“Is it okay if I go upstairs and rest a little while?” I asked Josh.
“Alright,” he told me.
I was feeling in a funk this morning, and I wasn’t sure why. I had opened all the blinds before dawn, in anticipation of the sun rising over the houses across the street, and the amazing natural light that our living room gets during the day, but the day turned out to be cloudy. Maybe it’s the clouds, I told myself.
I was tired, but didn’t feel like sleeping, so I laid in bed and scrolled through my phone. It wasn’t until I saw a video shared by a friend that it dawned on me.
Today is February 3rd.
The video was a musician husband who had written a song for his wife, and the two babies they had lost to miscarriage.
February 3rd stings every year, because this is the day I began miscarrying our first baby, Ellie Hannah, four years ago.
Four years ago feels like so many lifetimes ago. It was the time before parenthood as I now know it. The time when we anticipated this season so hopefully, with such naivity. I was pregnant, so of course that meant a baby in my arms in the end.
I still remember the way it felt the first time I realized something was wrong. I was at a friend’s house, celebrating the birthday of another dear friend of ours. I came out of the bathroom holding back tears. I was scared to move, scared to do anything that might jeopardize the little life inside of me. I did not know at the time that there was nothing I could do or not do-she had already passed.
The next few days were ones of grief, physical pain, and the loss of a dream. For weeks after, I slept with the orange and white elephant blanket that I had chosen for her after I had gotten a positive pregnancy test. It was all I had left of her.
As time has passed, and my days are filled with caring for Haven and Eisley, Ellie seems farther away. I don’t know if it’s because my experiences with Haven and Eisley have far exceeded those short weeks with Ellie, or because I have buried many of those memories and emotions deep in my heart in an act of self preservation. Maybe it’s both.
But, as difficult as it is to admit, I don’t think of her every day. In fact, sometimes I forget that we went through such a traumatic experience four years ago. So when memories come flooding back, especially on February 3rd, it is difficult to process. Reminders of the grief. Guilt over not always thinking of her. Joy that she is with Jesus. Terror upon thinking of it ever happening again.
Grief is so strange. Sometimes it is all encompassing, and you feel like you can’t breathe for the weight of it. And sometimes it quietly retreats to the background. Today it feels like a dull ache. Not as painful as it once was, but enough to color the day with sadness.
Tomorrow will easier, but for today, I am remembering Ellie. Her life was short, but it sure changed mine. Fly high, little one.
Recently, I was cooking dinner. I leaned against the stove to stir the pot on the back burner, and I noticed that my used-to-be-a-baby-bump chub squished against the handle of the oven door.
My first reaction was one that I’ve had many times over the last several months-frustration, embarrassment, longing for the body of my college days. But that passed quickly, and it was replaced by something else that I hadn’t experienced in relation to my recent…ahem…higher BMI.
I felt pride.
A few days before, I had been hanging out with some friends, and I noticed my friend’s belly. She is in no way overweight, is actually quite petite, and has had kids. I found myself longing for what she had-a badge of honor, a token of motherhood.
It wasn’t until I squished my belly while cooking that I realized that this pudge that I had been looking at so begrudgingly was my own badge of honor.
I lived in Africa for four months-something that many people only dream of. Somewhere between the carbs on carbs diet, and hitting 25, my body decided it wanted to start storing.
I lost a little bit of Africa weight when we returned to the States, but then I found out I was pregnant right after Christmas. We didn’t have a scale, so I don’t know if I gained or lost any weight during the pregnancy, but I do know that my belly was growing.
Then, I miscarried at 11 weeks. I remember thinking, “What’s the point in eating? I’m not taking care of anyone else anymore.” For a few days, in my grief, all I ate was a bowl of cereal here and there, and a few bites of meals. I remember looking down at my stomach, and seeing it flat again. I laughed bitterly and thought, “Well, there’s nothing in there anymore. Might as well have a visual reminder.” When of course, I would have given anything to have a life still inside my womb.
After the not-wanting-to-eat-anything period came the wanting-to-eat-everything period. And I gained it all back again, including the belly chub. Since then, most days, it has been the thorn in my side. But not on this day.
I smiled as I thought about how I walked miles in the African bush to meet with villagers for Bible study, and how they gave us chapati after chapati to eat. I thought about how even though I’m not pregnant anymore, I supported a flipping life inside of me for months. I have had almost 26 years of rich, full life, and I have the privilege of having a few physical reminders of that from this body that has carried me through them.
So, I still look up a ton of different workouts and confuse my cats when I do them in the living room. I still try (and fail most of the time) to turn down the free Chick-fil-A employee meal on my break at work. I still find myself wishing for the days of old when I felt confident in my body, but I’m also trying to remember that I am lucky.
