These are the words I never, ever wanted to write. But here we are. When I found out we were pregnant, I was sure my next post would be The Pregnancy Post I had written to accompany the immensely creative video announcement Tim has been working on in his head for the last few months. But today, we find ourselves in a very different place.
I don’t like the word “miscarriage”. It seems to imply that someone messed up or did something incorrectly. If I “mis-carry” my groceries, it usually means I dropped them or the handle broke so they fell to the ground. A mother has no active role in a miscarriage unless she is engaged in behaviors that are dangerous to the baby (drugs, alcohol, smoking, MMA fighting, etc). Some miscarriages follow abuse or violence. Most miscarriages come with no reason or blame at all. The term “miscarriage” fails to identify what is actually happening: the death of an unborn child.
Right now, there is a tiny, dead human inside of me and I have no idea what to do with that information.
I was an estimated eight and a half weeks pregnant when Tim and I went to the doctor for the ultrasound. I had experienced a little bleeding the night before, but that can be normal in pregnancy. We told ourselves that we weren’t going to panic because we would be seeing the doctor first thing the next morning. Tim put his hands on my belly and prayed for a strong heartbeat and a healthy child.
He repeated this sweet ritual as we prepared to walk into the medical center the next morning. I hate to admit it now, but I knew something was wrong, deep down in my gut. It also didn’t help that the building administrators were testing the fire alarms that morning, and an alarm was piercing our ears the entire time we were being examined.
We walked back to the examination room, and I prepared to get on the table. I knew something was wrong the moment that the ultrasound image appeared on the screen. I could see it on my ultrasound tech and my doctor’s faces. There was a tiny baby in there, but there was no heart beat and he or she was too small. I saw the tears in Tim’s eyes before I felt my own. A piece of me thought, “Just wait a minute more! He or she will come through!” but I know that is not how it works.
The baby was there, but he or she was no longer alive. We had lost our first child.
So many dreams and prayers and hopes came crashing down in that little room with the fire alarm still blaring in the background. We had already become so attached to the tiny fetus in my womb. Dozens of people had been praying with and for us. None of it made sense.
I finally got up and just stood in the exam room in a haze. I wandered around for a moment looking for a tissue and sort of blanked out. Tim gently suggested I put my pants back on so that we could gather our things and go home.
As we walked out of the office through the waiting room, I realized we were THAT couple now. We were the husband and wife who had walked in at 7:45 am with all the hope in the world and now we were walking out with our red faces covered in tears, fumbling for our sunglasses so we wouldn’t have to look at anyone.
Tim held me in the parking lot and we cried together. We had driven separately since we had to go in different directions after the appointment, but he was in no rush to leave me to myself. We assured each other we would get through this, and just be in contact for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t until I called my mom and had to voice what had happened that I completely fell apart. I could barely get the words out when the heaving sobs began. My poor mother had to sit on the phone, 800 miles away, and listen to her baby girl fall apart and there was nothing she could do. I know it must have killed her. I couldn’t see her, but my mom was beautiful in that moment. She was kind, strong, empathetic, and wise. She didn’t try to “fix it”. She didn’t say “At least…”. She listened and cried and hugged me from afar. She was with me in my sorrow.
I didn’t feel like talking, because I didn’t want to say the truth out loud. My mom and Tim graciously handled letting our close family and friends know what had happened. When my dad called, he was amazing. He was kind and gentle, and so loving. I could tell it hurt him to hear me hurting. I can now only imagine what that feels like as a parent – to feel your child suffer from afar.
I was able to reschedule appointments for the rest of the day so that I could go home and rest. I was experiencing a lot of physical pain in addition to the mental and emotional agony that had already begun to set in. I tried to eat something, but that just made me feel sick. I tried to sleep, but could not rest. I decided to watch Wonder Woman and let the strength and integrity of Diana Prince ooze into me vicariously. I exchanged texts with a dear friend who experienced the loss of a baby not too long ago. She has been my rock, not only in this experience but in many areas of life.
I finally started reaching out to people who had been praying for us and knew we were going to the doctor that day. I was so scared that someone would come back with the venomous “At least you know you can get pregnant!” but no one did. Everyone who reached out said the one that actually felt the most loving: “There are no words to fill this space.”
And they were right. Just like in any death or loss or tragedy, there are no words that can fill or heal or fix the pain of loss. Most people fumble to try to find the “right” words only to cause more hurt in their effort to escape the discomfort of pain. But we have amazing friends and family who just sat with us in our grief and pain. And for that, I am so incredibly thankful.
The loss of an unborn child is something I never wanted to experience, yet here we are. I have grieved with so many friends and clients who have been through this as well, and it does not get easier. The pain is physical, mental, and emotional. As I sit at home with bleeding and cramps, waiting for my body to rid itself of the child that I should have been holding this coming December, the lies start to creep in: “What if my body can’t ever carry a child?” “What did I do wrong?” “Does God want me to be a mother?” The fear of trying to get pregnant again is already real, even though we have been advised not to try for a few months in order to let my body heal.
And I know it is killing Tim to watch me go through so much physical pain. He is doing such a good job caring for me, but at the end of the day he can’t fix it and he can’t take it from me. We just have to sit in this, together.
I know some people reading this have lost children, maybe even multiple times. Some of you may be pregnant right now and anxious about your little one. Some of you may be in the long journey of infertility and praying for a chance to conceive. Some of you have one or several healthy children and are holding them tightly. Some of you may be completely unaware of fertility and pregnancy and the emotional roller coaster of parenting. Where ever and whoever you are, I encourage you to practice empathy today. If you need some help with that word, go back and watch “Empathy vs. Sympathy” by Brene Brown. This little video is one of the greatest tools out there for teaching us how to love each other well.
Today I am so thankful for all the people in my life who know and practice empathy. I am thankful for friends and family who are willing to sit in this pain with Tim and I. The pain will pass, but the support of others lasts a lifetime. Even in the midst of grief, I am grateful for love.