Heather’s Story

HeatherB

Tell us about your pregnancy loss(es). 

All my life, I wanted to be a mom more than anything else. When other little girls were playing dress up as brides and dreaming of the day they would meet their prince charming and walk down the aisle to start their happily ever after, I was playing with dolls and dreaming of holding, rocking, snuggling and loving my own newborn someday. Luckily though in 2003, I got the dream wedding day too and just 5 short weeks later, I was ecstatic to find out we were expecting our first baby. I quickly told family and friends who were thrilled for us. My husband and I announced our happy news to our coworkers and bosses. At 8 weeks we went in for an ultrasound and got to see our peanut moving around! It was INCREDIBLE. More than I even had imagined. Our baby was measuring almost a week behind but we were assured that was normal because sometimes dates are a bit off and then our minds were put completely at ease when we got to hear the heartbeat! The sound made me cry! My OB told me the chance of miscarriage after hearing a heartbeat was slim to none. We were on top of the world!!

My pregnancy progressed without any complications or concerns and I went in for my routine 12 week appointment alone. My OB tried to find the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler without success. He reassured me this was normal and sometimes it takes a little longer for the heartbeat to be heard on the doppler but he ordered a STAT ultrasound just to make sure everything was okay. I called my husband immediately and he met me at the hospital where I had been sent. The room was cold, dark, sterile. The ultrasound screen flickered on but this time there was no movement and no sound. The ultrasound tech quickly turned the screen away from me. A radiologist came in and suddenly our world seemed to come crashing down around us as we were told our baby no longer had a heartbeat. I was in shock. It was all so surreal. I didn’t know anyone that had lost a pregnancy! Why did it have to happen to me? We were handed a bereavement packet and our check out papers. I remember leaning on my husband for support as we walked through the crowded waiting room with tears streaming down my face and soaking his shirt. Questions about what had happened to our baby remained unanswered for the most part. Probably a chromosomal abnormality I was told. My mom flew in and I had a D&C a few days later.

We went on to have two healthy children following that loss. The pregnancies were uncomplicated (despite my constant fear and paranoia I would lose them too!) and motherhood came naturally to me. I loved *nearly* every single minute and felt like I was finally fulfilling my calling in life. I had always wanted a big family with lots of children so when our second daughter was just 9 months old, I started dreaming of a third. We didn’t start trying for a couple of years though and this time, unlike the first three pregnancies, we weren’t successful right away. I was disappointed but we did our best to trust in God’s plan for us so I didn’t stress too much. Life went on and I grew to simply feel blessed for the two healthy girls we had and wondering if that was all God intended for us. I tried hard to come to terms with this and since adoption has always been on my heart, I thought maybe that was the route we should take for any future children. But as the years went on, my heart grew heavy again, longing for another pregnancy. To hear that magical heartbeat sound. To feels those precious kicks. I longed for another newborn. In 2013, when our girls were 8 and 6, I was thrilled to once get a positive on a home pregnancy test. My husband shared in my joy but this time our joy was short lived as less than a week later I started cramping and bleeding pretty heavily. This time my body miscarried naturally. I was grateful to avoid the D&C this time but emotionally it wasn’t any easier.

That pregnancy made me realize that I definitely wanted another baby. Our family just wasn’t complete. A year later, we got pregnant again. I was nervous but excited and tried hard to remain positive but during my 10th week, I woke up one Thursday morning to cramping and bleeding. A same day ultrasound was scheduled and my husband and I prayed and prayed over the baby all morning. We pleaded with God to heal our baby and save this pregnancy. The ultrasound revealed that the pregnancy wasn’t viable and I was told to expect my body to miscarry over the weekend. It was agonizing. The natural process this time was slow and painful. I went in for labs every few days and my pregnancy hormones continued to remain high. It was an emotionally and physically painful process but I just didn’t want to go through a D&C again. Several days into the process, I was suffering in extreme pain and knew something wasn’t right. The ambulance was called and my mom came to whisk my daughters away so they would be spared from seeing or even knowing anything was wrong. I was transported to the hospital and morphine was started. An ultrasound confirmed some of the tissue had been retained and hadn’t passed, so I had a quick procedure and the pain ceased immediately. I told my husband, I was done. I couldn’t keep going through this agony.

