That Monday in September 2014 started out like any other. I was 13 weeks pregnant, “in the clear” as far as pregnancies go, and relieved to finally start feeling better. Everything was right on time based on my two previous pregnancies (and not a day too soon, with two small boys at home).
Then I used the bathroom and saw a few drops of blood. My brain is wired for fear, but I was somehow confident this was normal. Still, I consulted with “Dr. Google” for peace of mind. When that was inconclusive, I called my midwife’s office. I didn’t want to be that panicky mom, but they could squeeze me in at the end of the day. So I went.
“ . . . What I’m not seeing is a heartbeat.”
Those words still echo in my mind when I think back to a year ago, when our world flipped upside down, nature became cruel, my body a traitor. The midwife left my husband and I to process the news — our baby had stopped growing three weeks ago. I wailed like never before. A primal, inconsolable wail. “What the *#% happened?” I cried out. I was in complete shock yet immediately felt empty, lost, betrayed by my own body. That day, I broke. I’m still broken.
I remember getting prepped for surgery early the next morning, likely sandwiched between an appendectomy and a tonsillectomy, an assembly line of outpatient procedures. It was the day before my 35th birthday. My husband had to wait in the lobby. I had never felt so alone.
They drew my blood then asked what I wanted to do with my “products of conception.” After an hour in recovery, they sent me home with a folder and a teddy bear.
Ironically, I was scheduled to see my midwife for a prenatal visit that very morning, in the same building, just two floors up. I loved this woman and felt a strong connection with her. Did she come down the two flights to check on me? Nope. Did she ever follow up with a phone call? Nope.
All I got was a two-week follow up with my surgeon, who only talked about chromosomal abnormalities and genetic mistakes. He trivialized my loss — it was insignificant because it was before 14 weeks, that unholy first trimester when anything goes.
The days that followed were depressing, surreal; time stopped yet it was a blur; my mind was spinning yet blank, numb. I had no physical pain, just emptiness. God, how I wished for pain.
My husband and I took the week off and spent a lot of time together, grieving but also enjoying each other’s company. He has always been my rock. It brought us even closer together and for that, I’m thankful.
I try to look for the silver lining. I want my baby’s short life to mean something. Something good has to come out of this. This wasn’t the plan. I had been dreaming about my summer home with my new baby and the boys. Instead we had to tell them that the baby in mommy’s tummy, the little brother or sister they had already drawn into family portraits, had died, and that it’s okay to be sad.
A year has passed and I still have my moments. Tears sneak up at the oddest of times. The baby’s due date this past April and the anniversary of my miscarriage were particularly bad days.
On the anniversary of the surgery, I was inspired by a friend’s post about her struggle with infertility. So I told the short version of my story. Finally, a full commemorative year later, I was able to talk about it.
I was, and still am, blown away by the overwhelming support I received from dear friends and acquaintances alike. It turns out there are a lot of people who need people.
Earlier this month, I started a closed group on Facebook: “Postpartum Heart Community.” It has become a place where women pour out their stories of tragedy and triumph, grateful to have a safe forum where they can be open and vulnerable.
My heart has started to heal. I finally found the connection I craved, and at the most perfect time.
My heart hurts for others who experience such a loss and who feel incomplete, waiting on a baby to fill the void. And who struggle with the shame that comes with feeling like what you have isn’t enough.
Know that you are not alone. There are so many beautiful people yearning for connection. If we let them in, our hearts and souls will slowly heal.
Vanessa Lucas works in health services research at ECRI Institute, a nonprofit evidence-based practice center. She is passionate about food, health and wellness, and is a certified CrossFit Level 1 trainer. She is married to her best friend, Scott, and enjoys getting schooled on the soccer field by her two little boys, Jake and Gavin. (But she lives for snuggles and kisses!)
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