I get to carry my badge of honor with me. I am a missionary. I am a mother. And I definitely wouldn’t trade either one of these for a flat belly.
Tonight was the mid-season premiere of Once Upon a Time. The show is in its third season, and is incredibly popular. If you don’t know anything about the show, the basic premise is a retelling of fairytales, entwined with modern day time, and the characters are all searching for their identities and their happy endings.
But if the show has an overarching theme, it is the ability of prevailing hope. Snow White, one of the show’s central characters, continually reminds the other characters of this.
In one episode, Emma Swan, Snow White’s daughter, asks her why she gave Henry, Emma’s son, a book of fairytales. This book is central to the plot, as it was what caused Henry to figure out that the stories were real, (the fairytale characters have been cursed and have no memory of their real identities), and to seek out his mother, Emma, who gave him up for adoption. This starts the whole sequence of events in the show, and Emma wants to know what made Snow White give him the book, if she didn’t fully know its significance.
“Look,” Snow White tells her, “I gave the book to him because I wanted Henry to have the most important thing anyone can have…hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”
This idea, that hope can prevail even in the midst of your current circumstances, is such a beautiful thought to me.
When I think about this idea, I’m reminded of the seasons. I’ve always said that January to March is probably the hardest time of year for me. You have already been through several months of winter, your skin is crying out for some Vitamin D, and you just don’t know if you can shovel the snow from your sidewalk one more time. You’ve forgotten that there used to be green leaves on the trees, or even leaves on them at all. You need color, warmth, some life in your life. Everywhere you look, everything is dull and dead.
I expect that in the next few years to come, this time of year will always remind me of the time that I lost Ellie. The death of nature will remind me of the death of the life inside of me that I had placed so much hope in. The cold will remind me of the way I wanted to draw into myself, the way my heart often hardened to the pain rather than feeling it.
Spring is coming. Today, when we stood outside our church, Josh said, “Hey! There are little green sprouts shooting up from the dirt!” I looked down, and there they were. They were tiny, but they were there, pushing up through the cold dirt and the dead leaves. Prevailing, even though there had been snow on the ground just days before.
The excitement that coursed through my veins at the sight of the little green sprouts made me giddy. Now that I type that sentence, it sounds funny-getting so excited over tiny plants.
But, I am convinced that the reason for the excitement is because of the promise that they bring. The promise of warmth, color, beauty. The promise of better things ahead. The promise of life.
The word promise can be a noun or a verb. In the verb form, it means to “give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation)”. When you are expecting something, it means that you are lacking that thing presently.
In other words, we have to go through winter to get to spring. Without winter, spring would be no big deal. Green leaves would always be on the trees, sunshine would always be warming our skin, and frankly, they wouldn’t be all that special.
There would be no room for hope, no room for expectation.
This season, this winter that I am going through, has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. However, the harshness, the difficulty of this season has given me an expectation, a hope, for the next. I know that the next time I am pregnant, of course there will be some anxiety, but you better believe I will be thankful for each day that I am still pregnant. I know what the winter feels like, and the spring will continually be a miracle for me.
In a few weeks, we will physically be in the clear to try to conceive again. Right after the miscarriage, while I was still dealing with physical pain and bleeding, I said to Josh countless times, “I just want this to be over. I’m so ready to be able to move forward.” I was emotionally ready, but my body was not. I have had to trudge through the deep snow and ice, but the thought of green pastures ahead kept me going.
My body is now moving forward, but a few days ago, for the first time, I had fears and doubts about moving ahead. What if it happens again? The thought of the possibility of emotional and physical pain like I had just experienced took over me for a second. I forgot about the promise; I forgot about hope. The possibility of a longer winter-losing another child and a longer time without one in my arms-felt like too much to bear.
Even so, I believe that spring is coming. Those little green sprouts remind me that the Lord has promised me. I believe that one day, soon, I will be blessed with another life in my womb and eventually a baby in my arms.
So, now we’ve reached the installment of Journey to Motherhood, at least in the miscarriage chapter anyway, that I’ve been looking forward to: the Silver Lining(s).
I’ve always heard the term, as I’m sure we all have, but I wanted to Google it to see what the “official” meaning is. According to Google, the phrase comes from a proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, and is defined as “a consoling aspect of a difficult situation”.
Miscarriage is difficult, for sure. But, let me tell you, there have been silver linings all over the place. And not just grayish linings that are reminiscent of something beautiful, but shiny, silver, glistening linings. The kind that make you stop and take a deep breath in, and see the world as a bright and beautiful place again.
And that’s what I want Ellie’s short life to have been about. Beauty, love, meaning, impact.
So, Josh and I decided that we wanted to start a YouTube channel to tell our story. We wanted to talk through and process going through a miscarriage, and to be encouragement for others who have gone through the same thing. We want to celebrate Ellie’s life by telling her story and remembering her, but we also want to celebrate life itself-and the everyday adventures that make it beautiful.
Here is the video in which I talk through a lot of the things that I was struggling to write about here. I hope that you will enjoy it, and if you do, please subscribe so you can follow along on our journey to becoming parents.
This is part 4 of a series of blogs chronicling my journey from Jen-the-Wife to Jen-the-Wife-and-Mom. It’s a journey filled with ups and downs, with most recently a huge valley to navigate through-miscarriage.
In this blog, I’ll be recounting the physical side of miscarriage, which for me was a huge part of it. Before I had to go through the physical miscarriage, it was easier to be positive in spite of the sadness. However, during the physical pain, I entered some pretty emotionally dark places.
I wanted to write this part of the series for two reasons: one-so I can remember the details. A friend who has lost her son said that it doesn’t really make sense now, but one day I will actually look back with longing to the physical pain, because it was a time when I was still connected to her, physically. And secondly, even six months ago, before I had any idea that I would be going through it myself, my heart broke for the women and families who go through this. It is such a secret grief that is not talked about, maybe because some feel like they can’t, like it’s a taboo topic, because it relates to reproductive health and issues. And I want to overcome that oppressive silence.
All of the research I’ve done on it, pre-and-post-miscarriage, has said that the key to healing is to talk about it. Sadly, I read a story the other night about a woman who had a miscarriage before her two living children, and never told a single person about it. Eventually, when her grown daughter had a miscarriage of her own, she finally told her daughter, and still felt shame about it. She lived for decades with this secret grief, which only churned and multiplied inside of her, stealing away her joy.
So anyway, here is the story of my physical miscarriage. Get ready for open talk. (Don’t proceed if you don’t want full disclosure.)
After learning the heartbreaking truth that our Ellie Hannah was no longer living, I spent the rest of that day in bed, crying, sleeping, and trying to figure out where to go from here.
The next day, Thursday, I was tired of laying around in bed. I wasn’t ready to go out and be social, but I was ready to begin forward motion-even if that just meant leaving my room to go downstairs.
When Josh got home from work that afternoon, I was ready to go out. We decided to go to a late lunch at my favorite restaurant-Olive Garden. While there, I had my first soda in months, and although it was good, I still found myself wishing that I had a reason to abstain; I wished that I was still pregnant. As we talked over our meal, I began to feel light cramps. They weren’t anything that I don’t normally feel during my period, so I was able to continue talking.
After Olive Garden, we headed to Starbucks, so I could write and Josh could read. Starbucks was packed, so we ended up taking the corner of a long table, across from a lady who was waiting for her tutoring student to arrive. As I wrote, I continued to feel the light cramps, but they started to get stronger and stronger. I had to go to the bathroom a few times, and I had the strangest poop I’ve ever had (and believe me, after traveling all over the world, I’ve had some strange ones). It was bright green. And I mean bright.
I Googled it when I finished in the bathroom, and it said that it sometimes happens in pregnancy, and can either be caused by eating something that has a high amount of chlorophyll, like leafy greens, or by eating something with purple dye, and it didn’t have enough time through your digestive system to turn brown. I couldn’t remember eating any greens lately, so I figured it was my artificially dyed cereal I had eaten.
By the time we left Starbucks, to head home to see the first night of the Olympics, I was hurting pretty badly. The cramps would come and go, though, and I was able to sit on the couch and watch the Olympics. When I first walked in the door, I was greeted by Walter, my sister and brother-in-law’s dog, and he whined and cried more than he ever has when greeting me before. I think he knew that something had happened, and that I was in pain, physically and emotionally. As I sat on the couch, he sat on my lap under the blanket, and the warmth of his body helped to soothe the pain in my abdomen.
We finished watching the Prime Time Olympics, and Jay Leno’s final show came on. There was a segment that showed a clip from a speech from President Obama, and they had overlaid footage of someone kicking the door in, making it look like Obama kicked the door. It was hilarious, but when I laughed, the pain in my abdomen spiked.
After that, I figured I needed to go lay down. I got ready for bed, and asked Josh to heat up the rice bag that we usually put by our feet, so I could put it on my abdomen. After a little while, Josh went to bed, and the pain kept getting worse and worse. The cramps eventually started spiking to the point where I had to remind myself to breathe. I remembered my sister telling me about the Bradley Method a month or two before, a school of thought in natural childbirth that teaches relaxation and trusting your body to labor the way it was designed to.
As the cramps spiked, I would inhale and slowly count through it. They would peak at 7, and fade away by 25 or 30. I timed them on my phone, and they were occurring every three minutes. When I realized that they were spaced evenly, I understood that my body was laboring, in a way. In between the pain, I would try to distract myself by scrolling through Pinterest on my phone.
