Tears filled my eyes as a flood of relief and sadness came over me reading this simple message from a friend on July 1, 2019.
My due date.
A date that was supposed to be filled with joy now lined up with the series of other painful milestones that come with a miscarriage.
“You two are perfect together”
I met my husband Ray and we instantly fell in love — albeit a few years later than most fairy tales. After our wedding, we looked into having a child to join my two amazing stepsons and complete our family.
From the beginning, we knew our pregnancy journey wouldn’t be typical. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) offered us the best chance to become pregnant.
And so it began. Countless rounds of pills and shots resulted in two viable embryos. After implantation, we headed home to hope (and more shots). Our pregnancy was confirmed and 7 weeks later we stared in awe at a screen showing a little lump with a heartbeat. Everything was perfect.
And then it wasn’t.
“We’re praying for you”
A week later, making dinner after a typical day at work, I suddenly knew something was wrong. I was bleeding. A frantic trip to the emergency room confirmed a subchorionic hemorrhage (SCH) and there was nothing to do but wait. Wait and worry.
I combat worry with information and proceeded to read everything I could find about SCH. Not very well understood, there is no known cause or treatment, but most women go on to experience a healthy pregnancy. But a small fraction don’t.
I miscarried at 13 weeks, right before Christmas just as the cards announcing our pregnancy arrived. There are no words to describe the devastation my husband and I experienced.
“I’m heartbroken for you”
I had faced grief before, losing several loved ones including my mom. But nothing compared to the raw pain of those first days of having a miscarriage. At times, I feared for my sanity as I clung to my husband sobbing uncontrollably. Waves of crushing guilt overwhelmed me with thoughts of what I could have done differently and seeking answers where there were none.
But grief is hard to define. As you heal, you also find new ways to hurt. Your faith in what you expect of life is shaken and new fears rear their ugly heads. It’s a difficult and long process, especially since continued grief makes people uncomfortable or they simply forget as life moves on while you can’t.
“I lost one, too”
Between the loving support of my husband and persistent text messages, emails, calls and visits from friends, family and coworkers, I kept moving forward. When I wanted to shut down and close out the world, they let me know I was loved. As I began to heal, I also began to hear.
I heard from other women who had experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage. Sharing our stories made me feel less alone. Like I was less of a failure.
But there was one thing hearing those stories didn’t help. My fear. My fears were escalating over time instead of diminishing. Fear of being pregnant again. Fear of losing my husband, my dad, my job, myself. They expanded and swirled touching every part of my life.
"As I began to heal, I also began to hear. I heard from other women who had experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage. Sharing our stories made me feel less alone. Like I was less of a failure. "
- Kris Hauge
“You are strong enough”
My miscarriage came after weeks of physical and emotional trauma to my body. But while keenly aware of my increasing anxiety, I hadn’t considered how the physical trauma was compounding the issue.
On the advice of one caring friend, I scheduled an appointment with a new primary care provider. A racing heart and shaking hands accompanied me as I met my new doctor, a woman who listened and who cared.
As my health came back, so did my hope. And while I hesitated to share my ongoing grief one friend gave me the gift of that simple message, “I’m thinking of you.” I told her what I was feeling and as I talked, the tension started to fade.
Several caring and considerate friends gave and continue to give me that gift and as I name those fears out loud, they become smaller. Out in the light, they lose their power.
“Dammit. Just dammit”
Remember earlier when I said we had two viable embryos? As I faced my fears, we began the IVF process again. It wasn’t easy. There were countless times I almost quit. It was more than fear. I was terrified.
But I didn’t let it pull me under. While the terror was powerful, the support of my friends and family was stronger. I reached out and found my hope. Even though no one expected it to happen a second time...especially not me.
At 5 weeks, I started spotting and my hormone tests fluctuated. An early ultrasound showed an empty gestational sac. A void that swallowed hope.
The horrid term “blighted ovum” entered my vocabulary. It’s where the fetus fails to develop and simply isn’t there, but in a terrible twist of reality, your body still thinks you're pregnant. To make sure there is no mistake, you wait for another ultrasound where there is no precious lump with a thumping heartbeat. And you wait for your body to realize the sad truth.
Christmas was cancelled again. While we logically discussed how it wasn’t as hard because it was so early, because we hadn’t heard a heartbeat … our hearts were broken.
“How are you doing?”
At this point, I’m still raw. Tears come easily and without warning. In fact, the original ending to this article had me still hoping for a chance to introduce my baby to the women who gave me the strength to try again.
But I’m here and I’m talking about it.
I want other women experiencing a miscarriage or the aftermath to hear me. Just like the women in my life continue to hear and support me. I want you to know you aren’t alone. I’m thinking of you.