Two months ago I was coming to terms with being pregnant with my third baby. A surprise baby. I was struggling with the emotions of an unintended pregnancy. I hesitated in sharing the post on QCMB for fear of the judgement from others, but I decided to anyway because I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt that way. It turned out that I was right. Several women reached out to share that they had similar feelings. I was grateful that no one judged me for my feelings, that many friends offered their support, and that people could relate and share their own stories so that I could continue to work through the feelings myself.
Shortly after that blog was posted I was starting to feel a little better about all this unexpectedness. My boys were excited about it, friends and family were excited about it, and some of the students I coach were even asking if they could come to a gender reveal party. Though I still had plenty of apprehension, the excitement was starting to rub off on me as I thought of moving from a life with two children to three.
After 20 days of travel, we came back home to a calendar full of things to do, including a routine OB appointment. We had our boys in a summer program that day, and figured it would be a quick appointment, so my husband I decided to have a lunch date after, including looking at used minivans because we would soon need to purchase one. The doctor came in and said everything looked good on the MaterniT21 testing I had done a few weeks before (because apparently I’m “advanced maternal age”), and asked what gender our other two were, and we said, “Both boys.”
The doctor asked, “Do you know what this one is?”
I said, “No… do you?” as I lay back on the table so the doctor could find the heartbeat.
He smiled and said, “Yes. It was in the report from the testing. Do you want me to tell you or do you want the report?” He turned on the doppler to find the heartbeat and my husband and I looked at each other to decide as the nurse came back in. He asked her if she would get the report so we could find out the gender. She asked if we just wanted the report or if she should put it in an envelope. I decided to have her put it in the envelope and she came back a few minutes later with it. We were going to find out the baby’s gender!
The doctor went back to the doppler and we were hearing nothing. The expression on his face remained frozen in a smile, but I could still see the concern in his eyes, and he said, “The baby must have found a good hiding place in there. I will go get the handheld ultrasound so we can find it.
It was right then that I knew. I knew at 17 weeks it shouldn’t have been so hard to find a heartbeat. The last appointment the doctor found it almost immediately. My husband asked if everything was okay, and although I knew that it wasn’t, the doctor said, “I think it probably is, but we’ll find out.” After a few moments, he came back and a nurse followed with the machine. He moved it around, and I knew he wasn’t seeing what he wanted to. He said that he was going to send us in for an ultrasound. That he wasn’t seeing a heartbeat, but he would need to have a bigger picture before making a miscarriage diagnosis.
The ultrasound tech didn’t say much, and as she moved around and took measurements and pictures, I knew. I knew I wasn’t seeing the flicker of the heartbeat like we had seen in two previous ultrasounds. I knew because we had been here before. About four and a half years ago, we were sitting in the ultrasound room for the 11-12 weeks screening, seeing the same result. A baby with no heartbeat. I couldn’t believe we were dealing with the same thing when again there had been no sign of a problem, only this time later in the pregnancy .
We were taken back to another room where the doctor came in and confirmed what I already knew, yet it wasn’t until then that I cried. He said the tests had all looked good, but there were other abnormalities that it doesn’t test for. He said the baby was only measuring 13 weeks and a few days, and asked if I felt pregnant. I said, “Less so the past couple weeks, but I just thought I was feeling better.” It was the second trimester after all. I had even said to a friend who had taken a picture of me just the week before that I didn’t really feel like I looked too pregnant, until I see a picture like that, because I very clearly had a baby bump. And yet, for about three weeks, the baby had not grown, but clearly my body did not know that.
Then the doctor said, “Well, the important thing is to not blame yourself or anything you did.”
Yet my first thought was, “I wished my baby away.”
I had spent so much time the last 17 weeks feeling upset and frustrated about being pregnant that I just wished this baby away. I know. Rationally, I know this is a dumb thing to think. Rationally, I know that nothing I thought or did made the baby’s heart stop beating. Rationally, having experienced it already, I know these things just happen. But very little is rational when all you’re feeling is emotional.
