I never thought that I would have to face the loss of a baby; a miscarriage. You have friends and family go through the loss, but never think it will be you. You hear their stories and don’t know what to say as they grieve and share their heartbreak. You sit awkwardly quiet, hoping they won’t look to you for answers; you search for the right words to say, but nothing seems enough. You remember those moments they told the world the news of their joyful surprise, “we’re expecting”. They posted clever pictures on Facebook to introduce the news to the world, made cakes with hidden color inside, popped balloons with blue or pink confetti, and put stickers on their belly to make the wonderful announcement. Now, all the sudden, out of nowhere, the unexpected… you are told the life that was growing inside of you is not to come to be. This is my story…
My husband and I had been going back and forth about having another baby for years. We have three beautiful daughters, but there was always that question, do we try for four? My husband really wanted a boy, but I never wanted the gender to be the determining factor for us to have a fourth child. After numerous conversations, it always came down to we were not ready until both of us would be happy with no matter the outcome, whether a boy or a girl. The most important thing would be to have a healthy baby. Years would go by and this conversation would happen on and off so many times.
Then recently, another baby conversation came up again. We kept these conversations private, so our girls would not know. If anyone brought up another baby in the presence of our girls, they would keep asking for a baby. Ha. My husband said that our girls are the most special thing to him. He loved them so much. If God had entrusted him with baby girls, and that’s all he was ever given, it was because God knew he was the right daddy for the job. However, if he were to have a baby boy, that would be awesome, but he knew God knows best. He was seriously ready to start considering having another baby. Something was different this time in our conversation. There was a gentleness, a deep love for the gifts of his girls, and a realization that having a boy wasn’t status symbol for manliness.
It was only a couple weeks after this conversation that I received a text message at work from my husband on March 1st. It stated, “I’m ready to try for a baby.” I sent him an emoji with eyes wide open. He responded, “I’m not sure what that means”, I text back, “Not sure either.” The rest of the day at work, that was all I could think about. This decision would be life changing. Our girls are now 13, 11, and 8, and this would change our family dynamics all the way.
My mind was swirling with thoughts, questions, and doubts… I am now 38 years old, how is my body going to respond? Am I going to have extreme morning sickness again like I did with all my girls? I don’t know if I can handle that! Am I too old? What if gain 100+ pounds? What if I am not healthy enough? Even though I know that I am at a place where I am probably the healthiest in my whole life. Who do I tell we are ready to try? Should I tell anyone? What if we can’t get pregnant? What if I miscarry like my mom? Am I going to be able to get back to the size I am now after I have a baby? Does that matter anyways?!? Will I get more varicose veins? This is scary. My last pregnancy I was so sick and was in the hospital because of early labor symptoms… These were the real thoughts going through my head, and yet I began to fill with excitement and anticipation as I thought about a baby.
When I got home from work that day, a package from Similac Baby Formula was in the mailbox and was all in blue; we felt like it was a sign. We had randomly gotten these packages over the last few years, and it always seemed to happen around the time we were discussing a baby. But, it had been several months since we had received one.
So, the preparing began! On March 6th, I ordered the best on the market prenatal vitamins from Amazon. The ones I had taken in my previous pregnancies made me sick, so I was hoping that by spending a bit more, I would feel good. We were also practicing the best techniques for sex to increase our chances of having a boy, and my husband had changed his diet. Ha. This was fun and we had a lot of laughs during sex. Apparently deeper was better, and my husband was not supposed to eat sweets, but load up on the meat and salty foods. These were all things he had been researching in the weeks prior to sending me a text.
On March 8th, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to have my IUD removed. The doctor said I was in great health. She said my age should not be a factor, and be prepared because we could possibly get pregnant right away. She gave me a list of great OB/GYN doctors, made sure I was going to start taking prenatal vitamins, answered any other questions I had, and sent me on my way with the best of luck. The day after my appointment, my prenatal vitamins arrived in the mail. They were fantastic, no nausea from the vitamins, and I felt energized.
