OUR MISCARRIAGE STORY
A couple weeks ago, I shared the complicated birth story of our son, which had been on my heart for several weeks. This story though, our miscarriage story, has been on my heart for over a year. I have wrestled with it, worried about coming out with it, but ultimately felt that I should share about the experience. And now, it's finally time.
Having a baby is not an easy thing. I think our culture has instilled this belief that trying to get pregnant is a simple and quick event. For some, this may be the case. But for the vast majority of friends and family in my experience, the pregnancy process is one that takes time: months, even years in some cases, and the path can be riddled with waiting, worry, doubt, and trials along the way.
Our situation was no different. It took months of planning, of deciding we were ready, coming off birth control and waiting, and then months of trying before we were actually pregnant. And then I was like everyone else - I had this preconceived notion that since I had a positive pregnancy test, in 9 months I would be holding our little bundle of joy. There was no trace of doubt, no concern in my mind.
I had morning sickness to start, but slowly, it started to dissipate. I didn't think too much of it; I was just glad to be feeling better. The morning of our first appointment came, after weeks of waiting from the initial positive pregnancy test. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and didn't know why, but I couldn't shake it. On the way to the doctor's office I asked Jonathan, "What if there's something wrong?" He couldn't believe I was even asking that... Why would there be anything wrong.
Our first appointment was at a new OB's office, and although I would love to air my experience all over the Internet of what a poor excuse for a medical practice this place was, I'll refrain. I will say that they did a horrendous job "caring" for me, and I feel like I still should be upset with my experience there, but instead, I will choose to be grateful. If I hadn't gone through my miscarriage at that office, I would never have found my current OB, who expertly and safely delivered our son this past February. She is a complete and utter blessing from God.
I guess I can say our miscarriage started with my sonogram. The RN wasn't even finished, when she gave us the news: there was a baby... but no heartbeat. I was in for my standard 8 week appointment and she said it looked like the baby had stopped growing at 6 weeks, 1 day. She diagnosed me with a missed miscarriage. Basically, my body hadn't figured out the fetus had died, and was carrying on like I was still pregnant.
Tears filled my eyes and I couldn't believe the news we were just given. In that moment, the gravity of our situation was crushing. She continued the sonogram, and managed to start telling me about my options while she finished up. She left the room, and I just looked at Jon. He shook his head and whispered to me, "How did you know?" Now looking back on that, I cannot think of anything other than a Mother's intuition. How could I have possibly known? Since then, I have trusted my gut feeling more often than not. I just wish that I had been wrong on that particular occasion.
1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
It's a staggering statistic. I'm not including it to insight panic, but to show that miscarriage is incredibly common. More common than we think, and more common than we would probably like to acknowledge. Of my four best friends who have all had children, I am the only one to have had a miscarriage, proving that even in my own circle of friends, the statistic rings true. To me, miscarriage is like this dirty little word that no one wants to mention; we don't want to think about it if it hasn't happened to us. But the truth of the matter is: it's real. It's something that will effect many, many mothers...a friend, a sister, an aunt, maybe even your own mother.
So where did this leave me? I left that office with the worst possible news. I was pregnant and carrying around a baby, but that baby had died. I couldn't help thinking that my body had failed me. It hadn't figured out what it needed to do. In the situation of a missed miscarriage, you really have two options: you can wait for nature to take its course, or you can use medical intervention to help that process along. There are pros and cons to both options really. Ultimately, it came down to choosing the best option for our family, and for my specific situation.
I could go into what those options were, how I chose, and what exactly it was like, but really, that's not important. Everyone's journey is different, and if you feel like you must know about the options, Google has all of those answers. I also don't think it's worth sharing my decision process here, in case you're reading this and in the midst of a miscarriage yourself hoping for a clear answer in a blog post. Believe me, I did A LOT of Googling after my news, (mainly because I wanted my diagnosis to be wrong, when it unfortunately wasn't) and I wanted clarity. I wanted desperately for someone to tell me what to do, and all I will say to that is: you need to make that decision on your own. No one situation is the same, and deep in your heart you have the answer, no matter how scary or difficult that may be to face.
In the end, I wanted to feel like I had control, a small sense of power over this absolutely uncontrollable situation, so I opted for an outpatient surgery, what is known as a D&C.
During all of this, we told no one. It was a deep, dark secret we carefully buried in our marriage. I'm sure it was hard for Jonathan, but it absolutely wrecked me and tore me apart from the inside out. It felt like there was now a small, baby-sized hole growing steadily larger in my heart. The grief was horrible, and something I felt no one could understand. I had never before struggled with depression, but I now know how hard and horrible that darkness is.
I felt like the loss of that child would swallow me up and send me down into a deep pit of despair. And if I'm honest, it did. It's hard to admit, especially in the midst of the situation, but I needed help. I reached out to a family counsellor who helped me immensely, and I would recommend to anyone going through a miscarriage to seek help in your own way. Healing on your own is incredibly difficult and in retrospect, I wished I had sought help sooner. I could go on and on, about how hard and difficult that experience was, and I by no means wish to take lightly what I went through. But I choose to believe there was purpose behind it all.
I had my D&C at Sharp Mary Birch, the same hospital that I could praise up and down for keeping me hospitalized for 43 days during my last pregnancy, the same hospital that delivered my son this past February, and that kept him safe in NICU for 5 weeks after he was born. But when I had my D&C there, I had a much different experience, one that was unfortunately, much less than stellar.
After my surgery, I came out of anesthesia and the first sound I heard was that of a crying baby. Not the best sound to wake up to when you've just had a surgery to remove your own deceased child. I didn't know it at the time, but Mary Birch was going through some remodeling, so unfortunately those mothers recovering from a D&C, were in the same room as the mothers recovering from a C-section. Not great planning on the hospital's part, but maybe it couldn't have been avoided. And when I was discharged, I was given paperwork about the procedure and about my specific physical recovery. However, I was given no paperwork on my mental recovery, when I desperately needed it.
Months went by before I felt strong enough to speak with a family friend about the situation. Cheri Kuptz, what a blessing she was, suggested a couple of things to me after listening to my story. First, she thought it would be good for me to write the hospital a letter - to explain my situation and that even if no one read it, at least it would bring me a little closure from the whole experience. So after a lot of prayer and speculation, I finally sat down, wrote a letter and sent it off to Mary Birch.
I was not expecting anything in return from that. So when my phone rang, and the head nurse from Mary Birch was on the other line wanting to speak with me about my letter, I was completely shocked. It's a total testament to the hospital that someone followed up with me. It just goes to show that they really care about the patient experience. The nurse took 45 minutes and walked me through each and every one of the points I had made, and was deeply moved that I had even bothered to write my experience down, much less send it their way. She explained to me that the recovery room was a temporary solve, and that she knew how hard and traumatic that must be for patients to wake up to that situation, and that they did already have plans to separate out those recovery rooms specifically for that purpose.
We also talked about the discharge policy for D&C patients. She said it was up to the patient's recovery nurse to determine whether or not that patient received paperwork regarding grief counseling and their mental recovery. I mentioned that not all people may show signs of their grief immediately upon waking from anesthesia. In my case specifically, the grief didn't hit me until a week or so later. Also if I'm honest, I'm probably a little too proud to let a stranger know when I'm having a hard time. She thought I made a good point, and said she would talk to her supervisor about issuing the brochures to every D&C patient. Again, I didn't think much of this. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a package in the mail a couple of weeks later, with a letter letting me know her supervisor had approved that request! She also sent over the papers and brochures these patients would all be receiving so I could see them myself.
After months of depression and grief, I finally felt like there was a silver lining from this whole experience. If my miscarriage was able to help just one mother like me who was suffering the same fate, then I felt like there was purpose behind my situation. I'll never know why that baby didn't survive. But I choose to believe that God had a plan, and as corny as it may sound, maybe the loss of my child was for the sole purpose of helping other women to not experience the soul-crushing grief in the same way I did. At least, that is what I will hope for.
Cheri Kuptz also recommended I design something around my miscarriage experience. Since I have an artistic background, she thought the process of using my creativity to heal and process my grief would be a good way to move forward. I dragged my feet, wasted time, and ultimately tried to put off what I was being called to create. We came up with an idea for greeting cards, to gift to those specifically struggling with miscarriage.
While I was going through my own personal ups and downs, I purchased a book: "Love Letters to Miscarried Moms: Written in the Midst of My Grief So That You Won't Be Alone in Yours" by Samantha Evans. This book was SO impactful during my struggle, and through its pages was a woman who had experienced exactly what I had - the crushing loss of a child. I cried and sobbed through the pages of this book, but it was so cathartic. It let me confront my grief and understand it (and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with miscarriage or knows someone who is).
In the book she coins the phrase "Miscarried Mom". I love that. I think it's important to note that as soon as you're pregnant, and I would even argue probably at the moment you decide you want to have children, you become a mom. Having a miscarriage or not having a physical child in front of you, doesn't make you any less of a mother. And don't let anyone make you think otherwise! We need to get rid of the notion that you have to have children to be a mother. There are so many of us, hoping, willing, praying, and wishing for a child, and I think that in and of itself defines the essence of motherhood.
From this idea has come my first line of greeting cards:
These cards came to life because of an initial prodding from Cheri, but I'd like to think she was in turn inspired by the good Lord himself. After much prayer, design, and procrastination, they are finally here! I'd like to think they are one-of-a-kind, as I haven't seen anything like them, and I am just so proud to finally be sharing these with the world.
