Earlier this year I imagined today, September 8th, a lot differently than it actually is... I imagined today being the day we became a family of three. I imagined tiny cries filling our little loft and the sun shining through the white curtains as we welcomed our sweet baby earth-side.
We found out I was pregnant on our 4th anniversary... that weekend, we celebrated so big. The next couple of months were followed by heavy morning sickness, unparalleled joy, and so many hopes and dreams.
We saw our baby for the first time at the 8-week check up. A beautiful moment I got to share, not only with Sean, but with my mom. The moment we saw its little heart beating so fast and so strong will forever be one of my favorite memories... that's the moment I felt like nothing could go wrong. After all, there in front of me was the most perfect little thing I had ever seen.
We had decided early on that we wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprised, however, Sean was positive we were expecting a little girl. I supposed that, based on the little dresses gently folded in the back of my dresser, I was too. The weeks went by and the morning sickness subsided. I had never felt better. We told our parents, siblings, and best friends but wanted to wait till after our next appointment to tell everyone else. We couldn't wait to share it with the world!
When we arrived for our second trimester appointment we were so excited to see our sweet baby again. I remember Sean and I looking at each other smiling as we waited for the screen to come alive with an image of our baby. I also remember noticing that the radiologist was taking a little long at finding an image. As she maneuvered the ultrasound wand, she became silent.
Then she uttered the sentence that I will forever remember... "Oh I'm so sorry guys..."
There on the screen was our baby... but there was no heartbeat.
The months that followed were the hardest and loneliest of my life. The multiple doses of Misoprostol, the hours spent on the bathroom floor while labor-like pains took over as I waited for my baby to leave my body, doctor appointments, medical procedures, and unforeseen complications left me feeling physically weak. However, it was my emotional and mental being that was rocked to the core. It's hard to explain, but despite having Sean sharing my tears and being my rock through this, and our families offering me so much love, I felt completely and utterly alone. I feel this was the hardest part for Sean, seeing me in so much pain and anguish but being unable to make it all go away. I wanted to talk to someone that got it. I wanted... no, NEEDED to hear that someone knew exactly what I was going through and that it would all be ok soon. Some days I would find myself scrolling through the #miscarriage feed on Instagram, sometimes for hours at a time, in search of solidarity. I remember reaching out to the only woman I personally knew that had gone through a miscarriage, my childhood best friend.
"Be kind to yourself" she said and it was like she knew exactly what I needed to hear. This whole experience had left me feeling resentful and angry at my body. I blamed it for not taking care of my baby (I was so wrong... after all, it took TWO double doses of Misoprostol for my body to let go. It was still nurturing it despite there not being a heartbeat in that little body). Also, being unable to work out for those following months (doctor's orders) had cause my weight to fluctuate below 100 pounds... I felt weak and I hated it. One day I consciously started to be kind to myself again. I got the ok from my doctor and back to the gym I went. I changed my diet completely and focused on my mental well-being a little better.
Things didn't get better overnight though. Physically, I was recovering. Emotionally, I was just beginning to fall apart.
Anytime I'd see a pregnant woman, or when yet another pregnancy announcement would pop up on my social media feed, I would flash back to where I should have been. Pregnancies that shared my due date where the hardest to follow as they were a very real reminder of missed deadlines and moments we would not get to experience with our little one.
Mother's Day was specially hard... feeling every bit as a mama but at the same time feeling as if the day just wasn't meant for me since my arms, and belly, were empty. That horrible feeling of loneliness and aching sadness crept into my heart as I found myself laying on the couch just trying to pray the pain away.
What I found almost as difficult as the loss was the question of how much and for how long I should mourn. Further along in a pregnancy, multiple miscarriages, or with the death of a child, there is a social understanding of the pain that accompanies such trauma. I was told time and time again that it had "barely been the second trimester", "you can always just try again" (as if babies are replaceable), "you just have to be stronger", and "Are you still sad? Why?". Everyone seemed to have their own idea on how long my grieving period should be. It left me feeling upset and alone to have conditions put on my grief. We need to remind ourselves that grief knows no timeline, it is anything but linear and it "pops up when you least expect it, alerting us to our vulnerability. Our humanity." -Dr. Jessica Zucker.
During moments of deep grief, loneliness, and pain I found solace in prayer and the Bible. I read Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 5:4, Psalm 34:18, and Matthew 11:28 over and over again holding on tight to every word. The thought that one day I will see my baby again in a place where there is no sickness or death gave me the hope I so desperately needed. As the weeks, and months, went by I found myself being able to talk about our baby without my voice breaking. I was able to look at the sonogram picture on our fridge without feeling like I couldn't breath. I was able to look at the little baby book collection, that Sean had so excitedly started putting together, without tears streaming down my face. I was finally able to organize my drawers without my heart aching at the sight of the little dresses gently folded in the back.
I'm not saying that eventually you will forget... no chance of that. I still think of my baby EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Some days, triggered by the most random and unexpected thing, I feel the heartbreak all over again. Just remember, that if you move two steps forwards and one backwards it is STILL progress. Don't be hard on yourself and do NOT compare your grief progress with that of others. The only similarity between your grief and someone else's is that it is "experienced at 100%, there are no exceptions". What you are feeling matters... your pain matters. If a time comes that you feel like you are moving more backwards than forwards DO NOT hesitate to go to someone and seek help. There are hundreds of trained psychologists, therapists, and counselors that focus on miscarriage, child-loss, infertility, and the emotions that follow.
For months I debated whether or not to share my story, but then I remembered how the feelings of loneliness would slowly fade when reading other women's stories of loss. I also remember how, when sharing my story with friends, coworkers, and family, I learned of their own miscarriage stories and/or that of someone they knew. One lady, after telling me about her own miscarriage story and that of her daughter, said; "I wish I had opened up to others about my experience when it happened... instead, I put on a mask every day when I left the house... I just thought it was something no one wanted to hear or talk about, but I did". It was as if the gates to this taboo subject had been opened. Those stories showed me that I wasn't alone. I hope that by sharing my story I can help bring that comfort and solidarity to those who grieve and to others, awareness about pregnancy loss and the grief that follows. If someone you love is going through this and you are having a hard time knowing what to say or do (THESE cards and flowers? yes!) here are some great articles that will help.
1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage and about 15% to 20% of all women with a verified pregnancy will experience a miscarriage. I think is time we shatter the stigma surrounding pregnancy loss and start talking about it. There is nothing shameful behind a miscarriage or infertility. "We shouldn’t feel ashamed of our traumas, nor should we hide the consequent grief" -Dr. Jessica Zucker.
"Serás feliz", dijo la vida, "pero primero te haré fuerte"