Our Beautiful Miscarriage

You don’t often hear about miscarriage in a positive light. In fact you don’t often hear about miscarriage in ANY light. The conversations are happening more, but still too few and far between, considering that 1 in 4 women will be affected by miscarriage at some point in their life. I love that more attention is being drawn to the issue. To letting women know they are not alone, but the conversations even in themselves are dark, sad, and vague. It ia indeed a dark time, a sad time, but for us it was also beautiful. Here is my story about our first baby and his loss.

We had been trying for some time to have a baby. We married young, I was only 18, but we were so in love and always wanted a family. We waited until we thought the time was right. My husband was graduating from engineering school and had already secured a good job. After 6 years of marriage we were ready for our family to grow! I suspected it might take a little while to get pregnant. I hadn’t been on any reliable birth control for 2 years and we hadn’t had a “surprise” like we both had secretly (not so secretly) wanted. So we settled into a life of scheduled sex. I bought pregnancy tests in bulk because I took one every day or two the week before each period just to “see” and you can get them online for like $.80 a piece. I was already taking prenatal vitamins and abstaining from the things you shouldn’t do when trying to become pregnant. The first few months were fun! Excitement each month when I would piss through a dozen tests, sometimes two a day, but once we hit about the 6 month mark, with no “double pink lines” the excitement of starting a family was losing its luster.

We had made the mistake of telling my mom and a few others in the family that we were “trying”. That first Christmas my mom gave “us” baby things. A little picture frame and a stuffed animal for her soon-to-be first grandbaby! But the grandbaby wasn’t coming and I started to feel that something might be wrong. We had seen the midwife we planned to use when we first began on our journey. She told us not to worry, but I called her about the 6 month mark to tell her, “No luck yet.” I told her my cycles had always been irregular and I suspected I wasn’t ovulating. She said we could come into her office for a consult, but she suggested I maybe go see an OB because they could do more testing and might be able to give us more answers. I also thought it might be good to form a relationship with a doctor in case my pregnancy, should I ever have one, was more complicated or I needed their care. I thought it best to get on their radar so to speak. So I checked in with some fellow doulas to get the names of a few great doctors (ever want to find a great OB/GYN? Ask a doula! They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don’t think you will ever find better recommendations than from someone who has been in the delivery room watching multiple doctors do their work and can give you the inside scoop) and I made an appointment. I had an exam that was entirely unremarkable and left with a prescription for Clomid. SUCCESS! This is exactly what I wanted. A medication that forces you to ovulate is cheap and effective, and the main “risk” is twins, I’ll take it! (I no longer have any fantasies of having multiple babies after not having slept for the last 14 months with only one baby, but that’s a whole other blog now isn’t it)

So I began taking the medication and back at this trying to get pregnant thing. I was now buying cases of pregnancy tests, and pallet after pallet, month after month, nothing! I was on the last cycle I could take of Clomid, before they would want to do some more testing and move forward with other infertility treatment when one evening I saw it, or DID I! Is that two pink lines!?! Do my eyes deceive me? It’s a trick of the light? A smudge? So faint I didn’t know if it was there or not. It can’t be? Is it? We took that dip stick from one end of the house to the other. Into the front room, opened the blinds for some natural light, closed them again. Held it close up, and further away. Squinted….. Then we took to Dr. Google. How faint of a line can you still call a positive? I NEED PICTURES DR. GOOGLE! It wasn’t quite the hold each other and cry moment I had envisioned, but finally my husband said “I think your pregnant honey!”