After several hours of this, it was the middle of the night, and the whole house was asleep, except for me. I didn’t want to wake Josh up, because he had to be up early for work the next day, and there wasn’t really anything he could do to help anyway. I felt utterly alone, and I was in a lot of pain. I tried to adjust positions-on my side, on my back (that was the worst), even on all fours. Nothing really helped. Eventually, I woke Josh up, and asked him to reheat the rice bag, and to rub my lower back. I was feeling the pain in my abdomen and my back, and it did help to relieve a little bit of the pain.
After a little while, I got up to go to the bathroom. I realized by this time that I was bleeding-a lot. Fortunately, the doctor had given me a little bit of an understanding of what to expect physically, so I wasn’t terrified by bleeding so much. He had said that as my body passed what used to be the baby, I wouldn’t see anything recognizable, just large clots of blood. It didn’t hurt to pass the clots-it was just a very uncomfortable feeling.
After laying back down, and continuing to time the cramps, they spaced to six minutes apart, then to nine minutes. At some point, I was finally able to fall asleep, I think somewhere around 3 AM. I woke up just before 5 AM, and the cramps began to come every 2 minutes. I tossed and turned in bed, trying anything to relieve the pain.
At around 6:30, Josh got up for work. “I wish I could stay home with you,” he said. We both knew that he needed to work, and there wasn’t anything he could do to take the pain away, so he left for work.
Staying still wasn’t doing anything for the pain, so I ended up walking back and forth across our tiny room, stopping to lean on the bed or nightstand when a cramp spiked. Kneeling by the end of the bed worked for awhile, but if I stayed in any position for too long, it began to be too painful.
During this time, I had to make trips to the bathroom every thirty minutes or so, to change pads and to pass more clots. At one point, I laid on the floor by the end of the bed, and I had reached my breaking point. It was getting close to 12 hours of intense pain, every few minutes.
My body was laboring, and the worst part about it was that I knew that it was all for nothing. I didn’t get that moment at the end when the pain is worth it all-when your baby is placed in your arms and suddenly the whole world is right. No, this was a senseless, meaningless pain. A pain that reminded me with every rise and fall that it was no longer me and my little one-just me.
I was starting to get lightheaded, so I figured I needed to eat something. I knew I couldn’t make it downstairs, though, so I called Tyler and asked him to bring me some applesauce. I figured it would be light enough for my stomach, but would also bring my blood sugar to where it needed to be. He brought me one of Henry’s applesauce pouches, and asked me if I needed anything else. I told him that I was okay for the moment, but I would let him know if I needed anything.
After another trip to the bathroom, I leaned on the counter of the sink outside the bathroom door as another cramp spiked. I could hear Jess, Tyler, and Henry in the next room, and I stumbled to the door, and knocked. “Jess, would you come sit with me for awhile? I’m in a lot of pain right now.” “Of course,” she said.
I made my way back to my room, and laid on the floor, with my pillow under my head, and covered by the heated blanket my Mom got me for Christmas. Jess came in, and sat next to me.
“It’s just not fair,” I told her, “That so many people have babies and don’t want them, while so many people who want them so badly can’t have them.” Tears slid down my face as I felt this injustice more than I ever have before.
Henry came in, and walked around our room, playing with the items that he is usually drawn to. Jess brought the yoga ball upstairs, and I sat on it, resting my arms on the bed. It relieved a lot of the pain, and I was able to talk to Jess and Henry. She told me some funny labor stories, and I was able to laugh a little.
She went and got me some chamomile tea, and some cheese and crackers. Henry stayed upstairs with me, and I was trying to teach him about having three items with some paintbrushes. He knows when he has two items, and he always points it out. “One, two, three paintbrushes!” I told him. He was not interested though. “Cheeeese?” He said, pointing at the door that Jess had just gone through. Cheese is one of his very favorite things, so of course that was all he was thinking of.
The tea helped dull the pain quite a bit, and I realized it had been about an hour since I made a trip to the bathroom. As I stood up from the yoga ball, I realized that I had been putting a little too much pressure on myself, and I felt a rush of blood come out. Talk about uncomfortable.
Jess and Henry had to go, and I assured them that I would be okay. Tyler reheated my rice bag, and I laid on the floor on my side, and watched a few episodes of the Golden Girls. I apparently fell asleep from exhaustion, and woke up about 30 minutes later. By then, the cramps were dulling, and I could breathe more normally through them.
I was supposed to work from 11 to 3 that day, and I was just going to see how I felt before and let them know if I was coming in. I got a text from a coworker a few hours before I was supposed to be in, and she told me that they weren’t expecting me to come in, unless I just really, really wanted to. I responded that I was going to try, but it just wasn’t going to be physically possible.
