It all happened rather slowly.
I had opted not to receive any early ultrasounds so I had not yet heard my baby’s heartbeat but I knew from all my education that it was still early and not anything to worry about. I had had a fairly uneventful first trimester outside of the normal pregnancy illness. I swear I was sicker with my second child than with my first.
After my 12th week of pregnancy I started to have some spotting when I would use the restroom. Nothing heavy enough to need a pad, but enough that I noticed it. I had been running all over town as we had a family reunion in town so I chalked it up to the increased activity, shot my midwife a text and went about my day.
After 3 days of spotting my bleeding started to get heavier and I was passing small clots. Before even contacting my midwives and my best friend I began to know in my heart what was happening. But I didn’t want to say the words out loud. Even so they were in the back of my head I was losing my baby. I made a plan with my care providers to keep an eye on the bleed and to stay in bed. If I began to show signs of infection or hemorrhage I would go to the hospital, otherwise I would put myself on bed rest. I clung to the hope that there was some kind of bleed but everything would be OK, even though I knew that I was experiencing signs of miscarriage. My sweet girl came up to me and gave my belly and hug, looking up at me with concern in her eyes she told me, “Your baby is crying Mommy. It’s OK Baby, don’t cry,” and kissed my belly.
The next morning I woke up and was still bleeding, within a few hours of being awake I started to experience nausea and cramping. Another text to my midwife led to a phone call where my fears were confirmed. I was having a miscarriage. I began to recognize signs of labor and drew on my doula training to get through the time between contractions. I labored for a while on my hands and knees on the couch, the contractions were painful, but the emotional release was even stronger. My husband was at work so it was just me and my almost 3-year-old home. She didn’t understand what was wrong with Mommy and stayed close by me. She even attempted to cheer me up by attempting to play Horsey on my back in between contractions, I didn’t like that game very much. As the contractions got stronger I began to feel them more in my back and pulled out my TENS unit, I labored walking around and would lean over onto my ironing board during contractions.
“All I could do was cling to him between contractions.”
Around 1:00 I needed to get in water so I filled my little bathtub and climbed in. My husband got home around that time and settled my daughter in our room before coming to be with me. I could see the sadness and concern on his face but I had no words for comfort. All I could do was cling to him between contractions. I began to feel hot, shaky, nauseous, and at the climax of my contractions I hit the Gate of Great Doubt. I had to surrender to the pain and walk through the door, but to do so was to surrender the sweet life that had been inside of me. I began pushing, each time losing myself to the emotional pain that made me feel like I was drowning. I told my husband I couldn’t do it anymore and he held me tight, crying along with me.
At 1:41 I delivered my baby into my hands. Emotionally I felt numb, drained might be a better word for it. The only thing I could think about was contacting my midwife to tell her when my baby was born. I examined the little amniotic sac and attached placenta trying to determine if everything was intact. I focused myself on the physical things that needed to happen and tried not to focus on the emotions. My best friend came over with some tea and painkillers and sat with me. We talked about the baby and then anything but my baby. She validated my experience and emotions and listened to my journey, and when I was ready also provided welcome distraction for me and my husband. Before she left, I invited her to see my baby and together we looked over the little package of tissues and honored its passage.
That night I held myself tight sobbing silently trying to hold myself together. I felt like my body had betrayed me. What had happened to my sweet baby? Was it something I did? Logically I knew that there was nothing I could have done differently and that it just wasn’t time for my baby to be born. But it didn’t take away the pain.
The next morning the sun still rose and the Earth still kept turning, the only thing different in the world is I was no longer pregnant. I felt physically fine, and I became very clinical in my attachment to what had happened. There was nothing I could do to change it and now I needed to help guide my family through the ordeal as well. I delivered the rest of my placenta that day and called my OBGYN to make an appointment.
By the time my appointment rolled around the following day my husband had to go back to work, so my best friend accompanied me to the doctor. We chatted in the car, trying to keep the mood light, but as soon as we walked through the office doors everything changed.
“I could feel my anxiety rising as the reality of that appointment hit me and I felt saddened for the moms still growing there babies.”
I checked in at the desk and took my seat in the waiting room. I felt so conspicuous in my chair surrounded by expecting mothers. There may as well have been a giant neon sign over my head declaring that my baby died. I could see them looking at the little box containing my baby on my lap and felt sure they knew what was in it. Why else would someone bring a box wrapped in plastic to the doctor? I could feel my anxiety rising as the reality of that appointment hit me and I felt saddened for the moms still growing there babies. I hoped none of the them noticed me and feared for their own child. I just wanted to disappear.
Finally we went through the initial check in and headed back to a small ultrasound room. I was unable to get an appointment with my CNM but she stopped in the room anyway. She didn’t have to say any words, I could feel her sorrow in her hug and and her support. She didn’t pity me, but rather grieved for my child with me.
Then the doctor came in the room and my CNM left to give us our space. It was clear from her upbeat and chipper way she asked how everything was going today she had no clue why I was here. I told her I was here because I had had a miscarriage and wanted to make sure there were no retained tissues. Again cheerfully she asked me why “do you think you had a miscarriage?” Uncomfortable now I gestured to the small box in my hand and mumbled that my baby was in the box. The rest of the appointment was so surreal. The OB seemed so cold as I asked her to examine the baby because I was concerned about a mass attached the the amniotic fluid and she seemed to barely glance it’s way. She offered to send my baby to pathology but I could not bare to send my child for testing.
She proceeded to perform an internal ultrasound to check my uterus for tissues and announced “well at least you know you can get pregnant.” Again, clearly showing she had not familiarized herself with my chart or she would have known I have a child at home. And anyway, what did it matter if I could get pregnant if I could not carry the baby to term?
“To the outside world I did not appear to be grieving, but in all honesty I needed to keep moving and not to be pitied.”
After that I blocked out everything else, we finished up the ultrasound, she reviewed the visit in her office, and then told me to have a great day. Not once had she asked me how I was handling my grief or asked about my partner. I could not wait to get out of that office so I could breathe again. I could not even remember why I wanted to be checked and wished I had just stayed home that day. Heading home I found solace in normalcy and proceeded to carry on with my life. To the outside world I did not appear to be grieving, but in all honesty I needed to keep moving and not to be pitied.
After 2 weeks I was ready to move on. I found a beautiful red maple tree and a bird bath for a memorial to my baby. By then my daughter had taken to calling the baby her sister, and I agreed with her decision. My sweet friend came back over to help us plant our tree and lay our baby girl to rest. Together we dug through the clay in our yard and then opened the amniotic sac to see the baby. Then my daughter and husband saw the baby for the last time and my little girl kissed the box good bye and told her sister to sleep with the Angels. After we planted the tree and assembled the bird bath, she danced in the sprinklers under the tree and I laughed to see the happiness in her eyes. She knew her sister was watching over her and was unafraid.
At least once a day since the memorial, I visit our tree and every moment of every day I remember my baby and the brief time I held her in my womb. From time to time I shed a tear for her, but mostly I feel at peace. From all my training I have an understanding of the process of miscarriage and no longer feel any guilt over it. I know my body didn’t fail, it just wasn’t the right time for my baby. I was able to release so much of my anger and sadness through my birth and the memorial that all I am left with is my unending love for my baby. My daughter and I often talk about her sister and she told me that she was happy and playing with the fairies. And so until I see my little girl again I know she is safe and loved and I will miss her everyday, but I am OK.
— Jessica Moore
Photo credit: adapted from SodanieChea | Flickr