Life After Loss
October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. On the 15th of the month, Instagram was flooded with posts by women sharing stories of their losses, photos of their rainbow babies, and encouraging words of solidarity towards others who have experienced their own losses or are trying to conceive. This is something that affects so many women but we hardly ever say a word about it but for one month of the year each October.
I don't remember how it came about that I offered this space for Kim to share her story. We've been friends for the last decade and have traveled hundreds of mountains and valleys together. When Cody and I found out we were unexpectedly pregnant (and were living with Kim and her now husband, Shane), she was the first one I uttered the words to. She's an example of all that is good in the world. She's got the sickest dance moves, a great laugh, and she lives like Jesus.
This is Kim's story. She's due with a rainbow babe in a few short months and she's sharing her journey to this place in hopes that others experiencing these kinds of losses know that they are not alone, and that it's possible to be changed by grief but still hold so much hope for the future.
PART 1: Written immediately after my second misscarriage
We were six months into our first year of marriage when I took my first pregnancy test. We had made the typical claim of “not, not trying” and were ready to welcome whatever came our way. I remember feeling the joy and excitement when two lines showed up on that first test test. I got out the bottle of Captain Morgan labeled “first baby” that we had received as a wedding gift and was intended for this celebration. I set it out on the table for Shane. I couldn’t wait for him to get home and share in my excitement.
Over the next few weeks we told our families and closest friends, talked baby names and made plans. Miscarriage wasn’t a thought in my mind. I knew they happened, but for some reason I didn’t think that it would happen to me.
Fast forward to our first ultrasound. Our baby should have been measuring around 9 weeks. Instead we saw a baby that was much smaller than expected and a very faint heartbeat. I immediately started crying and shaking. The doctor then told us that we would need to come back in a week to check for growth and a heartbeat. That week was one of the longest weeks of my life. I prayed every day and tried my hardest not to think the worst. I wanted to be hopeful and trust that everything would be ok. After all, there had been a heartbeat.
We went back the following week. I don’t think I will ever forget the lack of sound coming from the ultrasound machine or hearing the words “I’m sorry, but we can’t find a heartbeat.” My heart still sinks when I think about it. I wasn’t going to be a mother yet. I wasn’t going to ever know this baby. And amongst this, I had to decide what we were going to do next.
I could either let the miscarriage pass on it’s own, take some medication to get the process started, or schedule a D&C. At the time, I felt like I trusted my body to do it on its own. Little did I know it would take almost 3 weeks before I officially miscarried. The doctor and other people I spoke with about it told me that it would most likely be similar to a very painful period, but that doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt.
I had some manageable cramping and spotting for almost half a day. I felt as though something was going to happen soon. The cramping intensified so I went to bed with a heating pad. Suddenly, I felt a pop of some sort. I ran to the bathroom and there was more blood than I had ever imagined there could be. After this, I started to experience contractions. I didn’t know at the time that was what they were, but now, after having a child, I can confidently say that I was having contractions. I was screaming in pain, vomiting, convulsing... it was terrifying. Shane was at a loss for what to do and we decided to go to the hospital.
The nurses and staff at the hospital were amazing and I am so thankful for all of them. Shane was trying to get me checked in but they could see how much pain I was in and took me back right away. I remember getting something to stop the vomiting and some morphine for the pain, answering some questions and then falling asleep. When I woke up, I was still in a puddle of blood but there was no more physical pain. I went through labor, but had no baby at the end of it. They did an ultrasound in the hospital to make sure there was nothing left behind, made sure I was hydrated and I was cleared to go home. I took one day to mourn and went back to work the following day.
The weeks and months after that experience were dark. I couldn’t walk by the baby aisle in the store, I felt horrible feelings of jealousy and anger towards anyone who posted a pregnancy announcement, and I felt alone. I still felt hope that we would get pregnant again and have a healthy pregnancy, but that first pregnancy changed me forever. Shane and I started praying together every night and this tragedy brought us closer together and closer to God.
There were a few months of disappointment that followed. I had to wait until my hormone levels were back to normal in order to try for another baby. Following that, there were a few months of negative pregnancy tests, each that felt a little like salt in an open wound. Then came the next positive pregnancy test.