We headed out the next morning for an already planned little weekend trip to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. We didn’t want to tell anyone else, just yet. I still wasn’t 100% convinced I was pregnant. So we loaded up the car and I grabbed a couple dozen unused pregnancy tests and off we went. I took a few more tests over the next two days, hoping to see some more clear lines, but each was still just as faint, a trick of the light perhaps? Finally we decided that maybe, just maybe these cheap tests were no good. Let’s go to the store and buy a “real” test. That should clear things up. So we stopped into a drug store in some tiny vacation town and come out the proud owners of a name brand test. 10x the price of my cheapies, there should be no confusion now. We take it back to our bed and breakfast. I disappear into the bathroom and emerged a moment later, test in hand. We stood there together and in just a few seconds there they were. TWO DARK PINK LINES! We were pregnant. No denying it now. This is where the beautiful part begins, because it was then that I became a mother. My little baby was growing inside of me. We did it, we made a baby!! My body could get pregnant. I could get pregnant.

Over the coming days we announced our fun surprise to immediate family and one or two close friends. First my sister over the phone on our way home from the trip “Guess what? I’m pregnant!” Then we went to my mom’s house. We finally made good use of the $3900 dollars or so we had spent over the last year in pregnancy test and we wrapped one up for her. We told her we found something fun for her on our trip. Expecting a box of cookies or a souvenir coffee mug she instead un-wrapped a cardboard stick soaked in my urine from the day before. She nearly stopped breathing! And then we went onto the in laws where we were celebrating my Father in laws birthday. We gave him a little card that read Happy Birthday Grandpa! This was to be the first Grandbaby on both sides of the family and after 7 years of marriage everyone was so happy for us. We made sure that everyone knew we were still early in our pregnancy and anything could happen, but no one seemed to hear that part or care. They were going to be Grandparent’s. We were going to be parents. Life was good.

We called our midwife right away to tell her our news. She was happy for us. I asked about twins because we had conceived on a higher dose of Clomid. She said it was a possibility and that an early ultrasound was maybe in order. She said we should wait a few weeks and it would be more accurate. So we waited, and we celebrated, and we made plans. My mom took me shopping to get a little outfit. My husband and I started on a big remodeling projected I wanted done before the baby came. I took care of myself. I slept and ate and took my vitamins. We talked about our baby, our future. We looked up and read about our growing baby each night. The size of a sesame seed, getting bigger now, heart starting to beat, arm buds beginning to from. The pictures in my midwifery text books looked like a little shrimp. We began to call him our Shrimpy, our baby!

A wonderful month had passed and I was ready for some answers. We made the appointment for an ultrasound. How many babies have we got and are they healthy? It was April 1st. April fool’s day. My mom, Matt’s mom and my sister all couldn’t wait for the call to tell them just how many sweet little beans were planted in my pot. We already planned to call them all with the news of triplet or more, just kidding April fools! HA HA HA. In the back of the clinic I got undressed and got “comfy” on the exam table. She put a condom and some lube on the “probe” If I wasn’t so damn excited I would have felt cheap. “Whatever lady you just shove that thing on up there. I want to see my babies!” There we have it, our little guy. Tiny, but to me as clear as day, we had one little bean. I grabbed Matt’s hand. The tech took a moment, moved the probe a bit, A few different angles, some clicks with the mouse, zoomed in again, And then She turned to us “Here is your baby, but I am so sorry to tell you that there is no cardiac activity” “as you can see this here is the chest, the heart, it’s not moving. If the heart were beating you would see a little flickering or flashing right in here” “Let’s take a listen just to be sure” A flat line……… nothing……… “If the heart were beating then you would see it here on this line, and we would be able to hear it” “again I’m so sorry” and I’m a doula and I’m a student midwife and yet still I don’t really understand what she is saying.

I thought to myself, “So you mean that the heart hasn’t started beating yet? That’s ok, I mean maybe we are just not as far along as I suspected.” She said the baby was also measuring about 7.5 weeks in size, but I should be further along than that. She said the baby “Passed” a week or two ago. What do you mean the baby PASSED! The baby is right here. I can see him. He hasn’t passed. He is still with me, in me. There is a dead baby inside of me, is that what you’re telling me? So I asked her “What do we do now?” She said she would step out and I could get dressed and she would call my midwife and let her know the results. She left the room. I went into the bathroom to get dressed and as I stood there naked in the bathroom it started. I kept it together while she was in the room, but now the tears came and I just could not stop them and they just came spilling out and I cried. I opened the door and there stood my husband and he just came to me and held me and I cried. After a few minutes we opened the door, the tech was across the hall on the phone. We came by her and she asked if I would like to speak with my midwife. I said yes and she said “how about you go back in the room and I will send the call in there. You can have some privacy.”