I was also supposed to be going to a ballet that night with some friends from church, and I had been so excited about it. We had gotten free tickets through one of the girl’s job, and I texted them that I was starting to feel better, and I might be able to make it that night.
I decided to take a shower, thinking that getting clean would make me feel so much better. Halfway through my shower, the cramps got stronger again, and I looked down and saw that I had started bleeding more again. It’s not a good feeling to look down at the water at your feet, and see it turning red. I steadied myself to try not to get sick, and finished up my shower as quickly as I could.
I returned to the floor by the bed, and turned on some worship music. I listened to some Shane and Shane, and then found a YouTube video of Misty Edwards doing a 2 hour worship set at IHOP (International House of Prayer). As I laid there, listening to her sing Jesus, Lover of My Soul, the words hit me more than they ever have before.
“Jesus, you are the Lover of my Soul.
Jesus, I will never let You go.
You’ve taken me from the miry clay,
You set my feet upon a rock, and now I know.
I love You, I need You, though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go.
My Savior, my closest friend.
I will worship You, until the very end.”
Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how, in spite of it all, the Lord is still good. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but that is one thing that I have been able to hold onto through everything. I’ll explain more about this, probably in the next part of the blog series.
Josh got home from work, and found me on the ground, half asleep, half awake. “How are you feeling, honey?” He asked me.
“This morning has been pretty awful.”
He stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, leaving my side only to keep reheating the rice bag for me. Eventually, I remembered that I could lay on the bed (not really sure why I had forgotten that), and I was able to find a semi-comfortable position on my side. As long as I kept the rice bag on my abdomen, I was able to relax my body enough. Laying on my back was out of the question. As soon as I tried to, the pain would spike again.
Unfortunately, during this time, the opening ceremony for the Olympics was on. We don’t have a TV upstairs, and I knew I still couldn’t make it downstairs. I tried to stream it online, but I couldn’t. So that was a bummer. I think I watched a movie instead.
I was able to go to sleep that night, from pure exhaustion. I remember waking up the next morning, and thinking, “Wow. I slept through the night. Cool.” As I laid in bed during those first moments after waking up, I didn’t feel any pain. That was a welcome feeling after more than 24 hours of intense pain. I was able to make it downstairs to get a bowl of cereal, but by the time I made it back upstairs, I was in pain again.
My phone rang, and I answered it. It was an OB clinic that I had called a week and a half before, hoping to make an appointment for our first ultrasound at 12 weeks. She asked if I wanted to make an appointment. “No, I won’t be needing an appointment anymore,” I told her. “So, you won’t be carrying the baby?” She asked, not knowing. How could she know? “No.” I said. After I hung up, I cried. No, I won’t be carrying the baby.
I spent most of the morning in bed, trying to recover from my excursion downstairs. Josh needed to get out of the house for a bit, so he went to get us some lunch. He got Five Guys Burgers and Fries for himself, and Subway for me.
My friend Kayla came by after lunch, and talked with and listened to me. It was such a comfort to see her and talk to her, and I’m thankful that she came by. During the afternoon, I was still having some cramps, but by this time, they had faded to the strongest I would have during a regular period. At one point, I was sitting on the yoga ball, with my heated blanket wrapped around my front and back, but I was able to have a regular conversation.
Kayla stayed for dinner, and during dinner, I said, “I feel so…human again. I’m dressed, downstairs, eating with everyone, and I’m not in as much pain.”
After dinner, we needed to head back to the hospital, to have more bloodwork done. They wanted to check to make sure my hormones were leveling out, and it needed to be done three days after the day I was first in the hospital. We tried to check in, but realized we had forgotten the paperwork that had the orders for the bloodwork. The receptionist sent a message back to the ER doctor who had seen me on Wednesday, but because it was Saturday night, the ER was full. Josh went home to get the paperwork while I waited, and he returned with the necessary papers.
They transferred us to the labs where they do bloodwork, and they brought me back. I was really nervous about getting blood drawn again. The phlebotomist asked me if I have gotten dizzy or passed out when having blood drawn before. “No,” I told him, “but I really don’t like it, so I might cry.” “That’s okay,” he said. Josh held my hand, and I was surprised by how much easier it was than having an IV put in. My arm is still bruised from that stupid IV. I even got a sticker for being so good. I picked out a baby cheetah sticker to give to Henry.
After leaving the hospital, we stopped by the grocery store to get some Ben & Jerry’s as a reward. We headed home, turned on the Olympics, and I ate my Phish Food. I still had some cramps, but they were manageable.
My sister asked me, “How are you able to stay so positive?” “I’m just so ready for the bad part to be over,” I told her, “I’m ready to make good things out of it.”