That weekend, on March 10th, my husband and I were sitting on the couch chatting, and my youngest daughter handed me a picture she had drawn earlier that day. It was a picture of our whole family, but I was holding a baby boy. The name she had written above the baby was Jon. I asked her why she had drawn me with a baby. She stated because she really wanted me to have one. I smiled and took that picture to our room to treasure. She didn’t know we were going to try to have a baby; how could she, we were careful about our conversations.
I went into the bathroom to take a shower and my husband popped his head into the bathroom and stated he couldn’t believe what our daughter had drawn. I asked him to look up the meaning of the name Jon. He read it to me from our bedroom. It meant “Jehovah has been gracious; has shown favor; Yahweh has given; a gift”. As he read I began to laugh and then sob; it felt like another sign, confirmation that God knew the desires of our heart to have a baby.
I knew my period was like clockwork, so I was pretty sure when the best days would be to try to conceive; any time after March 19th. Well, you know how that works, so we went to work and were on a mission. April 3rd was supposed to be my next period, so it seemed like it took forever to come!
During this timeframe, we were also getting ready to take a family trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. We were excited about the possibility of finding out we were pregnant, and then being able to tell our girls the news on the trip. My husband was searching out clever ways in Pinterest to tell our girls if we were pregnant; e.g., write it on the bottom of a plate, fill the plate with food, and then when they get to the bottom they will see the message; or get the girls a gift and have it coming from baby Conway.
April 3 came and went, no period. Peed on a stick, no lines, not pregnant. Hmm… Maybe stress and that’s why my period was late, maybe the IUD removal threw off my period, maybe, maybe, maybe… April 5th came and went, no period. Peed on a stick, no lines, not pregnant. Hmmm… April 7th came, peed on a stick and we had the faint second line–WE WERE PREGNANT!!! Ahh… we were so excited!!! (I took about 3 more pregnancy tests just to confirm; all came back positive.) Looked up our due date, it was going to be about December 13th, 2017; a Christmas baby. It reminded me of the movie my youngest daughter had called, “The Christmas Monkey”, with Curious George. We were going to have a Christmas monkey. “Monkey” was an endearing word we often called our girls when they were little.
Now we needed to figure out how we were going to tell the girls. We came up with a great idea. Since it was close to Easter, we got big Easter eggs and filled a couple of them with a baby block and candy, and the others with a baby pacifier with candy. Each of the girls would get two eggs, and they would open only one at a time. Ahhhh… we were so excited as we packed the eggs; we couldn’t stop smiling. We were going to have a baby! We decided we wouldn’t tell them until we were on our way to South Carolina. So, we hid the Easter eggs in our suitcase. It was getting real!
We left on our trip to South Carolina on Tuesday, April 11. By this time, I was already 5 weeks pregnant according to the first day of your last period (March 7). The first night we were driving to Chicago and going to fly out the next morning. This trip was already going to be super exciting because none of our daughters had flown before or swam in the ocean. As this was going to be a trip of many firsts, we wanted to tell the girls about the baby prior to flying. That night after we checked in at the Sheraton hotel in Chicago, we sat the girls on the bed and let them know we wanted to give them their Easter surprise before going out to dinner. I pulled out the Easter eggs from our suitcase, some of them had opened a bit, so I had to take the bag to the bathroom to make sure they were closed. My husband was keeping them busy in the other room. We got this all on video and it was precious; there was laughter, tears of joy, and lots and lots of squealing. Please know, we have chosen not to share this video at this time because the loss is still tender for us.
After we told the girls, it was non-stop talk about the new life that was growing in my tummy. They wanted to come up with a nickname for the baby. We had already been calling it a Christmas monkey, and they knew the movie with Curious George, so they started calling the baby George.
