*I share this story here not to bring you a sob story, but to give those going through a miscarriage or still feeling the effects of a miscarriage a resource. My amazing mother-in-law shared a miscarriage story with me when my husband I went through ours, and it was encouraging to know that all the emotions and heartache weren't lost on us alone. And be there any chance of a doctor reading this: I highly respect you people and the work you do. It can't be easy to break tough news to patients. This story simply goes through the very emotional process, and I've chosen to leave it all on the table.
I’ve never walked through anything more difficult than losing a life from within.
My husband and I never saw it coming. Two normal and uncomplicated pregnancies made us confident that all would be fine with this one, too. I mean, blessings upon blessings, the only real struggles I’ve faced with pregnancy is morning sickness (typical), exhaustion (typical), and discomfort (typical). Nothing rare or uncomplicated. So, when we found out we were expecting our third baby, we were thrilled for new life and nervous to be outnumbered by our kids. Parenting is hard, guys. Need I rationalize this to any parent out there?
At eight weeks, my husband and I and our two little girls made our way into a little room. The ultrasound tech pulled a black curtain across the room, dividing me from my little family, and I lay back on a table while the tech turned the large display on so my husband and children could see the baby. My girls were two and one. They weren’t aware of what was really going on. I tell myself that and it brings some comfort. The ultrasound tech searched around and found our baby. She held the probe still and we saw the heartbeat. It was 146.
I breathed a sigh of relief, because, although our first two pregnancies went well, I’ve always held my breath at the first sight of their life, uncertain.
But the tech was certain, and we were certain. Our baby was healthy. Heart beating. Organs functioning. Small movement. Life.
The tech wrote “BABY!” on each of our ultrasound pictures, and gave them to us. The still pictures looked like blobs. I knew it was our baby because I beheld its life on display just moments ago.
A month later, I had a doctor’s appointment where I’d hear our baby’s heartbeat. We saw Sam. (We named our baby Sam a few weeks after this appointment.) I knew I’d hear Sam, but as my children watched “Mother Goose” on Netflix and the doctor searched around for the thrum-thrum-thrum of a tiny heart, concern took over.
But the doctor wasn’t concerned. After searching several minutes, she stated that the baby was probably just hiding in there. She didn’t recommend an ultrasound because there was no real concern. I went home, mentioned the situation to my mom and husband, and then waited for my next appointment in a few weeks, certain that our little Sam was just a little stubborn.
“Stubborn. This baby clearly takes after me,” I spoke aloud when describing the appointment with a twinge of concern, but mostly confident that all was well.
A week later, I felt great. At twelve weeks, I was certain that I was finally coming out of morning sickness and the easy second trimester was finally here. I took the kids to the library one day and then took them shopping the next. Finally, some smoother sailing. That night, I realized I was spotting, which had never ever happened with my other pregnancies. I called the doctor and scheduled an appointment for the next day. I again talked to those closest to me, and they reassured me that everything was fine and not to worry. I’m thankful they filled me with optimism, because the weeks that would follow would be the hardest weeks of my life.
On November 16, 2017, a date I’ll never forget, I walked into the waiting room with my husband and children. My husband had a dental appointment within an hour, so he decided to come with me to what we figured would be a quick appointment. We wanted to make sure everything was okay. We’d seen our baby thriving just a few weeks ago. We were near the end of the first trimester. Everything pointed to being fine.
The doctor came in with an observing medical student. She asked if she had permission to observe. I said yes, because I get being a student and needing to learn the field you’ll likely spend a good portion of your life working in. It didn’t change the fact that it felt a little awkward, someone observing when I was only concerned about our baby.
The doctor checked my cervix, and after a moment, she assured me that everything was fine. I breathed a sigh of relief for the second time.
She then checked for baby Sam’s heartbeat.
We waited in anticipation.
1 minute went by.
2 minutes went by.
3, and 4, and after an eternity later, the doctor again assured me that things were probably okay, but that she’d send me over for an ultrasound just to be sure.
I held onto hope. The doctor was certain. The medical student was straight-faced.
Our family walked into the small, dark room, again. Divided by a black curtain, again. Display turned on, again. Probing for life—again.
“There’s the baby,” my husband sweetly said.
“Yes, right there,” the tech answered.
And then silence.
“Your baby is charting small for your due date. Maybe we just have the wrong date,” the tech said hurriedly and hushed. “I’ll send you back over to the waiting room so you can talk with the doctor.”
My husband needed to get to his dental appointment, so he took the kids while I waited on a chair for fifteen minutes.
