In this post I will describe my pregnancy loss at 13 weeks and 1 day (I hate that term, as I lost a child, not just a pregnancy, but “miscarriage” is equally awful).
For me, the worst part of it all was not the excruciating contractions, blood loss, or even seeing my dead baby come out of me. It was waking up the next morning not pregnant anymore. It’s not like I gave birth and then got to take my baby home and move on to the next stage – motherhood. It was like (literally) one minute I was pregnant and the next I wasn’t. How do you come to terms with being “un-pregnant?” How are the previous 3 months just erased? How could I have gone through an entire trimester of pregnancy with nothing to show for it but a huge scar on my heart? I felt betrayed by my body, guilty that I had somehow killed my daughter, and devastated that I would never get to hold her. And I couldn’t grieve any memories of her, because I didn’t have any. I could only grieve what would have been – what would have been her first smile, her first steps, her first day at school.
It all started on a Saturday, after my husband and I came home from shopping. I had some mild cramps and nausea, and a small amount of light pink blood. I immediately messaged my midwife, but it was a weekend and she wouldn’t be in. On Sunday the blood turned into brown spotting with clots. I didn’t sleep Sunday night because the cramps had gotten worse. On Monday morning I experienced full on period-like blood, and really intense cramps. I decided to stay home since I was in pain and didn’t sleep well, but sent my husband off to work, telling him that this was just my subchorionic hematoma, a small hemorrhage in my uterus discovered at my first ultrasound.
A few hours later, however, I was experiencing contractions every three minutes that were a minute long, the pain so bad I couldn’t sit still and had to scream and cry to endure them. I called my friend Amanda to take me to the ER and told my husband to meet us there. It was New Years Eve 2018/2019. Thank God Amanda is a teacher and was off for winter break, or else I would have needed an ambulance.
We got to the hospital and I couldn’t exactly say I was in labor — I wasn’t showing at all at that point. But I described my symptoms and they put me on the waiting list. I sat cross legged on a waiting room chair squirming and crying, which caught the attention of some nurses who asked me if I needed a blanket. A blanket, yeah, that’s what I needed. More like a fan and some morphine. Once I got my own room, someone took my blood to test my type in case I needed a transfusion from the blood loss. I could barely sit still for them to take it, yet they wouldn’t even give me Tylenol. No one seemed to realize I was in fact, in labor.
The nurse then asked me to give a urine sample, so I went into the bathroom. When I looked down to see where to place the cup, I saw what would later haunt me for months. It was my baby hanging out of me. I screamed, pushed to make her fall into the cup, pulled up my pants and ran back into the room and into Amanda’s arms. Nurses had heard me crying and removed the cup immediately, then came into the room to console me and to tell me that I had passed “the fetus.” Yeah, no shit. I saw her tiny little arms, fingers, legs, toes, and face. I wish I had spent more time with her and taken photos, but I was in a state of shock. I was later diagnosed with PTSD from the event, so I try not to blame myself for being scared of my own child.
About 3 minutes after delivering my daughter, my husband arrived at the hospital. He says as soon as he saw my face he knew we had lost her. He was really hopeful it was just the hematoma, and we were not at all prepared for the devastating outcome. He held me as we both sobbed. Unfortunately the contractions were not over, as I had to pass the rest of the placenta and the other “retained products of conception.” I continued to squirm and cry every few minutes, even as they performed an ultrasound to see what was left in my uterus. They still wouldn’t give me any meds, until Charlie and Amanda practically threatened to burn the place down. They finally gave me Tylenol (gee, thanks), and wrote me a prescription for 800 mg Ibuprofen to take every 3 hours. Why they wouldn’t give me something stronger is beyond me — there was no unborn child to protect anymore.
After telling us that this was common (they “see this all the time”) and giving us no answers, they sent us on our way. Amanda drove us to Charlie’s car and we went home to process our grief and figure out how we were going to tell everyone. How the hell were we supposed to tell our families? What was the protocol – was text ok, or did we have to meet in person? My other immediate thoughts were “did I cause this” and “what are they going to do with her remains.” I messaged my midwife asking for a full autopsy and to let us have our baby back afterwards.
Three days later we went to an appointment with my midwife. They did another ultrasound and determined that I had passed all the “products of conception,” which was not true, as I later passed a large piece of tissue and continued bleeding and contracting for several days. My midwife told us that the initial examination of our daughter showed all organs to be normal, except for her ears, which were underdeveloped and low set. She said this was a red flag for a genetic abnormality, and that they sent her skin cells to be tested for a full genetic markup. It would take 4 weeks to get the results. She also said that the baby had been dead for several days, up to a week. I did the math and since we saw the baby kicking on an ultrasound 5 days prior to my miscarriage, she must have died shortly after that appointment.
For seven days Charlie and I cried all day, messaged my midwife with questions, drank wine all night, and repeated. We felt closer than we ever thought we could be, and never loved each other more. Then Charlie went back to work, and I attempted to clean out the would-be nursery. It took me several days just to move my baby scrapbooking materials and baby Christmas presents off the kitchen table. I took FMLA leave, as I could barely get out of bed. Every time we saw a pregnant woman or a woman with a baby on TV we cursed and asked why she got her baby and we didn’t.
Finally the lab called and told us we could pick up our daughter, which we did. We then went to Lowe’s, bought a beautiful pink flower and a pot, and buried our baby girl. She currently resides on the kitchen island, with some of my sister’s ashes (my two Jillians together). Four weeks later we found out the baby had three sets of chromosomes instead of two (a rare genetic abnormality called triploidy, where two sperm fertilize the egg).
Each day gets easier, until something triggers me. I have peace knowing my daughter is at home with us and not thrown into some trash can somewhere. But I can’t stop grieving what would have been, or wondering how I could have finally gotten my happy ending, only to have it ripped apart (literally) before my eyes. The only thing giving me hope is that I will (hopefully) become pregnant again. Being “unpregnant” is a lonely, confusing, painful state of being that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.