Saturday, November 12, 2011

Five years - Remembering and recognizing infant loss

I'm going to take a moment to talk about infant loss.  Why on this blog?  Well, it might be mainly a triathlon blog, but it's also my blog, and losing a baby is one of the things that broke me, shaped me and changed me.  

Why else?  Because miscarriage is incredibly common.  I believe the stats are that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Not 1 in 5 women, but 1 in 5 pregnancies.  But it's not talked about in our society.  Women (myself included) don't share the joy of their pregnancies until they are past the usual risk period for miscarriage.  Then, if they don't get past that risk period, they are left to share all the sorrow and none of the joy.  Or, they are in a position where they don't share at all, and just leave it bottled up.  That needs to change.

Tomorrow is a day that I recognize, but for my own reasons, this year, it's a day that I need to recognize today instead.  Five years ago, Nov 13 is the day that my first baby might have been born.  Spud was my first born baby, but not the first.  That baby was Bugaboo.

Bugaboo was the baby that never got to be born.

What follows is an account of my miscarriage, a story that I've never fully shared.  If you are sensitive to the subject matter, you might prefer not to read it.

It took a few months to get pregnant, and once it happened, we were overjoyed.  I remember the morning of the positive test.  I was trembling with excitement as I went to tell my husband, waking him up at an early hour.  I held off on baby purchases, but immediately started making plans, picturing our future.  I didn't tell anybody.  Not yet.  It was too early.  I had morning sickness early on, but then it went away.  That happens.  It's common.  I was more tired then usual, common in pregnancies, especially during the first trimester.

Then, when I was 11 weeks pregnant, I had some spotting.  I turned to the internet, a wealth of information.  Common.  Very common.  A lot of women have spotting during pregnancy and go on to deliver healthy, full term babies.

But something just felt wrong.  I went in to see my doctor, who was able to get me in right away.  She couldn't find the heart beat with the doppler.  My uterus felt smaller then it should.  But, that wasn't overly worrisome.  I was only 11 weeks, which is on the edge of when the doppler can find the heartbeat.  I was also obese, making it harder to find the heartbeat, and harder to check the size of my uterus.  She sent me for an ultrasound, and despite the state of our medical system, I got in that day.

I didn't even call my husband at work.  I thought this was something I could tell him at the end of the day.  We could laugh about his crazy, over-reactive pregnant wife.  In fact, the stressful day could turn out happily because I would get to see our babies heartbeat for the first time.

So, I was alone when I went into the ultrasound.  I was alone listening the silence of the technician.  Alone when they left the room to get the doctor.  Alone in my knowledge that they shouldn't have left the room.  If everything was how it should be, they would have shown me that heartbeat; I wouldn't have seen anybody but the technician.  Alone when the doctor came back to tell me that my baby had stopped developing weeks ago.  Alone sobbing on the bed as they gave me a few minutes to compose myself.  And alone, as I drove home and prepared to tell my husband.

What happened afterwards, I remember almost from the outside.  Like I watched it happen to someone else.  My baby had died, but my body hadn't miscarried the way it should have.  The next day, I went to a clinic and was given a choice.  I could wait, for who knows how long, to let my body finish the pregnancy on it's own.  I could take misoprostal, a drug that would cause my body to complete the miscarriage.  I could go for surgery, a DNC, which I would have to wait about a week for.

I needed to move on.  I couldn't bear continuing to carry a baby that would never be born.  I chose the misoprostal, the option which, to me, seemed the most expedient and the most likely to allow things to end quickly.

The drug didn't seem to be taking effect the way it should have.  Hours after, it didn't seem to be doing anything.  And then, shortly before midnight, it happened, and it happened fast.  There was so much blood.  Far more blood then there should have been.  Much faster then it should have been.

I tried to call health link.  It's a local line that you can can call to talk to a registered nurse.  The system put me on hold.  Then 15 minutes later, it disconnected me.  I called the hospital, and they forwarded my call to health link.  Again, after about 15 minutes, I was cut off the line.  I called 911.  From my perspective, this wasn't an emergency.  I just needed somebody to tell me if this was normal.  If it was okay.  If I should go to the hospital, or if I should let the miscarriage continue at home.

