I’ve experienced two miscarriages. They were each devastating by their own account but very different experiences. After our first loss, I carried some fear of losing again, but more so, I carried confidence that it would not happen again. We would be spared another such loss. Perhaps I was naive or cocky but I had to believe that our child would survive and join us, I couldn’t think the opposite.
As I sought out others’ stories, I learned that while some women will never experience a miscarriage others will, and of those who do, some will experience the loss and multiple times. I read about a woman who experienced six miscarriage before finally carrying a baby to term and holding that child. Her first six pregnancies all ended abruptly. Unlike me, she did not have the benefit of already having a child to put her energy toward. As heartbreaking as our losses were, having a healthy daughter does not give me time to wallow in self-despair. If we did not have her and these losses were our first pregnancies, I can see how easy it would be to feel defeated, singled-out, and hopeless.
A friend shared with me that when she lost her first, she was not just mourning the loss of her baby but also the potential reality of not being able to become a mother. I can only imagine. Here I have this amazing child, full of life and wonder. She is proof that we can create our own personal miracle and realize the awesome experience of pregnancy and birth and life and everything that follows.
The stories I read of parents who had lost multiple times gave me an unsettled feeling. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to believe it could happen to us again. But it did. This is a summary of our three pregnancies, resulting in one living child:
Connie Elizabeth, April 14, 2015
In 2014 we were getting married and opted to start trying for a child a few months before the wedding with the full expectation that it would take a few to several months. I got pregnant.. easily… quickly and walked down the aisle 10 weeks pregnant. In the spring of 2015, we welcomed our daughter. The 40 weeks and five days I carried her were the most joyful of my life. It was my picture-perfect pregnancy and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Despite having to endure extra monitoring because of a short cervix, the pregnancy evolved without a single complication. We labored at home for about five hours before heading to the hospital. Three-and-a-half hours after arriving, Connie was born via a mother-led, natural, water birth. Just like my pregnancy, she was picture-perfect.
Whenever I reflect on my pregnancy, labor, and birth of Miss Connie, I am reminded that the entire experience was all I had hoped it would be. You can read our birth story here.
James Harold, May 23, 2016
Our loss of James was our first experience with miscarriage.
As 2015 came to a close we started entertaining the idea of trying again. I wanted the children close in age and the ‘biological clock’ was ticking! We started trying in January and by February 2016, we were pregnant. Quick. Easy. This pregnancy was different that the first. I did not experience any morning sickness as I had with Connie but did have back pain. Connie wasn’t even a year old yet so I was busy with her, not as emotionally focused on the pregnancy as I was before, but glad nonetheless for another opportunity to experience pregnancy and grow our family. Cody was already guessing this baby would be a boy.
The ultrasound at 14 weeks revealed perfect measurements and a very active baby. Everything seemed good and my cervix was measuring at 4cm. There wasn’t a reason to think this pregnancy would be any different than our last. Three weeks later, our pregnancy ended with no warning.
My water broke around 8 p.m. just 17 weeks into the pregnancy. I was tired that day and opted to go to bed right after Connie went down. I crawled into bed and there was a burst, then leaking fluid. My water broke. I was immediately worried. I yelled for Cody and ran to the bathroom. We called the birth center and they directed us to check into the Emergency Room. Ten minutes into the trip contractions started and I was in labor. Reality was sinking in. Shortly after 10 p.m. our son was delivered without any chance of being saved. It was crushing. I delivered my son and after the umbilical cord gave, we were able to hold him, to spend time with him. He was approximately 7-8″ long. I kept looking at his hands and feet in awe, they were so perfect with these amazing fingernails and toenails.
I wanted to take him home, to make our own arrangements and determine how we would find closure to this heartbreak that was so raw and unrecognizable. They wouldn’t let us take him, we could not keep him. Health and death rules said so. We had to surrender him to the funeral home. We opted for cremation and then found ourselves having to make decisions we were not prepared for…
While I was able to deliver my son, the placenta did not follow. We had to stay a night in the hospital and hoped it would produce itself. By mid-morning, it had not. We put mourning on hold to prepare for surgery; a new mix of emotions entered and I was scared. A dilation and curettage procedure, also called a D&C, was performed. It took most of the day to recover as a result of hemorrhaging during the surgery. I wanted so badly to go home. We were finally released that evening. When we returned home I held my daughter with so much gratitude.
Morgan, December 25, 2016
My third pregnancy resulted in our second miscarriage experience.
It took four months for my period to return and our directions were to wait for two healthy menstrual cycles before trying again. As before, it was easy and quick. We started trying in October and learned we were pregnant just after Thanksgiving. I demanded of myself to be positive, optimistic, joyful and to give this baby the benefit of a happy and healthy mama, not one riddled with anxiety or fear. I waited for the morning sickness to hit but it didn’t–perhaps another boy? We decided to share our news early and forget about the rule of waiting until after the first trimester. Our closest family, friends, and colleagues learned and returned well-wishes, excitement, and prayers.
Even though I did not have any warning signs before losing James, and even though I said I wasn’t going to worry, with each trip to the restroom I always checked for color. I shared this habit with a friend who has also experienced miscarriages and she indicated she did the same and that “it’s something you’ll probably always do.” I did, I checked every time.
One day, there was color. It surprised me, but I quickly determined it was nothing, just minor spotting and it would go away–I was going to convince myself it was nothing to worry about. It was still there the second day. I called my midwife and she ordered lab work to check my human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) hormone level. I began researching possible causes for break-through bleeding and kept coming across mentions of low progesterone levels. I called back to the clinic and requested to have my progesterone levels checked as well. I went in for the blood draw and waited for the news.
