I’m going to tell you a terrible story. Horrific even. It’s a story of the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me. It’s a story about pain, and heartache, and death. It’s a story about something awful that happens to 1 in 4 women, but somehow rarely gets discussed. It’s a story about how my baby died. It’s also graphic, so consider yourself warned.
But first, let me lay some framework: My husband and I were quite honestly one of those couples people thought were super annoying because of their cuteness. It was a classic story of boy meets girl, boy chases girl, girl lets boy chase her, girl finally gives in and goes on a date with boy, girl falls in love with boy. Then what? You guessed it, boy proposes to girl, girl says yes, and voila! They live happily ever after. The fairytale, right? Honestly it was. We even married on our three year dating anniversary, because YES, we were THOSE people.
We had a fairytale beginning to our marriage. We called our first year of marriage our “year of yes.” We were both flourishing in careers we loved (both working as RNs in the same hospital – because yep – still cute like that) and decided to say “yes” to all the things that year! All the happy hours, birthday bashes and dinner parties, but also the honeymoon in the Grenadines, the wedding in Chicago, the bachelorette party in Denver, the family visit in Dallas, the “just because we can” trips to visit friends in Boston and Portland, and another wedding in Nashville ... and every local street fair and taco party in between! This was the year we were going to say “yes” to it all, because the next year we were going to settle down and have a baby. Because you know ... fairytale.
We culminated the year with a first anniversary trip to Greece and Southern Italy. We agreed we could “stop preventing” on this trip; I’d been taking prenatals and we had been praying to get pregnant easily. Now, the night before our one year anniversary - I couldn’t sleep. I just couldn’t stop thinking that I was pregnant! I just FELT it ... but we had a day of wine tasting planned! So, I said a prayer to Jesus asking him to just tell me whether or not I was pregnant so I could get some rest and enjoy some wine, or not. Well, I had the craziest dream where I watched myself pee on a pregnancy test and it was positive! So, I woke up and peed on a test — it was negative. I was a little bummed, a little confused about my crazy dream, but honestly okay, because I was going wine tasting in Greece that day, so I put it behind me and went to celebrate with my husband.
A week later and I still hadn’t started my period. I woke up at 5AM and just HAD to test again. I creeped into the bathroom desperately trying not to wake up my husband (how many of you have done that!?!) and you guessed it - two pink lines!! I cried the happiest tears, did the math, and was so excited to have our little May baby joining the family!
So on that beautiful crisp and cool morning in September, on a rooftop terrace in Greece overlooking the Acropolis, I poured my husband a cup of coffee and told him he was going to be a Daddy! I'll never forget the look on his face or the tears in his eyes as he hugged me in disbelief. We never thought it would be so easy, so simple, so perfect. Here we were, celebrating our anniversary and now celebrating carrying our first babe. How blessed were we!?! How much more perfect could our story be!? That crazy dream I had was now a reality! What I dreamed at 3 weeks pregnant (I did the math!) was real in real life! I had the peed-on stick to prove it!
We told our family and we celebrated with each and every person we told. We videotaped every single person's reaction so we could always remember the looks of joy on their faces and the tears in our parents’ eyes. We laughed, we celebrated, we made plans. We dreamed of the life this little baby would bring. We excitedly awaited our first doctor’s appointment at eight weeks. I felt anxious about the appointment but both my husband and my best friend reassured me that I was just having "normal mom worries", and I believed them.
But here is where our fairytale is given the poison apple... At our first appointment, they couldn’t find heartbeat. She tried to reassure us that my math was wrong, and to come back in 10 days to have a repeat scan. Surely there would be a heartbeat then, we just came in too early. I heard her, but I knew in my heart she was wrong. In that moment, I knew my baby was dead inside of me. The next ten days were awful. I'm honestly not even sure if I went to work, if I ate, if I slept... I have no idea. I do remember everyone telling me everything was fine, the baby was fine... but I felt empty and broken.
The next appointment was just a blur. I couldn't tell you what the medical staff did or said. I couldn't tell you what my husband did or said. All I remember is hearing the words "I'm sorry". It was another grueling 72 hours before we could see the miscarriage specialist who would later give us options on how to "proceed", as if this was some business decision. We could either take pills to force my body to physically miscarry or I could have a surgical procedure to "remove the products of conception". Not my baby. No one wanted to call it that. No one wanted to say that my choice was between ME shoving the pills as close to my cervix as possible to force my dead baby to leave me, or letting someone forcibly remove my baby from my body. It all seemed surreal. We chose medical management, the process took a few days and it was awful. Atrocious. Horrific. Pick a synonym for something really, really bad, and enter it here.
Here’s where it is really real though, ladies. For days on end my husband washed my hair, fed me, convinced me to breathe. For days on end, I did nothing but cry. Friends tried to help by bringing me chocolate, lasagna, or peanut butter pretzels or whatever other junk they knew I loved but didn’t eat. One person brought me wine, and I remember looking at her thinking, “Oh cool, you think because my baby is dead now it’s okay for me to drink wine?” I couldn’t escape it. My fairytale had gone down the dark and twisty path with the creepy fog that just wouldn’t lift. I wasn’t the sweet and helpful, supportive wife for my husband, who was also suffering. I was just there. A broken, empty, shell going through the days.
