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My loss story
I had my first baby (girl) at 34 years old. After breastfeeding for 7 months I weaned in order to start ovulating again. It was during this time that Rabia came to me about the Jenna bra. Rabia has been my best friend ever since high school and was the maid of honor at my wedding. I was thrilled to be a part of something so meaningful. Rabia had me try on her first prototype and took photos from different angles to see where improvements could be made. I remember laughing that she didn’t have a bra small enough for my sad post-nursing breasts. How I longed for the fullness when pregnant and nursing!
After 5 months of trying (using LH strips) I got pregnant but then miscarried at only 6 weeks - a “chemical pregnancy.” I dislike that term - like it wasn’t ever a real baby so I shouldn’t be devastated and feel like the new future I had envisioned hadn’t just been ripped away from me. Somehow I got pregnant again my next cycle and I was terrified my baby wouldn’t make it. But I gave birth to another girl at 36 years old. Again, time was not on my side and my husband and I really wanted one more child to feel our family was complete. After nursing for 7 months I weaned so I could start ovulating again.
I got pregnant quickly and felt so blessed. I had NIPT (prenatal cell-free DNA screening; ie harmony) at 10 weeks and when I went in for results, turns out they had ordered the wrong tests. So again at 12 weeks I had NIPT and at 14 weeks the results were negative for trisomies, and we found out we were having a third girl! I was thrilled and loved the idea of three girls and them being close in age. The due date was only a day off from my first daughter’s birthday - so I already had clothes in the right season! Yay! We had contractors give us quotes for turning our bonus room into a bedroom. I mean, you know how quickly we start making plans in our heads when we get pregnant. My next doctor visit was scheduled at 18 weeks.
At 15 weeks I first felt some movement. So exciting! Then a few days later my sister’s teenager unexpectedly passed away, so at 16 weeks we traveled for the funeral services. About a week later my mom asked how the baby was doing and I said, “Good.” But then I thought about it and realized the last time I had felt the baby move was at the funeral, a week ago. So that Saturday night I tried to find the heartbeat on my at-home Doppler. I tried for 30 minutes and couldn’t find it. The last time I had tried was when I was 12 weeks and I found it within a few minutes. This really freaked me out since it should be a lot easier now that the baby was bigger. I tried again Sunday night with the Doppler but no luck. I work part-time and had work Mon-Wed and my 18-week appt was already scheduled for Thursday. I forced myself to wait a day to check and tried again Tuesday night - nothing. I was driving my husband crazy. He thought I was being paranoid and said I had no idea how to use a Doppler and he wanted to take it away from me. I was hoping I was just paranoid. But where was my baby’s heartbeat??? Why couldn’t I find it at almost 18 weeks?? I’m a slim girl and found it almost 6 weeks ago!! And why haven’t I felt her move again? How could I be wrong?? The panic would set in, and then I would try to calm myself and hope for the best, telling myself that I must not have felt the baby move in the first place, and that sometimes even techs have a hard time with Dopplers.
Finally it was Thursday morning. I was so anxious and freaking out. I didn’t put on mascara because I was losing it already. I just wanted to hear that heartbeat so badly. As soon as the doctor came in she asked something, I don’t even remember, and I just started crying that I hadn’t felt my baby move in almost 2 weeks and I couldn’t find the heartbeat with a Doppler. So she just said, “Ok, want to just start with the ultrasound?” I said yes between tears and she laid me right down. She had the wand on me for maybe 10 seconds or so and then asked if I wanted to look. I turned my head to the right and she pointed to the screen and said, “This is the heart, and we should see movement here, but I don’t see anything. I’m so sorry.” I lost it. I couldn’t believe it was really true. It felt like a nightmare. How could this be??? I managed to ask her when, and she guessed at 16 weeks based on the femur length. I was so horrified and shocked and I had wanted to be wrong so badly. I remember having to text my husband while he was at work. I didn’t even know how to word it. This couldn’t be happening. The doctor said how rare this was to happen in the 2nd trimester when I already had genetic testing done and it had all come back normal.
My doctor told me I had two options: be induced and go into labor to deliver her, or D&E. I knew I didn’t want to go into labor to deliver my dead baby girl. That just sounded so awful. To go through all of that for a dead baby to come out. I felt sick. A D&E sounded awful too, but less awful. She told me she didn’t do D&Es this late in the pregnancy, but there was a cash-only place and then some places that would probably take my insurance. She said she would call me during her lunch break to give me the info. And that was it. I left with nothing.
