December 2003 was a magical time for me. I was young, newly married and very happy. Plus, for the first time ever I peed on a stick and it turned blue! That year my husband and I gave our parents baby shoes for Christmas and that’s how we let them know we were expecting. It was bliss.
A few weeks later the hubs and I went on a winter getaway. We had massages, snow shoed and even went for a snowmobile ride, it was lovely. The next morning I woke up feeling great, for the first time in weeks I didn’t have a trace of morning sickness!
I was only eight weeks pregnant but I assumed I was over the first-trimester hump and I was thrilled to stop taking my morning sickness medicine. One of my co-workers was pregnant too, she was due a few weeks before me. But while her waist started to thicken noticeably, mine stayed the same. She noticed but I just brushed her comment aside, assuming super genetics were at play and that it was because this was my first pregnancy. I was wrong.
One Friday afternoon at work, I went to the washroom and some found grey discharge in my underwear. My heart stopped for a second. Then panic coursed through my veins as it suddenly started again with such ferocity that I felt like my blood would surely burst out of my body.
When I returned to my desk I googled “greyish discharge + pregnancy” and my worst fears were confirmed. But how could that happen to me? Miscarriage was not on my radar — I hadn’t had coffee once! I hadn’t had any alcohol. I’d followed every rule What to Expect When You’re Expecting had thrown at me!
I rushed to my doctor in a panic and she checked for a heartbeat. Since I was only 14-weeks pregnant she said she wasn’t too concerned that she couldn’t hear a heartbeat. She sent me to the ultrasound clinic down the road; a poor underfunded joint that only had curtains separating one patient from the next. I walked through the maze of blue hanging sheets in a daze. This couldn’t be happening, I thought. There must be some mistake.
I lay down on the ultrasound table with only a paper sheet covering me from the waist down and I stared up at the ceiling quietly as a stern Russian woman barked orders at me. She searched my belly first, saying nothing but the occasional “harumph”. Then she used her gigantic ultrasound wand to probe my nether regions.
And then she left.
I lay there, terrified, for what felt like an hour — that damn condom-covered probe still inside me. When she finally returned she was accompanied by a doctor. When the doctor saw me lying there, terrified and partially naked, she glared at the technician and murmured, “I think we can let you get dressed.”
I knew it then. I’d been holding my breath for the past two hours waiting to hear a definitive answer about what was going on. But that was when I knew my baby was dead.
When the doctor told me I broke down in tears, my sobs echoing through the curtained ultra-sound clinic so everyone could hear my pain.
My baby had no heartbeat. Apparently it had died six weeks earlier but my body had been holding on, refusing to let it go. The doctor sent me home, telling me nature would likely take its course over the weekend but if not she’d schedule a D and C for sometime the following week.
Somehow I made it home. Somehow I told my husband… but I have no idea when or how. It’s a blur. I remember lying in bed with him that night, both of us crying our hearts out about the baby we’d never get to meet. And when I finally counted backwards to our weekend getaway I became obsessed with that snowmobile ride. Was that what killed our baby? It was all my fault!
I carried on through the weekend like a zombie. Every step took effort. My eyes leaked tears constantly. And there was nothing to do but wait.
Finally on Sunday afternoon I started experiencing intense pain while standing in line at the grocery store. By the time I got home I was gushing fluid and running to the washroom every few minutes. My mom and dad came (because they are awesome like that) armed with heating pads, Advil and hot water bottles. Finally the last contraction came and emptied my baby out of me. I saw it there, in the toilet. And I didn’t know what to do. I knelt down and held him in my hand, keening for a life that would never be.
My mom and the hubs came in and saw me holding it. My mom baptized him for us, probably because we all felt helpless and sending our baby off to God felt much better than just flushing it and moving on with the day. And then we sat there together for an eternity, huddled on the cold, hard bathroom floor as we said goodbye.
That was Valentine’s Day 2003.
Luckily, within a few months I was pregnant again, and over time the sharp stabbing pain of grief ebbed into a slow, sad ache. Unfortunately I spent my entire pregnancy on edge, anxious and panicked — freaking out over heartbeats and convinced I would “kill” another baby. I blamed myself of course, most women do.
Every time I fill out a health form at the doctor’s office I’m reminded that I’ve been pregnant four times but I’ve only had three babies. But even though I wonder what he would have been like and why he was taken away from me so early, I know that without that terrible loss I might have taken a healthy pregnancy for granted. I know now, without a doubt, how fragile life is and how very lucky I am to have three healthy children.
To this day I don’t care much for Valentine’s day. To me it’s just a reminder of the day my heart broke completely — the day I lost my youthful invincibility and found that I am only human and bad things will happen to me in this life. Ten years later, even after losing my dear Grandma, my miscarriage is still the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
October is Pregnancy and Infant awareness month. On October 15, parents from the United States, Canada and the UK took a few moments to remember the babies they didn’t get to meet or hold long enough. Did you know that more than 15 percent of pregnancies in the US (and probably Canada too) end in miscarriage or stillbirth? I didn’t.