In 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. He had some very powerful words to say on the subject…
When a child loses his parent, he is called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.
My hearts go out to each and every mom who has had to walk through these types of losses. There are no words to describe the pain. There is nothing quite like it.
And frankly, I never thought I’d have a miscarriage story to share.
I was incredibly blessed to have two very easy, very uneventful pregnancies and births in my mid to late thirties.
I only had to pee on pregnancy sticks for two months of my life—one month for each of my children. I didn’t know the heartache of getting a negative result. Of losing a baby after the positive result. Of delivering a deceased child. Of loss.
But now, I do.
After spending a year of my life writing about the miraculous process of pregnancy for our pregnancy week by week series and the Mama Natural pregnancy book, I got baby fever something fierce.
It started with little thoughts like “oh, I miss that time in my life” and “I loved being pregnant.” Soon it blossomed into “I MUST HAVE ANOTHER CHILD!”
This was all very surprising, as I thought I was done. I had two wonderful kids, one of each sex. My husband and I figured our family was complete.
But then, suddenly, it didn’t feel like it.
It came to the point where it was almost painful to work on the book and read page after page of the pregnancy experience I had loved so much, and now longed for.
And it wasn’t just me. My husband Michael also spent his year reading, writing, and working with our illustrator on all things pregnancy. To my surprise, he was game to try again and get back on the crazy baby train of constant care, little sleep, diaper changes, and baby kisses.
Part of me felt crazy.
I was 41 years old and would be 42 when I gave birth. Michael was 44.
True, moms in their forties have babies; but it would be naive of me to think that it would be a breeze or without risk.
We prayed about it… a lot… and felt led to follow our hearts and take the plunge.
We tried in December of 2016 and I was shocked to learn that I was pregnant on January 1st, 2017. I never felt pregnant (which I normally do very early) and I also was fighting off a flu.
A few days later, I had a fever of nearly 102 and knew something wasn’t right.
On January 6th, I woke up and peed, only to find blood on the toilet paper. I refused to believe my eyes.
“No… no, no, no, please God, no…”
The bleeding got heavier, and I knew that this pregnancy wasn’t meant to be.
I was shocked, stunned, and so sad.
I wept. I cried. I yelled at God. I yelled at myself. I was devastated.
It felt like some of the “innocence” (and naiveté) of my previous pregnancy experiences was lost. I felt a whole new harsh reality.
Women miscarry. I knew this. I study this. And, unfortunately, I see this weekly when ask us to remove them from our pregnancy week-to-week series.
One in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage. And yet it feels utterly shocking when it happens to YOU.
Thankfully, the bleeding wasn’t bad; if I hadn’t known I was pregnant, I would have assumed it was just my period.
It took me several months to “regroup” (can you really after losing life?) and decide what to do next.
Again, we prayed.
We felt led to try once again.
And, again, I became pregnant right away. I couldn’t believe it! I was so thankful and full of joy. I found out on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) right before my book launched into the world. A double blessing!
Unlike the first time, I felt pregnant right away.
I was exhausted. I felt queazy. My boobs were growing like crazy.
And, I’ll be honest; there were moments when I thought…
What did I do?!
Am I crazy to be having a baby at 42?
Can I really pull this off?
And then I had other moments where I was ecstatic, giddy, on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe that I got to do this again! Woo hoo!
We were going to be a family of five (or even six?)! It could very well have been twins, I thought, based on how tired I was and how big I became so early into the pregnancy.
I was like a mad woman trying to find little things to make my near constant pregnancy nausea go away. I wasn’t throwing up, but I felt terrible. Homeopathic remedies weren’t helping much. Ginger was just barely taking the edge off. But, grapefruit. Ahh, grapefruit did the trick. As long as I ate one grapefruit immediately after a meal, I didn’t feel too bad. (Hurray for finding random, natural remedies!)
In May, our family traveled to Chicago for a midwife conference, so I thought I’d visit the same midwives who delivered my other children. It was my first prenatal appointment at 10 weeks into the pregnancy.
Because my husband and I both had a hunch that I was carrying twins, the midwives agreed to take a “quick peek” via ultrasound to check for multiples.
Now, you know I’m not a big fan of medically unnecessary ultrasounds (which is exactly what this was!), but I just had to know.
So there we were in the ultrasound room. Me on the table wearing just a shirt and a gown.
My husband in a chair, his legs bobbing up and down in anticipation. He was convinced it was twins.
