Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Miscarriage | Stillbirth | SIDS | Newborn death
I never thought it would happen to me. And it's more common than some people realize.
Studies show that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. One in four women will experience a miscarriage in their lives. For some women, even multiple times. I had two within a five month time period.
My first miscarriage occurred this past February. A surprise pregnancy, I went to my first doctor's appointment around 10 weeks, eager to hear the baby's heart beat. I took my husband and our two children with me. It wasn't until we pulled up to the doctor's office that we told the kids that I was pregnant. I videoed them to capture their surprise. They were so excited. I went to the Imaging department for my ultrasound. The technician tried to find the baby.
No heart beat.
It was quiet and I was confused. The technician talked to the radiologist, who said that I needed to go see my doctor. My heart sunk and I knew something was wrong. We sat down in the office and I saw my doctor's sullen face. Oh no, this can't be happening, I thought. My doctor shared the news I was afraid to hear. She said I had a "blighted ovum" (or anembryonic pregnancy). An empty womb. This happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the gestational sac, but not the embryo itself.
"There's nothing you did or didn't do....it just happens," my doctor said.
I was shocked. It took a little while to all sink in and was difficult to process. I fought back the tears. I'm glad my husband had the day off of work, and could be there to comfort me. I remember telling my sister shortly before my appointment that my morning sickness hadn't been too bad, compared to my other pregnancies. But what I thought was a relief, was actually not a good sign.
I felt so sad trying to explain to my kids that Mommy wouldn't be having a baby anymore. My tender-hearted daughter cried and gave me a hug.
The blighted ovum caused me to have a "missed miscarriage," which means my body didn't recognize the pregnancy loss or expel the pregnancy tissue. No cramping or bleeding. As a result, the placenta still continued to release hormones, and I still experienced some signs of pregnancy.
During this time, I had been involved in a play in my community. I portrayed the role of "Sister Mary Robert" in the musical "Sister Act." Already feeling a little stressed about this commitment in general, I had the miscarriage a week before opening night--adding to my stress. I had this fear that I would suddenly have painful cramps or unexpected bleeding in the middle of a show. Thankfully, this didn't occur. My doctor decided that it would be best that I schedule a brief surgical procedure called a "D&C" (dilation and curettage). The cervix is dilated and a special instrument is used to scrape the uterine lining, to remove all the tissue. I couldn't be seen until nine days after my initial appointment--the day before opening night (with nine more shows to do after that).
March 8th. I was about "11 weeks." I felt nervous not knowing what to expect. I had never had surgery before (besides getting my wisdom teeth pulled). What if something goes wrong? I wonder how long it will take me to recover...What if I have a difficult time performing?
Thankfully, everything went well. My husband was there with me. It was a quick procedure with a quick recovery. I remember waking up in the hospital, confused and surprised. And feeling groggy from the meds they knocked me out with. I asked the nurse, "Wait, did you guys already do it?" She laughed and said yes. I then went home and slept the rest of the day and night.
I had a few friends stop by with meals and well wishes, which was very thoughtful. And I was able to jump right back into performing on stage the next day. "The show must go on," right? Being busy with the play, something I really enjoy, was actually a great distraction for me during this time.
It took about seven weeks for my pregnancy hormones to dissipate. I had to get my blood drawn to test my levels each week. And then only a few weeks later, after just one menstrual cycle, I found out I was pregnant again. Another surprise. Normally I feel happy and excited, yet overwhelmed. This time...just overwhelmed.
The painful emotional sting was too recent. I wasn't ready. I was scared.
What if I have another miscarriage? With the first one, my husband later revealed to me that when we found out I was pregnant, he had a feeling that I would miscarry. But he didn't want to tell me that of course. With this second pregnancy, I now had a feeling that I was going to miscarry again. At first it was just fear. I was afraid of going through that again. But then in June, at my first prenatal appointment at nine weeks, I felt a little more certain. My doctor said I was only measuring just under six weeks and so we couldn't hear a heart beat yet. She said to come back in two weeks. She didn't mention anything about miscarriage and acted like I had my dates wrong. I was confused. How could that be? When I got home, it hit me. The baby probably stopped growing, I thought. But I had to face the unknown, which always comes with a lot of anxiety--and I had to wait an agonizing two weeks. My whole attitude was different during this pregnancy and I felt depressed. I was just waiting to miscarry.
At my next appointment, we still couldn't hear a heartbeat and there wasn't any growth. I was devastated, but felt a little more mentally prepared this time around, because I was expecting it to happen. Then it was the waiting game again--to pass everything naturally. A few days later, I noticed a little blood. My fears were confirmed and I was overcome with emotion.
A couple days after that, I was feeling really depressed. It was Sunday, and normally I go to church. But I didn't feel like going that day; I was afraid of completing the miscarriage there. Along with this, I was experiencing some sharp chest pain/tightness (which I had also experienced the night previously). I was debating whether or not to go to the ER. My thoughts were in a dark place and I was crying. And in that moment, I had a knock on the door.
Two angels saved me.
They were friends of mine from church, who had a spiritual prompting, and left in the middle of church services to check on me. One of my friends took my children to babysit them while my other friend took me to the ER. I just wanted to be sure in case it was something serious. I felt embarrassed. No makeup, messy house, crying. My authentic self. We were there for five hours--much longer than I thought it would take. I felt really bad that my friend had to wait that long for me. I had my blood tested, an x-ray, and an EKG. All my tests came back normal, which was good of course, but I was puzzled. The doctor said that it was all probably just symptoms of my anxiety. I was later prescribed an anxiety medication.
The next day, I saw my regular doctor again (the first time since I started bleeding). She discussed my options (D&C again, medication, or waiting to naturally complete the miscarriage). I waited for almost a week, when it finally happened. I believe I was almost 12 weeks.
I woke up around 3 AM to severe cramps. I got out of bed and noticed leaking as I quickly made my way to the bathroom. And then there was the similar feeling of your "water breaking," when you're about to give birth....only, it was a lot of blood and tissue. I sat on the toilet for about an hour, making sure I passed everything. Bawling my eyes out and traumatized. I wanted to cry out to my husband, but at the same time, I didn't want him to see everything. So it was just me in the stillness of the night. I felt so alone. I cleaned up and then awoke my husband. I was still having painful cramps. My husband got me some medicine and comforted me. And he took the next day off of work.
About a week or so later, I visited with another doctor for a check-up. He said that most miscarriages that occur in the first trimester are because of chromosomal abnormalities. And he told me that the probability of me having another miscarriage is very low, especially when I've already given birth to two healthy children--and that this would probably be my last one. That was comforting. I sure hope he is right, as my husband and I are wanting to have another child soon. The doctor said to wait at least three months.
We'll see what God has in store for our family. I feel at peace because I trust in His timing. Everything will work out the way it needs to. And I believe I will see those two precious spirits again one day.
Perhaps you have experienced loss yourself. It's okay to open up about it and to give yourself plenty of time to grieve in whatever way helps you. Remember--it is not your fault. Reach out to those closest to you for support. Seek counseling if needed. So many women know what you're going through.
"An angel in the book of life wrote down my baby's birth...then whispered as she closed the book, Too beautiful for earth."
- Author unknown
I recorded this song about 5 years ago, with my father accompanying me on the piano. I thought that I would include it with my blog post, as it is about going through adversity. I have sung this solo at church as well as at a funeral.
Trust in God's timing.
The Test - Janice Kapp Perry (Sung by Clarissa Allred w/ accompaniment by Ryan Southwick)