They were going to send an ambulance.

I didn't need an ambulance, I told them.  We lived less then 10 minutes away from the hospital.  I could get my husband to drive me.  I just needed to know if it actually warranted that.  Yes, I should go to the hospital, they told me.  I should go in an ambulance.  I turned down the ambulance again.  Did we have a cell phone, in case something happened during the drive?  Yes, I told them.  We did.

So, we went to the hospital.  A hospital that had recently made news for letting women miscarry in the waiting room.  I was in a bed in less then 5 minutes.  And, before the sun came up, I had surgery.

It was over.  I was left empty and broken.

Within a week, I returned to work.  I rejoined life, but I felt like there was no joy left in it.  I went through the motions.  I tried to bury the pain.  It was "just" a miscarriage after all.

But I was broken.  That event changed me.  It wasn't "just" anything.  I changed careers within weeks of the miscarriage: a position that had been available, but I hadn't gotten because I had admitted my pregnancy.  I was offered the position as soon I called to tell them I was no longer pregnant.  Bittersweet.  In hindsight, more bitter.

Unbelievably, against medical advice, and against our own precautions to the contrary, I got pregnant again a month later.  I didn't have the same joy this time.  I had lost all the happy innocence I had felt the first time around.  I was filled with fear, and didn't let myself believe I would give birth to this baby until I was well into the pregnancy.

I had moved into a job working with a lot of disadvantaged youth, some children that were in foster homes, because their parents (for various reasons) hadn't taken care of them properly.  Some of the stories tore me apart, and I couldn't disconnect myself from them.  The bitterness I felt in seeing situations where parents didn't care for their children, when I thought I'd never be able to have one of my own...

One year after discovering I was pregnant with my first baby, I gave birth to my second, Spud.  Some people might claim that giving birth heals the pain of a former miscarriage.  It doesn't.  It dulls it and it helps to get past it, but it doesn't make it go away.  Truthfully, I don't think the pain lost it's sharpness until I got pregnant with my third child, Sweetpea.  This time, I could feel the joy again, and I had a bit of the innocence return.  I knew I could carry a baby to term, so I was able to believe that this was a child that might be born.  And she was.

When a woman gets pregnant, she sees miscarriage as something so foreign, something that could never happen to her, never touch her, something that only happens to others.  Quite likely, she waits the traditional three months to share the news, because that's what you do.  Then, if she loses that baby, she's left all alone.  Either she bottles it up, or she shares.  

I shared, and when I did, I was left sharing only sadness.  People who should have shared the joy in hearing I was pregnant got only the sorrow in learning that I had miscarried.  And women came out of the woodwork.  The more I shared, the more I learned that so many women had a story about the babies they had lost.  Stories that they buried, and only shared when they learned of someone else who shared their sorrow.

So, what do we need to do?  We need to talk.  We need to accept this as something that happens and something that is real.  It's easy to brush miscarriages off as something that just happens, forgetting that this was a life that was lost.  This was a death.  This was a baby.  This is another reason I'm talking about it on my blog today.  Because we need to talk.

I'm not suggesting we walk up to every pregnant woman and remind her of the risks she faces.  That would be cruel and unnecessary.  What we need to do is allow it to be a part of our society.  We need to stop hiding the joys of early pregnancy, and recognize when loss happens.  I will always regret that I never shared the joy when I carried Bugaboo, yet it's not a lesson I learned until much later, because I waited to share the joy when I carried Spud and Sweetpea as well.  If there is someone you will share your loss with, it is someone you should share your joy with too, even if it's early.

And we need to stop burying miscarriage as an unrecognized thing that doesn't really happen.  It happens.  It happens a lot.  If it hasn't happened to you, it's happened to a close friend, a coworker, a sibling, a parent, or a child.  It happens all around you.

