After months of steadfast trying, tracking, praying, hoping, begging to get pregnant, I took my millionth test late one night and saw the faintest second line show up on the pee stick in my hand. My unbelieving yet overly hopeful heart soared higher than a drug-infused trip on ecstasy. I sat for a moment in silence. Daring to believe, yet skeptical that this could really and truly be real and not a long sought after dream.
When the line darkened enough to prove a truth I had begun to believe may not ever be my own, I started to accept the reality that my biggest dream was finally coming true. I excitedly ran in to tell my husband, who was every bit as excited, over-the-moon half ecstatic joy/half daring to believe skepticism that this could really truly be happening. Yet, it was!
My husband and I lived in a fantasy world of pink and blue bliss for the next several days. Our long-suffering trying days had seemingly come to an end. We were finally having the baby we had dreamed about and prayed for for years!
Or, so we thought . . .
Fast forward a few weeks later, I am lying on the table of my OB/GYN’s procedure room awaiting my very first vaginal ultrasound. I am told it will not hurt but may be a bit uncomfortable (in my mind, I am preparing for the hurt to be equivalent to having the baby, or better yet, twins). The doctor props the probe into my quivering vagina and moves it around, studying the screen in front of her with a questionable look on her face. I look at my husband, standing beside me, holding my hand for a distant comfort both of us need but that is not within our reach. The doctor looks far away and then turns her eyes to stare blankly into mine.
The four words that come next are the most heart-breaking, defeating, dismal, and devastating words I have yet to hear in my 28 years of life, “There is no heartbeat.”
I look to my husband, who looks away. I look to the doctor who has tears in her eyes. At this point, my eyes have started to water as well. How can I be crying? I don’t even know what this means! I am in a state of shock. We have a brief conversation about next steps and then I mindlessly get off the table, get dressed, and step outside into a world forever changed by the four words I have just heard. There is no heartbeat. The life I thought was growing inside my very own body is lifeless.
A million questions are swirling through my mind. What happened? Did I cause this? Is there a chance the doctor is wrong? Should I have a D&C or let my body handle it naturally? WHAT HAPPENED?
The next day was Thanksgiving. What was supposed to be the best Thanksgiving ever was one full of tears, broken dreams, worry about the future, and a dismal, depressed woman who wanted nothing more than to go to bed, pull the covers over her head, and never wake up to face the reality of this world that had changed overnight.
From dream to nightmare. From hope to hopeless. From excitement to dread. I was feeling so many emotions, I did not know which way was up. I could not stop crying.
I alternated between anger, disbelief, questioning God, acting out against my husband and well-meaning family, and feeling downright sorry for myself.
My grandpa made the comment, “Get back on that carriage and try again.” If anyone else would have said that, I probably would have socked them between the eyes. But it was my grandpa. My sweet, kind, loving, adoring, precious Grandpa, and it brought me to more tears. At this point, I had lost about 10 pounds in tears alone. And five more in lack of appetite and a constant upset stomach.
My grandma informed me the same thing had happened to her once, years ago. She did not know it at the time because they did not have the detection services and medical intervention we have today. My mom agreed it had happened to her. I knew my aunt had also lost a baby.
These are the things women deal with behind closed doors. Sitting on the floors of their bathrooms, crying tears of loss for the hopes and dreams carried for that precious little seed of a baby carried inside their very own bodies.
I am thankful to live in a time when miscarriage and loss is not a taboo topic we are taught to keep hidden. Women are open to talk about it. To share with our sisters who have been there, who are currently there, who will be there in the future.
One in four pregnancies will be lost to miscarriage. That is A LOT of women feeling the emotions I felt for a period of days, weeks, months, even years. I chose not to have a D&C. I felt like if there was even the slightest chance things could be different, I would give my body the ability to handle the situation on its own. Let me just tell you, it was horrible. One of the most horrible things I have ever been through—physically, emotionally, relationally. In every possible capacity it could be horrible, it was.
After days of waiting for something, anything to happen, I woke up on the day of my 29th birthday (December 1, 2009) to my body writhing in pain. The cramps were out of this world intense. I was worried I was dying and part of me was ready to go. After about four hours of my body cleansing itself of what I thought was my firstborn, I sat in my living room, still in my PJs, and forced down a piece of chocolate cake my husband had made for my birthday.
On the 29th day of my birth, I lost my first baby. Happy birthday to me.
