This should be a different kind of Labor Day weekend for me.
Shortly before my last post in December we found out we were expecting, with a due date of Sept. 2. We were thrilled but a little nervous because we had recently had an early miscarriage (called a “chemical pregnancy”), but everything we read and everyone we talked to said those types of miscarriages are incredibly common, and not to worry. As this pregnancy progressed and my belly started to grow, we were repeatedly reassured everything was going wonderfully and normally. During the pregnancy it was discovered I had a large ovarian cyst and so there was an ultrasound done to look at the cyst and during it they also did a full anatomy scan of our baby at 13 weeks. I had never been able to see any of my babies so early and it was amazing to see our little one moving around! Little arms and legs, little face. We were in love. We were assured by the Maternal Fetal Medicine Dr. that the baby was “perfect” and that since we were now in the second trimester, the chances of miscarriage were now only about 2% so we could breathe easy and release our fears of another miscarriage. The ovarian cyst would be monitored but was not a threat to the baby in any way.
Shortly after the appointment my morning sickness finally eased and as a week or so passed I began waiting to feel the first “flutters” of fetal movement. I was feeling so much better physically and mentally and happy to be in the second trimester. In the middle of March (one day shy of 15 weeks pregnant) I had a tiny bit of spotting and called my Midwife’s office to check in. There wasn’t much concern but they recommended I come in anyway just to be on the safe side. They used a small in-office ultrasound to look at baby and immediately I could tell something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. My sweet baby, who just two weeks ago had been called “absolutely perfect” by the Dr., was gone. I sat sobbing in the Midwife’s office waiting for my husband to join me. My baby’s picture was left up on the ultrasound screen, completely still. I called my friend (and doula) while I waited and sobbed out the situation to her on the phone. Once my husband arrived we were sent to Maternal Fetal Medicine again, where it was confirmed that the baby had passed away, perhaps not long after our last ultrasound.
It was five days until I had a D&E surgery to remove “the demise,” as the Dr. referred to it. We had to tell the boys what had happened. They didn’t completely understand, but they understood enough. They asked a lot of questions. They were frustrated. They tried to comfort me. I spent my time alternating between grief and overwhelming anxiety about the surgery. I had never been through surgery before and it seemed so invasive, so harsh. I was carried through the waiting time by an immense amount of love. Being a doula, I have many friends in the birthing community who understand the emotional gravity of pregnancy loss. Many people reached out by calling and sending texts or emails. The Midwife who delivered my two other children called personally to talk. My friend and doula who I called in the waiting room checked in every day. She was like a lifeline in the darkness. She listened, she cried with me, she texted just to say “I love you.” My gratitude to her is immeasurable.
After surgery there was a sense of relief that the experience was “done,” but it was at this point that the finality of the loss set in. I experienced crushing grief. It was like all the wind had been knocked out of me. Again, there was an outpouring of love. A meal train was set up in a Mom’s group on Facebook and friends and even strangers delivered meals. Each meal, each text, each visit, helped carry me through. I am so incredibly grateful for the support we received.
A week or so after the surgery we received the results of the genetic testing done on the baby (the testing was offered to us since we had experienced a second trimester loss after a perfectly healthy ultrasound). They also tested me for some blood clotting disorders. Both tests came back as completely normal. They could find no reason for why this happened. The only piece of information we received was that our baby was a girl. We named her Lucia Isabel.
This Labor Day weekend I should be celebrating the arrival or impending arrival of a sweet baby girl. Kissing sweet baby cheeks and counting little toes. There is a parallel life I can still see running along in my mind of “what could have been.” I realize miscarriage is still somewhat of a “taboo” topic, which is why I’m writing this blog. 1 in 4 mothers experience miscarriage. It is much more common than anyone thinks and many people suffer in silence, believing perhaps they haven’t earned the right to grieve, or that people won’t understand, or even not wanting to “burden” others with their sadness. Even though I didn’t get to meet my baby in person, she exists very much in my heart. I am so grateful for every single person who reached out, even in the smallest ways. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise. If you are afraid of reaching out to someone who is grieving because you “don’t know what to say,” please set that aside. There are no perfect words you can say. But there are things you can do. Bring a meal. Drop off a bag of chocolate, tea, or flowers. Give a hug. Text randomly to say “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” Your presence and your love speaks a million times louder than the “perfect” words.
Today I have just a photo and a teaspoon of ashes to remind me of the sweet little girl who lives on now only in our hearts. Lucia means “light” and Isabel means “pledged to God.” She is a light pledged to God and the little flicker of her spirit continues on somewhere in the universe, maybe everywhere around us. I thank you for listening to my story. The words have been rolling around in my head and heart for a long time but it is not something I’ve wanted to revisit. But today, my due date, there is some catharsis in telling the story and getting it out. I thank you for listening, and I thank you for your love.
The flowering photos in this post were taken shortly after the loss. The boys had just read the children’s book “Forget Me Not” by Michael Broad and said that the purple flowers were Forget Me Nots to help me remember the baby.