Love and Loss.
I don’t remember exactly what day it was when I found out I was pregnant, but I do remember what day it was when I suddenly wasn’t pregnant anymore. It was August 17th if you are wondering, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve talked here before about our thoughts on having a third kid. In a word (that’s not a real word), I was wish-washy. One day I’d be consumed with baby fever, imagining myself strolling through the zoo with my two big kids and a little baby in the Ergo. And then two days later, I’d be listening to my kids play nicely together in another room while I did something (anything!) by myself, and I’d wonder why we’d consider messing with a good thing. I flipped and flopped and flipped again, and time kept on ticking.
Sometime last Spring, I finally said I was willing to leave our family planning up to chance and see what happened. And of course, we all knew what would happen. So sometime in July I found out I was pregnant for the third time. My due date was April 5th, 2017, which – you might have noticed – is today.
The day I found out, I also found out that one of my dearest friends was having a miscarriage, so my own news felt confusing and scary and I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to process how I actually felt about it. I went to the beach that weekend, and I remember one of my friends snapping this picture and saying, “it’s your first picture as a family of five!”
It’s funny how in hindsight of major life events, you can remember the smallest details of the most mundane things. I remember what seat I was sitting in at Caffe Ladro, where I had been working and sipping my latte all morning. I got up to go to the bathroom before I picked the kids up from school. Something seemed ever so slightly off. Not worrisomely so, but it didn’t go unnoticed.
The next night I went to Pilates and had a great workout. I felt great and was feeling super encouraged that at six weeks pregnant I still felt good and was able to do my regular activities. I got home from class and changed into my pajamas, and had another trip to the bathroom that made me take a second glance.
The next day I woke up bleeding.
I called my midwives and went in for blood work. Having only ever been there for healthy, sustained pregnancies, this was totally unfamiliar territory. They were wonderful and warm and I cried a lot. I continued to bleed and feel terrible, and did blood work and more blood work. In the meantime, I soaked up my kids and hugged them a lot. I felt sorry for myself, angry at everyone, and frustrated at the excruciating limbo of being caught between pregnant and not. I filled my bag with pads and wipes and I trudged on through life at the zoo, at school, and everywhere else I needed to be. I ate like shit.
I was at the splash park with my kids and my friends on a gorgeous August day when my midwife finally called and said that my hormone levels had decreased, which confirmed that I was having a miscarriage. The kids screamed and splashed with delight and I fought my way through tears to tell my friends what was happening, as my kids tugged at my legs asking for towels and goggles and attention that I couldn’t give.
The next day I went in for my appointment to talk about what would happen next. I was supposed to get on a flight to Charlotte several hours later. My best college friends and I had an amazing girls weekend planned complete with a Dixie Chicks concert. I couldn’t bring myself to think about the bigger picture of what was happening to me, and instead got wrapped up in the details of my trip. I was determined to go. My midwife asked me if I would be comfortable having a miscarriage where I was headed. I said yes. She then asked me if I was comfortable having a miscarriage on a five hour airplane ride. And so I canceled my trip.
I was sent home with a prescription for Misoprostol, a pill that would supposedly help move the miscarriage along, since it wasn’t coming to an end on it’s own. Even though at that point I had long accepted the reality that was in front of me, I will never, ever forget what it felt like to lay on my bathroom floor and have to shove pills way up inside myself, that would certainly end any hope of a miracle that I had left.
And so I did it, and then I didn’t know what to do next. I had no idea how long it would take or what would even happen, and I knew I didn’t want to think about it even though it was all I could think about. So I did what anyone would do. I got dressed and went to my next door neighbor’s fourth birthday party and made small talk and acted like I was a normal, functioning human. It was the hottest weekend of the whole summer, well over 90 degrees. Every other woman in Seattle was in a beautiful flowing sundress and I was sweating to death in my biggest pair of jean shorts with a pad that looked and felt like a diaper.
I don’t remember anything that happened the rest of that Sunday, but I know that I did not have my miscarriage. Finally, I went in for another appointment on Wednesday morning – now bleeding to the point of not being able to really leave the house or care for my kids – and said enough is enough. I was supposed to be leaving for a family vacation two days later in New Jersey, and the only thing I cared about anymore was not missing it.
The midwives offered me a D&C and said they could fit me into the schedule very quickly. I did not hesitate to say yes. I called Casey who was on the other side of town for business – he was too far away to make it back in time. I told him I was okay by myself – I needed it to be over. I had my surgery, waited around a bit in recovery afterward, and then walked out of the hospital, got in my car, and drove straight to school to pick up my kids. I chatted with teachers and other parents and felt like I was walking around in someone else’s body.
I knew I was pregnant for about 2.5 weeks before I started a miscarriage that lasted almost two weeks itself. It was the longest, shortest pregnancy of all time.
I called my family and told them I had been pregnant, wasn’t anymore, and that I needed to feel like a normal human being on my vacation. I went to New Jersey the following day and had a wonderful week in the sun and sand that healed my heart and soul, and allowed me to return to Seattle feeling like myself again. And a family of four again.
But the real healing process was long. I was told by doctors, friends, and really – everyone, that of course it was a fluke. And since in my mind I had momentarily adjusted to the idea of us having a third child, I became fixated on trying again. I didn’t want to process my emotions or what the loss really meant to me, so I threw myself forward into planning what would come next. I went to Whidbey Island for Labor Day weekend with friends, and I took lots of sunny beach walks and had lots of time to think and reflect.
Once I was physically ready, I jumped full force back into my workouts. I rescheduled my trip to Charlotte with my best girls, and had the time of my life. I took my first ever Orangetheory class.