Our Midwife gave us our options. We could wait and let nature take its course, but it could be days, weeks, maybe even months. For some reason my body didn’t yet know that our baby was gone. We could take some medication to help my baby to pass, or I could go see the OB I had been working with and he could perform a procedure to help clear everything out. The “products of conception.” But my baby wasn’t a product of conception. He was my baby, my Shrimpy and I didn’t just want him sucked and scraped from my womb. We choose the medication. The midwife gave us instructions on how to use it and she said we could take it at home. She said it would be like a mini labor. Complete with cramping and contractions, I might even feel my water “break” or leak some fluid. She said it might hurt and I could take some Tylenol if I wanted. She even said I could take “something stronger” if I wished. We settled in for the weekend. We wanted to spend the time together. We told the family. We turned off our phones. We were going to stay in and have a miscarriage. It was Friday afternoon when I took the medicine. At first nothing happened. We sat together playing our favorite video game. Within two hours the cramping had started. I took some medicine, but it was already too late, within just a few minutes I was in excruciating pain. I was laying on the bathroom floor, vomiting and writhing and crying out it pain. I didn’t expect pain like that. I told Matt something was wrong. I told him to call the midwife, or maybe 911, I didn’t know. It hurt SO BAD! He stepped away to call her, she didn’t answer. I crawled in agony from the bathroom to a bed on the floor in the basement in front of our TV and I passed out. I don’t know how long it was. Maybe 10 minutes? An hour, maybe two? I woke up and Matt was standing over me. “Are you ok? The midwife is on the phone. She wants to talk to you.” “Ok,” I could talk again. She asked me what we going on. I didn’t know. I just knew that it was hurting so much. She asked if I had any bleeding. I hadn’t, but the pain was mostly gone too. She said it may not have worked, that if I didn’t start bleeding within a day or two I might need a 2nd does. A 2nd DOSE!! I don’t think so lady! She said to just relax and let her know tomorrow what was going on and we could make a plan from there.

I sat for a little while. Matt sat with me. He was such a rock, so calm and kind and not over bearing. I finally got up to use the restroom. I looked, no blood, nothing. I felt “full” I felt the need to push, just a little. I pushed and something came out. Our baby came out. I knew it was him. I asked Matthew for some gloves. I took him in my hands, I wiped the blood away and there in my hands was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. A perfectly intact amniotic sac, a tiny placenta, an even smaller umbilical cord and at the other end floating peacefully was my baby. I could see him clear as day, all completely intact. I wanted to see him better, to study him. I “broke” the bed of water surrounding my baby and then he was even clearer and easier to see. He was perfect and just about 7.5 weeks along like they said. I know it’s silly but I watched carefully for just a moment, I thought maybe, just maybe his heart would be beating after all that he would be ok? But of course not. No, he had passed on but yet was still here in my hands. I held my baby, yes my baby, not tissue, or a mass of cells, not a “product of conception”. My little Shrimpy. I placed him in Matt’s hands. He held him. We cried. We took pictures. We studied him. His little facial features were just starting to form. His little arm buds were just sprouting. I held him and I was so grateful. I got to see and hold my baby. I gave birth to my baby. Small and underdeveloped, but mine all the same. I loved him. We got to deliver him at home just like we wanted. It was so intimate and personal and also empowering. I gave birth to my baby and I held him and I loved him, of this I was sure. We decided to seal his little body away in a small stone box. We placed him in there, we said our goodbyes and we seal it closed. The next day we went to the spot where my grandparent lay to rest, and we kneeled down and in-between their gravestones we dug a small hole and we lay our sweet baby to rest. There in a spot of earth we knew should always lay undisturbed.

