“I don’t see a heartbeat”
Those words will forever bring fresh tears to sting my eyes, cause my stomach to flop, and bring the sensation of my heart being shredded into a million pieces. Every. Single. Time. The days immediately following my miscarriage were very dark. All I could think about was “why?” Why me? Why did this have to happen? What was I supposed to learn from this that I had not already learned from my infertility journey? The more I tried searching for answers, the more I kept drawing blanks. Until one day it hit me. Maybe this has nothing to do with what I am supposed to learn from all of this. What if it was about what I was supposed to do? What can I take away from this experience that can help other women who are suffering the same lonely, all-encompassing grief that I was?
When I shared my infertility journey through my blog, I had many women reach out. Some were old friends, some were close friends, and some were women I had never met. But we all had our journeys in common. My blog was able to help others, give them courage, and the confirmation they were not alone. If there is one thing that is talked about less than infertility it is miscarriage and all the raw emotions that are associated with it. I already had the platform to reach other women; all I needed to do was publish my story. Perhaps I was supposed to share my story to help give other women also struggling with their loss the courage to share or talk about their own experience. Or at the very least, let them know that they are not alone in how they are feeling.
To make a very long story short, Paul and I began another fresh round of IVF treatments on February 24th. On April 8th the doctors called with my beta blood test and confirmed I was pregnant. Over the course of the next two weeks leading up to my first ultrasound appointment I was pulled in for two additional blood drawls due to some symptoms which could be an early indicator of miscarriage. Both tests came back great so we proceeded to our ultrasound very hopeful on April 22nd. Being 6 weeks, 2 days pregnant we were hoping to see the heartbeat. Instead the doctor confirmed that both transferred embryos had implanted, however they were not developed enough yet to confirm heartbeats. We were having twins and shocked beyond belief. So we waited another week for our second scan. On April 28th, (7 weeks, 2 days) Dr. A was only able to find one heartbeat. As for the second baby, we were told that it had not survived.
Leaving the office I felt a whirlwind of emotions. I was incredibly sad we lost one of the babies. But I could not focus on the loss as the doctor stressed that the next two weeks would be critical to make sure fetal development and growth occurred in order to sustain the pregnancy of the second baby. So I pushed all negative thoughts out of my mind and made sure to remain positive for the safety of the second baby. We were excited beyond words and finally told all our family and friends that we were expecting. To say they were all shocked would be an understatement. We had kept the secret that we got approved for another personal loan, started the IVF process, and managed to get pregnant from pretty much everyone. We just wanted to have that shock factor that everyone else got to have with their pregnancy announcements. I had ordered an adorable tank for Reagan off of Etsy that was personalized to say “Big Sister, Reagan” on it. We took pictures of her wearing it and grinning from ear to ear (not that she knew what it meant). Then we either Facetimed, visited, or messaged those closest to us with Reagan wearing the shirt. It was truly everything I had ever envisioned and more.
Everything changed on Wednesday, May 4th. While at dinner with some friends, I began to have excruciating cramps, paired up with several other miscarriage symptoms. I immediately called my doctor after hours. He assured me that he believed everything to be okay and that he would get me in first thing in the morning for an ultrasound. Thursday, May 5th I headed into IRH with shaky hands and a knot the size of Texas in the pit of my stomach. As Dr. A performed the ultrasound he pointed out the area of growth to where the baby had matured from last week. I started to relax a little bit, thinking “okay this is good news. Some women have these complications throughout their pregnancy and I am going to be fine.” Then he scanned to the area of the heartbeat. And circled. And circled. And circled for what felt like an eternity. Time seemed to stand still and the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Then it came. “I do not see a heartbeat”.
The rest is kind of a blur to be honest. Paul was not there with me as he was too far away working to make the last minute appointment. I remember sitting up and putting my face in my hands as the tears began streaming down. After everything I had gone through in the last 10 weeks it felt like someone had reached inside my chest, ripped out my heart, shredded it into a million little pieces, and then put it back in. It seemed unfair to have had the whole IVF cycle work and then have it all taken away just a few short weeks later. And not only work, but to bless me with twins and then take them BOTH. I vividly remember wanting to scream at God and say “Why? Why did you have to take them both? Taking the first baby wasn’t enough for you?” It literally felt like some kind of a sick joke.
I had my D&C scheduled for the next morning. D&C is a surgery where the surgeon removes the contents of the uterus. Or in more commons terms, Dr. A was going to go in and remove my babies. If you have ever been checked into the hospital for any type of surgery you will know that they ask you a dozen of times, “what are you here for today?” Every time I had to reply with “D&C”, I began to feel more and more numb. I stayed that way up until the nurse walked in with paperwork for my babies’ death certificates and asked for authorization for the hospital to take care of the remains. That’s when I lost it. The pain that crept in is truly indescribable. I could literally feel my heart breaking. My chest physically hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I could barely sign or see the paperwork because my hands were shaking so bad and my eyes were flooded with tears.
