We are crushed, our hearts are in a million pieces, but we are optimistic to find the light at the end of this. The sorrow comes and goes in waves. There are moments of absolute peace and moments where the wind gets knocked out of me and the grief is too much to bear. The mornings are the hardest, there’s always a split second when I first wake-up where I still think I’m still pregnant. Then I remember.
I was 21 weeks pregnant, Scott and I went in for our big ultrasound, it was a rainy Wednesday morning and we were running 25min late for our appointment. I was so annoyed that I took my frustrations out on a very patient Scott.
Shortly after checking in we were brought into the ultrasound room and Scott excitedly said, “Okay baby, behave and wake up!” We knew it was important to have a cooperating baby so the ultrasound technician could take all the measurements needed. We were also going to find out Baby T’s gender, I excitedly told the technician that we wanted it written down and placed in an envelope for us to open on our own.
In what felt like a split second, our lives were turned upside down, it started with a simple comment “Sorry I have to push down hard, your baby is sitting low in your uterus.” Followed by a question that should have been a red flag to me (in later conversations, Scotty said that this was the moment he knew something was wrong), “have you been experiencing any cramping?” Then, we were given the soul crushing news there was no heartbeat. The technician apologetically excused herself to find the doctor. I lay there sobbing and in denial, listening to my husband cry, while simultaneously trying to comfort me shattered my heart even more. I still recall my thoughts at that very moment. “We heard the heartbeat just 4 weeks ago, she must have made a mistake. I had felt the baby move not long ago.”
I lay there remembering the soft flutters in my stomach and trying to recall the last time I felt movement. The doctor came into the room and confirmed what I wasn’t ready to hear. There was a lot of liquid surrounding the baby and no heartbeat was present. We had lost our baby at 21 weeks. The baby measured at a gestational period of 22 weeks and 1 day. The loss had to have happened pretty recently.
A loss between 20 weeks and birth is considered a stillbirth or Intrauterine Fetal Demise (IUFD). 1 in 160 women will face this tragedy.
Just weeks prior I had publicly announced my pregnancy. I was so careful to wait until we had heard the heartbeat twice, to wait until we were in the clear. We had purchased our stroller, I was stocking up on beautiful gender-neutral baby clothes and swaddles. I had bought the softest baby blanket. Just that Monday we had gone to Ikea to look at some nursery stuff, we had already decided on a theme. We had our names picked out. We were already head-over-heals in love with our sweet baby.
The 5 and half months I was pregnant was so beautiful and easy. It really was the most ideal pregnancy, I experienced no morning sickness only a couple of nauseous days. I had no oddball cravings, minimal hormonal meltdowns, I was able to proceed with my everyday life without much interruption. I always felt great.
The doctor moved us into a consultation room, we hadn’t sat in one of these rooms since our preconception consultation, almost a year ago. The type A in me got straight to business, I wanted to know what my options were, I asked, “What are our next steps, what do we do from here, what is the safest option for me.” I was afraid that I would have to go through labor and delivery. I knew that I would never heal if I met my sleeping baby. I needed a detached process. To be honest, there are moments daily where I wonder what my sweet sleeping baby looked like. Did s/he favor Scott or me, if it was a boy or a girl?
The option that was right for us was for me to get a D&E, a standard dilation and evacuation. This is an extremely personal decision. I listened to my gut and knew that this was best for us. The procedure takes three days, the first two days I had my cervix dilated with the use of laminaria sticks. Laminaria sticks are made of seaweed and when they get wet they expand, thus they help dilate the cervix. I had my first round of laminaria sticks inserted the same day we learned I had suffered an IUFD. My OBGYN’s office was able to find me an appointment same day at a clinic in the West Loop of Chicago. I wanted to have this procedure done right away, carrying around my dead baby longer than I had to would have been too much for me. I was also nervous that my body would go into natural labor.
Four laminaria sticks were inserted on Wednesday, the cramps were mild and manageable. The sensation of having to poop is heighted with each cramp and if you’re not careful, like me, you will push too hard and push out your sticks (life is messy…). THIRTEEN laminaria sticks were inserted on Thursday, the cramps/ mild contractions on this day felt like my body was being ripped open. The pain cut through any and all pain meds that were prescribed to me. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I recall reassuring myself by saying “I’ll get to sleep when they put me under.”