It has been two days, and I am still having some light cramps and light bleeding. Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever go back to normal. I went back to work today, and I was okay for a few hours, but eventually I started hurting from standing for so long. We did a little switcharoo in positions, and I was able to finish out the day with a job that allowed me to sit on a stool every few minutes.
So, there is my story, so far, of the physical miscarriage. Like I said at the beginning, it was the hardest part, because of the physical pain, but also because it brought me to dark emotional places-places where I felt like I had no hope. As the pain has eased, I have been able to release some of the darkness, and to do what I want to do-to make the best out of what has happened.
I wanted to tell this part of the story to bring to light the physical difficulties of miscarriage. It is a significant medical event. Women should not be expected to just get on with their lives after experiencing a miscarriage. My body went through 24+ hours of a labor of sorts, and subsequent days of discomfort and soreness. Every time I look in the mirror, I see a flat belly, where it had been rounding before. It is now flat, partially from my empty womb, and partially from the weight I have lost from an appetite that has been lost.
So, if you know someone going through a miscarriage, be there for her, not only through the emotional pain, but the physical as well. She needs you. I am so thankful for my family and friends that have been there for me. And I am so thankful for the Savior who has never left my side, even when the pain clouded my mind and convinced me that I was alone. He has never left me, and never will. And that is beautiful.
I know that I skipped Part 2 of Journey to Motherhood, and I do plan on writing it, it would just be a little too painful right now.
I wanted to go ahead and write Part 3, because writing is a huge way that I process, and sometimes I don’t even know how I feel about something until it comes out of my mouth, or until my fingers find the keys on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen in front of me. I also want to share with you how I am doing, in a deeper way than I could even in conversation.
On Monday night, February 3rd, I was hanging out at a birthday party for one of my best friends. It was a wonderful night, filled with good conversation, laughs, and delicious food. The time came to leave, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom. I thought about waiting until I got home, but I had to go too badly to last for the entire 30 minute drive home, so I headed down the hallway to the bathroom. As I went, I looked down, and saw blood on the toilet paper.
It was strange-at first, I just got that annoyed feeling you get when you realize you have started your period. But then it hit me-I should not have a period at all. I was 11 weeks pregnant. My heart started beating faster. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. This is not happening.
I walked back down the hall, to the kitchen, where my friends stood, chatting before they left for the night. “Ummm, I’m sorry to interrupt, but would you guys mind praying over me? I just went to the bathroom, and I had some bleeding…” I said with tears starting to run down my face.
My friends gathered around me, and began praying. They prayed for peace over me, and for the life of the baby. When we finished praying, I was still shaking, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive home while being so distracted and worried. I called my sister and Josh, and told them what was going on. I thought about staying the night with a friend who lived around the corner, but the next day was calling for around a foot of snow, and I didn’t want to get stranded half an hour from home.
I decided to go ahead and drive home, and I spent the whole time praying, listening to worship music, and crying.
By the time I got home, the bleeding had pretty much stopped. I was relieved, but still cautious. I felt like it was a good idea to take it easy the next day, so I called my boss, and she told me to do whatever I felt was right.
I spent the next day resting, trying to prevent anything else from happening. I had been told by several people that spotting happens many times in completely healthy pregnancies, so a little bit did not necessarily mean I was miscarrying. That day, however, the bleeding started again, and continued through most of the day. I went to bed that night frustrated and scared, praying that it would stop.
By Wednesday morning, it had tapered off again, and I headed to work, hoping that it was almost over. Most of the roads were still covered in a layer of snow and ice, so many companies were closed or opening later, including Chick-fil-A. I started off the morning at work in a good mood, as we worked to open the store in record time on a minimal staff.
After I had been at work for about an hour, I went to the bathroom again, and the bleeding had resumed. At this point, I was starting to get really worried. It wasn’t a flow like a normal period, but the length of time it was lasting was really worrisome to me.
A coworker walked up as I was stuffing kid’s meal bags with toys, and asked if I was okay. “No, not really,” I told her. I explained to her that the bleeding had started again, and that I was starting to get really worried. I hadn’t been to the doctor yet, because we were waiting on Medicaid approval to be able to visit an OB/GYN. I tried to make an appointment, but I was told that without insurance or Medicaid, we would have to have to pay $500 just to walk into the appointment, which was just not possible for us at this point. Josh and I had talked the night before, and decided that if my bleeding was still happening during the day on Wednesday, I would go to the ER after work.
I talked to my boss, and she encouraged me to call Josh, and head to the hospital to get checked out. Josh came to pick me up, and we headed to the hospital down the road. I let family members know that I was going to get checked out, and we checked into the ER.
They called us back, and led us to one of their emergency rooms. It was strange to be in the ER-my first time ever. I went through a big Grey’s Anatomy phase a year or two ago, and I was thinking about the dramatized version of the emergency room, and hoping that no gunshot victims would come in while we were there.
