I knew 50% of women still end up having a D&C after taking the pills. I took the pills on Tuesday night. Cramping started that night, but nothing really happened until the next day. I was still weak and barely able to make it out of bed. I had to call for my husband to help me up, leaning on him while I shuffled slowly to the bathroom. I could feel it and I knew this was it. Nothing could have prepared me for this mini labor, losing my baby in waves of grief and pain. I had my husband sit outside of the bathroom while I labored and wailed, overwhelmed with grief.
The worst of it was over in two days. I spent most of that time in bed watching Netflix, crying and eating, and wondering when my morning sickness would finally go away. And it did, the next day. Every day I felt a little stronger, physically and emotionally. I had a toddler to help cheer me up, and my family. Christmas wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It helped to visit with family and watch my little girl so excited over all the lights and presents.
Just before the New Year, we went in for another ultrasound to make sure all the tissue was cleared out. Things looked normal. It took a couple weeks for my uterus to shrink back to normal size, and six weeks for my hormone levels to go back down. I still get a little sad when I think about the baby. I am fortunate to have such great support in my family nearby and a community of women who understand my pain. I knew I could not dwell in my grief. And I learned long ago that I must let myself feel, understand my feelings, seek support, and allow myself to move on. We may have lost this one, but I have not lost hope that we’ll be growing our little family soon enough.