You know what is even worse than having a miscarriage? The weeks turning into months afterward. The loss, the pain, the heartache, the wanting to try again but your partner is not ready to try again. Reading about women who experienced loss and then immediately became pregnant. Wondering why that could not be me. It was not me (not this time, anyway).
A year later, I celebrated my 30th birthday. Given all I had been through the year before, this was one of the happiest, most exciting, and beautiful birthdays of my life. I was just over 12 weeks pregnant. Physically, I was right on track. We had heard our baby’s heartbeat and my body was doing everything exactly as it should.
My mind was a different story. I was an absolute mess.
I was so freaking scared of . . . EVERYTHING. You name it, I thought it would cause another miscarriage. Lunchmeat . . . absolutely no! Shaking someone’s hand at church? Sorry, I can’t (not even a fist bump). I was washing my hands like I had committed a murder and couldn’t get the blood off. I was fearful of eating too little, too much, the wrong foods. I refused to clean our cat’s litter box. I didn’t even want to touch the cat, quite honestly, for fear of contracting toxoplasmosis from his litter.
My husband was traveling a lot at that time. I was not working so I had nothing but time on my hands. That time was filled with worry, fear, doubt . . . worry, fear, doubt . . . worry, fear, doubt. It was an unhealthy Ferris wheel of emotions I simply could not escape. Tensions were high with my husband. He did not understand the sheer panic and fear that had taken over my mind. I was dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder to the Nth degree. I couldn’t get clean enough. I worried I would get sick and it would affect the baby. Everything was a worry to me—EVERYTHING.
My mind had become a prison of torture, fear, and devastation. I had struggled with OCD tendencies in the past, but nothing like this. It was compounded by the fear of loss and the frequently changing hormones likely affected it as well. My doctor assured me the baby was healthy and progressing normally. I would feel slightly comforted by hearing her words and hearing the baby’s heartbeat at every monthly checkup.
Yet, upon exiting the doctor’s office, I would crumble back into my fearful, avoidant, panicked prison of pain.
Finally, nine months later, I was the proud mother of a 9-pound, 11-ounce baby boy. He was perfectly healthy and ready to begin his career as a sumo wrestler right after his first bath. I, on the other hand, suffered third-degree tearing and had quite a long road of recovery ahead of me. It didn’t matter though. I had a healthy baby! I had made it through the trials and tribulations of pregnancy and I was finally freed from my prison of OCD-infused torture.
I immediately started taking anti-anxiety medication. Due to that terrible period of time that my mind was out of control with fear, I have not stopped taking the medication. I absolutely, positively cannot go back to that place ever again. It nearly killed me physically. It definitely killed my spirit.
I went on to have another miscarriage, nearly hemorrhaging to death in the Emergency Room two years later. Mere months after that, I was one of the blessed ones who became pregnant with my rainbow baby (a baby conceived and born after a traumatic miscarriage). Thus, my family was complete. I was the mother of two healthy, happy, adorable baby boys.
My marriage was rocky, to say the least (we divorced less than two years later). I partially blame the OCD (my inability to control it) during my pregnancies. I partially blame my then-husband for being selfish, or so I thought, in my haze of confused depression and denial. From a healthy and balanced mental state, I realize he suffered emotional pain and trauma just as I did. I partially blame myself. While my choice was not to end our marriage, this very choice has led me on a journey of healing, growth, love, and a renewed zest for life I would not have otherwise experienced. I am grateful.
I wanted to share my story not because it is an easy one to tell. But because I know there are women out there facing the same giants I faced. And facing these giants alone.
I want those women to know they are not alone. To assure them, there IS life after pregnancy-related OCD. I want to encourage them to see a counselor and talk to their doctor about anxiety medication (there are safe alternatives during pregnancy). The stress OCD puts on a woman’s mind affects her body and thus affects her unborn child. Please get help. If not for yourself, for your baby.
Miscarriage is a horrible, tornadic nightmare. Yet, the storms always dry up and the sun shines brighter than ever before. Three of my babies are in heaven waiting to reunite with me one day. Two of my babies are here on earth—Liam (9) and Waylan (7) are my world. They fill my days with laughter, adventure, learning, and loving beyond my wildest dreams. Everything that happened on the journey to becoming a mother was intended so I could be the mother I was meant to be to the children I was meant to have.
The ashes of destruction you are living with right now will one day transition to beauty beyond your wildest imagination. Hold tight to your faith, family, and friends. The road may be bumpy, but the destination will be worth the struggle of getting there.