My D&E procedure was scheduled for 7:30 AM on Friday. I was terrified, not of the procedure but, of no longer being pregnant. This was it, it was so final I would go under general anesthesia and wake-up childless. I would never have any milestones with this baby, my first baby. I was discharged at around 11:45AM, I walked into Scott’s arms and sobbed. That was it, it felt anticlimactic and there was no closure.
I’m scared of what my due date, February 22, 2018 will do to me. I’m terrified of the anxiety I will carry when the time comes for me to be pregnant again.
I’m also angry, I’m angry that the topics of pregnancy loss still seem so taboo. Until I started doing some research, I felt that I was a minority, that I was alone on this un-relatable island. A pregnancy loss, no matter the week, is crippling. Moms and Dads start developing hopes and dreams for their children immediately and the loss is soul crushing.
The grief comes and goes, some days the sorrow is minimal, then there are days where I can’t get out of bed until 1:30pm. I’ve sobbed uncontrollably in every room in my house. I’ve cried in front of the mirror staring at my flattened stomach. I’ve cried while holding ice packs and cabbage leaves to my breasts.
That’s right, ice packs and cabbage leaves. When asked, the nurses at the clinic assured me that my milk wouldn’t come in, that it was too early. It was all a lie. My breasts started the engorgement process late Saturday and by Sunday, two days after my procedure, they were huge and painful. They swelled up like balloons, felt firm and heavy, like someone had given me a boob job with wet sand. They were painful and I was terrified that I would get an infection. After some research and a call into my doctor’s office, I was advised to wear a sports bra 24 hours a day, even to bed. They suggested letting my breasts be, try not to touch them other than to put ice packs or cold cabbage leaves against them. These are things that will help suppress the breast milk. That was also one big mind fuck. My body was creating milk for a baby that didn’t exist. It was that one last reminder that my reality really sucked.
I remember the first time I leaked, it was a Wednesday, a full week after that dreaded appointment. I had just taken Scrappy for his morning walk and came home to find my shirt wet. I cried.
I took some of my pads (because post procedure bleeding is real and can last for weeks), cut them into thirds and made my own nursing pads. I continued to diligently ice and cabbage my boobs and added sage tea to my diet. It’s recommended that you apply ice and cabbage for 20 min increments a few times a day. As I’m writing this, it’s been one day shy of a week for me and the engorgement in my breasts has gone down significantly and the pain and tenderness have pretty much dissipated.
I was hesitant to share this story, part of me was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t do the one thing that so many other women could do. I hated my body for that. Although, I still feel that way at times, I know I would be doing a disservice to all women if I didn’t speak-up about this.
It wasn’t until days after I lost my baby that I learned that October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Melissa Rauch, from The Big Bang Theory, made a powerful video for all of those suffering through the heartbreak of a pregnancy loss. I watched it, felt less alone, cried, got angry at the universe and started to write this post.
You can watch the video here and read her essay on her own experiences with miscarriage here.
Grief is a fucked up thing, there is so much fear, confusion and guilt tied to it. I’m fearful of not moving on, but also afraid of actually moving on. The conflict is confusing. If I move on, am I not honoring this baby that was very real to me? Do I have this burden all on my own? Sometimes it feels that way. It feels as though everyone’s life is speeding by on a train and I’m struggling to get abroad. It’s very lonely.
I have a lot of fears about conceiving again (Scott and I haven’t discussed when we’ll try again. We’ll wait to have that conversation when I’m emotionally ready). We need to grieve this loss properly, I need to stop blaming myself. I’m aware that when the time is right, there will be a lot of anxiety. The 12-week mark, the first trimester, hitting those milestones will no longer aid any comfort.
The 12-week mark, the first trimester, hitting those milestones will no longer aid any comfort.
I’m learning to take this all in minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day. I know I have a long road of emotional recovery ahead of me. My new reality is one that I will never wish upon anyone. If you are currently suffering or have suffered though a pregnancy loss, please know you are not alone.
I ask you all to share this blog post, share my story. I don’t want to shy away from this. Too many women face this reality and if my story can help make one person feel less alone, it’ll bring me some peace.