This is my personal story about pregnancy loss and it may be triggering for some.
After my first son was born via emergency cesarean with a special scar, I longed for a VBAC and peaceful happy birth experience.
Four and a half years later I was pregnant again. Soon after discovering I was pregnant the morning sickness (aka all-day-nausea) set in. It was the worst I had experienced. My first pregnancy had been relatively easy compared to this. Luckily for me it was over around the end of the first trimester.
I found a midwife that was willing to support me in my desire to have a VBAC and I started prenatal care. Because most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, I waited until after then to tell my friends about my pregnancy.
Fast-forward to 16 (almost 17) weeks pregnant and I was lying in bed with my partner, and future husband, Mike, both reading before bed. I noticed a tightening in my stomach and thought it was curious, but not much more than that.
It happened again and I thought it was the baby moving because it looked like he was sticking a limb or body part up. It kind of gave me the warm fuzzies even though there was a tinge of doubt in my mind. How cute! I’m already able to see the baby moving! But wait, is that really what that was? Isn’t it a little early for that? I showed Mike the next time I noticed it. I said: “Look it’s the baby!” He smiled and went back to his reading. After awhile I realized that this tightening was coming in a pattern and in waves. It suddenly hit me….. this is not just the baby moving. I’m having contractions!?!
My heart sank and panic set in. I told Mike and called my midwife right away. She gave me advice to drink 32 ounces of water, lie down, rest, take a calming bath and see how it goes. I asked her: “What if it doesn’t stop?” She said that unfortunately if it doesn’t stop there isn’t much more she can do and I should go to the hospital.
Thirty-two ounces, lots of anxious resting and maybe an hour or two later it had not stopped at all. The pattern was very clear. It was now about 2’oclock in the morning. We made the tough decision to go to the hospital.
Upon arrival to the ER we listened to the baby’s heartbeat. It was a strong and wonderful sound. We had hope. The baby was alive! But I was also 1-2 cm dilated.
The ER crew, doctors and nurses at the hospital were very helpful and tried everything in their power to stop the contractions. Terbutaline (one of the most frequently used drugs to stop preterm labor) was administered, antibiotics were given, pain-relief drugs were administered and yet the contractions continued. All we could do was wait, suffer and hope. After many hours of this agonizing waiting and hoping (probably almost 10 hours later, as it was now the afternoon of the following day) I was checked again. The devastating news of being 10 cm dilated hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a deep fear that this was coming but up to that point I hadn’t given up hoping that something would change.
Soon after that the nurse guided me to start pushing. With a few devastatingly sad pushes I pushed my 16 week old, live baby boy out of my womb. At the very moment that I felt his tiny body leave mine my heart broke into a million pieces and I let out the most primal screams of anguish I’d ever experienced. The screams came out from somewhere deep inside of me. The grief, fear and loss that had been building up inside boiled over and released at that exact moment as the universe tore my baby away and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it. Though nothing would make this better, the releasing of that emotion and that noise gave me some tiny, tiny bit of relief, for at least it came out and was not bottled up inside.
That tiny baby was more than a body to me, but a soul. There was a spiritual moment of goodbye between us a few moments before his body came out of mine. I felt his sadness and he felt mine, I told him I loved him and I wished him well and he expressed the same. It was a very real moment for me and it gave me some closure.
I took time off from everything to heal from this experience. I had told my friends only a short while earlier that I was pregnant and now had to tell them the baby was gone. It was so hard. I was only three weeks away from being half way there (just shy of 17 weeks pregnant, into the 2nd trimester.) I had even already grown a small baby bump by this point and begun to show. Second and third time pregnancies are often more obvious sooner than first time pregnancies. The pain and sadness that others felt for me made my sadness greater. But I carried on. I learned that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage and that it is a common experience we share. I listened to the stories of others and I shared my story too.
My the next phase of healing for me involved time to research, question and learn what had happened. I discovered that it had been an infection (chorioamnionitis) that had resulted in me losing the baby. This information was in my hospital records. Mustering up the courage, I visited the OB who had performed my emergency cesarean almost 5 years prior. We discussed questions that I had had for years about what had had happened in that surgery and whether or not it had damaged me for good. I took very good care of my body and got myself in excellent health. To prevent a similar infection, I did everything that was recommended. I really made sure that I had made peace in every way I could with my past experiences and that I was prepared to try again.
Soon thereafter I was pregnant once again.
Fast forward many weeks and I successfully made it past the point I had lost my 2nd baby. I was now on the home stretch. Everything about this pregnancy was going well. Everything felt right. My life was positive, happy and I had confidence that this was going to be my rainbow at the end of the storm, my healing birth experience. It most definitely was. I gave birth to my son Jack vaginally at home after a smooth labor with a supportive birth team.
After having felt so broken, so hurt, so sad and having mourned the loss of my peaceful first birth, then mourned the loss of my 2nd baby – the joy of this smooth and wonderful third pregnancy was something I celebrated on a daily basis. I did not take it for granted. It was not until I was well into my 30th week of pregnancy and beyond that I really started to feel I had made it over the hump and I needn’t worry everyday that this might be the last. I knew that each day with that baby safely inside of me was a blessing.
I decided to have a belly cast made. To me that belly cast represented so many things.
I had made it this far. It was a true miracle and I honored and respected it that way. I recognized that I was lucky. The pain of loss had been mine. I knew that there were other women in the world fighting to become pregnant, or who had lost babies, or children of any age. Each child I was fortunate enough to bring into the world was a gift. I knew that this might be my last pregnancy and my last chance to experience this wonder.
The belly cast represented all of that for me, and I never wanted to forget it.
I have now had the opportunity to repair, complete and paint a bellycast for a mother who also experienced pregnancy loss. On the night she found out her baby had not made it, she contacted a friend who came over and they made a bellycast of her still pregnant belly. She turned it over to me some time later and I finished and painted it for her. This would be one of her only keepsakes of the life of that sweet child. It helped her to say goodbye, to honor and remember her baby girl, Coccoloba. And those things are important to the healing process.
I often remind myself the following sentiment: Kiss your babies, your children and your loved ones. Hold them tight. Tell them you love them. Don’t take them for granted. There is not much else that matters in the world than the love between you.
Finally, to anybody reading this who has experienced a pregnancy loss, I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
Love, Doula Christie