My hCG level was above 14,000 which was strong but that only provided a baseline. I would need to return in two days for another draw to compare the levels. My progesterone, on the other hand, was 6.2, much lower than the estimated 23 it should have been. My midwife prescribed progesterone supplements and I started them right away determined to save this pregnancy. It was two days since the spotting arrived and it continued.
There were highs and lows during these days. I’d find stories of other women or friends would share their own accounts of bleeding with no complications resulting. I held onto those tightly. Then there was the constant reminder of the threat of miscarriage… I just wanted the bleeding to stop so badly.
Day three was December 23, seven months from the day we lost James. My midwife called around lunchtime to let me know the results from the second blood draw that morning. A drop. The hCG level was now just above 12,000. Not a huge decline, so some potential hope, but “suspicious of miscarriage”. I sobbed, I so wanted the numbers to increase, if not just maintain. In the late afternoon that same day, cramping started and I was officially losing hope. We had a Christmas gathering that evening. I put a small container, pads and a wet washcloth in a plastic bag inside my purse. I anticipated the loss would be imminent and wanted to be prepared. I might be losing my baby but I was not letting them go down a toilet or into the trash can, this baby would come home with me. The date, the 23rd, loomed in my thoughts.
But I would not lose the baby that day, or the next, but rather would do so on Christmas day. We were on our way to the hospital for my third blood draw for the hCG level comparisons. I had cramps during the drive and the bleeding increased. Within 10 feet of entering the hospital, I felt the release and knew we had our answer.
I made it to the restroom–the women’s was occupied so I used the men’s. I got myself cleaned up and collected my baby with the ‘supplies’ I still had in my purse. There was no reason to go to the lab for a blood draw anymore. Perhaps I should have been seen by someone, especially since I was already at the hospital, but I didn’t want a hospital experience–there was nothing they could do for me. I got back into the vehicle with my husband and daughter and we went home. It was the result I expected but until it is final, you hold onto hope fiercely.
At home, I wrapped our baby in packing paper, then in red gift/tissue paper. I grabbed a burlap strip from our wedding decorations and made a bow. It was the only thing I could think to do. This life deserved honor and care and love.
I dived back into research and reading and found accounts of women who had experienced a miscarriage only to still be pregnant, the loss of a twin or multiple. My own sister-in-law told me about her personal experience of the same during her first pregnancy and I thought surely this is possible. I still had some feelings of pregnancy, not as strong, but still there…. I prayed for it and hoped for it and when I returned to the hospital for yet another blood draw, I held hope and expectation that the readings would indicate we were still pregnant!
My final hCG reading was 1,000. It had dropped rapidly and dramatically and I would likely have the hormone out of my system completely within a week or two… Crushed again.
It was a roller coaster of a week with highs and lows of emotions, hopes, defeats and loss again and again. With this miscarriage, I felt like I mourned the loss with each new revelation, first the spotting, then the cramping, then the passing, and again when it was formally confirmed and there was no chance of another baby still within.
While I will never know the gender or have the opportunity to feel their movement within me like I had with my last two babies, I was determined to honor this life. I buried our child by our maple sapling, the tree we planted during the unity ceremony of our wedding. Time went by but I still was lacking closure and I realized it was due to the lack of name… I referred to this child as Baby #3 or our second miscarriage or ‘this last one’. I pondered for a few days before bringing it up to Cody.
“What do you think of Morgan?“, I asked. He liked it for a girl, not for a boy. I then explained that it was not a name I would choose for a child if I knew the gender, but for this child that we lost, whose gender we will never know, it resonated for me. It was gender-neutral. It was a name that my sister considered naming her third child before deciding on Madalyn. I needed to name my baby. He agreed and I feel better about the closure of this loss–our loss of Morgan.
When we lost James there was an outpouring of support. Our shock and sadness were shared by so many and we truly felt free to mourn and share. After all, we were 17 weeks in and I delivered naturally… We had to make arrangements… It was a profound loss and those around us reflected that.
When we lost Morgan, things were quieter. Some of our family members cried with us and held us, but some of our closest friends didn’t even reach out or acknowledge it. Some of the support that we did receive was delivered in a way that made me feel as though I should deem this one easier than the one before. That it is better to lose early if you are going to lose. That this child was somehow less.
The support was certainly not equal. Was it misplaced as a result of the busy holiday season? Did they use up their empathy for us the first time around? Did they think we should have kept the news quiet to spare them from having to give condolences? Did they think this child was less important to us? Were they at a loss of what to say the second time around? Or is it just understood that we know?
Most miscarriages take place in the first trimester which makes me very sad for those mamas and daddies who never get to hold that life and are forced to move on quickly.
When comparing my experiences, it is hard for me to say which loss was hardest. By society’s standards, it would be losing James based on gestation. Yeah, that was tough. It was hard to hold his body and wonder who he would have been and want so much to fast-forward time to 31 or 35 weeks…enough for him to get all he needed to survive on this side. But I got to hold him. I will cherish that always. And I got to know that he was a he and give him a full name and honor his life with an urn and memorial stone. There is a blessing in that.
Losing Morgan was a loss after a loss. You start questioning your ability to produce life and you wonder if you are doing a disservice if you try again. I’m not sure if I could go through it again and have started researching adoption and foster care options.
Miscarriage experiences vary from one to the next, between mothers, between gestation terms… what unifies them all is the heartbreak of losing a fragile life that you love more than yourself.
To all the mamas who know my heartache, I send you mad love and respect. And to the family and friends who support parents who have lost–in pregnancy or beyond–you are doing a tremendous service to our souls. Thank you.