I know grief. I’ve lost people close to me, and I thought I knew grief like the back of my hand. Now, however, grief has a name, and it was revealed to me recently as I felt like my heart was crushing inside my chest.
Grief, to me, was exacerbated by the loss of my child on June 4.
I have gone back and forth as to if I should reveal something so private to the world. In this case, my advocacy and desire to help others outweighs all the cons. So, here is my story about my miscarriage. This is the heaviest my heart has ever felt in my 30 years on this earth. So many Band-Aids cover my heart, from childhood sadnesses to present-day heartaches; however, nothing compared to this.
On Monday, June 3, 2019, I just felt different. Sure, it was the typical symptoms, from a sore lower back to odd and frequent mood swings. I just felt pregnant. I had an allergist appointment an hour away, so I had a lot of time to think on the road–and a lot of time to plot if and when I was going to purchase a pregnancy test.
I stopped at a Dollar General on the way home to buy a First Response pregnancy test. The nervousness I felt came from an aura of excitable hope. I stood in line and thought, “I remember when a positive pregnancy test would have sent me into panic.” Instead, I felt calm and collected. I handed the male cashier the pregnancy test card, and he handed me an actual box from behind the counter. Ten years ago, I would have been mortified, but I felt empowered because I just knew I was going to be a mom.
I drove home and immediately took the test. When a faint positive line stood proud and true beside the right line, elation filled my lungs and every part of my being. I had never seen a second line on any previous test, so I knew this meant something. I waited until my husband came home from work to tell him, but the wait nearly exhausted me. So, I wrote. I wrote about the excitement and fear I felt about being a mom.
“I’m about to vomit just talking about it here because Jared doesn’t know yet. No one knows but me, God, my cats, and my journal. I’m still skeptical, but I have a feeling. My intuition tells me I’m pregnant. If I end up having a period (albeit late), I’ll still think I was pregnant. I don’t want to talk about a miscarriage, but I have to be realistic. … I don’t want to jinx myself. I have just dreamed of having a [girl name] or [boy name] forever.”
My husband Jared and I talked about it that evening in a happy haze, and we started to mentally prepare for the changes that would ensue in our lives, from random pregnancy craving errand runs to preparing a nursery (leaving him without his own space for the time being). I started reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and I fell asleep protectively holding my belly. I even started talking to my stomach the first day. My child was the size of a poppy seed, yet I knew I would do anything for that growing life inside my belly.
The next day, I woke up and took a pregnancy test again, my fifth or so one since the day before. (I am obsessive compulsive, after all.) Jared left for work, and I even looked at him differently as the father of my child. My heart swooned, and I knew my child had the best dad in the universe. I had made a doctor’s appointment the day before, so I tried to work until my afternoon appointment. No such luck because I was anxious and exhausted. I decided to go back to sleep until I had to get ready for my appointment. I woke up, went to the bathroom, and saw blood. I won’t get into any details, but I will say this: It was not normal.
I called to cancel my appointment, and the tears began to flow as soon as I ended the call. I paced back and forth. I prayed to God. I sat by the toilet and wept for my lost child. I had to say something, so I said a eulogy on the tile floor, surrounded by two supportive cats. To this day, I cannot describe the devastation I felt then and still feel.
“How quickly things can change in 24 hours. I was elated at this point yesterday, and now, depression has taken it familiar throne. I do not feel like writing. I would rather be under the covers in Jared’s old fraternity T-shirt with the ceiling fan on high and watching something mindless. But, that won’t do anything but feed the depression, anxiety, and fear. And it will do my child a disservice. Because, yes, I lost my child today.”
That was our child. I have always wanted to be a mom, and when I met my husband, I knew he was the one I would share that dream with. All of that hope was gone as swiftly as it arrived, replaced by the aching and burning of a broken heart and emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I felt like something was already missing inside me.
But, the love is still there and will always remain in my heart.
After several trips to the doctor, and being poked and prodded beyond belief, what I knew deep in my bones to be the truth was confirmed: I had a very early miscarriage. The sensitivity of today’s pregnancy tests detects the hCG hormone much earlier than in previous years. If I hadn’t felt the changes to my body, missed my period and taken a test, I would have never known and thought it was business as usual.
For some reason, I was meant to know. I’m still searching for that reason, but I have faith that I will know God’s plan eventually. I have to have faith, because without it, I would be an empty shell.
When my child’s due date (2/10/20) arrives, I cannot predict how I will feel. Multiple emotions, I’m sure. What I do know is this: In my heart, my baby and I will be together forever.