The doctor gave me the options and recommended that I have a D&C. Another D&C. I scheduled it for the next day. Clearly my body didn’t know what it was doing so I knew I just needed to be done. We got into the car and I had the envelope the nurse had given us and I decided to open it before my husband even got into the car. I searched for what I was looking for.
The baby was a boy. Just like my boys wanted… the boys. We had to tell the boys. The last time we had to deal with this, my oldest was only one and a half and knew nothing about it. This time, they both knew and were excited about it.
And not just the boys, we had to tell everyone. Everyone. I had very publicly announced I was pregnant and had mixed feelings about it. Last time, we had only told family and some close friends, so there were less people to tell that I was no longer pregnant. We grieved privately and quietly. There had always been times where I questioned my silence on the matter, especially when friends posted about their own losses or I heard through the grapevine that someone had experienced a loss. Now, I will no longer be silent.
Telling the boys was about as difficult as I expected. The oldest was upset and cried, and has hugged me and told me often that he is sorry the baby died. The youngest, at only 3, seemed to understand that we won’t have a baby, but still asks at times if the baby is still in my tummy because it still looks big to him, and says, “It’s okay. You can get another baby.” But we won’t.
The next day I had a D&C. Though I basically knew what to expect, there were still things that felt like a punch to the gut. Like being asked to pay $300 toward the cost of the surgery (with more expenses to come later). $300 for a surgery that I didn’t want.
Like the phlebotomist coming in to take blood, who asked, “Have you ever been pregnant?” Followed with, “Have you been pregnant in the last two months?” To which I said, with clear frustration, “Well… Yeah.” The nurse in the room clearly heard the frustration in my voice, whispered, “They just have to ask that.” And again, rationally, I understand that there is certain protocol, but all my emotions were saying was, But, why? They can’t visit a nurse or see a chart or something that says, “Hey, this lady just lost her baby. Maybe don’t ask her if she has been pregnant” as the tears welled up.
And later, waking up to hear the nurse say the blood was O+ and she read a series of numbers and and expiration date, when she realized I was waking up and told me I was receiving two bags of blood because I had lost so much blood during the surgery. Another punch to the gut. I had to have a blood transfusion from a surgery to remove my baby. It’s like I couldn’t even lose a baby right.
We continued to tell people about the loss. The support poured in, and several people, both moms and dads, reached out to us sharing their own losses, offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. We are grateful for the love and support, and the flowers and meals (and even a Star Wars toaster to make us smile!) that we received.
It’s only been a couple weeks since we lost our baby boy. Admittedly, I’ve done a lot to distract myself, but this time has been a different process for me to deal with it. I received a pamphlet from the hospital when I left about grieving, and though I decided not to really read it, one thing that caught my attention was that it said there is no one way to grieve, which is true. The last time we grieved silently, and this time I don’t feel like being silent, while my husband chooses not to really talk about it. Either way, neither baby is forgotten.
So I write this today as part of my own process of grieving, but also as a way to reach out to anyone who has faced a loss. It does seem sometimes that we are all part of this secret club that no one wants to actually be a part of that includes far more people than we realize, but I have certainly learned that none of us are alone. If you want to talk, there are people willing to listen (like me). If you don’t want to talk, that’s okay too. We know that even if everything seems okay on the outside, that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are “over it.” I know people sometimes just don’t know the right thing to say or do, but understand that your support does matter, however you can give it.
I also feel like I need to do something more tangible. For anyone reading this who is able, please go donate blood. Just days after I needed a blood transfusion, a friend posted that her local blood bank was in need of O+ blood. The blood type that I am. And I just saw a story about a cancer survivor who asked for blood donations in lieu of gifts for his 21st birthday. All this was certainly a sign for me to get back to donating blood (which I haven’t done in years), but now I cannot for 12 months. So if you are able, please make a donation at your local blood bank. You just never know when you or a loved one might need it.
When I can, I will begin to donate blood again, knowing that every time I do, it will be in memory of the babies that we lost. Because whether it was a surprise baby or a planned baby, we won’t forget them.