I remember walking out of that office straight to my car and once I got in, just sobbing. I cried so hard and loud and felt like my heart was breaking. Everything had been so perfect and now my world was falling apart. Everyone around me was going about their lives like everything was normal, but mine would never be normal again. I cried most of the drive home and when I got in, my 11-month old was napping and my 2.5-year old was with my mother-in-law in the kitchen. I picked up my daughter and just held her tight. I remember my mother in law turning to look at me and she saw my face and I started sobbing again while I hugged her.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. I usually would be with my kids but asked my mother in law (whom lives with us) if I could lay down for a while. I hadn’t been getting much sleep the last few nights and was so exhausted physically and emotionally. Of course I didn’t sleep at all. I was just lost in my thoughts.
When my doctor finally called around 1:30 she just gave me the name and number of the cash place and then another OB that she thought did 2nd trimester D&Es. She gave me the wrong number so I had to do a google search. Every time I called the OB office I was sent to their call center whom couldn’t help - they guessed the office had turned their phones off for lunch. So in the meantime I called my insurance and they gave me the surgical procedure code that would be covered, but a pre-auth was required and that could take days to weeks. Weeks??? You want me to walk around for weeks with my dead baby girl inside of me??? I finally called the cash place and they said they could get me in Saturday morning (in 2 days). I made the appt. She said they would do an ultrasound to date the baby first. Since I’ve had prior vaginal deliveries I should be able to have the procedure done in one day; if I’m dated closer to 18 weeks it may be a 2-day procedure. She said to fast 4hr prior and I sent my records over so they had my blood type.
Then I called the other OB office again and they finally picked up. Between sobs, I told her my story. She said they couldn’t schedule me until Tuesday for a consult. I asked about how much the procedure would run and she didn’t know. I gave her the billing code and she still said they couldn’t do that and she didn’t know what the surgery would cost or what the consult would cost. I went ahead and made an appt just in case since I wanted to talk to my husband about it. But I couldn’t imagine having to wait that long just for a consult and then to wait for insurance approval and then for a surgical opening.
What an awful, horrific day. After the girls were in bed that night my husband and I talked about it more and cried together. We both felt the D&E was definitely better than L&D, and felt it was better to just pay cash to get it done sooner than to have to wait around for insurance. Just another failure of our health care system when it comes to miscarriages.
We had wanted this baby girl so badly. It was all so perfect. I had gotten pregnant so quickly and I was so excited for the girls to be so close in age. And for my oldest and the new baby’s birthdays to be so close. And for me to make it until week 18 only to find out there was no heartbeat? How? We already did genetic testing and our baby girl was fine. How could she just die inside of me? I know it wasn’t my fault, but I still wondered about maybe the flight I took or the seatbelt my husband and I had to share that was really tight since the rental car at the funeral didn’t have functioning seatbelts so we had to belt one across the both of us. Did I eat something wrong and the baby got sick while I was just fine? Did I get bumped in my belly too hard by the kiddos?
We are all ready to start construction on that bonus room. Now will I always see it as the room my baby was supposed to have and it will just be empty? Will it be an awful reminder of what happened? Will my oldest’s birthday always be a reminder of the other girl whose birthday I was supposed to be celebrating too? What would she have been like? I’m so sad I never got the chance to meet her and get to know her. I don’t want another baby. I wanted her. I want my baby girl back. She would have completed our family. I was so happy to be a mom of 3 little girls. I just wish I could go back in time and somehow fix it. If there was something wrong congenitally, I almost wish it had happened very early on before I knew she was a girl and before I had ever felt her move and before I made all these plans and had all these thoughts... but who am I kidding. Even with my very early miscarriage at 5.5 weeks, it was awful and I’d already had all these plans and expectations and visions that were dashed. Just why? Why?
