At nearly 23 weeks pregnant, the reality of what’s to come is setting in more each day. I have a growing belly, and I feel kicks (so many kicks!) pretty regularly now. I may actually believe that there’s a person growing inside of me now, whereas for so long it seemed like it would never really be REAL. I had a somewhat miserable, nauseous and exhausting first trimester, and while at that time I couldn’t possibly understand those women who claimed to loooooove being pregnant, I must say that I’m enjoying it much more at the moment. No, I don’t enjoy the middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks, or the back pain, or the expanding boobs, or feeling completely winded every time I go up stairs — but overall, I can finally grasp their enjoyment just a bit more.
The reality is that despite the negatives, I’m just so grateful to be pregnant. Because last November, Nick and I suffered the unimaginable loss of our first baby. On November 10, 2011, at ten weeks pregnant, I was told by a very apologetic stranger that our baby no longer had a heartbeat.
It was shocking, devastating, heartbreaking, unimaginably bad news.
I had had no symptoms of a miscarriage — the heartbeat simply stopped. On November 11, I went through the terrible process of having a D&C. The hospital staff was incredibly nice and sympathetic, but waiting around for hours on an empty stomach in a paper hospital gown and ugly socks that did nothing to keep the rest of my shivering body warm, all for a fifteen minute procedure, was not my idea of a good time. I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry and eat ice cream and be with my husband. It was a horrible, horrible day.
The weirdest thing about the D&C was that when the anesthesia wore off and I woke up, I didn’t feel like anything had happened. If you hadn’t told me why I was there, I wouldn’t have known. I essentially just felt like I went to sleep pregnant, and woke up knowing I was no longer pregnant. It was very strange, and very disheartening. I felt no pain or physical discomfort — I simply just wasn’t pregnant anymore.
Ironically, the day that followed, November 12, was the “Meet Ginger” party my mom and I had planned for extended family and family friends who had not yet met my niece. Nick and I got through the party, and it was actually a good distraction to talk to people who were mostly oblivious to what we were going through (save for the obvious immediate family members), but it was also very draining at the end of the day. I love my niece more than anything, but there’s no avoiding that the timing of this celebration was painful.
The weeks that followed were not great. It’s amazing how attached you can become to something in such a short period of time, but we never thought the worst would happen to us, so why wouldn’t we have gotten attached? I had what I referred to as “the sads” for a while; so did Nick. We usually took turns having bad days, which allowed one of us to be the strong one while the other was a mess. I got through Thanksgiving with Nick’s huge extended family okay, but simply could not stop crying the next day and had to stay in bed while Nick explained to everyone at their day-after leftover extravaganza why I wasn’t there. We moved on December 2, which was pretty much the worst timing ever. Suddenly the bedroom that was supposed to become the nursery was just another bedroom, and we were buried under boxes that we didn’t have the emotional energy to unpack.
We had already agreed to keep Christmas low-key with our families, so thankfully we did not have to do a lot of holiday prepping. We all bought gifts for my niece, Ginger, but otherwise kept it pretty simple. I don’t think I could have handled much more that month. Nick and I exchanged gifts that were thoughtful but not overly elaborate, and we were both blubbering messes while opening them; they felt like hopeful tears at that point, though, and we just felt lucky to have each other.
Things started to look up a little bit around Christmas as we continued to cope but felt a little more of a push to move on with our daily lives; while the doctor had advised us to wait a few cycles to try again, we (ignorantly?) didn’t really listen.
On January 4, I just felt a little different. I felt like something was up. After the third or fourth night of having really weird, vivid dreams (which I had had during my first pregnancy), I sent Nick out for a pregnancy test and my hopeful suspicions were confirmed. I was pregnant again!
We were happy… but not yet excited. We just couldn’t let ourselves be hurt again and we didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment and heartbreak. I suddenly felt really dumb and worried that maybe we should have heeded the doctor’s advice and waited, even though I was given a clean bill of health shortly after the D&C — I didn’t want to put myself or our baby in any danger.
Fortunately, everything seemed to be okay and, now almost 23 weeks in, I can say that it has been a fairly uneventful (in the best way possible) pregnancy. I know how immensely lucky we are that it happened again so quickly — I know some people try for years with no success, and here I was, pregnant again less than two months after a miscarriage. We have not let our good fortune go unnoticed.
We were cautiously optimistic for so long at the beginning of this pregnancy, but hearing the heartbeat at 10 weeks felt like the biggest milestone ever and we finally let ourselves celebrate a little. Seeing our baby bouncing around at the 12 week ultrasound was unreal; learning that “it” is a healthy little “he” at our 20 week ultrasound was downright euphoric. And it finally started to feel really, really real.
But… there’s always a but…
The joy of this pregnancy and this baby has not washed away the sadness of the first baby that we lost. Not at all. It’s something I never would have understood had someone explained it to me a year ago, but now that I’ve lived through it, the best way I can explain it is that our sadness and our happiness both exist and are parallel to one another. After all, when someone dies, we don’t just find a replacement for them; this situation is no different. While this pregnancy happened so quickly after the miscarriage, it does not erase the memory of what we lost. We’ll never forget that first baby. We are still overcome with sadness sometimes for the little one we’ll never meet, regardless of how elated we are to meet this new little one in September.
I often see other women who are further along than I am and the memories of my first first trimester and those horrible days of bad news and surgery come flooding back. I was supposed to be them. June 6, my first due date, will be a very sad day this year. Will the joy of our baby’s birth in September overshadow that? Of course. But it won’t make it go away. It’s not that simple.
A miscarriage is truly the loss of a loved one — there just isn’t that physical recognition of the person being mourned. So many people keep it private and never tell those they surround themselves with what they are going through. We decided to approach our miscarriage as we would any other devastating loss — we told people. We told the family and friends who knew we were pregnant, and we eventually told the family and friends who had not yet known we were pregnant. And honestly, it was the best thing we ever could have done for ourselves. Friends brought us food so we didn’t have to think about cooking when all we wanted to do was sit and cry. People sent cards and checked in on us. Friends and family cried with us and let us cry to them. We weren’t looking for pity, but feeling the love and sympathy from those around us was really important.
I joked with friends at one point that, while we were talking about it, I wasn’t going to post about the miscarriage on my blog or anything. But after several months of perspective and hearing so many stories of people I know who went through the same thing but never talked about it, I thought that maybe sharing our story would help someone else. Talking about it is not easy or fun, but for us it was the best therapy we could have asked for during a very sad time.