The sonographer waving her wand on my belly.
“Well, it’s just one baby,” she said.
I breathed a sign of relief.
I think my husband was disappointed.
The sonographer kept zooming her wand around, studying her screen.
I was just about to tell her to wrap it up when she uttered the words I will never forget.
“I’m so sorry, the baby has no heartbeat.”
That couldn’t be true. I was nauseous. My boobs throbbed. My belly was huge. How could this be?
I had no bleeding. No cramping. ZERO signs that something was wrong.
Turns out I had what’s called a missed miscarriage.
That’s when the baby dies but the body doesn’t recognize it. It typically takes around three weeks for the body to pass the baby.
My midwife started mentioning things like D&Cs, genetic testing, pain relief. All I could do is stare in disbelief. I couldn’t take it in.
My dream died. My little, precious gift from God passed at 8 weeks and 6 days.
The next few days were a blur. I had every emotion you could imagine.
Yes, that terrible, unfruitful feeling of regret. I wished I knew how much I’d love being a mother. I wished I’d met my husband Michael in my twenties. I wished we would have tried sooner. I wished, I wished…
My body wasn’t cooperating…
I thought that since my baby died, the yucky pregnancy symptoms (nausea, debilitating fatigue) would go away fast and I could go back to my life.
I felt pregnant for the next two weeks.
I woke up every morning nauseous. I got indigestion after each meal. I was still so tired.
And yet, there was still no heartbeat.
I decided to let my body release the baby naturally in due time.
I watched for signs of infection and waited… and waited… and waited.
I had wanted this child so dearly, and yet now I wanted the child to leave so badly.
I wanted this saga to end so I could fully accept reality. So my family could move on. So that I could heal. So that I could stop being “kinda” pregnant.
Just like one of my midwife friends said, it took about 3 weeks for my body to pass the baby.
One day I felt labor pains, and the process began.
It felt like full on labor—back labor to boot!—and, over the course of several hours, I passed my little love.
Thank goodness I’d been through two childbirths already and knew some of what to expect. If I hadn’t, I think I would have called 911 for an ambulance.
As I went through the process (oh my, the blood!), I thought of all the women out there who’ve walked through missed miscarriages, miscarriages, stillborns and had to birth to their deceased children.
There are no words for how sad this experience is. How lonely it feels. How pointless it seems. And how heartbreaking it is.
And yet, God is good. There was still beauty in it. There was still God’s grace. Still His abiding love and peace. His precious presence.
And still incredibly sad.
I finally feel like I’m processing these experiences and making them a part of my reality.
We don’t know what we’ll do next regarding our family.
Get fur babies?
Anything is on the table at this point. (As a side note: I’m looking into what could be causing the miscarriages. Aside from the obvious aging eggs, it could be tied to a tick bite that is causing my immune system to overreact in pregnancy.)
At this point, we’re just praying, praying, praying.
And also staying in gratitude for the two incredible, living gifts I get to parent each day. I don’t take that for granted. I realize now how precious this is.
I don’t regret trying.
I’m even proud that I took a chance and went for it at such an advanced maternal age. (I’d definitely be a “geriatric” pregnancy, as they say! ?)
I learned a lot through the experience.
I understand the fear, shame, sadness, confusion and devastation of miscarriage. And the courage it takes to rally. To get back up and try again.
And I’m grateful for my faith.
I am blessed beyond measure to have two living children, and I feel blessed (yes, blessed) that I’ll have two precious babies in heaven to love on.
I am grateful for moms who talk about their losses. I’m grateful for organizations that rally around families in grief like Through the Heart. I’m grateful for people like Dr. Jessica Zucker and her organization I Had A Miscarriage whose mission is to de-stigmatize, de-silence, de-shame pregnancy and infant loss.
I’ve told some family and friends (and even acquaintances!) about my pregnancy loss. It was sometimes a strange and upsetting experience, as I found I often had to help them process their emotions around the experience.
I didn’t anticipate that.
But I think that, as more people come forward with their stories of loss, we will as a society better understand and support those who grieve.
While I don’t know if I’ll have my rainbow baby, I do feel more connected to myself, to the birth community, and to those in grief.
How about you?
Do you have a story of miscarriage, stillborn or infant loss? Know that you are not alone and there is no “right” way to process your experience. If you feel like sharing your reflections, please do so in the comments below.
Thank you for being part of our community and being on this parenthood journey with me. I love you.❤