Questions were running through my mind, but the doctor had said things were fine. The tech didn’t show concern.
My heart was already hurting, and I held back tears, telling myself that getting emotional without the final word would be pointless. But I knew. I knew as I watched a mother with her new baby walk out from her appointment and they called me back, silently walked me back to the furthest room.
I sat down, stared at what felt like an out-of-place painting of a woman sitting at the edge of a rock cliff in a pretty yellow dress, hair and dress moving in the breeze as she looked out over the ocean, deep in thought.
I was deep in thought, too, and I wished her and I could trade places.
The doctor from earlier knocked on the door, and both her and the medical student came in. The doctor sat down in front of me while the medical student towered, observing the conversation.
I wanted her to leave.
I wanted to leave.
I wanted everything to be fine.
“Shelby, I’m sorry to tell you that you lost your pregnancy.
I lost it.
“Now, there are a few choices you have to terminate your pregnancy, okay? I can give those to you when you’re ready, okay? Do you need a moment first?”
But I didn’t want a moment with two people who weren’t feeling the pain of this moment, and if they were, they had the best poker faces known to man.
“No, just tell me,” I choked out.
The doctor gave me my choices with a questioning “okay” after every sentence, and all I wanted to do was leave.
I was angry.
I wanted to tell her that it wasn’t okay. None of this was okay. The false hope given to me for almost a week wasn’t okay. It wasn’t okay that this likely younger than me medical student stood towering over my tears without any emotion on her part. It wasn’t okay that my doctor kept saying “your pregnancy” instead of “your baby.” None of this was okay.
I know that for doctors, miscarriages are common. What to Expect when You’re Expecting has a few page miscarriage section that details the statistics. I know they are used to breaking devastating news, used to the tears, and used to calling a baby in the first trimester an embryo, but this was all new to me. This was personal. This was my “BABY!”.
I left that room, held my tears back as I walked passed all the expecting mothers in the waiting room, opened my car door, sat down, shut the door, and wept. After what felt like hours later, I called my mom. I know. Why didn’t I call my husband first? I don’t know. I wasn’t really thinking straight. I just wanted to hear my mom tell me that it was going to be okay like all the times that I fell on my bike and scraped a knee and she’d bring out the brown bottle that I knew would sting, but I felt safe when I heard her say “you’re okay.”
I called her because she had a miscarriage several months before conceiving me, and I knew that she knew what was coming my way.
“Your Dad and I are packing, and we are bringing soup, and we’ll be up there as soon as we can.”
She didn’t say “you’re okay.” I wasn’t okay. And she knew that.
Instead, she offered her presence until the physical process was over, and that was enough.
I called my husband after that, told him to cancel my dental appointment, told him what was going on and that I’d meet him at home, and then got off the phone and sat there in silence for another half hour.
I called a few others, and when I felt ready, I left the parking lot. But I couldn’t go home, so I went to Chick-Fil-A, the place where we celebrated the joy of life right after our 8-week ultrasound with another family from our church that we ran into with surprise at the doctor’s office because they were expecting, too.
I took home a bunch of food from Chick-Fil-A. We ate, put the kids down for naps, and then sat on the couch holding each other and crying.
And you’d think that would be the hardest of days, but every day that followed in waiting was just as difficult. It was like sitting at a funeral staring at a casket for six days. We just wanted to move on, but we couldn’t. You can’t move on when your loved one is still in front of you, dead. A filled life that brought you joy, gone.
The days of waiting were hard, but the hardest of it all was the shaking of my faith, which is another story itself.
Today, I look back and can say with certainty that God was there in our deepest loss. He held us even with all my anger and questions and anguish.
This process isn’t over.
I know there will be more emotional healing as we go through these next several months, especially when we reach our sweet Sam’s due date, but I’m trusting God will hold us through the emotional process like he held us through the physical process.
And I’m trusting that he’ll hold you if you are going through this very same thing, too.
*You are not alone in this. While miscarriage is not often talked about, it happens more frequently than I ever realized before going through one. I pray you find people who will speak love instead of cliches. I'm thankful for those who answered with "me too" when I broke the news. Not everyone is able to share their miscarriage story, and that's okay. I share my heart here in hopes that it helps you heal or at least feel normal in the rage of hormones to know you're not alone.
*I wrote about the hard questions we ask God when bad things happen as a guest post on Women Encouraged. It's called When Big Questions Leave You Feeling Stuck. You can click here to leave my website and read the guest post.