The next morning, on April 12th, we flew out of Chicago to Myrtle Beach, SC. The girls loved their first flight. We settled into the hotel, got some lunch, and headed to Old Navy. We unveiled our great plan to the girls of how we were going to tell our family back home we were going to have a baby. At Old Navy, everyone got to pick out a pair of flip flops in one of their favorite colors. We purchased the smallest pair of orange flip flops we could find for our baby. Then, we took our flip flops and drove back to the beach to begin our project/photo shoot. It was so much fun digging in the sand with the girls to get the perfect shot. Perfect weather, perfect shot at about 2:30-3:30pm. We used a seashell to write the date in the sand. Our baby was coming in December 2017.
We determined we would send the photos to our immediate family that night, after we knew everyone should be home from their work day. So, about 8:30pm (EST), 7:30pm (CST), we sent out the above photo. It only took a few seconds for everyone to begin to respond. So funny!
Our family was so excited! We got phone calls and texts for the next few hours. Project baby and flip flops were a success! The rest of our trip in Myrtle Beach, SC was amazing. The weather was perfect, the food was fantastic, the beach was sunny and warm, runs/walks on the beach in the early morning were beautiful and peaceful. No one wanted to come home. This trip was everything we had imagined it would be for telling our exciting news of a baby and the adventure of first flights and experiencing the ocean. We especially loved the ice cream at Kirk’s.
When we got home from our trip on Thursday, April 20, I hit the ground running. I was involved in directing the SSM Health Glee Choir, and we had our second to last practice that night after a long trip back home; i.e., delayed flights and early morning drive back from Chicago. I was exhausted and being pregnant, I was finding I was ready for bed so much earlier than before. That night at practice, someone asked me if I was doing okay, they said I seemed a bit distracted. Little did they know I was pregnant, extremely exhausted, and no one in the room knew.
On Friday, April 21st, I made my first doctor’s appointment for my 10-week checkup. It was scheduled for Monday, May 15. My husband and I decided we were not going to make a public announcement about the baby until after my first appointment. But I wanted to make sure I let my manager know at work for taking off time for appointments and such. So that next week I told my manager on Tuesday, April 25th the good news. She was so excited for me and let me know if there was anything I needed to please let her know.
It was shortly after I spoke to my manager that day that I went to the bathroom and noticed I had some light pinkish discharge. I was trying to remember back to my previous pregnancies if I had spotted during pregnancy. I know I did with my youngest and I knew everything was okay. I still wanted to make sure so I did a quick google search for articles related to light pink discharge while 7 weeks pregnant. As I read article after article, they all said this was normal as the embryo is embedding deeper in the uterus, the uterus is becoming more vascular, and mild bleeding and spotting can happen. I was relieved. Okay, I can move on with my day.
The very next day I was up extra early to take my oldest daughter to the dentist. When I woke up I had a bit of brown blood in my panties. I knew this was probably okay because this was listed in all the articles I had read the day before. So, I put on a light day pad for the day in case it continued. About an hour later I was at the dentist and I went to the restroom. By that time, I had bright red blood and it had almost already filled the light day pad. I knew something wasn’t right. I called my husband to ask him what I should do. He said I needed to call the doctor right away. So, I tried calling the doctor at 7:16am but the OB/GYN office didn’t open until 8:00am. We finished at the dentist, dropped the girls off at school and headed into work. It seemed to take forever to get to 8:00am.
Finally, at 8:04am I got through to speak to a nurse. I told the nurse what was happening, and she said she was going to call the doctor on all and see if they wanted to do any testing. They told me what was normal bleeding while pregnant and then they told me what wasn’t normal during pregnancy. If you fill up a thick Maxi pad in 1-2 hours and can ring out the blood you need to come in right away; if you are having severe cramps you need to come in right away. I wasn’t having any cramps at this point. So, I hung up the phone still hopeful and anxious to hear back from the nurse. About an hour after I got off the phone I started having cramps and my bleeding had rapidly increased. I was changing my light day pad frequently.
