It was over a year ago, but I remember it vividly. Losing a baby at 18 weeks pregnant is truly devastating. I also learned many things that I want to share with anyone that might need to hear it. This is my miscarriage story.
**TRIGGER WARNING** This article graphically describes the loss of a baby, and the medical drama associated with that.
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If you are reading this because you have recently experienced a loss, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you find my story cathartic and that you find some peace.
I already had 3 children. It’s such a funny thing. I never knew exactly when it would happen, but I somehow knew that I would become pregnant and the gender that baby would be, long before (even years before). My first menstruation while nursing my third child finally came. I nursed clean for about 15 months. The following month, I felt it. I knew the signs, and I also felt gut wrenchingly wrong about it. I did not tell my husband, and I did not take a pregnancy test. I felt sure that I would start bleeding any moment...but I didn’t.
I couldn’t wait forever. I’m a responsible person after all. After 2 weeks of being completely certain the baby wasn’t going to stick, I took a pregnancy test. No shock when it was positive instantly. I would have been about 6 weeks pregnant then by my math. I shared the news with my husband, but not my fears. Why should I cause him panic too?
The timing worked out that we were going to be out of state on a vacation at the 8 week mark, which is when I typically see my OB. I thought this might be for the best, still not believing the baby would stick.
He was a sticky little peanut, and when we returned from vacation I made an appointment. At this point, I shared my fears with my husband. I just couldn’t bear them alone. He was understanding and supportive, but as I expected, he does take my gut seriously so he was also then concerned. We went together to the OB at 9 weeks. The baby was doing great. Heart was strong. Everything looked perfect. It was then, I began to hope. After being mildly chastised for coming so late to my prenatals, I was booked to come back for my 12 week visit.
This time, we brought our 8-year-old daughter. She stayed in the waiting room unaware, as my husband and I bravely went in to confirm that our baby was still alive. Our fears prevented us from bringing her in the room until we were sure. The baby was growing as he should and his heart was strong. My 8 year old got to see her first live ultrasound screen and hear the baby’s heartbeat. That is how we told her we were expecting. The first trimester nearly up, we began to feel good, but we still told only the family in our household.
We allowed ourselves to feel excited. I don’t normally buy anything so early, but I did buy some new accessories for my breast pump and a few bottles to put away. That nagging feeling was still there. I had listened to it in the beginning, but I didn’t want to live in fear. My baby stuck and was growing and healthy. So, I wrote it off. I thought, maybe I’m feeling this way because I didn’t have a premonition of this pregnancy, and I’m used to having that. I was wrong of course, but I didn’t know that.
My 16-week appointment was just as perfect. The doctor didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. By this time, I no longer feared going in for an ultrasound. I was just another expectant mother. At 17 weeks, I started bleeding. All of those fears, never completely gone, rushed instantly to the surface. It was dizzying. By his face, I’d say my husband had the same experience. We were pale as ghosts. With shaking hands, I called the emergency line at the OB and was only able to get a nurse practitioner that day. I came in for an immediate ultrasound. She didn’t see a problem then. A few days of bed rest, and I came back to see my OB at 17.5 weeks. The baby was healthy and well. This time, they discovered the hemorrhage on the ultrasound. Was it there the few days before, and she missed it? I don’t know. I have faith that they were all doing their best. I was referred to a high risk specialist. I didn’t even take the time I normally would to consider different doctors. I took the number they gave me, called and had an appointment the very next day.
Heartened by the fact that my ultrasound the day before was good, my husband stayed home with the kids. Ultrasound techs in my experience are very friendly people. Usually, delighted to see the babies and share with you. They aren’t allowed to give any medical information, but they will say things like..”here’s your baby” “that’s the heartbeat.” This time, she was silent. She couldn’t get her little wand in the right place it seemed because she tried every angle and pressed very deep after a few tries. Then she simply laid the wand down and walked out. The next person into the room was the doctor, whom I had met only that moment. I had my husband on speaker for this appointment, since he couldn’t be there. He heard everything. In true professionalism, she picked up the wand and confirmed for herself what the ultrasound tech had obviously shared with her. Then she explained that the baby had no heartbeat. I do not cry in public, but I was sobbing as she spoke.