This time there was no elaborate way of telling Shane. I just ran out of the bathroom and yelled “We did it!” We hugged and celebrated. Then came the fear. What if it happened again? We didn’t share the news with many people this time and there wasn’t very much joy surrounding those initial announcements. Instead, we asked our close family to pray. I wasn’t excited for any of my doctor’s appointments in the beginning. I was scared every step of the way, thinking that eventually they were going to tell me that there was no heartbeat.
Our first ultrasound was at 8 weeks and I got to hear something that we never heard from our first baby. A healthy heartbeat. This time, there were tears of joy. I knew we were still early, but I felt a sense of comfort in reaching a step that we had never reached before. Another four weeks passed and we got to hear the heartbeat again. With it, we made it past walking on eggshells through the first trimester. The closest I ever got to sharing publicly about my miscarriage was the use of the hashtag #rainbowbaby on our pregnancy announcement.
I started to feel more comfortable with this pregnancy and the thought that everything would be okay. There would be times where I would pause and make sure that I could feel him kicking, but I was finally able to feel joy and hopefulness about bringing a baby into our family.
I ended up having an amazing pregnancy. I had gestational diabetes but honestly that was a blessing because it forced me to eat healthy. I got a little bit swollen, but overall I enjoyed it. My labor was quick. I thank the Lord every day for my healthy rainbow baby boy.
Motherhood isn’t easy. There are challenges every step of the way. Breastfeeding, baby sleep, allergies, wondering why they are crying, tummy time, pressures from every aspect of society. I struggled a lot those first few months. I definitely battled with postpartum depression but then felt guilty because I had prayed so hard for this baby. Luckily, I had amazing support and found some pretty great friends through motherhood. If you’re a new mom and struggling, it does get better. Get yourself a mom squad if you can.
I can now say with full certainty that I love my job as a full-time mom. I have been able to watch every aspect of my son’s life and teach him everything. He’s one cool kid and my heart feels like it will explode at any given moment when I am around him. Yes, he drives me crazy sometimes. After all, he is a toddler. I know I was meant to be his mom and I truly believe I am meant to be a mother to more children as well.
We took our time before trying to have another baby. I was enjoying the time and focus I was able to give to my son. I was worried about how I could possibly split my love with another child. I knew I wanted more children, but I wasn’t in a rush. When Jay was 16 months old, we decided we were open to another baby. We got pregnant immediately.
I experienced all of the same feelings. Excitement, joy, and then fear. I knew miscarriage was a possibility. I told myself that I would be okay with whatever happened. Deep down in my heart, something didn’t feel right.
Again, we had our first ultrasound at what should have been the 8 week mark. At that time, the only thing showing up was an amniotic sac and “yolk”. No fetal pole. No heartbeat. My midwife talked with us and explained that we could just be off by a week or so based on ovulation, conception and all of that and that we had to come back the following week.
It was hard to be hopeful this time. I had been in this situation before. A week of waiting to find out if I was going to miscarry or not. I still prayed, but like I said, that first pregnancy changed me. A week later, I heard that same heart wrenching news. My baby stopped growing, there was no heartbeat.
There were still a lot of tears and confusion, but I was handling this loss better. I shared what I was going through with my close friends and family. I was frustrated, angry and hurting still but ready to move forward.
This time I made the choice to use medication so I didn’t have to wait for my body to let go of something that my heart was still holding onto tightly. I was terrified that it was going to physically hurt just as much as the first time. I was home alone when I started the medication. Overall, it still hurt a lot, but was manageable. I was more prepared mentally as well as with some pain medication. A lot of blood and a lot of cramping. And then you repeat the process in 24 hours. I was relieved when I thought the worst was behind me.
I had a follow up doctor appointment to make sure that my uterus was clear and then to check hormone levels. Due to coronavirus, this was the first ultrasound I ever attended on my own. She explained what she was looking for and pointed out that although the sac had passed, there was still blood flow going to my uterus. This meant that something, possibly part of the placenta, was left behind. It wasn’t over.
I had the choice to try the medication again or schedule a D&C. I was trying to avoid a procedure at all costs, so I tried the medication again. Nothing happened. Lots of cramping, but that was it. I had to get a D&C.
I obviously don’t remember much from that. I appreciated that every nurse and doctor that talked to me, expressed that they were sorry for what I was going through. At first, Shane wasn’t allowed inside (because of coronavirus) but I think they saw how emotional I was and they made an exception. I went to sleep and woke up an hour later and it was done. I could go home.
