When my alarm clock sounded, I was already wide awake after barely sleeping overnight. I could not have been more excited to finally see our baby after knowing we had been pregnant for five weeks and waiting for this day to arrive. I blared Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and danced around the bathroom, holding my belly while my husband took a shower. I’ll never forget the look of love and bliss on his face.
We arrived at our appointment before the office opened before the nurses and doctors had even clocked in for the day. I excitedly checked in at the front desk and peed in the provided cup. I watched other pregnant moms waddle in with their partners, and I couldn’t wait to be at that stage in my pregnancy. It was finally our turn to see the ultrasound technician, and I knew exactly what we should see on the screen thanks to constantly researching in my Reddit bump group, pregnancy apps, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Nothing could bring us down.
Nothing except for a missed miscarriage. A heartbreak so stealthy that you never see it coming until the vast emptiness engulfs you. I wasn’t experiencing any bleeding or cramping, so the lifeless sac on the ultrasound hit me out of nowhere. I knew what we saw on the screen was bad and instantly burst into tears. My sweet, unsuspecting husband still had hope in his eyes when the ultrasound technician asked me to go to the restroom and empty my bladder again so that she could complete a vaginal ultrasound. I looked at him and told him I couldn’t breathe. I screamed and cried in the restroom for what felt like hours until I finally picked myself up off the floor and went back to Exam Room C to confirm what I already knew.
We were then taken to a consultation room, where my husband and I sat numb, confused, and heartbroken. The nurse gently explained that we were experiencing a blighted ovum, and she gave us a book of poems written by parents who experienced miscarriage and infant loss. I still can’t bring myself to read that book, which is now buried at the bottom of my underwear drawer. She gave us our options for handling the miscarriage, and I immediately opted for a D&C because I needed this pregnancy hell to be over.
On the trip home, my husband and I alternated between driving in silence, crying, screaming, and questioning. At some point during that blurry day, we went out into the woods behind our house with a carton full of eggs and hurled eggs at the trees. Shattering those fragile shells provided a temporary release and palpable satisfaction, but it quickly dissipated into the now-normal feeling of emptiness and despair. I texted my sister to let her know that the appointment did not go well, as she was the one person I entrusted with our secret prior to our OB visit. I regretted ordering the custom onesie that we had planned for our families to open at brunch two days later.
Over the next days, weeks, and months my innocence surrounding pregnancy evaporated. I feared for our future. I feared for the futures of my family and friends should they experience something equally heartbreaking. I eventually opened up to family and friends about our loss. I felt closer than ever with my sister and simultaneously more distant than ever with my best friend. I learned that some people will show up and support you in your time of need, while others will distance themselves, possibly because they fear saying or doing the “wrong” thing.
My husband and I were fortunate to get pregnant again shortly after the miscarriage, but that entire pregnancy felt as if there was a dark cloud looming overhead. I sought therapy and adopted mantras like “today I am pregnant” and “thoughts are not facts.” I purchased countless home pregnancy tests. Each checkup I would hear a heartbeat or see an ultrasound, and I would feel at peace until I rode the elevator back down to the parking lot and restarted the countdown of when I’d be able to hear or see our baby again. I purchased a fetal doppler so that I could hear our baby’s heartbeat any time I wanted from the comfort of my couch. I checked the data weekly to see our risk of miscarriage at any given time. There was no pregnancy bliss for me anymore.
It’s been nearly four years since that fateful day in Exam Room C. I still experience a stabbing pain when I hear Diana Ross. I am faced with familiar demons while in my OB’s waiting room. And the smell of chlorine transports me back to the anesthesiologist applying my mask on the operating room table. Perhaps one day, I will return to blissful ignorance, but for now, I will continue facing these challenges as they present themselves, often unexpectedly and without reprieve.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. “When a child loses his or her parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” –Ronald Reagan