The first word that comes to my mind as I write this, is heavy. Heavy on the mind, heavy on the heart, and heavy on the soul. Heavy is the reason I haven’t discussed my story to too many people, but also the reason I am writing this. Heavy issues make people uncomfortable, which gives people an instinct to not share their struggles. We can not change societal conditions unless we start bringing awareness and talking about the heavy stuff. And for me, it’s been a heavy seven month season that is on going. Even with an amazing support system, it feels heavy. Even with an amazing team of providers, it feels heavy. Even with living children, it feels heavy. So if you have or are going through your own heavy season, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Four. Four miscarriages within eight months. All with their own story. All slowly causing more grief, anxiety, and depression. But all of them, causing a deeper expansion within myself. My story isn’t over yet, but I know there are others longing to feel like they aren’t living in this intense period of time alone. Here are a little bit of statistics for you that will make you understand why there is a lack of support in the world. 10% of clinical pregnancies end in miscarriage (increased risk as women age). 5% will have two or more consecutive miscarriages and 1% will have three or more. I am the 1%.
My background of being a High Risk Obstetric Ultrasound Technician really founded my solid appreciation for mothers, women, and life beginning from conception. I knew from that point on I wanted to help women in an even deeper capacity. I saw women go through struggles that you only read about. Babies with different beginnings and different outcomes. I cried happy tears with mothers, I cried grieving tears with mothers. I have seen the spectrum of unforeseeable events that can happen during pregnancy. This knowledge made me extremely logical. And I will say, that logic got me through my first pregnancy and my first couple of miscarriages. Logic has a funny way of pushing aside feelings that are meant to be felt. It also can create an unintentional approach that pulls you farther from faith, creating an anxiety to know a reasoning for everything. I am a very spiritual and have a strong faith in God, but anxiety can drive a huge wedge in that without you even realizing. It can also create a distorted self perspective, making you feel as if, your feelings aren’t valid, because there are people going through worse situations. I dealt with this a lot, down grading my grief. Disrespecting my own feelings. I am here to tell you and myself that any feeling that comes through you are valid!
Being a High Risk OB Ultrasound tech at WVUMedicine, I have gotten to know some of the best providers, the best fertility specialist, nurses and fellow ultrasound techs. I have to say I have the best team on my side through out this whole process. Without trust for my providers it would make this process that much harder and I know some aren’t as lucky.
This is my second time around at trying to conceive (TTC). Two years ago I was blessed with my healthy son after about 7 months of trying. It was literally the week we decided to put a hold on actively trying that we conceived our son. So, it was fairly uneventful and no true struggle compared to now. As much as I realize that every pregnancy is different and things can change, it heightened my expectations some. 18 months after he was born my husband and I started our second TTC journey.
Finding out I was pregnant after only two cycles of TTC was so exciting. I had so much energy running through me despite the normal first trimester fatigue. We were excited that our son would have a sibling so close in age. I was even more elated that I would have a baby in the spring, dodging those short, dark, winter days. But that excitement didn’t last long. Going for the first ultrasound and looking at a screen with a picture of an empty gestational sac was disheartening to say the least. I was positive on my dates and knew it was a blighted ovum. It’s just one of those spontaneous things that can happen, no blame to place. Logic comforted me here. I also felt more peace knowing a fetus never even had a chance to develop. That made the experience a little lighter for me.
Anyone trying to conceive knows that it is all a huge waiting game. Waiting for ovulation, waiting for a missed period or maybe even a regular period, waiting for a positive test. But after a miscarriage the waiting tries your patience to a whole new level. For me, for the blighted ovum, I waited to pass the tissue naturally, for weeks. I then waited for meds to help induce a miscarriage, only to find those didn’t work, twice. Then waiting for the procedure to be done. Waiting for bleeding, cramping, and clots to stop, hormones and HCG to come back to normal. And waiting to feel “not pregnant” again. This process can takes weeks and it did. Throw in a curve ball with a small perforation of the uterus (risk of having a manual vacuum aspiration performed). Then it’s back to square one, waiting for ovulation again.
I am apparently one who gets pregnant quickly, which seems like a blessing, yet a curse. I became pregnant the very next time I ovulated. Unfortunately, that ended within a week of finding out, ending in a chemical pregnancy. That happened twice, one after the other. Just enough to build excitement and to be let down quickly.
By this point, positive tests were starting to become a trigger for me. Anxiety crept in a little deeper, positivity was becoming a little more grounded, reality was kicking in, maybe this journey isn’t going to be so easy.
December 27, 2019, five days before my 34th birthday, a very positive test. This was a little different because all of the other tests stayed fairly faint. This one wasn’t, it was very positive, I was feeling very pregnant, fatigue and just not feeling so well. After having three miscarriages, even though it seemed different, I cried. Anxiety was through the roof, I had a tug of war going on with my emotions, like, I should be jumping around, excited. But, what if this ends too, I don’t want to get attached, I don’t want to think about what could be, because what if I lose that, again.
My specialist immediately prescribed progesterone and ordered an HCG blood test and it came back at 82.65 and then jumped up to 326.20 three days later. That was wonderful news, HCG was more than doubled. I had some relief for a few, I could breathe, but not for long. I had my first ultrasound at 5w6d. I knew it was a bit early, but I was certain on my dates, so I knew I should see something. Well, we did, we saw a gestational sac, a bit irregular in shape, and a yolk sac, which was positive news. Everything measured a few days earlier so not seeing a fetus, wasn’t totally out of the ordinary at this point. With me being a former ultrasound tech and knowing what I am looking at, it makes it harder. I can say ignorance can be bliss. I left, went home crying, I knew with the irregular shaped sac, there was a chance I would miscarry again. I even told my husband not to get excited, I didn’t think it would make it. And here we go with another intense waiting game. Wait for the next ultrasound or to start bleeding.
Next ultrasound was a long, 5 days later. Things develop fast that early, it is quite an amazing process and truly gives me so much appreciation for life. I was nervous, to say the least, I was expecting no progress. So when I actually saw a fetus with a tiny flutter of a heartbeat, it gave me hope that I hadn’t seen in a long time. That tiny little heartbeat gave me life again. This might actually happen for us. I left and wanted to tell everyone. I wanted to share this miracle. But that little nagging feeling stepped in and knew to be cautious. I knew to not get too excited but it was hard after seeing a brand new life growing inside me.
A week later, I went back for another ultrasound. With my history, we wanted to see the progress, and give my mind a rest. I was so confident, I was really sure things would be OK. But things weren’t OK. Looking up at the screen, everything looked exactly the same, except no heartbeat. No little flutter. Meanwhile, I have worked with everyone on my providing team, the ultrasound techs, the doctor and some of the nurses. I have been in their shoes. I know that feeling of trying to be positive when it’s not. I know that feeling of trying to make the best of a situation when there isn’t anything you can do. So I held it together until I got to my car. That realist part of me, just said “told you so”. That tug of war inside was over and you can guess who won. It was heart wrenching, seeing a fetus that once had life to then not, was indescribable. Different from the others, yet still a loss. Gut punch after gut punch of losses, it gets harder to stay positive. This is when support matters. I am forever grateful for the support from my husband. I can see the grief he has too, but even still he does what he can to make me feel better. He picks me up when I am down, picks up the slack when I just can’t handle my load. When you marry, you never know the moments to come when your vows will mean so much. These are the moments that confirm true, unconditional love.
The grief set in and another procedure performed. Karyotype testing or chromosomal testing confirmed that it was a baby girl with Trisomy 3 a non viable chromosomal issue. The geneticist confirmed this was a random incident that shouldn’t affect future outcomes, which is relieving but not enough to take away the pain of this heartbreak. It took weeks for this confirmation to come back. During that time, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. Depression and anxiety came in waves. I developed this overwhelming fear that I was going to lose my husband or my son. It consumed me for a couple of weeks. It also took over 5 weeks for my HCG levels to go back to zero. I have never in my life wanted a negative pregnancy test so badly. Seeing it positive triggered so much pain. I just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to feel like me again.
There were times where I negated my grief because I know so many women go through even worse situations than I have. I almost felt bad for my own feelings. Pushing the emotions downs only made everything harder. Once I started acknowledging the feelings is when I started to flow with a little more ease. The downs were still there but the ups were coming back more and more. I am grateful that this happened earlier in the pregnancy than later, mainly for the baby girl’s sake. But, what I know is a loss hurts no matter the situation. The loss takes time to process and whatever feelings that come up need to be honored. These feelings are valid and it’s OK to not be OK.
I am still in the thick of it and could cry at the drop of a hat thinking about what could have been, I have no idea what the future holds and as of right now, that’s OK. I hurt for the baby girl who didn’t make it very far. I can tell you that I am even more grateful for my toddler who gives me reason to get out of bed every day. He brings smiles to my face when I need it and he fills in any “waiting” time. I have had people immediately tell me how grateful I should be of my living child when they find out of my losses, I know they mean well, and they are not sure how to make it better so this seems like the best way to put in perspective. But as someone who has had four miscarriages, I know exactly how grateful and a privilege it is to have a healthy, living child.
If you are someone trying to support a mother going through a miscarriage…
- Understand that everyone grieves differently. Let go of your own expectations of their grief.
- Lend your ear. Listening without judgement, allowing the mother to give you all of her feelings without unsolicited advice. Sometimes a listening ear is all someone needs to feel a little better. And, on the other hand, accepting if she doesn’t feel like talking about it either.
- Check in on her often. Day to day can look and feel conversely different.
- Offer plans you know makes her light up and puts a smile on her face but accept if she declines your offer.
- Ask her how you can help. Be Supportive. There isn’t a lot anyone can do for someone going through this heavy time, but asking opens up the communication making her feel safe to come to you.
If you are a mother going through a miscarriage/miscarriages
- I am so sorry for your loss. No matter what situation your loss is, it is a loss.
- Lean on your significant other, family, and/or friends. This is too heavy to bare alone. I understand the feeling of not wanting to watch other’s hurt too but this is a lot to take on alone. Allow others to help with the grief.
- Your feelings are real and they matter. Your feelings are valid.
- Allow yourself some time, grace and give yourself some love. This road isn’t easy so if you need rest, take it. If you feel like you need more support than just friends and family, do not hesitate to talk to a professional.
- Be ok with taking a step back. I had to take time away from my business because it was triggering working on perinatal projects and with perinatal clients. I knew it couldn’t bring my best energy.
- Do things that you know lights you up or puts a smile on your face, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes that little thing can be just what you need to have a better day, especially in those times you are waiting.
- Gratitude lists can be a good tool to help you gravitate toward the positives. I like to think of 3 things every morning that I am grateful for. It helps get me out of bed when that doesn’t seem like it can happen.
- Stay close to your spirituality and hold on to your faith. Anxiety and worry can mask our faith. Some things don’t have a logical reasoning and in that we have to trust in divine timing.
My story isn’t over and despite the ups and downs of the life in between recurrent spontaneous miscarriages. I still have hope despite all of the loss. With all of the pain and struggle that has been endured in this process the emotional and spiritual growth I have gained is immeasurable. I have learned that logic isn’t always comforting and sometimes you have to let logic go to let faith in. I have been through hard things and I know I can conquer hard things. This is an affirmation I often remind myself. I know I will make it to the other side of this rainbow. As painful as it is to relive this all over again, I know that if this post helps just one woman not feel so alone in this journey, it will all be worth it.