Two years ago, I had a miscarriage.
I was about nine weeks into the first trimester, feeling terribly sick until one day I woke up and felt better. At first, I was excited, relieved that I had an appetite again, but as the day went on, I started to feel less and less at ease. By noon, my hands were clammy and my heart was in my throat: something was wrong. I left work early to go to my (already scheduled) ultrasound, and after just a minute with the ultrasound machine, I heard the six words that would forever change my life:
“This pregnancy is no longer viable.”
Those words are impersonal. They are clinical. It took me some time to process what she was really saying to me: Your baby is dead. First, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t really process what was happening. I felt like I was hovering above the room, watching the doctor tell me about my options. I walked numbly out to the car, drove home, got into bed with my clothes on, and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. Our sweet dog, Pete, curled up next to me and kept me company until my husband got home. I told him about the miscarriage, and then, I cried again. The grief that comes with a miscarriage is unlike any pain I had felt before in my life.
That year, we had already buried two of our dogs, and one of my close friends had died, but this kind of loss felt different. It was deeper, more personal, like part of my own self had died. I didn’t understand my own feelings, and I didn’t know how to explain it, even to my husband.
For a while, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt guilty and ashamed like I had done something wrong. I didn’t tell my friends or my family. I knew that as soon as I told someone, they would try to talk about it. I know that people meant well, but there really wasn’t anything they could say to make it better.
I missed days of work. I avoided phone calls, didn’t answer texts, avoided Facebook, and I skipped a close friend’s baby shower. I just couldn’t face all the happiness when all I could feel was anguish. After a few days, I decided to tell my mom about the miscarriage, and I’m glad I did. With the support from her, along with my husband and my dad, I was able to make it through the days and weeks that followed.
The day after I told my mom, my husband took me to the hospital, where I had a D&C. Mercifully, I remember nothing but waking up to see my wonderful husband’s face. I recovered quietly at home with my husband and my dogs nearby. My parents helped out with errands and made sure we had plenty of food in the house.
When I returned to work the Monday after Thanksgiving break, I was crushed. No one seemed to notice that I had been absent. No one asked me if I was ok. One of my supervisors asked if I had a great Thanksgiving. People complained about trivial things. I wanted to scream at them, “Don’t you get it?? You’re worried about paperwork and scheduling?? My baby is dead and you’re complaining about scheduling.” I was barely holding it together at the end of the day, and a co-worker yelled at me. I left work in tears and no one asked me if I was ok. I wanted to quit.
I couldn’t believe that the world had just kept going like nothing had happened.
I struggled through the next few months. I thought constantly about the baby we had lost, and questioned what I had done wrong.
We decided to try again, and a few months later, I found out I was pregnant again. I tried not to think about it too much, but every time I felt less nauseous, I couldn’t help but worry I was losing the baby again. I was so careful the first time and didn’t understand what had gone wrong then, so I felt powerless this time. I took my prenatal vitamins, watched what I ate, did gentle exercise, and tried to stay positive.
I had frequent visits with my OB and held my breath every time he looked for the heartbeat. I breathed a sigh of relief when we passed the 9-week mark (when our first baby had died), the 10-week mark, the 11-week mark, and finally, the 12-week mark, when the odds of having a miscarriage are dramatically lower.
Throughout my second pregnancy, I was so sick that I finally stopped worrying if I was still pregnant. I had such strong nausea that I threw up daily, sometimes multiple times per day, right up until I was induced a few weeks early. I was in the hospital more than 43 hours before our son was born, and it wasn’t until he was about 12 hours old that I realized something huge. Our son, Dade, was born on the Thursday before Thanksgiving last year, exactly a year to the day after I found out our first baby had died.
A year after our heart-wrenching loss, I was holding our rainbow baby in my arms.
Now that our son’s first birthday is on the horizon, I find my mind wandering back in time. Laying in bed with our son last week, watching his little belly rise and fall, I contemplated what life would be like if our first baby had lived, and he had never come to be. This is something that, try as I might, I still can’t wrap my head around.
Before him, I had imagined our first baby growing up, going to college, making us proud, but when our son was born, it all fell away. And as I lay here in bed thinking about our son’s future instead, I can’t help but feel guilty that I’m thinking less and less about our first baby. I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl. I never saw his or her face.
I never had the joy of holding my baby in my arms, but I felt the pain of their loss just the same.
I didn’t realize until September of this year that I had not fully grieved the loss of our first child. I found out that a friend had a miscarriage, and I told her my story. During that conversation, I realized that I had finally found someone who “got it,” who understood the pain of losing something that never was. And finally, I was able to articulate exactly how I felt when she said these words:
You’re grieving the loss of what could have been, all the plans and dreams, who they would have grown up to be, all the milestones you’ll never see.