I mean, I know I’m lucky that I already have 2 kids, and I am super grateful. But that doesn’t make any of this ok to lose a baby. I am almost 38. Time is not on my side. I am so terrified now. Of everything. Will I ever get pregnant again? I can’t imagine it, and I would be terrified every day that a miscarriage was going to happen and my baby wouldn’t make it. I feel like the odds are against me. I’m at high risk. The stress of going through all of this again seems too much to bear. Or what if I get past the 20-week mark and then have a stillbirth? That would be even more devastating and I feel I would just die. Just trying to get pregnant is so stressful. I just can’t bear it. I can’t bear the thought of going through all of this again. But I still want 3 kids, I do. Just how will I get through this? My husband and I had already decided if we didn’t have our third by 40 then we’re done. But then we got pregnant so fast, I was going to be 37 still when I delivered! But not anymore. Not anymore. I have no control over my body’s fertility and if it releases a good egg, if a sperm finds it, how that cell divides, and how the baby develops. It is all out of my hands and I hate how little control I have over all of it. There is nothing I can do to not go through this again.
If we get pregnant, will it be a girl? How will that make me feel? What if it’s a boy? Will I always wish it was a girl because that’s what I was supposed to have? Dear god, what if I got pregnant with twins? I feel they wouldn’t make it and I just can’t go through this again. I can’t take it. But here I am thinking that I’ll get pregnant again, but then there’s the reality and real fear that I never will. Maybe we’re not meant to have 3 kids? We were going to be looking into minivans. Not anymore.
I texted my immediate family that night about what happened. I said I didn’t want to talk about it because I knew someone would say something insensitive that would make things worse. And what could you possibly say to me anyway? All I wanted was my baby back. If you couldn’t do that, there was nothing you could do for me, nothing you could say to me, to make this hurt go away. I was so broken, and I didn’t want anyone to try to put me back together.
Unfortunately one of my family members did make things worse. They named my dead baby. I’ve never named my babies until they were born. I’ve had names I’m planning on using, but I don’t call my baby by that name until they are born. They named her and it was awful. They single-handedly made it so I couldn’t ever use the name Olivia again. They knew we were thinking of the name Olivia, but I never called my baby Olivia. She was my baby girl, my sweet pea, my little one. It made me so upset. How did they find a way to make things worse? It was awful. I deleted the text, but I couldn’t un-see it. Why did they have to write that? Why? It just felt so inappropriate and disturbing that they gave a name to my dead baby girl. And it made me angry that they took that name away from me. That they could so nonchalantly do something so personal. Looking back, I shouldn’t have let this act upset me so much. I was beyond fragile and exceedingly emotional and heartbroken.
Anyway, that first night was hard. So very hard. We just wanted to go back in time and for everything to be good again. It was just so devastating that this really had happened. That it was real. That my little baby girl was gone. Just gone. That perfect little baby girl. Yet her heart suddenly stopped and her spirit left her, and now she’s just a perfect little body with no more life in her. I’ll never know what she was going to be like or what her personality would be like or how she would get along with her big sisters or who she would grow up to be. I never got to hold her or hug her or kiss her or love up on her. She never got to know how much her momma loved her. I’m so so sad. I want her back. I want my baby girl back.
I’m so scared to try again. Will we ever get pregnant again? And I have such a sick feeling that something will go wrong again. Like as soon as I get my hopes up and let the fear go, another baby will be taken away from me. I’m so terrified of what the future will hold.
The next morning I cancelled my Tuesday consult and confirmed the cash clinic got my records. The girls distracted us most of the day. A friend asked how my appt had gone so I ended up updating my small group of close friends. My best friend Rabia talked to me that night and reassured me that the cash place I was going to was a professional doctor’s office (her sister was a physician and knew).
Saturday morning we got the girls ready as usual. My husband took a photo of me and the girls before we left them with Grandma and drove to the clinic. We didn’t talk about it, but it was understood that he took the picture in case I died in surgery. I cried a little in the car. I was sad and scared. When we arrived at 8:00 a.m. the address took us to a suite in a huge medical building right next to the hospital. We signed in and they gave me paperwork to fill out. It was so hard to sit next to all these other women/couples, most of whom were there to end their pregnancy. I just started crying as I was filling out the paperwork for how far along I was and any special concerns I had. I wrote how I had really wanted this baby and asked that he treat my baby girl and my body with respect.
I had made the mistake of looking on baby center about other people who had made the choice between a D&E and L&D. It seemed most chose L&D so they could hold their angel baby afterwards and take photos and have a funeral and get prints of their hands and feet, etc. And it made me feel a little, no a lot, guilty for not wanting that. Or did I want that? Would I need that for closure? Would I regret not having that memory? I don’t think I could handle it. Was I in denial? Was I a bad mom for not wanting to deliver and hold my dead baby? And then I was freaking out reading some about the D&E procedures where they don’t get the baby out in one piece. Then I kept envisioning this hack job and it made me want to throw up.