The nurse led us to room 10, and gave me a gown to put on. This is serious, I thought. I put the gown on, and soon another nurse came in. She told us that she was going to put in an IV and take some blood for labs. If you know me, you know that having an IV in is one of my biggest fears. I know it is ridiculous, but it is just a big fear of mine. Josh held my hand while she put it in, and tears streamed down my face. It’s worth it, though. It’s worth it for the baby.
She let me know that she would turn in the sample to the lab, and a doctor would be in soon. Not long after, the doctor came in, and began asking me questions. I told him why I was there, and how I had been bleeding for the last day and a half. He told me that he would go get the ultrasound machine, and he would see what he could find.
As he wheeled the machine in, I told him with a tentative smile, “This will be my first ultrasound. Well, my first one for pregnancy, anyway.” I actually had an ultrasound a year ago, in Malaysia, to try to figure out why I was having intense abdominal pain. I was worried that I had ovarian cysts, but the gynecologist could not find any, and it was determined by a gastroenterologist that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
As he moved the wand around on my belly, he didn’t say much. I was watching the screen, but I wasn’t seeing anything. “I’m not really a sonographer,” he said, “And I’m not really seeing much, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ll see if we can get you downstairs for an ultrasound tech to take a look.”
We waited for a few minutes, and nurse came in. She told me that we were going to wait for the bloodwork to come back, to see what my HCG levels were at. If they were within a certain range, what would be expected for an 11 week pregnancy, that would be a good sign. If they were lower, it would point toward a miscarriage. She told us that it would probably take somewhere around 30 minutes.
While we waited, we watched a marathon of American Pickers on the History Channel. We watched the minutes tick by on the clock, and after about an hour and a half, the nurse came back in. She said my HCG levels were around 20,000, but that didn’t really mean anything. She told me that they were going to get me downstairs for another ultrasound, this time for a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Then, she dropped a few bombs.
First, since we were in the ER, and since I was bleeding, they were going to have to put a catheter into my bladder. Second, my blood type is O-Negative, which means that in future pregnancies, if the baby happens to also be a negative blood type, my body would see that as a toxin, and would do it’s best to fight the toxin, endangering the pregnancy. To combat this, they would have to give me a shot, and I will have to get the same shot every time I get pregnant in the future. “Well, this just keeps getting better and better,” I muttered through my tears.
She put the catheter in, which can I just say, SUCKS. She took some urine samples, just in case they ordered them, and said the ultrasound tech would be in in a few minutes to take me downstairs. However, Josh would not be allowed to come, because they’ve had security problems in the past, whatever that means.
It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, but it felt like forever. The catheter burned, and I just wanted to find out what was going on. Eventually, the ultrasound tech came in, and wheeled me out. As we went down the hall in silence, I thought, I never imagined that I would be wheeled down the hall of an ER, alone. As she turned my bed around and backed into the elevator, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the security camera by the ceiling. It was a very surreal feeling.
She wheeled me to the ultrasound room, and I was comforted to see heart stickers on the door. She attached my catheter to a bag hanging from the ceiling, containing fluid that would fill my bladder to make the ultrasound more effective. That was definitely the most physically painful part of the day, to have your bladder filled to its highest capacity. As I winced in pain, the tech said, “Just calm down,” which wasn’t calming at all. Needless to say, after that, I wasn’t her biggest fan.
She began the exterior ultrasound, and it seriously felt like forever as she typed on the keyboard, and the machine beeped as it took pictures and measurements. I craned my neck to see the screen, desperately looking for the flash of a heartbeat. A few times, she turned on the sound to try to hear a heartbeat, and there was one that showed up, but it was only mine. I knew it was mine because I could feel my heart beating quickly, to the same time. Eventually, without a word, she ended the ultrasound, and drained the fluid from my bladder, which was a relief (pun intended).
She left the room, and came back with the probe for the internal ultrasound. “Did you find anything?” I tentatively asked her. “Not that way,” she said.
She began the internal ultrasound, and again, I watched the screen, looking for anything. She didn’t say anything. More clicking and beeping. My heartbeat again. Eventually, the ultrasound was done, and she didn’t say anything as she finished up. As she wheeled me back upstairs, she asked me if I had to work in the snow, and I told her that I had taken the day before off, but that I had gone into work that morning. She asked where I work, and I told her Chick-fil-A. She returned me to my room, and left.
Josh asked how it went, and I told him, “She didn’t say anything.” I knew in my heart, but I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t want it to be true. We spent a few more minutes waiting, and eventually the nurse came back in to remove the catheter. After that, the doctor came in, he leaned against the counter.