I was in shock. Despite all my bad feelings, I had just seen a healthy baby the day before. The only question we asked was “what do we do now?” She referred me back to my OB for next steps and left me to cry in the room for as long as I needed. I didn’t have to call my OB, he called me.
She had obviously called him personally to let him know. As I’ve retained placenta in the past, and I already had hemorrhaging, he said my safest bet was to schedule a D&E. I found a good facility that I felt comfortable with and felt would handle me with sensitivity. I booked the earliest appointment. Meanwhile, the bleeding was persistent. Sunday morning, March 31, 2019, I got up and cooked my children pancakes. The weight in my belly felt better, and I wasn’t bleeding for the first time in a week. I was 18 weeks pregnant, to the day. My D&E appointment was the following morning. I wouldn’t make it.
After breakfast, I went to the restroom and felt the baby come down fast. Afraid to drop my baby into the toilet, I squeezed back my pee and closed my legs. For a few seconds, I sat in place and just panicked. Then taking a deep breath, I got up and ran to my husband. I called the OB. He was unavailable. I told them I am going to the hospital, page him. My wise husband called an ambulance. They had to strap me with my legs crossed, I refused to open them. I said, “this baby is staying until we reach the hospital.” They were ok with that. The guy in the back with me asked if they should take it easy on bumps. “Nope, just get me there fast. I don’t know how long I can hold this.” At that moment, I was emotionless. I was full of adrenaline and my mind was in emergency mode. Solve the emergency. That’s all I could do. I absolutely refused to have that baby in an ambulance. The paramedic offered to stop at any moment if I needed. “Not happening.” As they were wheeling me in, “We can stop in the regular ER if you can’t make it to maternity. It’s a bit further away and takes an elevator.” “I’ll make it.”
Successfully, they wheeled me in to labor and delivery at NY Methodist hospital. After quick explanations, the staff doctor reached in and checked me. Skeptical, “not sure what happened before but the baby isn’t going anywhere right now.” Tsk. She should know better than to question a woman’s instincts. I said politely, “well, he was coming out when I tried to urinate. I’ve been holding it, now that I’m safely here, I’d like to go to the bathroom.” I knew what would happen. “Can someone come in with me?” She clearly thought I was bonkers. “You’re fine dear, I checked you. Just go to the bathroom.” Tsk. I sat down to pee, and the baby popped right down again. I pulled the red cord on the wall. “The baby is coming out.” In shock, she confirms that I was in fact right all along and holding my pee must have kept the baby up.
My doctor was still a few hours away, but he was coming. Settled on a delivery bed, the staff made no effort to rush things along. We were waiting for my doctor to hopefully arrive. I was visited by the hospital chaplain. This is very important for you to know should you ever, God forbid, experience a late miscarriage. The chaplain brought me paperwork that I had to sign acknowledging what is called a spontaneous abortion. That is just a fancy term for a miscarriage. I then had to write down my baby’s information.
I was grateful for the few days that I had to prepare because we had chosen a name for our baby and were versed by then on the related Jewish laws. I wrote our baby’s name on the paperwork. That is his legal name forever. If you do not write a name, the hospital WILL name your child. It’s law. They have to. At best, your child will be Baby Boy Lastname. At worst, Fetus Lastname. It’s your choice, you do you. But I want you to know the reality. When you miscarry a baby who’s gender can be identified, that baby is a person in the law. The hospital must handle this deceased person accordingly. You can decide for yourself if you want your baby cremated or buried. You will never get these choices back again, so make them carefully. If you fail to decide, the hospital will decide for your baby. Do NOT hesitate to ask for more time. It’s hard to make decisions in a panicked moment.
Today looking back, I am so grateful that we gave our child a proper name. And per Jewish law, we had to arrange a proper preparation and burial. We had a choice, the burial society could come and collect our baby and bury him in an unmarked grave in a baby garden at a cemetery in New Jersey. We would never know where. We wouldn’t have to think about it again. What I learned and desperately want you to know is there is another way! If that is all you are offered, that doesn’t mean it’s all that is available. That was the only choice offered to me. It wasn’t until I was crying and upset about that, the woman told me that there was another organization who did things differently.