If you have a first-trimester miscarriage, especially a chemical pregnancy, you may feel like it doesn’t compare to other people’s pregnancy or stillborn-birth losses. I believe that once the point of conception occurs, the life forming inside a woman is indeed a baby. I know other people disagree, and if so, this blog post isn’t for you anyway. So, it doesn’t matter if you lost your baby at 5 weeks or 5 months. It was your child. The only difference is the time you were able to spend with your growing child.
The could-have-beens gut punch me when I think about them. Was my child a boy or girl? What would he/she have been like? How would I have felt when I heard the first heartbeat, saw the first image, looked at his/her face for the first time after giving birth?
It is essential to allow yourself to grieve, no matter the term of your pregnancy. I was a mother, even for a short time. I knew what it felt like to be pregnant for 24 hours, and it was a different, surreal happiness. I felt surreal happiness when I met my husband and throughout the tenure of our relationship and marriage, but this–this was something entirely exclusive to parenthood.
And it’s something I will hold on to forever.
Here are some ways that I am coping with this catastrophic loss of my child with the hope that it could also help someone going through a similar loss:
Letting myself feel how I feel.
I have a tendency to fight with myself with regard to my emotions. I will get mad at myself for feeling a certain way when I think I should be acting differently. In this case, though, I let myself feel the stages of grief, many of them at the same time.
I’ve felt the stages of grief since the miscarriage occurred:
- Denial: “Maybe my body is wrong. If I go to the doctor and take tests, maybe it will show that I am still pregnant.” I went to the grocery store two hours later like everything was “normal.” But, who wears sunglasses inside to cover up tear-swollen eyes? This girl.
- Anger: “Why did this happen to me, when other women can get pregnant so easily? I tried to do everything right, and this still happened.”
- Bargaining: “Maybe if I wouldn’t have had that extra cup of coffee, I wouldn’t have lost the baby.”
- Depression: “I will never get over this. I won’t be the same person, and I don’t want to be anyway.” These actions ensued: sleeping way more than usual, sitting on the couch for hours physically feeling glued to the couch, no interest in anything, crying, anxiety/panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness, having to force myself to eat.
- Acceptance: I haven’t reached this fully yet.
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” — Ernest Hemingway.
Writing has always been the best form of therapy to me. I wrote how I felt in my journal, and most of it is not pretty. It’s stained with tears and wrought with grief and despair. I’ve always been honest in my journals. I’m not going to put a nice, beautiful bow on something that was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I’ve found that authentic writing is therapeutic. I also wrote a letter to the child I lost and a poem the day it happened. I’m also working through a miscarriage journal I found here.
Talking about it and not just bottling my emotions.
I’ve been on a quest to be more authentic and open with my feelings. I’m a public relations practitioner by trade and a perfectionist by nature, so my comfort zone consists of wearing a PR mask and not talking about my emotions. That does a disservice to myself because I bottle my emotions and never let anyone know how I feel. This time around, every single person has known how I feel when I feel it. I cannot pretend that this loss is just another day at the office, another triggered stressor, or just someone passing through. This was my child, and I’m going to be open about my grief. It helps to talk about it, and my husband and I have been dealing with the loss in this manner.
Something just happened to not make this a viable pregnancy. Perhaps it was in the genetic code or something just told my body that successful implantation and embryo growth weren’t possible. The important thing to remember is: it is not your fault.
Use your grief for good.
Through this version of rock bottom, I know this: I will keep my child’s brief legacy alive by being strong. I’ve prayed for understanding and strength, and I know that time will heal all wounds–just never completely. I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a child, but there are things you can do to help you through the process. Prayer, meditation, writing, repeating affirmations, and wearing my “Forever Together” bracelet have helped me so far.
Also, put your grief out there. That is why I’m writing all of this. I want to help other people going through this. Moms, dads, grandparents, anyone affected by a miscarriage. It has been taboo to talk about miscarriages, but I’m living proof that you can talk about it and still retain your dignity. Do whatever makes you feel better, whether it’s volunteer work, actual work, art, talking with someone, writing, etc. Use your grief for good at your own comfort level.“
Take your broken heart and turn it into art.” — Carrie Fisher.
Writing about it publicly does not work for everyone, but God gave me a gift, and I plan to use it. I own my story completely, no matter if it crushes my soul and breaks my heart. And I hope my story can help at least one person going through a miscarriage. I see you, and I know how you feel. I’m sending you love, prayers and the hope that you’ll make it through this. If I can help you with anything, I hope I can show you that you can gain strength in a time of devastation.
I hope I will have the answer to this pain when I’m hopefully holding my healthy, beautiful, future child. It will never take away the loss of this baby, but understanding and time heals wounds. Someday, I will heal, too. And so will others going through the same pain.