I will never forget the look on the OB's face as he was giving me an ultrasound to make sure my baby at 16 weeks was okay. I will never forget the overwhelming wave of grief that struck me at that moment as my eyes fixated on the image I saw on the screen. I was frantically scanning for any tiny movement. A twitch of his hand, or foot, or his little heart beating frantically. I then turned my attention back to the doctor searching his eyes for any small glimmer of hope that what I knew in my heart, was not true. That he would soon tell me that this perfectly formed baby as going to be just fine. Instead, I heard those horrifying words come from his mouth: "I'm sorry, but it appears that your baby is no longer alive." I am not one to lose control of my emotions easily, but there was no holding back in that moment! I quickly sat myself up, and tried to form a sentence but nothing would come out but quiet sobs. I looked again at the doctor, hoping he could make all of this go away, or somehow make me feel ok. He wasn't my regular OB so he didn't know me from Adam. The words he spoke next would change the way I treated others going through a miscarriage from here on out. "Well, this is your fifth baby correct? Well, 1 our of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, so I guess it's your turn!". Did this man seriously just blow this off like it was just another day at the office? No big deal!? I could tell he was more irritated that it was a holiday, and he had to come to the hospital. He didn't know me, and I didn't know him. He probably did have plans with his own family, and there was nothing he could do about it, and I'm sure he assumed because I already had four children that it shouldn't have been too big of a deal to me. I was calling him every bad name I could think of in my head. I wonder now if he could tell that I despised his bedside manner at that moment.
It reminded me of an experience I had one afternoon watching my oldest play little league football. I had his three young brothers there with me, and one of the other moms on our team was searching for her little girl. We all frantically started looking around and eventually she was found. I expressed my heartfelt concern to this mom and her response to me was one I will never forget. She said, "You're lucky because you have spares!" I was a little perplexed by her comment and wasn't sure what she meant. She could obviously tell by the confused look on my face that I had no idea what she was talking about. She then followed up with "You have like a billion kids, so what would it matter if one went missing?" I had no words. I still remember he laughing. I wanted to come back with something really cruel, but instead I just shook my head and walked away. She was still laughing at herself, and he odd sens of humor even after I had left. That was the most inssensitive comment I had ever heard up until the moment that his doctor opened his mouth!
After fighting back the tears I had to quickly excuse myself to the bathroom where I was able to lock the door, turn on the fan and water, and use the whole roll of paper towels to muffle my sobs! I was doing the ugly cry, and doing that type of cry in silence is extremely difficult. Usually the whaling and loud sobs have to accompany that type of cry. I took about five minutes, splashed some cold water in my face, and returned to the exam room. We scheduled a D and C for the next day, and off we went.
Sometimes there is something really freaky about the intuition you have as a mother. We all have it, but it can be so pronounced sometimes that you know things without a shadow of a doubt. I knew before I ever stepped foot in that hospital that the outcome was going to be me going home no longer pregnant with my fifth child.
We had rented a trailer and were packed and ready to leave for Yellowstone that morning. My boys were so excited and we were all looking forward to camping in this little trailer. After falling asleep the night before I was awakened by the most bizarre dream. I had dreamt that we were hiking in Yellowstone, and I started having horrible cramps. I remember so vividly how painful they were, and then being terrified as I realized that I was bleeding. The nightmare didn't go any further than that, and i woke up with my heart racing. I assured myself that it was just a drea. The next morning while we were about to head out I had the worse cramps. I thought maybe it was just gas pains and shrugged it off. There was no bleeding, but I remember thinking how real the pains in my dream felt and how similar this pain was. I'm not sure if I hadn't had that dream that I would have paid too much attention the the pain i as having. But because of the dream I called the doctor and he told me to come in for a quick ultrasound just to give me some peace of mind before we left on our trip.