We made arrangements to have our baby buried in a cemetery as near us as possible (still an hour away) and marked with his proper name. We also chose to attend the burial. But, I’m getting ahead of myself now. Back at the hospital, the caring nurses were sharing with me all of the gentle things they do. We were told we could see our baby if we wished. They asked permission to dress and photograph our baby to create an angel box for us. I signed for everything and was left alone briefly. Then it happened.
Some sort of startled noise pulled my husband from his chair and to my side. I screamed “get the nurse, my water broke.” I’m telling you that’s EXACTLY how it felt. I had 3 children prior. I know that feeling. But of course, that didn’t make medical sense. The sac holding the baby was tiny with little waters at that point. Without thought, my husband complied and the staff doctor came in running. Not water...blood. My hemorrhage had come out and I was now bleeding everywhere. I didn’t know the reason for the doctor's speed. I was emotionless and living in the moment. What the doctor knew was I was bleeding a dangerous amount. She thought, if I delivered the baby, the bleeding would stop. It should. It didn’t. She stayed with me and helped me deliver the baby, but the placenta stayed.
I took a few minutes to hold and look at my very tiny, alien-like baby. My husband had initially declined to see the baby. He changed his mind and appeared at my side. I think he’s glad he did. He said later, “I decided to take the opportunity whether I wanted to or not because it would never come again.” I kissed my son goodbye, and let the sweet nurses take him to be photographed, tested, and eventually laid to rest.
My doctor then arrived and assessed the situation. I needed emergency surgery. I was taken as soon as a room could be prepared. My husband was sent to a special waiting room and told that I would be only 15 minutes. An hour later, they came and let him know that I was alright and would be in recovery shortly. Meanwhile, I was numbed only on the bottom half, and perfectly awake for the D&C procedure. I got very friendly with my anesthesiologist. Ok, so actually I vomited on him. He was at my head tending me the whole time. So, when the continuous jolting pressure against my stomach was too much, I threw up. Lucky for him, I hadn’t eaten anything since the pancakes that morning, (remember those?).
When I finally got to the recovery room, I was completely out of sorts; nauseated, dizzy, and couldn’t even stand. The nurses waited and waited for me to be able to walk. I couldn’t. I’d lost too much blood and was severely anemic. Now, it was very late at night and my husband needed to figure out if he should go home to the kids or wait for me to be released. Finally, I was admitted, allowing him to go home and rest.
After a couple days in the hospital, I was sent home still very weak and unable to walk across the room unassisted. In my weakened state, I immediately caught my daughter’s cold and turned it into a nasty bacterial infection. I was very sickly on the dreary April Thursday when we buried our son.
We had to complete paperwork and handover money at the cemetery. It was surreal. Then we were shown over to the plot. The tiniest wooden box was lowered into the ground and covered loosely with dirt. Alone at last, we cried, prayed, and grieved in the pouring rain. It seemed completely fitting for the whole world to be grey that day. Back at the car, I couldn’t leave. I told my husband, “I can’t leave him here all alone in the cold.” I was paralyzed. I couldn’t leave. Pumped full of pregnancy hormones and maternal feelings, logic was irrelevant. So we walked back to the grave. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than to dig him up and take him home. I needed to hold him. I needed to protect him. I didn’t care how tiny he was. Only the thinnest shred of sanity kept me from acting on this intense need. My husband held me, and when I seemed to be cried out, he led me back to the car.
Once back home, I collapsed on the bed and slept hard from fever and sadness. Over time, my body healed. My heart healed, at least, as much as it ever will. The pain is still there. It is a loss ever felt, but it’s no longer raw. There was a point during my healing that I had to make a decision to be happy again. I hadn’t known that I ever decided not to be. I couldn’t let myself go on as I was. I recognized the pit of despair, and reflected on the loved ones counting on me. I wanted to be myself again, to feel like fresh spring air was a blessing and to see my children and feel love and adoration without feeling punched in the gut. I wanted it, but I realized it wasn’t going to come on it’s own. I had to CHOOSE it. I had to choose to enjoy life again. I needed to give myself permission to be happy. Once I did, my body healed faster too.
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