Back to Saturday morning... so after that was all done they collected $100 for the ultrasound. Soon they called me back and didn’t let my husband come with me. I was on the brink of losing it. I figured they just didn’t want someone unduly influencing me to have an abortion. I emotionally whispered to the lady, “But she’s already gone...” and she said, “No, he can’t come back.” They took my vitals and did an ultrasound. She moved her wand around for a few minutes and then brought me consent paperwork for the D&E and sedation. IV sedation was already checked off (oral sedation was an option listed as well). The abortion consent and sedation consent was sad and scary to read - how you may bleed out or need an emergent hysterectomy or die.
After that she put me in a consult room and called my husband back to join me. I was already crying. After a minute or so the doctor came in. He was very nice, professional, clear, and reassuring. He made me feel so much more at ease being somewhere I never imagined I would be. I did ask him to please be respectful and how badly we had wanted our baby girl. He told us about all his surgical experience and that we were in the best of hands. He went over what to expect and the next steps that morning. When he found out my profession, he gave me more details about the procedure. He said that I’d be given an abx (doxycycline) just in case, misoprostol to soften the cervix, and also ondansetron for nausea and vomiting. He said I may start bleeding and I may start having contractions or feel like I may be going into labor. If so, to come back sooner. Otherwise, just stay nearby and come back in 2 hours. He also let me know what medications they would use in the IV (versed and fentanyl) and I likely wouldn’t remember much or feel any pain
He said to wait to try and conceive until after I have had a normal period. If I conceived sooner I would be at a higher risk of a miscarriage. He said that the procedure does not decrease fertility in any way. I had also asked about how far along the ultrasound said I was, and he said 17+1 days. This made me a bit suspicious since they charge $150 more when you go from 16 to 17 weeks, so there is a large financial incentive to overestimate the size of the baby just so they can make more money (they charged me $1100). I also asked what they would do with my baby girl and he said that they treat it as tissue/pathology, and it gets incinerated by people that come and pick it up. The morgue cannot take them anymore and cremate since legally they cannot cremate without a death certificate. I understood from a medical perspective, but from a mother’s… there were no words.
We went out to the waiting area and soon they called me back. They had me swallow the abx with a little water, and then put the other two sublingual to dissolve. They gave me a pad in case I started bleeding but I didn’t put it on since I had already had put a pad on at home in case. Then I went back out to my husband and we left the little waiting room (it had maybe 10 chairs or so and was crowded) and stayed in the main lobby where there were a few chairs. No one was around since it was a Saturday. It was nice to have some peace. We talked some, cried some, laughed about our girls, and he updated his more extended family on the situation.
About 2 hours later I got an IV in place, and then they had me sit in a pre-op room with other women and wait. It would have been nice to wait with my husband. Several women came and went until I was the last one in there. 45 min or so after being put in the room, I was taken to another room where the doctor explained the surgery again, and then a few minutes later they brought me into the surgical room and laid me back on the table. I had silent tears as I said goodbye to my baby girl and told her that I loved her and was so sorry I had failed her. The nurse asked if I was scared and I said no, just sad. A few minutes later the doctor came in and told me to look up at the clouds on the light cover. I looked at it and then closed my eyes again, so sad that this was the end. I cried and talked to my baby girl (silently) and again told her how much I loved her and missed her and would never forget her. I kept thinking about her tiny little body. Her lifeless body being just taken away from me. It was just awful. Awful. My heart was just ripped all up and I felt like I would never be whole again.
Next thing I remember is being in post-op and being so tired and trying to text my husband but making no sense. I remember looking at my BP and thinking it was too low. I remember I could tell I was bleeding as I was just sitting there in the chair. After almost 30 minutes I came to enough to be discharged and my husband told me the procedure itself had only taken about 15 minutes. I was so empty. Physically and emotionally. The rest of the day I had minimal discomfort and kept busy with the kids, trying to keep my mind distracted. Several times when feeling sad I looked at the texts I tried to send my husband in post-op and it made me laugh. It was nice to have something that day that didn’t make me cry.
I wrote the previous paragraphs as it was all happening to me. How I got through all those days I don’t know. I was supposed to have just had my 18-week ultrasound and anatomy scan and be telling everyone at work. But instead Monday rolled around and I had to pretend nothing had happened. I was actually very grateful I hadn’t told anyone at work I was pregnant because I would have completely lost it having to tell everyone and see their faces. It was really hard to tell family and then the random friends that knew about the pregnancy that I had lost our little girl. It was like re-living it every time.
Looking back at this time in my life right after my 2nd trimester loss, I probably didn’t handle or “deal” with it very well. I became obsessed with finding other stories of loss that were similar to mine. I was all over baby center and all the loss boards. I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone. I didn’t want to just “move on.” My husband and I deal with loss and grief differently. I want to talk about it, even if I’m saying the same old thing over and over. My husband will listen to my heart’s content, but doesn’t contribute his thoughts or feelings. I felt like I just needed someone I could relate to in some way. Someone who was going through exactly what I was going through at the same time whom I could commiserate with. I was so sad during this time and in a dark place. I felt like random people around me were getting pregnant and it wasn’t fair. I almost wanted someone to experience a loss exactly like mine so they would know what I was going through. So someone could validate my pain. I don’t think my friends really knew what to say to me and wanted to give me time. But by no one really reaching out again after it all happened, it just made me feel more alone. My daughter died and no one cared. I felt like no one acknowledged her life, and that was painful. I know that no one wants to be around someone who is sad, so you just have to put on a brave face and act like you’re fine while you’re still grieving inside. So that is what I did.
Right after the D&E I had moderate to heavy bleeding over the next week but no pain or cramping. Then for the following two weeks, light bleeding/spotting every day. At 17 days post-op I checked my hCG levels with a HPT and it was a very very faint positive. At 21 days I checked hCG again and it was negative, so I was happy that my body was hopefully getting back to normal, but also so very sad. That ended up being the last day I bled until I started my first normal period 8 days later (30 days after D&E). The doc had told me I would be at a higher risk for miscarriage if I didn’t wait until after one normal period to try to conceive again. I knew I wanted one more child to add to our family and I was super anxious to try. I threw myself into cycle tracking and timing everything. I felt that getting pregnant again would also help me emotionally heal from the trauma. Somehow that it would make what happened to seem less random and that she didn’t die for nothing.
The first cycle we tried, my LH surge started day 15 (13 is my norm). The next cycle my LH surge started day 16. No luck again. The third cycle I started checking LH on day 14 and was surprised it was positive since I thought it was getting longer. When I checked my hCG 12 dpo, I saw a faint positive!! I was so so thrilled. I had told myself earlier that I didn’t even want to know the sex or due date if I ever got pregnant again. And yet 15 min after I saw that faint pink line I was already looking online to calculate my due date.
I wanted my 3rd baby so so badly. I was terrified of so many things. I was worried that no heartbeat would be found at my first visit at 7.5 weeks. I was worried that the NIPT would come back positive and my husband and I would have to make a decision to possibly TFMR and I’d have to go back to the same clinic and this time I’d be killing my baby like the rest of them, which I could not imagine possibly doing. I was worried that I would have another 2nd trimester loss. I worried that there would be a cord accident that would kill my baby. I couldn’t stop the worry and that worried me too since I knew stress wasn’t good for the baby. I prayed my 5th pregnancy would end with a living, breathing baby in my arms. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to handle another loss.
Long story short, I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband (and Rabia) that I was pregnant until after my 20-week anatomy scan. Once I had made it past the time my last baby girl died, it did relieve some of the stress. I ended up delivering a healthy baby girl exactly one year to the day after my D&E, and she is now 13 months old. At this point in time I can talk about my second trimester loss (“missed miscarriage”) without getting too overwhelmed with emotion. I feel like what helped me the most was simply the passage of time. I also wrote everything down that I was feeling and what was happening to me; somehow documenting everything, word vomit and all, made me feel better. Likewise, it helped to get out of bed and go to work and take care of my other kids. Staying busy physically and mentally helped keep me from the downward emotional spiral. Each day that went by I cried a little less, and one day I realized I hadn’t cried recently. The healing process was a bit of a gray area for me. I would oscillate from wanting to just shut it out, move on and forget, to always wanting to remember her and for her to know she is loved and never can be replaced. Having a healthy baby after losing her also helped tremendously with the pain. I know many women aren’t so lucky. I am so very grateful for the children that I do have and I wish that no woman ever had to know the pain of losing a child.