Pregnancy After Pregnancy Loss

May God give us peace in our sorrow, consolation in our grief, and strength to accept his will in all things. Amen.

A miscarriage prayer for strength.

1 in 4 women. Like many of you, I am that statistic. Our first pregnancy ended like a shattered wine glass. It took me almost 4 years to write this post, because that is around how long it took me to pick up the broken pieces.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty open book. My parents told me as a kid I wore my emotions on my sleeve. Some people may take that as a bad thing, but as an adult – I learned to embrace that quirk in my personality. Thankfully, I found a partner who appreciates that quirk “I always know where I stand with you…” he has told me in the past. That sense of openness has enabled me to relate to a lot of people and make connections easily whenever I walk into a room, but it also leaves you vulnerable in a way that you sometimes don’t even realize until after a less than positive experience happens in your life.

So with this open book mentality, why has it taken me so long to open up about this? Why finally write about it now? It’s been so long, it’s time to move on. I’ve always believed that every cross we are given to carry in our lives is to prepare our hearts to help other people. And I hope that this story does that – I hope it helps someone, anyone find a little sense of peace and community in knowing that they are not alone. And that the storm will not last forever.

In September of 2016, my husband and I had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Then not even a month later, we had the surprise of our lives. We were pregnant.

I’ll never forget the morning I woke up and just knew it. You know, that freaky feeling that something in your body is different. I rushed to the local grocery store to pick up pregnancy tests and pumpkin spice muffins. Because you know… it was fall and well… cravings. I quickly rushed to the office for work thereafter. Where my racing mind had the brilliant idea to go ahead and pee on the little white stick in the office bathroom (patience has clearly never been my virtues). And there is was – two faint, but clearly distinguishable pink lines.

I was shocked. I remember thinking “How is Todd going to take this?” Mind you, at this time in our lives, we were still living pay check to pay check in a townhouse we couldn’t afford in a borough outside of Philadelphia. We were just trying to make ends meet, so how in the world were we going to take care of a kid? But you know what? I didn’t care. I was thrilled. I quickly wrapped up the evidence of the positive pregnancy test and shoved into the bottom of my work bag. I shuffled out of the women’s bathroom and into the stairwell where I almost head-on collided with one of our marketing directors. “Good morning, Allie! How are you?” Which I retorted an octave to loud a very rushed “FINE.” Well, that was awkward. She looked a little stunned, but she just gave me a smile and a nod and I continued my walk of shame up the stairs to my cubicle. Where I then avoided eye contact with anyone else the rest of the day.

Fast forward a few weeks. We had been to the doctor where they confirmed the grocery store test. And while we were completely bewildered on how in the world we were going to handle this…. You see, I am a planner, an organizer, an “everything has a place and everything in its place” border line type-A sort of personality. So naturally, I had a plan for our lives. And having a baby at that time was not part of the plan. But no matter that – I was happy. So very happy. And that was when the spotting began.

We went back and forth to doctors appointments for weeks. Ultrasound after ultrasound – they kept assuring us everything was fine. Everything was not fine. And at our 12 week appointment, when we thought maybe we were finally in the clear… “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I cannot find the heartbeat.” I had to muffle my mouth with my own hands to contain the sobs. Incontrollable sobs. I felt Todd’s consoling hand on my shoulder and when I saw Todd’s face and the tears in his eyes, my heart hit the floor.

Then without much sensitivity to the situation, we were ushered out of the room where they were all too quick to have us sign paperwork to come back for procedure they so classily referred to as an abortion. “ABORTION!” I can remember spewing. “Ma’am, don’t take it personally – it’s just the medical term we use on insurance paperwork for such a procedure.”

I didn’t move much the rest of that day. My face stayed buried in a pillow where I sobbed until it was soaked with my tears. What had I done wrong. I asked myself over and over. And although the rational mind tells you otherwise, I could not stop blaming myself. Sure, we could try again and have another baby. But I wanted THIS baby. And nothing anyone could say or do would make me feel any different.

Several days later (which feels like an eternity when you are still technically pregnant but the little life inside of you is no more), we drove back to the doctor’s office for the procedure. I had little understanding of how this was supposed to happen. But let me tell you – it was all wrong. I was given half of a baby Xanax before they began the D&C procedure in the OB office on a normal examination table. While I was fully awake and felt everything. I will spare you the gruesome details, because it is not a memory I like to relive – but it was the most excruciating physical and mental pain I had ever endured. Todd sat at the top of the table clutching my arms and he too knew… something about this “operation” wasn’t quite right. Come to find out, standard procedure for a D&C is to put the patient to sleep… In a hospital… Fully medicated. I was given no such option. I’ll never know what those doctors were thinking, but all I know is it was not OK. I was not OK.

I left a piece of my heart on the table that day. I was so broken, so traumatized, I knew the only way I could survive was if I swept up all my little broken pieces and put them in a little box, tied away to be dealt with at another time. And that is where those pieces stayed.

Days later, we came back in a for a follow-up. I came to expect a lesser amount of care from this practice but was still shocked when the doctor almost dismissed us before noticing on my chart that A) I was still showing high levels of HCG hormone in my system and B) the test results showed I actually had what they call a partial molar pregnancy (a very rare occurrence when a tumor grows in conjunction with the fetus [meaning the baby never had a chance]). At that point, nothing seemed to shock me anymore. You can’t break what’s already broken.