Finally, I got a call back at 10:19am. They wanted me to come in and do lab work to test my HCG levels. By this point I was starting to pass clots. My heart was breaking. I text my family to let them know what was happening. They were so supportive and began to pray. I was sitting in my cube at work and no one knew what was going on. I hadn’t even had the opportunity to tell anyone our exciting news that we were having a baby and now I was facing the possibility of a miscarriage. I was trying to keep myself busy answering emails and phone calls. The cramps started getting more intense, and I never ever had cramps while being pregnant and/or having my period, so I knew something was wrong.
I left the office at about 11:00am to go to the clinic for lab work. The tech called me back. She asked me my name, date of birth, home address, etc. I answered all the questions. I told her I had smaller veins so a smaller needle works best. As soon as I said that I began to sob. I apologized I told her I was there because they are concerned I may be having a miscarriage. I wept. The tech came to me and hugged me. She let me cry and identified with me she stated she had gone through a similar experience. And it’s hard. She went to get me Kleenex and water and asked if there was anything else I needed and or if I needed a moment. I said I was fine and she took my blood work. She told me it would be a couple hours before the results were in. She made sure I was doing okay and then sent me on my way.
After the lab, I went back to work. Nothing was definite yet and I wanted to keep myself busy. I wouldn’t have the lab results for a couple hours. When I got back to work and sat at my desk, tears began to stream down my face as I thought of losing our baby; I couldn’t stop them. As a starred at the screen on my computer tears would just come. I was grateful that hardly anyone was in the office that day. The bleeding kept increasing throughout the day.
By about 1:30pm I received a call from the nurse, she stated my HCG levels were high, confirming I was in deed pregnant. That brought me hope; however, the signs and symptoms I was having were of a miscarriage, but they wouldn’t know for sure. They wanted me to come back for lab work in two days to test my hormone levels again. The nurse gave me again all the things to be watching for if bleeding increased and/or cramping. She also said if this was a miscarriage they are very common in women; i.e., 20% of women experience a miscarriage and 40% of women have them, but don’t know they have had a miscarriage. I felt numb listening to her on the phone, and did my best not to cry as she spoke. It seemed surreal.
I called my husband and text my family to give them the update. They were all praying and still hopeful that everything would be okay. Nothing was definite until the test on Friday, but I had that feeling and knew in my heart that I was having a miscarriage. I hadn’t lost all hope because I knew that I had experienced miracles throughout my life. Anything was possible, but the signs were telling a different story.
It was coming to the end of my work day, and I needed to go to the restroom one more time before leaving. Sitting on the toilet I wiped and had passed a very large gray bloody clot. I held it in the toilet paper and looked closely at it. It looked like the outline of a very small fetus. Maybe I was wrong, but I was for sure this had to be the baby. Tears streamed down my face. My mind was racing: What was I supposed to do? Do I flush it? This is possibly my baby! I can’t take it out of the bathroom in toilet paper. What do I do? Do I save it? Can I touch it? That’s my baby, I see the outline. This all happened in a blur and so fast. I touched it, tears poured down, and I put it in the toilet and flushed.
I quickly dried my eyes, left the bathroom, went back to my desk to grab my coat and purse and headed home. I called my husband to let him know what had just happened. He was so sad and so sad he wasn’t there with me. When I got home and walked in the door, he was there. He held me and we both cried. I didn’t know what to say. All I could feel was loss and sadness. The moments of telling our girls, the beach with the flip flops, the excitement and anticipation that had all been felt about having a baby were racing through my mind. Then another wave of tears would wash over me.
My best friend, who is also my sister-in-law (love), Naomi, had been texting me all throughout the day. She and her husband wanted to be there. They live an hour and a half up north. They said they were going to come down that night and make our family dinner. It didn’t matter about the drive. She told me “We won’t say a thing, we just want to be there… whatever you need…” She knew we had yet to tell our girls the sad news, and she wanted to be able to give us that time as a family. If they could make us dinner so we could all just be together, that’s what they wanted.