The days passed so slowly. I felt like the clocks were conspiring against me and were moving slower than they were supposed to. I called in sick to work, over and over again. The weeks went by. Some days, I cried so hard I threw up. I lied on the couch and watched as the leaves changed colors. Fall fell into winter. I remember so vividly a day where my dad came and hung a hummingbird feeder off of our patio. I watched it for hours, I probably stared at those birds for days.
But eventually I had to go back to work. I couldn’t just keep calling in sick. Life continued to move on around me and my friends and family forced me to take small steps back into my life. I talked to my friends, I prayed, I saw a therapist, I prayed, I took beach walks, I did yoga, I prayed some more, I tried EMDR, I spent time with my horse and my husband. I did all of the things I could do to work through it, but I lived for months just going through the motions. I lived for months in a constant state of dread and apprehension of the due date... May 29, 2019. I'll never forget the pain of just waiting for that day.
But, the reality is ... the due date came and passed. It wasn’t a good day by any means. But it was just another day to get through. Another day in May ... but then guess what? It passed. I felt a huge weight lift. I could be me again, I could breathe. We had spent the majority of a year grieving our baby, and nothing would ever take away that grief. But life was different.
We celebrated each other. We giggled in line for fancy coffee (one of our favorite dates) and danced in the hallways of the hospital, just like old times. God reminded the both of us just how much of a blessing those little moments were, even those hummingbirds who continued to come by every evening.
On an early June morning, I was having trouble sleeping - again. I just couldn't get comfortable - my boobs were so sore. Then it clicked - I checked the date and realized I was late. We had been “trying” every month since we were cleared to try; I'd taken so many negative tests, prayed so hard, and thought there's no way I could be pregnant. So I got up before work and peed on a stick, and continued to get ready. I almost left the house without checking by the bathroom. But as a last minute thing, I peeked into the bathroom ... and I stopped dead in my tracks - there they were again, those infamous two pink lines.
Of course, I was excited. But this time was different. There was no creeping around setting up the perfect way to tell my husband. There was no terrace in Greece. I was home, by myself. My husband was at work, on night shift. There would be another 48 hours before I would see him again outside the hospital.
On his first day off work, I surprised him with a to-go coffee cup that I had written "Daddy" on. His reaction was the same, he cried and hugged me. But this time was different - we felt something different in the air. Some of the joy was missing. But I told him, it would be okay, I could feel it in my bones. Again, we told our close friends and family. We knew like last time we wanted to celebrate every moment with our baby, no matter how long or how short, because babies are a blessing.
Fast forward a few weeks, and sure enough, our ten week scan was perfect. At our thirteen week scan, baby measured big, but was perfect. I am seventeen weeks pregnant today and everything is still perfect. We can't wait to welcome our rainbow baby earthside in March of 2020. And we continue to cherish every single moment, every twinge of nausea, every sore boob sleep episode, every stretchmark.
So, here’s the thing: Every fairytale has something bad happen. Snow White eats the poisoned apple. Belle gets locked in the castle. Cinderella has to serve her evil stepmother. But something good also happens. In Disney movies, princes come and treasures are found. In my world, bonds were formed. Moments of beauty that had previously gone unnoticed, became clear. Relationships were forever deepened.
I have never felt closer to my husband than I did in the moments we had together - the moment I told him we were pregnant overlooking the sunrise in Greece and even the moments in the bathroom during the worst of parts of the physical miscarriage. I have never felt so much love from those around me who literally wrapped us both in their arms, blow dried my hair, dropped off pads and ice cream. I am so grateful for every day of the ten weeks we spent with our angel baby. We celebrated our baby, loved our baby, and continue to grieve our baby.
I want this to be a message of hope, a message of peace. A message of understanding ourselves better as women and coming together to support each other. So much of the pain of miscarriage is that it gets swept under the rug. We aren’t supposed to talk about it, because “it happens”. We aren’t supposed to celebrate getting pregnant until 12 weeks, because THIS is so common. We are supposed to quietly take our pills, or have our D and C’s and go about our work Monday morning. We’re not supposed to talk about it, because it’s sad and people don’t want to hear it. But I’m challenging that. I’m saying NO to that. I’m saying THIS IS REAL AND IT SUCKS AND THAT’S OKAY.
So, to you mamas out there who are in the heat of this, keep your head above water. And on the days that you can't make it out of bed, that is okay. Grieve your angel baby. Feel the feels. But I’m also saying let the ones who love you snuggle into bed to be with you. Don’t hide the pain. Cry in the shower. But also cry in the sunshine. Listen to the birds sing. Share your story, because it helps. It helps others to know they are not alone in this. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It hurts. It always will. But, the grief starts to fade, and you realize you are stronger than you've ever realized. You can do this, even if you think you can’t right now. You can. Your little angel babe will always be a part of you ... the even more beautiful, stronger you than you’ve ever known.
Another trip to Bora Bora, celebrating our favorite things in life – fishies, sunshine, rum cocktails.
Fourteen weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby.