This post has been on the back of my mind, and deep in my heart, for some time now. I’ve sat down to write it more than once but haven’t been able to find the words. And though I feel it’s right to share this story now, it’s unknown and uncharted territory. Thank you in advance for your kindness and compassion.
I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant, coming up on 23. Kristian and I couldn’t be more thrilled, excited, enamored, nervous and a bit scared to have this baby boy (yes, BOY!!) in our lives. All these thoughts and emotions mixing with the pregnancy hormones have got me feeling all the feels right now.
It took until now to let myself breathe and allow my excitement to build around this pregnancy. And if I’m being completely honest, anxious thoughts still pop into my mind which keep me from always feeling the idealized joy and glow of pregnancy. Though I’m beyond grateful for this little boy and absolutely cannot wait to bring him home in March, my heart still aches for our first baby.
No one outside of our immediate family knew about that pregnancy. We were planning to wait until our 13-week appointment to share with the world. But we never made it to that appointment.
Losing that baby, and going through that pain while nearly everyone around me was none the wiser, left me feeling lost and uncertain. Did everything I went through even happen? Did our baby really exist?
As we celebrate the life of our nearly 23-week old baby, I also want to take a moment to remember the too-short life of our first, and what that pain has taught me about the depths of love and the resilience of the heart.
OUR FIRST CHILD
A long-awaited “Yes+” popped up on a pregnancy test on December 10, 2016 – in a hotel room in New York City. We’d been trying for six months and were on a weekend trip with family. I’d packed one test, just in case, to put my mind at ease during our food and wine tour of the city.
Waking up on our first full day in the city, Kristian encouraged me to take a test. Nearly every month prior, I’d been so certain I was pregnant. But every test had turned up negative. So, of course, I didn’t believe this time would be any different.
I took the test anyway, set it on the nightstand. The thought of looking at it turned my stomach. I didn’t think I could bear to see another negative. After what felt like an eternity, I tipped the test up and saw “Yes+”. Cue a lot of crying, laughing, hugging – and utter disbelief.
We ran out to the pharmacy around the corner to pick up a pack of tests. And over the next two days, I took them all. Each time, that “Yes+” filled my heart with so much joy.
With this vacation slated to be a culinary adventure, and knowing it would seem strange if I suddenly refused the wine I love so much without explanation, we decided to tell our parents right away. That afternoon we called my mom to share the happy news, and then met my dad and Cheryl at a nearby bar (“Just water for me, thank you!”).
On that Saturday morning, we became parents. We instantly fell in love with this little life inside me, dreaming of names and nursery colors and the kind of parents we wanted to be. We thought about work schedules and daycare options and whether we’d make our own baby food when it came time for that. Should we get a reusable diaper system? Could Kristian make the crib?
I’m a worrier by nature, and I spent every day for the first few weeks afraid that I’d unintentionally do something to harm our baby. At our first doctor’s appointment, a quick one at 6 weeks to take a confirmation pregnancy test, I actually asked if sneezing was okay, so nervous that any wrong move and I’d shake the baby loose. The doctor set up our next appointment for week 13 to do a scan and hear the baby’s heartbeat.
I downloaded the Ovia pregnancy app, and each week a new little fruit or vegetable appeared to show us how big baby was growing. From poppyseed to blueberry to raspberry, all the way to the size of a fig at week 11. That was the last cute little fruit update we saw.
IT ALL HAPPENED SO FAST
On Sunday, January 29, just a couple days shy of 12 weeks, I felt something odd while cooking dinner. It didn’t hurt, but I knew it wasn’t right. I’ll spare you the details, but there was bleeding, and that’s never a good sign. I immediately fell to pieces.
Kristian helped me call the after hours number the doctor gave us, and we were told to go to the emergency room for tests. I couldn’t stop shaking. When we arrived, they sent my blood to a lab and us off to an ultrasound. We entered with a glimmer of hope that maybe we’d get to see our healthy baby and everything would be okay. But the ultrasound tech couldn’t find anything inside the amniotic sac.
After reviewing my blood test results, and seeing an HCG number far too low for 12 weeks along, the doctor on duty said I’d likely miscarried a while back. My body just hadn’t recognized it until then. A missed miscarriage. He told me the miscarriage would likely continue for the next few days, and I should make a follow-up appointment that week with my doctor.
And that was it. Kristian and I went home. We let our dog outside, threw away our half-cooked, now-cold vegetable beef soup and curled up together under a blanket on the couch.
Everything had happened so fast, my head was spinning. One minute I was dancing around the kitchen making dinner, and the next we’re leaving the emergency room knowing our baby had died. In just a few short hours, our whole world had been turned upside down.
Drained and empty, we cried all night.
The physical pain grew as well, and the miscarriage wasn’t progressing. I think my body just didn’t want to let go. Three days later I had to have a D&C.
It’s been over nine months since that day, and it still aches to know we didn’t get to bring our baby home on August 17 – to hold them and to know what they looked like, what color eyes and hair they had, what their laugh sounded like, what their first word would be, or even whether they were a boy or girl. I had set milestones in my mind: when I’d start to show, when we’d know the baby’s gender, when I’d feel the first kicks, when I’d have to start wearing maternity clothes, when I’d have a baby shower. With each milestone’s passing, the ache returned.
THE HEART EXPANDS
Here I am nine months later. It doesn’t hurt less, but it does hurt less often. For a long time, I felt guilty for laughing or for going too long without thinking about our baby, like I was a bad mother for forgetting for even a second. Now I’m looking ahead at what’s in store with anticipation while seeking ways to remember the life of our first.
On August 17, rather than bring our baby home, we saw our new little peanut on a 9-week ultrasound with its precious heart beating so fast. My heart swelled but simultaneously wanted to hide away for fear of growing too attached only to be hurt again. Until our 20-week ultrasound, I didn’t truly believe that I was capable of carrying a healthy child.
The week of our first ultrasound, we planted a redbud tree in our backyard, its heart-shaped leaves a symbol of our love for our first that will never end. And before the leaves fell for the season, we pressed one green leaf, full of life, to frame and bring into the nursery we’re creating for our little one to arrive in March.
I couldn’t have made it through that miscarriage without the unwavering support of my husband, partner and friend. We leaned on each other and wiped away each other’s tears, reminded each other that one day we’d feel better, normal again.
Something I came to know through all this is the resilience of the human heart:
“I think your heart grows back bigger. You know? Once you get the s*#t beat out of you. And the universe lets your heart expand that way, and I think that’s the function of all this pain and heartache that you go through, and you gotta go through that to come out to a better place.” – Jake, ‘Must Love Dogs’
Romantic comedy ‘Must Love Dogs’ is probably the cheesiest quote source you’ll ever find. But it’s a favorite of mine, not gonna lie, and we could all use a little cheesy. The sentiment rings so true. When our hearts break, it takes time and support and understanding (and maybe a few naps and a lot of chocolate) to stitch itself back together.
But when it does, I choose to believe it grows back bigger and, if you let it, more willing to let others in.
A DESERVING LIFE
I’m hoping that by writing this down, by making it tangible and real, I won’t feel the need to hold onto it so tightly – I won’t need to worry about forgetting a detail because it’s here for me to read and reflect on anytime I want to check back in.
It took me a long time to feel ready to share this story. At first, I couldn’t put it into words. Then I felt silly when, months later, I’d still break into tears every time a pregnant woman walked by. I doubted the validity of my feelings: The baby was ours for what amounted to only a few short weeks. How can I feel this way when others have been through worse? But I sought help – in Kristian, who stood by my side no matter what, and with a counselor who helped me realize I felt this way because no matter how short-lived, there was a baby, OUR baby.
And he or she deserves to be remembered.