My husband and I knew we needed to tell the girls after they got home from school. When the girls all got home, we gathered them in the living room, sat down, and told them the sad news of we were pretty sure we had lost the baby. It was such a sad night for our whole family. We held each other and cried. The girls were so excited to have a baby coming, a new brother or sister, and this news was devastating. After several moments, my oldest daughter asked if I had passed the baby. I said I was pretty sure I had earlier that day. She wanted to know if I had saved it. I told her I didn’t know what to do and I had flushed it down the toilet. She raised her voice, “Mom, why did you do that? You should have brought our baby home!” Tears were in her eyes. I felt a rush of guilt and shame, but then I said “Mady, this has never happened to me, I didn’t know what to do. I’m so sorry. My heart hurts too.” We held each other and cried.
My brother and best friend arrived around 5:15pm. They came in with hugs and quietness. They had brought dinner with them to make for us. They embraced us and each of our girls and let them express their sadness. Nathan and I sat at the table. We talked a little and shared, but I don’t remember much of the night. I remember listening to conversations about houses and such, but I felt exhausted and numb. My day had been a rush of emotions and memories. All I could think about in the conversation was a baby. Had this really happened? A baby that was here, growing inside of me, was gone. My ears would tune back into the conversation at hand, but quickly go back to our baby. When they packed up and were heading out, they held our hands and prayed for us for hope, for peace, for rest. I felt like I had no more tears. I didn’t realize how exhausted I had become with the emotions of the day, and was so thankful they had come.
I got in the shower that night to refresh and wash away some of the sadness of the day. As I washed myself, clots were getting caught in the sponge. I began to cry… what if these were my baby? Waves of emotion ran through me again. There was nothing I could do to make it stop. My body was doing what it was supposed to do. I remember being a nursing student in college and the professor telling us that miscarriages were the body’s natural way of expelling an unhealthy fetus. Those words as a college student made sense to me. But now as a mother, standing in the shower with blood running down her legs, that statement did not prepare me for the emotions, the loss, the hurt I was feeling. I wept. I didn’t sleep very well that night.
The next day I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to work, I knew I didn’t have to, and I knew my manager would encourage me to stay home. But what was I going to do? Sit on the couch and wait? How would I keep my mind busy? There was still that part of me that was holding on to hope. I still had to go in for lab work on Friday, and it was only Thursday. My husband was encouraging me to stay home, but I didn’t want to. I told him if I wasn’t okay, I would come home. He said then he was going to come and take me to lunch to check in on me.
Thursday was a tough day. I kept myself busy with work, but the loss of the baby was always in the forefront of my mind. I helped our team schedule their training classes for the rest of the year, went from meeting to meeting, and held our final all call rehearsal directing the glee choir, no one knew the loss I was facing and processing through. I only told a couple of people that I worked closely with in the event I needed to step away for a moment and/or leave. A part of me wanted to stand on a desk in our large office space and say, “Hey attention please, I was pregnant, and we just lost our baby…” Not sure how that would have helped, but I think it was because everything and everyone around me kept moving forward, but I felt like my whole life was put on pause facing a loss.
I met my husband that day for lunch. We went over to Noodles & Co. down the road. As we sat across from each other, my husband’s eyes welled up with tears. He said this had been the toughest day so far. He saw the baby clothes we had already purchased in our excitement, laying on our dresser. He was thinking about the diapers and baby stuff we had just ordered a few days earlier through Amazon Subscribe and Pay, which we had set up as a reoccurring monthly delivery to prepare. He asked if we were supposed to return the clothes and cancel the deliveries. I had thought the same things when I had seen them earlier that morning, but did not want to think about it. We were not ready to make that decision. We sat through lunch mostly quiet, but our hearts hurt.