I said that I was changed after that first pregnancy and I’m affected even more now. I struggle with my emotions on a day to day basis. I’m angry that so much joy has been taken from me when it comes to being pregnant. At this point, I’m not sure if I will feel excited after another positive pregnancy test or if the fear will take over. I know that I will never walk into an ultrasound appointment without constantly hearing the words “there is no heartbeat” in my head. Even when I look at my son, I feel sadness knowing that I am no closer to bringing a sibling into our family. I still feel jealousy when people post pregnancy announcements. I’m happy for them, but still jealous. I don’t understand how I can be surrounded by so many healthy pregnancies and then I’m the one that experiences the loss (and NO. I would never wish this upon anyone). I don’t like that I’m feeling all of this, but I think it’s a part of the process. I am grieving.
So why am I sharing all of this? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely not in my nature to share so openly about something like this. I’m definitely more of a “let’s bury my feelings deep down inside” kind of a person.
I think that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding miscarriage. I don’t think people realize how much it takes from you. It’s not something that just happens and you move on. It weighs on you and changes you. It takes a lot of time. It fills months and months of your life that you wish were filled with creating a life, and all you can do is wait.
It’s hard to explain the emotional pain that comes with the loss of an unborn baby. I prepared a place in my heart and in my family for two babies that will never come. I don’t want to forget them or just move on with my life. They were a part of me and always will be. One thing that brings me comfort is the thought of my grandma rocking those babies to sleep in heaven.
Currently, I will try to continue to have hope. I know that Faith in God is Faith in God’s timing. I will find the good in what I have. I will make sure that I am communicating with my husband and checking on him as well, he suffered a loss too. I will pray for all the women who are going and have gone through similar experiences. I will pray for the women who are struggling with fertility at all.
I hope that I can help someone through sharing my experience. Maybe through solidarity or maybe through a better understanding of what someone they know has gone through. I know I am not alone.
PART 2: Written during my fourth pregnancy
I asked the doctor how long I should wait after the D&C before we should start trying again and she said we could start after I got a normal period. I got my period less than 2 weeks later and started to feel some normalcy again in my life, or at least as normal as life can be during a pandemic.
I didn’t want to think about actively trying right away because I didn’t want to feel the disappointment that could possibly come with that. Plus, I had no idea how long my cycle would be and when I would be ovulating. By the beginning of May, I remember thinking to myself that it had been a while since that first period. I checked my tracking app on my phone and it had been almost 40 days. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for me, but unfortunately I felt like I should probably take a test. I say unfortunately because I don’t feel anything after an at home test, except worry. The test was positive.
I shut down emotionally for a couple days after taking it. I wasn’t much fun to be around. I told Shane I was really sorry because I was afraid I was going to be like that for the next 3 weeks until we could get an ultrasound. I only told one person right away. I’m not sure what inclined me to do this but I asked one of my oldest friends to have her mom pray for us. I told her that I didn’t want to tell my mom yet, but I wanted someone’s mom to know and to be praying. A few days later, I ended up telling a few close friends. They were all there for me in my previous loss so I knew they would be there for me again now.
The time between taking an at home test and then waiting for an ultrasound is brutal. I try to be hopeful but it’s hard after loss. The thought of miscarrying is constantly in the back of my head. I compulsively check for any signs of blood when going to the bathroom. I question every cramp or weird feeling. I was compulsively checking my boobs for soreness... anything that would reassure me that I was still pregnant. I even joked that I wish I had morning sickness because then I would feel like something was happening. I definitely got my wish.
At nine weeks, we got to see our newest baby and hear that wonderful sound of a heartbeat. I was able to breathe again.
Here I am in the third trimester of my fourth pregnancy- second viable one- and it is nothing like what I’ve experienced before. I was sick until 18 weeks and then could almost immediately feel movement once that subsided. I think the universe knew that I needed some reassurance.
I still feel like I’m walking on eggshells at times. I know my baby is in there because I can feel it but I keep expecting bad news. I try to stay as positive as I can but I am forever changed.
I am cherishing every moment of this pregnancy, the good and the bad, because I don’t know what will come after this. I’m not sure if I can mentally go through all of this again but I will keep my heart open to the possibility.
I was hesitant to share about my losses, especially while pregnant with my second child, because I know there are plenty of women who are still waiting for their rainbow baby. It is so hard to remain hopeful and positive after loss, but I pray everyday for all the women who hope for a family. We are not alone in our pain and emotions and we shouldn’t have to hide what we have gone through.