Right now, that is all I have.  And I leave you with a poem that I read many years ago:

A different child,
People notice there's a special glow around you.
You grow surrounded by love, never doubting you are wanted;
Only look at the pride and joy in your mother and father's eyes.
And if sometimes, Between the smiles, There's a trace of tears,
One day you'll understand.
You'll understand there was once another child, a different child
Who was in their hopes and dreams.
That child will never outgrow the baby clothes.
That child will never keep them up at night.
In fact, that child will never be any trouble at all.
Except sometimes, in a silent moment,
When mother and father miss so much that different child.
May hope and love wrap you warmly and may you learn the lesson forever
How infinitely precious, how infinitely fragile is this life on earth.
One day, as a young man or woman, you may see another mother's tears
Another father's silent grief
Then you, and you alone will understand and offer the greatest comfort.
When all hope seems lost, you will tell them with great compassion,
"I know how you feel.  I'm only here Because my mother tried again."


  1. Thanks for sharing Deb. I lost a baby on Dec. 22, 2005. I was alone when I was told too. I feel your pain. C

  2. I have been so blessed to never have to go through this although I was very scared when I went into preterm labor with my son at 27 weeks (but managed with 10 weeks of bedrest + drugs to deliver him full term) and scared again when I was in my early weeks with my daughter and bled so much that I questioned whether I was miscarrying. Fertility issues and miscarriages are far more common than I think most are aware of. I have several friends who've struggled with both. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Deb, I'm so sorry for your loss. Society cautions us on announcing a pregnancy too early....but then if anything happens it is a very difficult thing to share and I think a lot of women tend to keep it bottled up. It shouldn't be a taboo subject, I agree. Thank you for your openness and honesty.

  4. A very dear and close friend had a similar experience a few years ago and it was really tought for her to pull everything together afterwards, especially because several people she worked with were due in the same month she was supposed to be due with her baby. I listened openly to her grieve a lot and it was heartbreaking. I think it's important to share these things because you do need a chance to grieve that loss. ((Hugs!))

  5. I receieved a phone call at work one day from my pregnant wife, crying and telling me that she was bleeding. I ran from ICU, met her at the front doors of the building and we went up to the maternity unit. Both my wife and I were a ball of nerves. I was trying to be comforting and strong for my wife but in the inside the not knowing was killing me.

    Luckily, our son was fine. It was some normal spotting. We eventually had a beautiful little boy who I can't imagine not having him in my life.

    I did spend alot of time during the rest of my wifes pregnancy worrying about what could happen. Was that worry but try telling yourself at the time.

    I am sure that if we had a different outcome I would have been devastated. Having said that I cannot imagine what it is actually like to exerience that.

    It takes alot to open up about a such a personal issue. I have never met you Deb but I can tell you are a strong woman and continue to get stronger with each challenge that is thrown at you.


  6. This was really hard for me to read. I lost a baby in 2009 when I was almost 13 weeks. I was in MS with my husbands family and my husband was still in Korea. It was horrible. I'll never forget standing in the ER, bleeding, and filling out paperwork. I never experienced the US medical system before and was shocked at just how poor it was and insensitive. It was, hands down, the worst day of my life.

  7. Nov 11 marks more than just Remembrance Day for me. It's the day i learned the two babies i was carrying no longer had heartbeats. I was 13 weeks Pregnant and preparing for a D & C. I went on to have 2 more miscarriages in our journey to be Parents. The next Pregnancy was ectoPic and required me to take methotrexate (chemo), and the last miscarriage was textbook. I felt hopeless and a failure as a woman. My own body betrayed me again and again. I shared very little of these 3 long years of trying to conceive. When i finally delivered my beautiful baby girl, i was reminded that miracles do happen afterall.

  8. I know all too well the pain of a miscarriage. I had a missed miscarriage just before 12 weeks and was only measuring 6-7 weeks. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel like we shouldn't have to hide the fact we lost our babies. Maybe one day it wont be such a taboo subject and when women go through it they'll realize it wasn't their fault and they aren't alone.

  9. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.

    For most of my first trimester I did worry about miscarriage. It's awful how gripping that fear can be, and I can't imagine what it would be like to go through one.