We gave each other the freedom to say, ask questions, cry, and process through the loss of our baby. I felt safe to open my hurt heart to him and others in my family. I had felt loss before, but not this deep; for me this was a big step to allow myself to feel all the feelings of grief. Growing up and throughout most of my adult life, I always wanted to be the tough one, the strong one. If someone did something to me and/or a demanding situation happened, I could handle it. I remember a moment as a kid playing with the neighborhood kids. I had run through our backyard and tripped and scrapped my leg open on a chain linked dog chain. I quickly got up, looked at my bleeding leg, gritted my teeth and pierced my lips together so hard to avoid the pain that was shooting through my leg. I could feel the tears in my eyes, but I pushed them back because I didn’t want my friends to see me as weak or wussy. I stuffed down the pain and ran on. I can still vividly remember that moment. This is how I handled hurt most of my life.
Over the last few years of my life however, I had been reading books and taking classes on boundaries, courage, vulnerability, authenticity, and living wholeheartedly. I learned a lot about myself and the way I process through the joys and losses in life. I wanted to live wholeheartedly; I didn’t want to go through life numbing the difficult situations because if you numb the bad, you also numb the good. I didn’t want to go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wanted to feel and experience the fullness of joy, the fullness of life, and that meant all of it–the pain too. So, I had come to a place of learning how to be vulnerable, opening up, and having courage to be real. Even allowing my best friend to come down and make us dinner on the day of our loss was something I never would have done 3 years ago. I didn’t realize how this would prepare me for exactly what I was going through with the loss of our baby.
When I got pregnant, I allowed myself to feel the anticipation, the excitement, the wonder and mystery of having a new baby in our family and in my arms. I allowed myself to dream of what that child may grow up to be and accomplish. I allowed myself to dream about the future and what Christmas would be like with my four grown up children and their families. I imagined what it would be like to have my three daughters and possibly a baby boy in our household; that would for sure change the dynamics! Ha. I wondered if this little life would like hunting, fishing, and puppies like daddy. I allowed myself to dream and experience the joy of a life that was growing inside of me.
Finally, Friday came and I needed to go to the lab to do more testing. We would know for sure after this test if I had indeed miscarried; even though all the signs and symptoms were positive. I only worked that morning until it was time to go to the lab at 11:30am. By 1:30pm I received the phone call to confirm the miscarriage. My hormone levels had dropped substantially. I hung up the phone, and my husband was there. He held me and allowed me to cry, right in the middle of Hobby Lobby. I allowed myself to feel the pain, the hurt, and process through it. I didn’t grit my teeth and hold back tears, but I gave myself the space and time to let go. We left Hobby Lobby holding each other’s hands tightly.
The remainder of the weekend we cherished our family time. We held our girls close and allowed them to cry, to ask questions, to laugh and then cry again. We didn’t want to rush anyone through the feelings of loss, but gave each other space to feel it all. There were unexpected moments you could not prepare for; a picture, a song, a memory that would bring a rush of emotion and remind you of what would have been. But each of those moments embraced brought a deeper level of healing.
It has been about a month now from the moment we found out we were having a miscarriage. I can honestly say our hearts are healing from the loss of our baby, but this life will never be forgotten. The birth date of our baby was Wednesday, April 26, 2017. We will celebrate this life that would have been, and look forward to the day when we will meet our baby in heaven.
My heart goes out to any mother who has lost a child through miscarriage; there are no words to be said that will make it better or ease the pain. As I went through my loss, I was astounded by the women in my life who walked through a similar story of loss, and the parts of their story that had never been told. I found hope, strength, courage, and healing from their stories, which is why I want to share mine. I started writing my story about a week after my miscarriage. I didn’t want to forget any moment of the joy that was shared when we announced our pregnancy, or the sorrow that was felt at the loss. I wanted our baby to be remembered.
I am so thankful for the friends and family that surrounded me and my family during this time. We will be forever grateful for their love, random text messages of encouragement, phone calls to check in, flowers, cards, and prayers. Thank you for your shoulders we cried on and the tears you cried with us. Life is to be cherished at every stage, and captured in our memories and hearts as sacred treasures from heaven.