“The ultrasound tech was not able to find anything. Unfortunately, I am 98% sure that this pregnancy is not going to end the way you want it to.” As he explained everything, I just felt numb. I think I had known for a few days, so it wasn’t really that much of a surprise, especially after seeing the ultrasounds. He told us that the next step was to have a pelvic exam, so they could see if my cervix was open or closed. If it was open, they would have to do a D&C, a process that (please forgive the graphic details) would basically scrape out my uterus. I did NOT want to have this procedure done. At all.
As we waited for the OB/GYN to come in, I laid on the bed, watching the TV, but not watching it. I can’t believe this is happening. At that moment, I needed my Mom. I called her at work, and told her the news. We cried together over the phone, and she told me that if I needed anything, to let her know. Then I called my sister, then Josh’s parents. Telling people you love is only slightly less heartbreaking than actually experiencing it yourself. My sister asked, “What can we do?” “Just pray that my cervix is closed.” It was the only thing that I could hope would go right that day.
Eventually, the doctor came back in to give me the pelvic exam. Jesus, please let it be closed. Please, let it be closed, I prayed. “It’s closed,” the doctor said. What a relief. I didn’t think I could take much more that day. He explained to me that this doesn’t make me high risk for future pregnancies, and that was a relief, too.
After that, we waited for a few more minutes for a nurse to come back in to give me the shot, and to remove my IV. It was a hip/butt shot, and I was thankful that I was only flashing two female nurses in my hospital gown as I laid on my side. As she stuck me, my body tensed and jumped in reaction. “Sorry,” I said. “That’s okay,” the nurse replied. After the shot, one of the nurses massaged the injection site, to make sure the shot was circulating. She had her hand kind of around my hip, and she felt me tense up. “Sorry,” she said. “No, it’s okay. I’m just really ticklish,” I laughed. “Oh, sorry about that,” she laughed, too.
They removed my IV, I signed some paperwork, and we were free to go. I have to go back in to get more bloodwork done on Saturday, and for a follow-up appointment once they get my results back.
We walked back out into the bitterly cold wind, got in the car, and headed home.
I spent the rest of the day in bed, not really feeling like seeing anyone or doing anything. Even though our stay at the ER had caused us to miss lunch, I was not hungry for dinner at all. I never understood why grieving people didn’t want to eat until that day. First of all, I just plain wasn’t hungry. Second of all, the slight hunger pangs, as strange as it sounds, felt almost good. It was like it was helpful to have some physical pain to match the emotional pain that I was feeling. But don’t worry, I have been eating. I don’t have my usual appetite, but I’ve been trying.
After awhile, Josh laid down next to me, and we talked for a bit. I told him that even though we never got to officially find out what the gender was, I always knew she was a girl. I had been keeping that to myself mostly, and when people would ask what I thought we were having, I would tentatively say I thought the baby was a girl, but I would follow up with, “But I could be totally wrong.” You know, just in case we got to the ultrasound and found out it was a boy. But, I always knew.
“I think we should name her. It just feels like we need to honor her with a name. Make her more of a person.” Of course, she was a person to me, one of the most important people in my life. But, I wanted everyone else to know her as a person, too. I think it was just a week or two before, Josh and I had narrowed it down to two names: one for a girl, and one for a boy. They weren’t our concrete names, but at the top of the list for now. We had also already discussed a possible middle name, and it was actually decided on before we figured out a first name, as long as it was compatible. The middle name, if the baby was a girl, was going to be really significant. Josh’s mom had always wanted to have a little baby girl, but was blessed instead with four boys. She had a name for her girl, but never got to use it. We thought it would be a wonderful way to honor Josh’s mom by giving our little girl that name as a middle name.
So, we decided that our little girl that we lost was named Ellie Hannah.
I began the difficult process of telling friends and family beyond our immediate families. I asked our parents if they would tell the grandparents. Made phone calls and wrote texts to best friends. Eventually, I wrote a status to let the public know, and shared it on Facebook. It was good to share, to get everything off of my chest. I felt a little selfish, because in a way, I felt like I was just spreading the grief around, but the more people that knew, the lighter the load felt to bear.
Eventually, I fell asleep, my head pounding from a headache caused by so much crying that day. When I woke up, Josh had fallen asleep next to me, and the light of afternoon had given way to the darkness of evening. For just a moment after I woke up, I felt peaceful. My headache had subsided, and my grief and the events of the day were momentarily forgotten. But then I remembered, and new tears slipped out as I thought about the void that now existed in me.
I decided that I wanted to watch a movie, and I chose P.S. I Love You. It seemed fitting-a movie about losing a loved one, and the process of grief and learning to live with your loss. I don’t really like the term “moving on”. It implies that you can get over the person that you lost, and I just don’t think that is the case. Their existence, and subsequent departure from your life, had an impact, and to say that you are moving on diminishes that.
After the movie, I went to sleep, hopeful that the next day would continue to bring healing and peace.