Amazingly and thankfully, three months later I found out I was pregnant again and we went on to have our little miracle rainbow baby. Our first boy, born in June of 2015. Our family fell madly and hopelessly in love with him and while the pain of those losses will never go away, I finally feel that our family is complete.

What do you remember most about the initial stages of grief immediately following your loss? How did you feel? What were you thinking? 

My first pregnancy loss had the rawest emotions since it was so unexpected and until it happened to me, I really didn’t know anyone that had experienced it. I felt devastated. Honestly, like my world had turned upside down. I felt like my body had failed. That I was incompetent of doing what so many other women seemed to do so easily and naturally. Of course, I quickly found out that wasn’t true at all – my own grandmother had lost 3 babies! It was just that nobody was talking about infertility or pregnancy loss openly. I didn’t understand why so many women were keeping silent about it, and only sharing their stories with me in private, almost secretly. There seemed to be a sense of underlying shame or guilt for grieving the loss of a life that in a sense only existed to them. For so many women, even our own partners grieve differently because they aren’t connected to the baby yet at that stage like we are.

As mothers, as soon as we become pregnant, our lives change. We have to be so aware of everything we do, how much we do and what we put in our bodies. We feel the affect of the pregnancy hormones on our bodies and prepare for the changes that will be coming each week. All while everyone else goes about their lives as normal. So those early losses can lead to a very lonely and isolated grieving experience because it feels like you are the only one grieving THAT baby. I felt guilty like maybe I had done something wrong that harmed the baby. I also remember feeling angry. Angry with myself. Angry at God. I just couldn’t understand why it had to happen.

The pain of pregnancy loss doesn’t ever go away. The waves of grief seem to come and go throughout time. Do you have a story to share of a moment when grief hit you when you weren’t expecting it to? 

A few months after my first miscarriage, I was sitting at work, going about my day when I heard the news that a coworker’s wife just went into the ER for a suspected miscarriage. The word hit me almost with a physical force and it took my breath away. Instantly I was right back in that cold, sterile ultrasound room with the screen that was too still and too quiet, hearing the words “I’m sorry” and being handed a bereavement packet. I broke down in tears and had to leave the office to collect myself. The intensity of the grief really took me by surprise. I was totally unprepared it would hit me that hard, seemingly out of nowhere.

Then after our second loss, I was sitting in church one day. Mother’s Day, actually. And they were doing baby dedications. It hit me that I should have a 6 month old up on that stage being dedicated that very morning had I not lost the pregnancy. Once again, the grief
hit me so forcefully and the emotions were so intense, I broke down in tears and spent the rest of the service crying alone, in a bathroom stall.

Approximately 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. What would you like someone who has never experienced it to know? 

I want you to know that despite the overwhelming numbers and statistics, most women feel so alone in their grief. Most of us want to talk about our babies without feeling pressure to move on. And we don’t just want any baby, we want THAT baby so hearing statements (albeit well intentioned) like we can always try again or there must have been a reason isn’t comforting. It’s hurtful. We just want to be hugged and held. We want you to listen without passing judgement. We want to know that the little life we were carrying had value, regardless of whether it was lost at 5 weeks, 12 weeks or 25 weeks. We want to know that it’s okay to grieve the loss however we need to for as long as we need to. And I also want to assure you that it’s completely okay that you don’t know what to say because words rarely help anyway. Just listen. Give us a hug. Bring us a latte or dinner and sit with us because feeling sad and alone is so hard. 

What would you like to say to a woman walking a similar path?

To my sisters is loss, I want to remind you that God knows your pain. He can turn your ashes into something beautiful! Let him be your pillar of hope. ❤

– Heather

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