Shortly before I was taken back, a Rabbi came in to say a prayer. Even though I am Catholic, my husband and I know the importance of prayer, especially in this situation. We held hands as the Rabbi blessed my babies and asked for the Lord to accept them into his arms and look after them for us. All these flashes began streaming though my head at rapid fire. I’ll never get to see my babies. I’ll never get to hold them tight or kiss their sweet faces. Even though my gut was telling me they were both boys, I will never get to know that for sure. I’ll never get to celebrate holidays, or birthdays, or teach them about life. I’ll never get to introduce them to their loving big sister. Man did that one felt like a dagger in my chest. Even for the short time I had carried them I had already made so many plans for their futures. These plans were shattering all around me, falling to the ground like broken glass.
The next few days were by far the worst time of my life to date. Did I mention it was Mother’s Day weekend? As if the pain of losing my babies wasn’t enough, everywhere I turned Mother’s Day was being forced down my throat. I know I have a beautiful baby girl that had already blessed me as a mother. It was just really bad timing. I tried to put on a good face but losing my babies was all I could think about. It literally consumed my every thought. I would go from being completely numb and feeling nothing at all to sobbing uncontrollably. It emotionally and physically hurt. My babies had died inside of me and I was not able to prevent it or save them. I think that’s the part that stung the most- it was my body that allowed this to happen. And the whole thing was a mind tease because even though I was not pregnant anymore I still felt pregnant. It takes a while for your hormone levels to drop after a miscarriage so you still have the pregnancy symptoms: nauseas, tiredness, soreness, etc. And coincidentally a few hours after I got home from the hospital the new maternity pants I had excitedly ordered arrived. And so did the extra camera to hook up to the baby monitor in the new nursery. Effing awesome.
The awful thing about a miscarriage is for most women it happens before couples even have a chance to tell their families and friends they were pregnant. So not only are you grieving the loss of a child, but you are doing so privately. Nobody knows this extreme loss you just suffered. Everywhere you turn people are smiling and laughing and moving forward with their lives, looking at you and expecting the same in return. They are unaware that you are so overcome with grief that it took everything in your power to simply get out of bed that day. Some days all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry all day. I tried to hold it together as best as I could but there were many days something would happen and it would trigger riveting flashbacks of those awful three days. And then suddenly there I was sitting back in the doctor’s office, or being prepped for surgery, or coming home completely empty. And no matter how hard I tried, once the flashback started, I could not stop them from happening. I kept reliving it over and over and over again.
A week after my D&C we left for vacation to Ft. Myers, Florida. This was a planned vacation that really fell at the perfect time. That Monday, May 16th, Paul and I decided to have a memorial on the beach at night. We bought paper lanterns and lit one for each baby, filled it with our love, and sent them up to Heaven. We held Reagan in our arms, said a prayer to God, and said Goodbye to our babies. For me this was critical to help the healing process. With any other loss, you get to say goodbye. With a miscarriage, one second you are pregnant and the next you are not. You leave the hospital feeling totally empty with nothing to prove that your baby even existed. Saying goodbye and having a memorial was our way of recognizing these babies existed, even if it was just for a short time.
Afterwards I made the decision to share our memorial on Facebook. Everyone is different and for some women, they don’t want anyone else to know. But for me, I wanted others to recognize that I did have two little angel babies. For the last week I was walking around carrying my grief and it was weighing me down. By sharing my loss I instantly felt some of the weight being lifted off my chest. It was out there. People knew. It was no longer an enormous secret I had to keep hidden. Also it made me feel better to know that others were praying for our babies too. The power of prayer really is an incredible thing.
I’m not sure this pain is ever going to go away. It has been five weeks and it still weighs on me heavily. I actually still cry more days than I do not. I know with time, it will fade and not be as encompassing as it is now. There will be hard times, like when I reach certain milestones of the pregnancy I once held, such as second and third trimester dates or when I approach my due date of December 12th. However there is one thing I do know for certain- I will see my babies again. There will come a time (many years from now) when my whole family will be reunited in Heaven. I will be able to wrap my arms around my babies and give them years of kisses and never let go again. For some reason, this helps to bring me peace. Not one day will go by that I will not think of them. Instead of carrying them in my arms, I will carry them in my heart. And maybe one day my family will be able to expand again. In the mean-time though, I do have one beautiful little girl to focus on. One silly, spunky, sweet hearted, genuine little girl who just learned how to give her momma these tight bear hugs. That, my friends would be enough to aid in the healing of anyone’s heartache.
“I never got to hold you, or bounce you on my lap. I never got to read to you, or watch you as you nap. You slipped away so quickly, before I said your name. And I want the world to know, I love you just the same.”