I have been pregnant during this time of year for the last three out of four years.
Brendan and I found out we were pregnant this very same week last year, and we were over the moon. It had taken just a month a month of trying. My first appointment at Columbia-Presbyterian was on March 29th. They dated me a little over seven weeks and saw a strong heartbeat. It was also my boss’s birthday that day so I ran to pick up a cake and also grabbed a BLT that I ravenously ate on the A train to work. I was so stoked to be pregnant and about all the food I would eat. In fact, I was going to make the bakery and deli where I picked up the cake a regular stop after every appointment. I knew Brendan would eventually come to an appointment and I was excited to bring him to my spot.
I am so thankful for the ultrasound picture I got that day.
Brendan and I were so excited that we told family and friends at Finn’s second birthday party—when I was around 10 weeks—that we were expecting. Surprisingly, some other friends revealed the same news and similar due dates. One friend shared my exact due date—November 14th.
Finn’s actual birthday was that following Monday, April 18th. I had noticed that my pregnancy symptoms had started to abate. I got a little nervous and played the Google game to see if I should be concerned. The consensus was “No.” Many women started to feel like they weren’t even pregnant towards the end of the first trimester.
That Thursday, I came back from a lunch break to the news that my favorite artist Prince had died and, while he was a celebrity I never knew in person, I was shocked and saddened. Then around 4:30 pm, my stomach started feeling weird. I left work around 4:50 to get Finn and while standing in the playground with him and the grandparent of his school friend, I felt a slight cramp. Something didn’t feel right. And then I had a frightening realization—my underwear felt wet, like I had started bleeding. Maybe I was having some odd breakthrough bleeding. I’d bled with Finn due to a hematoma. Maybe it was that.
I went home and got Finn set up for dinner and went to the bathroom. I was in fact bleeding, and it seemed to be getting worse. Because it was 6:30 pm by this point, I had to speak to an on-call doctor at Columbia. She was not helpful at all. She said to take it easy and rest and call my doctor in the morning.
I decided to take the next day off work so I could see if I could get in to a doctor’s appointment. I played phone tag with the doctors which aggravated me. When I was finally able to have a conversation with someone, they recommended I convert the appointment I already had for bloodwork that coming Tuesday to a “viability scan.” I ended up asking if there was any way, even at 1:30 pm in the afternoon on a Friday, they could see me that day. I couldn’t imagine waiting till Tuesday, when I would have to go to work after the appointment, to know if everything was OK. They actually said they could and got me in for 3 pm.
I called Brendan and my mom who were the only people besides my dear friend, Nicole, who was about to fly home from a vacation in Rome, from my personal life who knew what was going on. I took the M4 bus down to 165th Street. I took a book just in case the wait was long, but I couldn’t concentrate. I aimlessly refreshed email and Facebook. Thankfully, they called me in to the ultrasound area pretty quickly. The tech told me she wasn’t going to be able to talk to me about anything she saw on the scan and that a doctor would be in to talk to me about the results. I watched on the big screen as the tech performed the transvaginal. It took a minute but my baby appeared on the screen. I saw his little profile. He was still. And I visually couldn’t detect the heartbeat I’d been able to see just a few weeks earlier. The tech removed the probe and told me I could clean up and get dressed.
I sat back on the table and the curtain rustled indicating someone else was coming in. I don’t remember the doctor’s name. I think she asked me again how far along I should be. I’m not sure if it was a question she needed to ask because afterwards she said, without emotion, “There’s no heartbeat.” She said things after that, but I don’t remember them because at the moment she spoke that fact, my heart broke. Even though I knew this was possible, and very likely given the bleeding that had persisted for almost 24 hours, I was devastated. This doctor said my doctor would call in a little bit to talk about options.
I knew I needed to call Brendan but I couldn’t do it in public. I thought about hopping in a cab but decided to just take the M4 bus back up. Thankfully, the bus came quickly. More thankfully, I had sunglasses with me which I wore to hide the tears pooling in my eyes. I rushed inside my building and the tears spilled over before I was even at my apartment door. I sat on the couch and dialed Brendan and told them that our baby had died. He said he would leave work right away. I then called my mom next and she started crying. They were likely the two hardest calls I’ve ever made in my life. I messaged Nicole, almost asleep in Rome, on Facebook.
To spare the details, I wound up miscarrying naturally at home over the weekend. The immediate days and weeks that followed were some of the most emotionally painful I’ve experienced since my father died almost 20 years ago. It didn’t help that the anniversary of his death was just days away. April, while wonderful in that it is the month in which I was married and became a mother, now marked a month where I’d lost my father, my favorite musician and a baby.
I stayed in bed the Tuesday before I planned to return to work, crying and resting on and off. I was emotionally raw and physically worn out. I wrote a letter to the baby and put it in a memory box with my ultrasound pic, pregnancy test, a picture of a tree with apples that Finn made, dried flower petals and a sympathy note from one of my best friends. I wrote out my feelings over eight Word.doc pages—some of the content has made it into this blog post.
And then, the waiting game began—the waiting to try again, the waiting to conceive what is called by some a “rainbow baby,” a child born after the loss or death of another. I very much wanted a second baby and had already become frightened of having another miscarriage. I knew women who had had multiple miscarriages. Would I be one of them, too?
The part that comes next is hard because it’s raw and selfish. For months after the miscarriage, I could not deal with seeing pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I was angry that other women could have two, three, four or more kids with seeming ease. Why did this happen to me? After all of the other hard stuff that had happened in my life, why did I have to lose a baby on top of it? I’d had a plan—have a second baby before 35, when Finn was around two-and-a-half. But it wasn’t meant to be.
I spent the summer teetering between sadness and indulgence in my unexpected freedom to resume drinking and eating whatever I wanted. I did a lot of drinking, after not being able to touch alcohol for a month after my miscarriage. Friends and family were wonderful—coworkers past and present, classmates, even women I knew online and have never met in person but who have gone through the same thing. Their support was vital and incredibly appreciated. My one wish was to be pregnant by the time I would have been due originally—a time when I would be meeting the newborns of my friends due around the same time.
In the middle of August, almost four months after I miscarried, my period was late. I took a test and two clear lines immediately appeared. A few weeks later, a doctor’s appointment confirmed that I was pregnant with a baby due April 23rd, one week after Finn’s birthday and during the same exact weekend I lost my second pregnancy. At 12 weeks, I found out that I’m having a girl.
It’s been a bit of a surprising and nerve-wracking whirlwind since then, but I am now just eight or so weeks away from welcoming my rainbow baby into the world.
I have realized throughout the last 10-and-a-half months that many women go through miscarriage and never talk about it. I could have chosen to stay silent and just announce that I was pregnant with my second. But I thought it was a disservice not just to the baby I lost but to the other women who have gone through this. I hope that sharing my story inspires some hope and healing in them.