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Challenge: Pregnancy and Infant Loss

The worst 5 words you’ll ever hear:

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“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

There is a profound emptiness that comes with waking up from anesthesia remembering that the surgeon who shook your hand that morning just removed a dead baby from your uterus. Pardon my crass story telling style, but if you’ve lived this story, which I pray you haven’t, you understand that there’s no gentle way to talk about miscarriage.

I warned the nurses that I have a tendency to come out of anesthesia either sad or angry. I had never, however, gone into anesthesia both sad and angry. Waking up was worse than I imagined it would be. Three harsh bright lights and an operating room set to below freezing.

The anesthesiologist asked me why I was crying (and that’s why she went into anesthesiology.)

One of the nurses answered for me:
“She’s just really sad.”

“I can’t believe it’s really over.” I added.

When they wheeled me back to the room I had been waiting in, I continued to cry as I saw Joe.

“It’s really over. It’s like it never happened.” I don’t know why the surgery made me feel this way.

Joe told me:
“Before today I never thought our relationship could get any stronger, but now I know that it could have, and it did.”

I loved him so much harder than I ever had in that moment. And he was right. There is both a sickening sense of relief and a renewed sense of fear that comes with living through something you thought would kill you.

Quite literally, two months ago when I told a friend I was pregnant, I told her that I would “literally die” if anything ever happened to this baby. And while a part of me did, there’s an even bigger part of me that is still very much here. And hopeful.

It’s harder at night, mostly. I picture the doctor’s face as she rolls the ultrasound probe over my belly. The gel wasn’t even warmed this time. I picture her biting her bottom lip and squinting (never a good sign when someone is doing your ultrasound, FYI) I remember her saying “it’s just really hard to see...”

“What are you seeing?” I asked her, what felt like maybe a million times before she finally told us.

I remember wanting to cry but I couldn’t. I just asked questions, like I was a student eager to learn.

“Why does this happen?”
“How does this happen?”
“What percentage of pregnancies does this happen in?”
“What are the odds this will happen again?”

As she answered, I realized I wasn’t even listening. Her mouth was jumbled as the nurse came in and gave me a pair of mesh underwear to put on (a fine way to add insult to injury, by the way.)

On the way home, I thought about all the plans we had made. The gender reveal set for February 8th. The daycare tour I had set up for the end of the month. The registry items I had already saved in a list on my phone. I thought about that time I told my friend that I would die if this ever happened. And then when we got home and laid down, both Joe and I agreed:

“We will try again.”

Reading that statement the rational side of me thinks “ARE YOU CRAZY? AND RISK GOING THROUGH THAT AGAIN?” And the emotional side of me channels all the love we had for that tiny baby that I carried for almost 12 weeks and imagines it multiplied times infinity coupled with the sensitive realization that I didn’t have before in my naive state of early pregnancy: none of this is guaranteed. But all of it will be worth it.

It has only been 6 days. 6 days that have felt like a year, but 6 days nonetheless. Physically I feel back to normal, which is a new kind of pain as your body quite literally forgets you were pregnant and your boobs suddenly fit in your bra again. Emotionally, I am being gentle with myself. I am doing my best to accept that this was a trauma, and spending most of my free time on psychologytoday trying to find someone to process this with.

The day after my surgery Joe and I went to Jordan’s Furniture to buy stuff for our new apartment. The salesman that helped us (picture a 40 year smoker with the strongest Dorchestah accent you’ve ever heard), asked if we wanted the warrantee on our new leather couch:

“You’s guys got kids? Nah? Not yet?” (Insert the knife and twist it a few times)
“Maybe in 2 years, say you’s guys got kids, the kid spills somethin on the couch- you want the warrantee.”

All I’m thinking is: please Dave, please don’t tell me we have to wait two years for this baby.

“We’ll take the warrantee” I tell him quickly without even asking what sort of robbery they’ll charge for it.

Dave then tells us he’s going to be a grandfather in February. I feel the knife going back in again.

“My daughter tried for 5 years. This is the first one. It’s always special to get a grandkid but it’s even more special because it took her 5 years! Boy, can you imagine?”

I suddenly don’t feel the pain anymore. After the 30 seconds of jealousy I felt towards Dave’s daughter who I literally had never met before- I felt nothing but happiness for her and hope for our own family.

Yesterday I told one of my clients that pregnancy is the most anxiety ridden time in someone’s life. She didn’t know the experience I had been speaking from, but I think she knew I wasn’t just saying that hypothetically. This is still raw, the fear is still there, but I’m choosing to focus more on the faith that got us here in the first place.

People say that miscarriages cause you to feel isolated and alone, but of all the things I’ve felt over the last 6 days- I have never felt more supported in my entire life. I hope that if you’re reading this and you’ve suffered a pregnancy loss or struggle with infertility, that you talk about it. Either to a therapist, or to me, or to anyone who will listen. You’ll see that when you open up, others open up too. And the loss of a baby is a terribly tragic thing to keep to yourself.

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