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I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about her recent missed miscarriage. As we talked through the experience, made uniquely difficult by the pandemic, one phrase she said just kept echoing in my mind, “I just didn’t know this could happen.”

It took me back to my own missed miscarriage, also called a blighted ovum. The cells stop dividing, the sac is empty, there is no heartbeat, but your body continues on, business as usual. Before I stepped into that ultrasound room, I just didn’t know either.

I just didn’t know.

RELATED: My Baby Was Gone and So Was I

I wasn’t having any spotting or cramping. In fact, if sprinting to the toilet due to all day and night sickness had been an Olympic event, I would’ve been on track for a gold medal. I was so confident that these were all signs that everything was OK, I reassured my husband that he could stay home and watch our son when we couldn’t get childcare.

I just didn’t know.

When the ultrasound tech was taking a bit longer, I didn’t worry. With my first pregnancy, I worried all the time. I was determined to be more relaxed and enjoy it more this go around. Then she asked me quietly if I had experienced any cramping or spotting. I confidently said I wasn’t and listed the pregnancy symptoms I was having in abundance. She got quiet, looked at the screen, did a few more things, then said,

“Here’s the thing honey, I’m so sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat. I’m going to talk to the radiologist, then we’ll call your OB.”

I just didn’t know.

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I was shocked and left breathless by how fast the situation had turned. I was supposed to be leaving with pictures to show my husband and be excitedly speculating about if this long-awaited baby was going to be a brother or sister for my little boy who was so very ready to be a big brother. Instead, I was in a little consultation room that you don’t even notice when things go well, but you are forever aware of after you’ve spent some time in it. I spoke to my OB, and she wanted to wait a week then repeat the ultrasound just in case the dates were off, but to please call her immediately if I experienced any cramping or bleeding.

I just didn’t know.

I went home stunned and managed to tell my husband. The following week felt endless and grey with small patches of light fighting to get through. Every mad dash to vomit came with a slim ray of hope- surely I wouldn’t be this sick if this wasn’t a viable pregnancy? But there was a corner of my heart and mind that did know how this was going to end. It was that part that compelled me to research options before the follow-up appointment and reach out to a few friends to discuss those options. In between times I reassured myself I was just doing due diligence, I wouldn’t need this information, but if I did, I would be prepared for what came next.

I just didn’t know.

At the follow-up ultrasound, nothing was changed and it was confirmed—this pregnancy was over, my body just wasn’t getting the memo.

I’d never heard of this. I’d heard heartbreaking stories of bleeding, early ruptures, and loss, but never one where someone’s body just didn’t seem to be on the same page as reality.

I just didn’t know.

I was not prepared for the pain and the messy reality of the treatment plan. It wasn’t that my doctor didn’t prepare me and provide me with compassionate, thorough care- I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that all of this was happening. I was not prepared for how angry and sad I would feel at the same time, culminating in the day I went to pick up my son from preschool and another mother looked at me and said,

“You just don’t understand how lucky you are to have just one—you got the whole morning to yourself”

I’d spent the whole morning with a hot pack and changing pads.

I never spoke to her again.

RELATED: 25 Things NOT To Say To a Mother Who’s Had a Miscarriage

I knew rationally she didn’t know, but I just couldn’t get past that statement.

I just didn’t know.

Physically, I recovered quickly. My doctor reassured me that there was no cause to believe this was a symptom of a larger problem. She tried to assure me I’d done nothing wrong, my age wasn’t a factor; it was just horrible luck. It took longer to trust my body again and heal emotionally. As I talked to more women, I began to hear more experiences like mine, and in almost every case, they had been as stunned as I was that this could happen. Eventually, I was pregnant again and held my breath between bouts of all-day sickness—my little boy had a baby sister. I was lucky and extremely thankful.

I still think about that pregnancy, though, and the experience of pregnancy loss.

What I do know now is just not knowing makes the whole experience so much more isolating. As a culture, we’ve gotten better about talking about pregnancy and infant loss and that has to continue. One in four pregnancies will end in loss- it is an almost unfathomable hard truth. Some will say sharing these stories does nothing but scare all expectant mothers, but being blindsided adds another layer of anguish and shame to an already devastating time. Nothing will take away the heartache of any woman who becomes one in four. However, removing that isolation, the illusion that she is the only one because she just didn’t know this could happen, is a crucial step in clearing the path to healing.

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Katie McNally

Katie is a mother of gingers (kind of like dragons but scarier at points). She is currently at home reheating a mug of tea for the eleventh time and working on various writing projects as well as getting her life together in general. She is on the verge of turning 40 and mining it for any blogging material she can. You can read more on her blog, Knock, Knock, Knocking on Forty’s Door or follow Katie on Facebook or Twitter

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