"God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling"
The "It Will Happen" Card
This was the first card I designed. I can't tell you how many people said these exact words to me when I finally came out with the news that I had suffered a miscarriage. People: we need to stop saying things like this. For the Miscarried Mom or for someone who is struggling to get pregnant, thoughtless comments like this add to the already insurmountable pressure she may feel to have a baby.
The "Life Takes Your Lemons" Card
This card holds a special place in my heart. I felt like there wasn't much I could do after my miscarriage, other than focus on the fact that I was no longer pregnant. It's not going to solve your problems, but sometimes in the midst of your grief, a stiff drink can help you feel just a little bit better! Give this card to someone when you want to grab a drink, to help them take their mind off of their incredibly tough situation.
The "Hope Has Two Daughters" Card
This card came from my own personal struggle after my miscarriage. I was angry. Angry that my body had failed me, angry that I lost our baby, and angry at the fact that I had been pregnant and then helplessly watched as that privilege was taken away from me. It took me a long time to accept those feelings and to be okay with what happened. And once I did, I began to have courage that we could try again, and that maybe there would be a baby on the other side of my despair. Both my anger and courage slowly gave way to hope, which I had definitely lost after my miscarriage. Finding it again was tough, and this card speaks directly to that journey.
The "I Know" Card
(The OG Miscarried Mom Card)
After a miscarriage, you are unfortunately inducted into the worst club of all time. And if I'm honest, I was initially ashamed to be a part of the Miscarried Mom club. It took other family and friends coming forward and admitting to me that they were also Miscarried Moms to realize just how common it was. And my outlook slowly changed: the women who were in this club with me were strong, brave, courageous warriors that faced their miscarriage and came out on the other side stronger for it. I found myself proud to stand beside these women. As one friend told me, "God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors." Give this card when you want your Miscarried Mom to know you are one too, so that she doesn't have to face her grief alone.
The "You Matter" Card
I struggled feeling like myself after the loss of our child. I felt like less of a woman, empty, and broken. It took me a long time to realize that my miscarriage didn't define me. I came across this quote, and felt it matched my story in such a profound way. This card is for the woman struggling with infertility, pregnancy-related issues, and miscarriage. Let her know she valuable, whole, and cared for.
The "Answers to Prayer" Card
Over the course of my own journey to baby, I lost count of the amount of times I prayed for a child. And looking back, I now realize God answered every single one of those prayers, I just didn't know it. "Please Lord, let me get pregnant" - not yet. "Lord, why did you take this child from me?" - I have something better in mind. "Please God, grant me the immeasurable blessing of a baby." - and finally, Yes. It's so hard to see His plan when you are living inside your struggle and specifically during the grueling wait for a baby. Give this card when someone needs to be reminded of His greater plan.
I am so in love with these cards. But there is more piece of this that I want to mention:
A portion of the sale of each card will be donated to the non-profit Miracle Babies.
Miracle Babies is a charity that strives to provide financial assistance to families with critically-ill newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); and to enhance the well-being of women, children and their families through education, prevention and medical care. The Miracle Babies group was so impactful to us during our stay in the NICU at Mary Birch. Not only did this non-profit help to support us emotionally and financially while Sebastian fought to come home, but their founder, Dr. Sean Daneshmand, was the physician who diagnosed me with vasa previa...and all the other millions of conditions I had while pregnant... seriously, just go read our birth story. We want to give back to them in any way we can, and donating a portion of the sales of these cards seems like the least we can do. That donation will go straight to families just like us, who have babies in NICU fighting to come home.
So there they are, the Miscarried Mom collection of our Noble Greetings. And now time for ALL THE FEELINGS. Terror, joy, love, excitement... A leap of faith: for finally coming out with our miscarriage story, for finally designing these cards and feeling like I'm literally putting a piece of my heart out on the Internet. These cards are so personal to me, to my own story and journey, and even though that's the case, I'm finding I didn't create them for that. I created them because I know the Miscarried Mom's heart, inside and out. I know how hard and debilitating that time in your life can be, and how all we want to do is sweep it under the rug, ignore it, not talk about it, and run away.
And I'm here to say, I think that needs to change. I think it's worth wearing our heart on our sleeve for once. It's worth letting our community, our family, and our friends surround us during our time of struggle. And maybe these are just greeting cards, just pieces of paper, but I'm hoping and praying they will be more than that. I hope they can comfort and console the woman with a Mother's heart, at any point during her journey to baby. I pray that even though we lost our first child to miscarriage, that that baby's life can be glorified by helping to lift up those walking the same exact journey.
Feel free to share these cards with people you know, share your own story by dropping me a line here, or leaving a comment. My promise is that I will personally read each one of them. And last but not least, if you're in the midst of your own miscarriage or infertility story, deep in the trenches of your own personal journey to baby, I'll leave you with this:
Don't worry. God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers, and never silent to your pain. "Be patient. He isn't finished with you yet." - Philippians 1.6