It took me over 6 months to physically recover from the trauma toll the in-office “abortion” had taken on my body. During that time, Todd and I were given the opportunity via my job to move back home to Alabama. Thank God. We were closer to family and I was in better medical care and could finally begin to heal from this whole ordeal. But despite all that, my body remained pregnant for weeks to months after the procedure because the ill-performed D&C did not remove all the “pregnancy parts”. My doctor here in Alabama suggested we do another procedure, but proper this time (she was shocked to hear about our circumstances in PA). I quickly declined, “No way. I’m not doing that again.” She gracefully understood my PTSD and politely informed me that I could do this naturally, but it would be difficult and painful and they would still want to monitor me very closely. So they did, and it was.

And at some point, there were no tears left to cry. I had to keep moving. I’ve always been strangely fond of the saying “idle hands are the devil’s handy work.” So I kept myself busy with anything and everything I could to try to put this disaster behind me. I threw myself into my career. I started writing my first blog. Todd and I bought an old mountain home and spent the next 2 years renovating the thing. And to top it off, we decided to open a business. Whew. I was so busy, I had no time to think about the child we had lost or any future children we were to plan for. I had placed my hypothetical little box of broken pieces so far under the hypothetical bed, I only bothered to dust it off when another 1 in 4 needed a friend. And that was my only exception for bringing that box out.

Years passed and time did heal a lot of the pain. But I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to try again. To be frank, Todd was ready far before I was. And when we would talk about having kids, I just kept pushing that box further under the bed. I wasn’t ready yet. I blamed it on my focus on my career, but in all self-awareness fairness, I was too scared to let my open heart be that vulnerable to love and want something so much again. Until that day came.

I was on a business trip, exhausted and worn to the bone from 16-hour work days when it hit me. Sitting in my hotel room with nothing but the glow of my MacBook Pro, I rubbed my eyes after staring for hours at a flooded Outlook inbox and it hit me “What I am doing?!” I have a loving husband who wants to start a family with me and I am letting my own fear distract me and hold me back from what my heart truly wants. And while I felt very fulfilled with a busy corporate job, traveling around the world, and co-owning our own business – I knew my heart was never quite full.

And just like that I was ready. I could hardly wait to catch a flight out of Las Vegas and start this next journey. I distinctly remember the feeling of not being able to get out of there fast enough and then the perplexed looks I received for cutting my trip short. I had no more interest in catching a drink at the bar with my coworkers or trying to impress people with my “can-do” workaholic attitude, I just wanted to get home and begin this next chapter of starting a family, STAT (see I told you, no patience).

So you can imagine my frustration when it didn’t happen right away. “We weren’t even trying last time and it just happened!” I fussed as I threw away another negative pregnancy in the trash can. It didn’t take me long to get frustrated and discouraged. Mrs. Instant Gratification over here has no chill. I thought maybe, because I had pushed my little box so far under the bed, I was being punished with infertility for my own selfishness. I figured maybe I deserved this path and fought to keep my mind from going down the proverbial rabbit whole. Then it finally happened.

The next month, I took the another test, it came back negative. Figures, right? I drowned my sorrows for a few days but when Aunt Flow seemed to have delayed her visit after all, I decided out of curiosity to try just one more test. Then there is was… a very faint and almost indistinguishable second pink line. I could hardly contain my excitement. I had to tell Todd, but I was still so hesitant. But when we tested again and the lines were as clear a day… We lost it. We cried and jumped around our little mountain house bathroom with the happiest of tears.

I was scared to let myself be excited again. Our first trimester was rocky and the devil in the back of mind kept telling me it was going to happen again. I had low progesterone levels and some spotting that caused a terrified reaction every time it happened. I was placed on medication and returned weekly for check-ins, bloodwork and ultrasounds. The doctors kept assuring me “the baby is fine.” Sure, I had heard that before. We had our biggest scare when Todd’s birthday trip ended with us rushing straight from the airport to the OB ER because I was spotting red again. Low and behold, the ultrasound in the dark ER room revealed a perfectly healthy 10-week old little baby. And it shocked me that the little bean on the screen actually looked like a real, little baby. Wow. My heart skipped a beat seeing this realistic little figure staring back at me on a screen. And I started to realize my stone cold approach to this pregnancy wasn’t just me protecting myself again… it was inhibiting me from loving this little blessing growing in my belly. He was going to be OK, so it was time I was OK too.

Just like that, my perspective changed. I began approaching this pregnancy with a whole new mindset. And strangely, the spotting stopped and I began to physically feel better too. It was as if my new mental state caused my physical being to heal too. Yeah, I had a box full of broken pieces I didn’t like to deal with. But we were given a brand new opportunity, within God’s time, to do this again. I wasn’t going to take a single moment of that for granted and no amount of fear or self-preservation would take that away from me.

And now I sit here, in my third trimester pregnant with a very active little boy in my belly and the most grateful heart a mama-to-be could have… My box of broken pieces isn’t hidden anymore anymore, it is casting a light on our little rainbow.

P.S. – I hope that if you are reading this (and you actually made it all the way through – wow, I’m impressed and thank you for staying with me) – know that I and many other women out there just like me are praying for you. You are never alone. Your storm will pass. Your rainbow will come.