The days and weeks to follow were hard, but in many ways not as hard as I expected. I missed my baby. I missed being pregnant, but I also just knew in my heart that I would see him again, somehow, some day. And I was changed. My life was different now. I was a mother. We were parents to an angel gone too soon, born still, but still born. I am grateful I had the chance to see and hold and give birth to my baby. It helped me to see that I was indeed pregnant. My body had indeed conceived this precious child and grew it from a single cell to a little shrimp, arm buds and all! I got to hold him inside me, I got to deliver him and hold him and say goodbye to him and bury him with family. He was real and it was real and it was beautiful. It was our love story of our first baby. It was a short story, but even short stories can be beautiful.

I think the struggle for some women who miscarry is that they are never given a place to grieve properly. Most people recognize that miscarriage is difficult; they understand it’s a sad and dark time but they think you are in mourning of the idea of the baby more than you are in mourning of your baby. Women are told they have lost a pregnancy, not that they have lost a baby. They are told they have suffered a miscarriage, not that their baby has died. That it’s common and it’s not their fault and that they can try again in a few months, and they are sent home with some paper work and told to call if the bleeding becomes too heavy. And that is it. Good bye, good luck, have a nice life. Since many couples choose not to announce their pregnancies until after the “danger zone,” most people go through this alone. I can’t imagine what that must feel like. No one knows how to approach a miscarriage. Do you send flowers? A Card? Do you talk about it or pretend it never happened? No one talks about it so no one really knows how to talk about it. I was glad our families knew. Knew why we were sad. Knew not to make insensitive comments about when we were going to finally have kids. No one wants to treat a miscarriage like any other form of death or loss, but we didn’t just loose a pregnancy. We lost a baby. His life was real and it meant something and it mattered and he mattered.

Our sweet boy was due to join our family on November 7th 2013. I knew it would be a hard day. It would be a sad day when his due date came and went. I had prepared myself for that. In the months following his loss both my sister and sister in law announced they were pregnant. They were going to have the “first” grand baby on each side of the family. I was happy for them and I was sad for us. We wanted so badly to have a baby of our very own. The morning of the 7th I woke up and knew the first thing I would do. I would take a pregnancy test. My period was due in a few days, but I just thought “what if?” I wasn’t sure but I had a feeling, and I took a test and it was POSITIVE! I was pregnant again! I came to Matt. I told him the news, but he already knew. He wasn’t at all surprised and neither was I. It wasn’t the hug and cry kind of moment either. It was more of a, I love you and we can do this. And we did! In June of the next year we delivered a healthy baby girl. She is an amazing girl and a wonderful gift. I think her big brother sent her to us. He sent us this blond haired, blue eyed angel as if to say “I’m sorry I had to leave so soon. I love you and I can’t wait to see you again.”

So that is the beautiful love story, the conception and short pregnancy and birth and burial of our first child. I miss him. I’m sorry I never got to know him, but I’m glad I had him. I’m glad I had that time with him, inside my body and later cradled in my hands and I’m glad I know the place where he now rests. I realize that some people had a very different experience to my own. I don’t think holding and seeing and burying your miscarried baby is right for everyone and I also realize that many or most people who suffer a miscarriage didn’t even get a choice. The “products of conception” were thrown out with the medical waste and they never even knew they had a choice, but for us we did and I am so glad we did. I’m glad we got that chance. I also realize that this story comes with an entire set of moral, religious, medical and political issues. I won’t even begin to touch on those; I don’t know what’s right for everyone. I don’t know most things, but I do know that the pregnancy, death and then birth of our first child were special and spiritual and meaningful to us. We loved that little baby even if only for a short while. And his life mattered because like Dr. Seuss said

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”