Today is the due date for the baby the hubs and I lost last May. I know I usually keep things pretty upbeat and lively on this blog, but above all else, I want this to be a place for inspiration, understanding and empathy among women. So today, I’d like to tell you the story of my first baby.
Even though months have gone by since I miscarried, the tears still puddle in the corners of my eyes, and my fingers still tremble at the keyboard as I type. The pain will probably never completely go away– anyone who’s lost a baby during pregnancy will tell you this. And boy are there are a lot of us. I call us survivors, and I don’t think I’m being melodramatic. Every day is a struggle on the road to healing after a miscarriage. And that is why, in part at least, I chose to write this today. Because if anyone is reading this, and has experienced a loss, I want you to know you’re not alone. The other part is a bit more selfish. I’m hoping this post will serve as a sort of therapy for myself on this difficult day.
It all begin in April. The hubs was on a conference call in the dining room when I decided to take a home pregnancy test. It was way too early in my cycle to be testing, in fact, I knew the test would be negative because there was no scientific way my little home test could detect a pregnancy that early.
PREGNANT. The displayed flashed with that one beautiful word that held so much promise.
I sat in numb disbelief. Then, the jubilation began to set in. I nearly hyperventilated with happiness as I tried to figure out what to do next. The hubs was right there, just 20 steps away, and I held in my hand our entire future on one little stick. Before this moment, I’d imagined dozens of romantic ways to tell my husband he was going to be a father. But on this day, I wasn’t ready for any of them, and I couldn’t stand being the only person on the planet to know this incredible piece of information for another moment. Frantic, I searched for something to hide the pregnancy test in. An empty sunglasses case was all I could come up with. I marched out to the dining room and announced I’d found some sunglasses in the drawer and didn’t know where they came from. I handed him the case, then walked into the kitchen, peering around the corner to see his reaction. He sat, dumfounded for a moment, staring at the stick. It took a solid 20 seconds for him to finally figure out what he was holding. Once it did sink in, our eyes met, both of us began to cry, and we laughed and danced around the kitchen with joy. It wasn’t the exact commercial-worthy moment I’d been picturing. It was better.
A few weeks later, the complications began. During an early ultrasound ordered by my doctor at 6 weeks, we found out things didn’t seem to be developing “normally”. The doctor put me on bed rest and said she was cautiously optimistic that the baby would continue to grow by our regularly scheduled 8-week appointment. Those 2 weeks were torture. I’ve never been patient, and the perpetual unknowing left knots in my stomach. But finally, when our 8-week appointment rolled around, the hubs held my hand as we heard the news we were dreading: our sweet baby was only measuring at 6 weeks. No heartbeat. No chance that I would carry to term. Because my body hadn’t miscarried on its own, my doctor recommending a D&C to be performed as soon as possible. To this day, that was the worst day of my life.
The 2nd worst day of my life came 2 days later, when I arrived at the doctors office…ready, I guess, for the procedure. I don’t think under those terms that you can actually ever be “ready” to not be pregnant anymore, but by that point I was ready for the whole terrible nightmare to be over. As I lay on the table waiting for the doctor to come in, I had a couple of moments to myself. I cupped my hands around my small belly mound– the one that everyone said was way too early to be an actual baby bump, but I intuitively knew it was– and said good-bye to my baby. I promised that I would never forget our few short weeks together, that I would always love him or her, and I prayed for God to watch over my baby in heaven. Everything else after that was a blur. The doctors came in, they gave me a shot they said would make me feel like I’d had a margarita (it was nothing like a margarita), and then it was over.
Recovery from a miscarriage is slow. While your body heals, the bleeding is a daily reminder of what you’ve lost. And even once the bleeding subsides, you still don’t feel completely whole again. My confidence and self-esteem took a major hit at this time. Had I done something wrong to cause my baby to die? Did my body fail? They say miscarriage is most often the body’s natural way of eliminating an unhealthy fetus that has no chance of surviving. Theoretically, I know there’s nothing I could have done, but trying to explain it to my heart was an impossible feat.
I’ve never been someone content with wallowing in despair. I knew I had to pick myself up off the floor, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. Hubs suggested exercise, so I began to run. Several mornings a week, I would run intervals through the park near our house. As my body began to heal, I even began to allow myself to think things like, “next time I get pregnant, my body is going to be so healthy.” Next time. There would be a next time.
Meanwhile, the real healing came from an unexpected place– a four-legged orphan named Red, and a fur-baby amputee named Teddy. A few weeks after my miscarriage, I realized what I needed more than anything else was to climb out of myself in some way. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else but me, but the way I see it is so much focus had been on me for so long, beginning with the pregnancy, then the bed rest, the miscarriage, the recovery. What I really needed to focus on was someone else– to feel useful and undamaged. To give back. That’s when I contacted my friend Jessica from What’s Up Dog! L.A., who was desperately in need of foster families for her non-profit rescue organization. There is something magically therapeutic about rescuing a dog from the shelter– the way he stares at you with utter gratitude during his “freedom ride,” how satisfying it is when he learns a new behavior “trick” because you took the time to teach it, how remarkably resilient he is when he’s literally lost a limb. By “mothering” these sweet dogs, I was able to help them find their forever families, and I ultimately regained the confidence to start thinking about my own forever family, once again.
This past August, 3 months after our miscarriage, The hubs and I were thrilled to discover we were expecting once again. I worried the thrill I felt during that first pregnancy discovery could never be duplicated, but thankfully, I was so wrong. Sublime happiness doesn’t do justice to the emotions we’re now feeling. I was cautious throughout the entire first trimester, but the moment I saw our little one’s heart beat on the ultrasound monitor, all my doubt faded away. In no way does this baby replace the one we lost, but I refuse to let myself feel guilty for the joy I’m feeling today.