I had a miscarriage.
I learned very quickly that those words make unsuspecting ears squirm. I found out immediately that the topic is taboo in our culture. It's not something that's talked about.
I was in a car accident. It was a beautiful morning July 2. I was barely a mile from my home on my way to my first appointment for my 6th pregnancy. My husband had just arrived at home after losing childcare at the last minute, so he had to leave work to come stay with our five children. This never happens. And I'm so thankful for the change in plans, or at least two of my children would have had a very bad outcome if they had been with me like they were supposed to be. I was sitting at a red light in my 6-month-old Suburban. I reached for my coffee. BANG. CRUNCH. SHATTER. Head rolling. Body twisting. And I braced for the second hit, as I was shoved into the Honda Civic in front of me. Airbags are dangerous for growing bellies.
It didn't go off. Relief. Then panic. My baby. Oh my gosh, my baby. I was early on in my pregnancy--so medical staff will do nothing to stop a loss this early. My baby! Okay--deep breaths. Where are my shoes? The impact was so hard that both of my shoes were knocked off my feet and up under the bottom of the instrument panel. My knee. Ouch. I lifted my skirt and looked. It's already bruised and swelling. I call 911. Sobbing. "I've been in an accident!" After telling my location, she asked if there were any injuries. I hadn't gotten out of my truck, but the lady my vehicle hit seemed to be fine (her car was very much totaled). I didn't much care about the one who hit me. I know that sounds horrible, especially since I'm trained and certified in first aid/CPR. But I was angry. And scared. And a little bit in shock. Can we just get this over with so I can go check on my baby?? I was hit by a Dodge Durango going full speed. He didn't even brake. He told me, "I don't know what happened--I just looked down to get my soda, and everyone was stopped." Yeah, okay, buddy. I didn't believe that to begin with, but certainly not after watching his incessant texting while the officer assessed the scene and did his thing. It doesn't take that long to look down to get your soda. My suburban was a total loss.
The officer offered an ambulance, but I insisted that I just wanted my husband. As soon as he got to me, the officer let me go, and we headed to the hospital. I don't remember much when they brought me back to Trauma. I remember being swarmed, and somehow they had me undressed before I knew what was happening, X-rays. Poking. Manipulating. Blood pressures. Oxygen readings. I don't even remember it all. I just remember finally mumbling, "I'm pregnant." "How far along?" asked someone in the room full of a million staff members. "7 weeks," I replied. The doctor bluntly said, "Oh, she's only 7 weeks," and waved someone off. He didn't seem concerned.
They got me into a room where more tests were done and more questions asked. Eventually they had ultrasound come and wheel me down to check on the baby. I remember laying outside the room before going in and telling my husband, "This isn't how I planned on seeing our baby for the first time." But as I said the words--they felt forced. Like deep down in my soul, I knew I wasn't going to like what I saw. Because I've had that feeling cross my spirit before. Enough that I had even Googled "blighted ovum symptoms" just 4 days earlier. What if there's not even a baby?
She chatted with us. Asked about our kids. She was very friendly. Then she started the scan. And immediately I saw it. "Where's my baby?! Why don't I see my baby?!" She was quiet for a moment and told me, "I don't know." Blighted ovum. I looked at my husband and started sobbing. My whole body seized as my world came crashing in on me in that moment. She became very quiet as she finished her scan and only said, "I'm so sorry." And I was wheeled back to my room. No one would discuss it with me. I brought it up to the doctor, and he was very quick to pass it off onto the on-call OB doctor that was consulted. "I lost my baby," I managed to squeak out. "Now, ma'am, don't go there. You don't know that," he abrasively said. This is my 6th baby. I'm a doula. Really? You don't think I know what an empty sac means? "Dr M will see you next week to check your hormone levels." And out he walked.
I left the hospital in a daze. I don't even remember anything after that. I do remember the physical pain of the accident making it very difficult to get back out to my husband's car, but I don't remember even making it out of the hospital. I came in expecting my 6th baby. I left with a pregnant belly that had nothing in it.
The next thing I remember was when the bleeding started that night. I would have eventually either miscarried on my own or with medical intervention, but the accident seemed to force that to hurry along. Everything hurt. I started bleeding Thursday night. Our daughter was the school princess for The National Cherry Festival, and we were at a required event for her Monday morning. As she excitedly participated in her cherry pie eating contest, waves of pain started coming. HARD. And FAST. Breathe. Okay, you know how to do this. Just like you tell your clients in labor--deep breath in, long slow breath out. By the time we got in the car, I was moaning. I was in labor, I had to drive my husband back to work and drive myself and all 5 kids home while in labor--as my body released the contents of my failed pregnancy. We got home and I had bled all over the drivers seat. I asked my older daughter to get everyone inside so I could get straight to the shower for pain relief. Once I got in, it was intense. Horrifically intense. This is WORSE than labor!!!!! I have never been vocal in labor, but I yelled through each of those contractions in the shower...my body was violently letting go. I wonder if it would have been different had it gone on its own, rather than being initiated by the accident. It was horrible.
And I thought it was over. And two days later, I passed a perfect placenta into my hand. Membranes still partially attached. Nice and strong. And I sobbed. What am I supposed to do with this? I can't flush it. I can't just throw it away. My baby stopped developing shortly after conception, as a blighted ovum is most commonly caused by genetic defects that the body recognizes as non-compatible. The body typically reabsorbs the "products of conception" at this early stage. So all I had of my pregnancy was this beautiful little placenta. Oh how my heart ached. My wonderful IPPA trainer, Amanda, offered to gift me a placenta keepsake to remember our baby by. For this, we are so thankful.
We are trying to recover and heal. As I deal with weekly appointments to deal with the physical damage done in the accident, I am also left to try to figure out how to put myself back together emotionally from the loss of the baby I so desperately wanted. And I want to talk about my baby. And I want to talk about my loss. Just because no one saw my baby, and my baby did not have a name, did not make that baby any less a part of our family. Our 22-month old son was already giving the baby kisses by kissing my belly. My older kids were thrilled and talking about all the the ways this baby will be incorporated into our lives. My husband and I had already discussed family names. This baby was already a part of our family.
But no one wants to talk about it. They want to hear all the details of the accident. Until they hear that we found out we lost our baby as well. Then they are often silent. But the worst is the ones who don't know what to say, but speak anyway. Things we've heard:
"It wasn't God's time." (The God I serve doesn't give you a baby and then say, "Nah....I changed my mind. Wrong time. I made a mistake.")
"Just be thankful for the 5 kids you have." (I was also thankful for our 6th)
"You know, the one time we lost a baby was the only time we couldn't afford a baby." (So God kills babies when parents can't afford them?)
"Oh, you weren't that far along, at least." (We loved that baby for a month...)
"[uncontrollable sobbing as I sit silently]" (I'm sorry--I'm supposed to console you?)
Most people? They change the subject. Why is this? 80% of women have experienced a miscarriage. Why does everyone act like it's a shameful thing to talk about? Women need to start talking about their losses. To lose a baby is not a shameful event. We should be standing with each other. Lifting each other up. Speaking of our experiences will eliminate this need to "keep things quiet." This is why we tell people at the very start of pregnancy. We don't wait until we clear the "danger zone" (usually they say around 12 weeks). Most women wait "in case they miscarry." Why? Why would I choose to hide my pregnancy so that I can grieve alone and not have my baby remembered? Just because it didn't have a name, doesn't mean it wasn't there.
So I'm talking. I had a miscarriage. And I'm not ashamed to say it out loud.