As I returned to our home after the ultrasound, I hadn’t taken five steps when I felt this gush of fluid come out of me. I looked down to see my feet standing in a pool of blood! Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out! I had never seen that much blood in one spot before. I thought I was going to bleed to death, literally at that moment. So, if you ever find yourself having a miscarriage, just know there’s a lot of blood! In my case though, there was too much blood, and once again we were headed back to the hospital. Side note here.... no one had ever told me that having a miscarriage that far along meant having contractions! I remember the pain just kept getting more intense with each contraction. I was finally given Demerol, which took the edge off, but the emotional pain was far greater. Once the doctor was sure I had miscarried they did another ultrasound. The baby that was there less than 6 hours before, was gone! There was nothing left. My baby was gone! I just got up, got dressed, got my medications, instructions, and went home. It was over. My pregnancy was over. I was devastated! It didn’t matter that this was my fifth child. It mattered that it was my baby, growing inside of me. The joy that I had felt was gone. I felt so empty, and yet I had to shrug it off as just a “miscarriage”. If one more person had said to me “Well, there must have been something wrong”, or “This is nature’s way of getting rid of a defective egg”, or “Be grateful that you didn’t have to carry it to term” I was gonna scream! Or punch them in the face! Punching them in the face would have made me feel better.
It didn’t take long to recover physically from that miscarriage, but emotionally I struggled for quite some time. I had feelings of extreme guilt wondering if I had caused this to happen. Could it have been the fall I took wake boarding in Lake Powell when I was barely pregnant, or was it the 3 day pioneer trek I went on? Was it too much Diet Coke? Was it from running, or lifting weights?
I had the most amazing OB who was so kindhearted, and assured me that it was nothing that I did, or didn’t do, and that sometimes this just happens. He told me to try again when I was ready. To not let this experience keep me from having more children if that’s what I wanted. It didn’t. We had two more beautiful, amazing boys after that dreaded miscarriage. Yes, I know some are thinking she’s crazy! She already had four! Let me tell you... I would have kept having children if the age thing weren’t a factor! I love being a mom! I love children! But that’s just me, and not everyone would agree.
Finding out your pregnant is exciting, terrifying, emotional, and did I say terrifying?
No matter how prepared you think you are, or how unprepared you know you are, nothing can prepare you for those gut wrenching, heart stopping words, “I’m sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat”.
So to those of you who have suffered a miscarriage, my heart aches for you. I feel your pain.
To those who have never experienced a miscarriage, be sensitive to those who have. It doesn’t matter if someone is six weeks pregnant, or sixteen. The loss is still painful. The experience is traumatizing. The hurt is real.
If you’re unsure of what to say, just say you’re sorry! That’s all they need to hear. Or give a hug. A Diet Coke always does wonders. So does sugar, and lays potato chips. Again, that’s just me!
This was my personal experience with a miscarriage, and everyone is different. Growing a human is miraculous. When we trivialize losing a baby, regardless of when, or how, we are trivializing the miracle of birth, and the miracle of creation.
Thank you for sharing,
I was so touched by your blog. As a mother of seven, three girls and four boys, I completely understand your joy in being a mom. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I never suffered a miscarriage, but I have two daughters by marriage who have lost one of our beautiful grandsons an hour after he was born and, between them, three through miscarriage. The pain and heartache was felt through our entire family.
Thank you for your compassionate insight and encouragement.
This is such an excellent piece. I wish I had it to read 31 years ago when I had my miscarriage at 14 weeks. My OB had warned me that people will say stupid and insensitive comments to me, and he was right. The very next day, I had someone say, “it’s not like it was a real baby, right?” or “At least you have 3 healthy boys”. I found out on a Friday that my baby had passed…no heartbeat at my regular appointment so my doc sent me over to the OB Surgeon for the D&C. They couldn’t schedule me until Tuesday since it wasn’t an “emergency”. On Monday, I had to go to the hospital for a chest X-ray and bloodwork for the “scheduled procedure”. That’s when the cramps started, and labor began. Fortunately, my doc had warned that this might happen, but it didn’t make it any easier. My D&C was at 6 the next morning, and I labored all night. I, too, had an experience with the big gush that night. My husband jumped right in and cleaned up the mess and rinsed & waded my clothes (why was I wearing white??). I never loved him more in that moment! I have a total of m 4 live births and none of their labors were this difficult. I’m one of those 2 – 4 hour labor kind of girls with little pain, but this was different. It was if my whole body was mourning. It’s never “just” a mom scarriage! Wow! That was a typo, but it fits. It stays with you just as that child stays in your heart even after 31 years have passed. There were also a lot of people who kcame to give me hugs, drop off meals, or would tell me their miscarriage stories. Some would tell me “I don’t know what to say, but I’m so sorry”. In that moment, I decided that even though this was the worst experience of my life, I would allow it to minister to those that come after me whenever I am aware of their experience because unlike those that say stupid things, I do know what they are going through. If you don’t mind, I would love to share your link to this piece. It has blessed me, and I know it will bless others!!