I waited for all the things I was told to wait for before trying again, and then sometime in late September, I saw that very faint second line again. I’ve told Casey that I was pregnant four times now, and every time I’ve promised myself that next time I will tell him in a fun creative way. But as it was, I flung the pregnancy test at him in the laundry room as he got ready to head out the door to work. I babbled something like, “who knows what this even means” and we both fumbled through our day. I told my closest friends, and no one else. My due date was June 16th, 2017.
I didn’t think about being pregnant. I never allowed myself to even process it. Casey was more excited than I allowed myself to be, but we agreed we would keep our emotions in check until we passed into that elusive “safe” zone. I celebrated both of my kids birthdays, imagining what their birthdays would be like next year with a new baby there. Suddenly I had a three and five year old, and I felt overjoyed and so grateful for all the many blessings in my life.
Time passed and I felt happy and slightly more comfortable with every passing day. And then on a Monday morning in October, I saw something uncomfortably familiar on a trip to the bathroom. It was pink, and I was terrified. I called the midwives and insisted that I needed to be seen that day. They fit me in quickly, and I held my breath as I visited the same ultrasound table I’d spent so much time on that summer.
I didn’t have to wait for the ultrasound tech to tell me, I saw it the minute she turned on the screen. A tiny, beating heart. A little flicker. A sign of hope. I was completely and totally shocked. I met with the midwives afterward who had no explanation for the spotting, but told me, “Congratulations mom, you’re having another baby!”
I allowed myself to believe this whole thing might really be happening. And on Friday morning – just four days after my ultrasound – I woke up in the morning and could feel the blood running down my legs before I even made it to the bathroom. I knew it was over.
I went back to the doctor, did more blood work and more ultrasounds, and what I saw this time was as heartbreaking as it comes – a tiny little heart, still struggling to beat along, but a little bit slower this time. There was nothing medically we could do, as I technically still had a living baby inside of me, although we all knew it was only a matter of time. I was sent home to watch and wait.
I was determined to be the best mom I could be to the two kids I had never felt more grateful for. Cullen and I had tickets to a play that I had purchased weeks before, and I was adamant that we were still going to go. I felt fine during the play, despite the fact that I was deep into the miscarriage at that point. But when we stood up to leave after a two hour show, I knew I needed to leave immediately. Cullen cried and wanted to stay and meet the actors afterward, and I could already feel my pads soaking through. I raced through the gift shop to get him a book as consolation, and we got the hell out of there.
The next day was a Sunday, and it was Halloween. Of course these types of things always happen on a weekend, right? I rested all day and then pulled myself together to walk all around the neighborhood with the boys. It was painful and uncomfortable, and at the same time it was exactly what I needed – a fun night with the family that I loved so very much.
The next day I was finally able to get back into the midwives office. A final ultrasound confirmed that there was no more heartbeat, and we could proceed with next steps. I knew I wasn’t messing around with any more waiting or pills or any more of that torture. My body yet again wasn’t doing it on it’s own, so it would take another surgery. They offered to do it that day. We texted a few friends and no one was free to watch the kids, so there was no way Casey could come meet me. So I found myself alone again in the same operating room with the same doctor – less than two months later.
It was November 1st – a fresh start, and a new month. I spent a lot of time after that detached from the outside world, confiding in a few close friends, and hunkered down with my little family as much as possible. I welcomed the rain and the darkness of winter, as it matched how I felt on the inside.
The months that followed were hard. My hormones felt totally out of control. My body revolted in every way possible. I was pissed off by pregnancy announcements and bump photos and I felt like a shadow of myself through the holidays. I made it harder on myself than it needed to be by not opening up to people. I was in a weird situation where people in my more distant circle – like the kids’ teachers and my next door neighbors, knew all that we’d been through. I had to tell them because it really does take a village, and through endless doctor’s appointments and having two kids I could barely care for, I needed mine.
And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to tell many of the people closest to me, including our families. In fact, some of them are just learning all the details now. I knew how painful it was for me, and I didn’t want to share that feeling with anyone. I prided myself on being strong and capable, and I couldn’t handle what I knew would feel like pity. I think it was my last desperate attempt to maintain some sense of control over a situation that was so far beyond anything I could comprehend.
New Years brought healing. I left behind a year where I’d lost two babies and my dog, and I promised myself to only look forward from then on.
When I was in the deepest, darkest places in the midst of my losses, I had two friends in particular who lifted me up in ways I could never begin to thank them for. One of them pulled her car over on the way to church, and told me graphic details of what I could expect from the misoprostol pills. She talked about screaming into pillows from the pain, and lashing out at her husband. My other friend texted me hourly, letting me describe to her exactly what I was seeing in the toilet. She raged at pregnancy announcements with me, and understood my daily mood swings like only someone who has been there could.
Last month, one of my closest friends here had a miscarriage. I met her for drinks just an hour after her ultrasound to try to help her process all that she was feeling. I cried with her, and shared every tiny detail of my own experience that could possibly be helpful for her. And for the first time since last August, I realized that my tears were entirely for her, and not for me.
While I never would have wished for this experience, I am glad that I am now in a position to be a friend to anyone who needs one as they navigate the very confusing, painful, and quiet experience that is a miscarriage. It took me a long time to talk about it, but it’s not something I’m ashamed of or hiding from. The two babies we lost are as much a part of me as the two that I wrestle into rain boots each morning.
I wish I could sit here on this would-be due date and tell you there is a happy ending and pregnancy announcement to end this story. But that isn’t the case. I’m not pregnant, and don’t know that I ever will be again. I’m starting to feel okay about that. I don’t know what the end of our story will be. Perhaps we are already there, and if we are, then this happy ending is certainly happy enough for me.