Tell us about your pregnancy loss(es).
We began struggling with secondary infertility about 2 years after easily conceiving our son Hunter. We tried for four years to have another child without any success. Then in August 2014, we got pregnant with our precious little one. We were busy getting ready for a 3 week trip out to California for our ministry and to see our family so I wasn’t paying much attention to the timing of my cycle and didn’t realize until after we got out to California that I should have already started my period. So I took a pregnancy test on the second day of our trip and found out we were pregnant! Such an exciting and special moment after so many years of dreams and prayers. I started spotting within a few weeks and was a little concerned but tried not to be because it can be so common. I couldn’t go see a doctor while we were across the country. We got home when I was about 8 weeks pregnant and I delayed going another week or so because I went on another trip for a few days almost right after we got back. I was having increasing more bleeding so I was getting increasingly more worried. I was praying that God would allow our baby to live and be healthy.
When I finally went to the doctor about week 10, I knew that the ultrasound should show a small baby with a distinct head and torso and even a beating heart. When I saw a round sack on the ultrasound screen, I knew that the baby had stopped developing already and my eyes immediately filled with tears. When we met with the doctor, he said it was a very strong chance that the baby had stopped developing so they would wait and see if my body started to miscarry naturally but there was a slight chance the calculations of how far along I was were wrong, they wanted me to come in a week later for another ultrasound to confirm there was no growth.
I didn’t maintain hope based on what I had seen and began to grieve right away. We did return a week later and they confirmed no growth or development. Then they offered me the choice to miscarry naturally or have an operation to remove the embryo and sac. I waited about five more days but nothing happened so we had the operation on October 15, National Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
What do you remember most about the initial stages of grief immediately following your loss? How did you feel? What were you thinking?
I immediately felt like a part of me was missing – missing from my body and my heart. It was so weird to walk around with pregnancy symptoms but knowing that my body was just tricking itself and the baby wasn’t really alive. I felt devastated after waiting so long for a child and then losing it so quickly. I was crying a lot and having a hard time focusing on anything. I have both loved having my five year old son around as a distraction and constantly felt guilty that he was seeing me so upset and crying all the time. I wanted to be pregnant again right away but also knew that it wouldn’t take away the loss of this child. I just wanted that feeling back of knowing that there was life growing inside of me.
As a family, we did not make good choices about giving ourselves time to grieve. My husband went back to work the day after my surgery. We don’t have family here so I didn’t have anyone to help with my son. My husband expected me to go right back to all my normal responsibilities of housework, meals, homeschooling and I guess I did too. We hadn’t told many people because it was so early on but as I continued to struggle, I started having to tell more people to explain why I wasn’t going out much and was so sad. It was so hard to tell people and know that they really didn’t understand. I felt like people tried to be compassionate for a little bit but expected me to be “back to normal” really soon. Even my family tried to be comforting at the beginning, calling to check on me and one sent flowers but within a month, when they would call there was no mention of the baby or how I was doing. That was really hard because I was still in the midst of deep grief.
I wish I would have had someone who had been through it to give me advice on how long it takes to recover, ways to make space for grieving in your life, how to communicate with people about the miscarriage, and just to truly understand. It wasn’t until after I shared a little bit about my loss that other people started sharing about their pregnancy losses too. I wish I would have known before who I could turn to. We slowly started getting more advice and my husband and I began to support each other more. We shared that we both thought it was a girl and gave her a name – Cali because most of the time that she was with us was in California. We bought an angel ornament for our Christmas tree to memorialize her.
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?
The waves of grief certainly did come and go. Worshipping in church was often a trigger for me. I didn’t blame or question God but when we would sing lyrics, like “Death o where is thy sting?”, it would break my heart because I was certainly feeling the sting of death.
It was really hard when people would ask about us having more children or my least favorite question in the world “So you just have one child?” Sometimes I wanted to cry and sometimes I wanted to yell in their face that if they only knew how much we longed for more children and had lost our little girl, they wouldn’t dare ask such a personal question to someone they hardly knew. I did once say with a horrible edge in my voice “Thanks for bringing up the most painful and personal issue in my life at the grocery store” to a complete stranger. So not gracious of me!
Christmas was a hard time with so much emphasis on family and happiness and the birth of a special baby. I wanted to be celebrating the coming birth of my special baby too.
The week that she would have been born was definitely the hardest time. I had a friend who was due the same week and I watched her older son while she was in the hospital delivering for two days. I really wanted to do it for her and knew that it would bring a lot of triggers with it and boy was I right. Really hard to take him to visit his new sister in the hospital where I should have been delivering that week too.
Having a rainbow baby has been an unexpected trigger for my grief to return also. It seems that having my second son now demonstrates to me exactly what I lost when my little girl didn’t come into this world. It is tough knowing that I could have had all of these special moments with her too.
Approximately 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. What would you like someone who has never experienced it to know?
It is a real loss – real grief, a real baby, a real member of your family. The family experiencing the loss deserves just as much time, empathy, support, etc as any family grieving the loss of one of their members. Before experiencing this loss, I had friends who had lost babies and I know now that I didn’t provide the type of support that I should have. I hope participating in this project increases that awareness.
What would you like to say to another woman walking a similar path?
I want those women to know that so many of us have been there and that they can talk with me about it if they need to. I sometimes mention it to new friends that I am meeting when they ask the basic question of how many children do you have, just so they know that I have been through the loss of a baby if they either know someone who needs support or need support themselves. I wish people would join me in remembering her on special dates like her due date or October 15. I will try to do that for friends now that I know how meaningful that would be to me.
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