She didn’t have to say it. I already knew.
Our baby was gone.
I watched the ultrasound slowly pan from side to side. My pulse was racing so fast my Fitbit thought I was doing a workout.
Was it always this silent in here?
I assumed the tech was summoning the courage to speak. Days like this must be hard for her too.
“I’m so sorry,” she said flatly. “I can’t find a heartbeat.”
I knew it.
Somehow the silence got louder. And I sat there, suspended in time.
Alone. As the tears spilled into my mask.
It was April 21, 2020. And the world had just started shutting down. Masks were new. I had made mine out of an old blue t-shirt and rubber bands. I didn’t think we’d have to wear them for very long. I was ignorant about a lot back then.
The whole world was living in the unknown. Rules and mandates. Guidelines and recommendations. They were changing by the day. People were consumed with fear of the future.
And that fear crept into my little corner of the world. Whoever made the rules said I had to go to each appointment alone. It was hard. Scratch that. It was torture.
So I was alone when I first saw the heartbeat. And I was alone when it was gone.
The tech stood on the other side of the room as I sat there, suffocating with tears. She stretched out her arm into the space between us. And apologized profusely, “I’m so sorry. I’m not allowed to come closer. I wish I could hug you. But I’m not allowed. I’m so sorry.”
She left quietly. And I was alone again.
Another nurse appeared and shuffled me into a smaller, private waiting room. A doctor would be in soon. She canceled my blood work. They didn’t need it anymore.
The doctor came in and sat down by the window. It was pouring outside, which matched the mood in the room.
I looked down and picked at the tissue in my hand as she explained my options. I could let my body pass the baby naturally. But it could be days, weeks, or maybe months until my body realized what it needed to do. She didn’t recommend this one.
The next option was to take a pill that would start the bleeding. It would be painful, she said, but I could handle it.
I didn’t like this option. It sounded traumatizing. The miscarriage had already been devastating enough. I didn’t want to see my baby in the toilet.
She said it wouldn’t be like that. It would be like a really heavy period with a lot of clotting. Her explanation didn’t help.
I waited for Option 3.
She paused before saying the final option was a D&E, a surgery to remove the tissue and sort of clean out my uterus. Unfortunately, it was considered elective surgery. And the hospital was only allowed to perform c-sections and emergency surgeries at that time, thanks to the new COVID regulations.
I wanted Option 3. I didn’t care that it was surgery. I wanted everything to be over. I didn’t want to take any part in ending the pregnancy by taking a pill. And I definitely didn’t want to wait months for my body to take action.
But I was alone in the room. So I had to make the choice.
I picked up the pills on the way home.
I stared at the bottle, refusing to open it. Finally, after dinner, I put a pill in my hand and cried. What a terrible thing to make a grieving woman do.
And then we waited.
The cramps started a few hours later and the bleeding quickly followed. I curled up in bed and cried myself to sleep. My husband sat beside me and rubbed my back. He was grieving, too, but he was encouraging and supportive. He was everything I needed.
The bleeding lasted two weeks. Longer than I expected. And every trip to the bathroom was another reminder that I lost the baby. Miscarriage is cruel like that.
And the grief continued. At a follow-up appointment, there was a problem. They found some tissue still in my uterus. Apparently, my baby wasn’t ready to fully let go either.
So it turned out I needed the surgery after all.
The details of planning for surgery in the middle of a pandemic were too much for me. Everyone was in lockdown. Who would watch our kids? We literally hadn’t seen anyone in over a month. Was my husband allowed to come with me for the surgery? Or would I be alone?
I was both dreading the surgery and feeling relieved that everything would be over soon. A chaplain came into the pre-op room and handed us a soft, purple blanket. She said it’s a visual reminder to the hospital staff that while many women are there to give birth, there are some women, like me, who are grieving.
The sentiment was so kind and sweet. What a thoughtful idea.
But I wanted to chuck the blanket across the room.
I hated that I was there. And I hated that I needed the blanket. I wanted to be one of the other women. The ones without a purple blanket. The ones who got to carry their babies home.
Miscarriage is a mix of emotions. And it’s a fight to find the positive.
The surgeon came in, almost two hours late, and apologized profusely. The hospital was short-staffed thanks to COVID. But she didn’t seem flustered or stressed. She sat down, looked at us, and said genuinely, “I’m really sorry you have to be here. This sucks.”
I don’t know why, but hearing a doctor say that miscarriage sucks was exactly what I wanted. She explained everything, asked if we had questions, and said she would see me soon in the OR.
Surgery was easy-peasy. The worst part was the COVID test I had had two days prior. Honest-to-goodness, I thought they were going to poke my eyeball completely out of its socket.
The hospital staff was a bright spot in our sad day. Their kindness and compassion were off the charts. They kept things light and made us laugh constantly. That’s a tough ask when your audience is grieving.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about the staff at Women and Babies Hospital in Lancaster or the doctors at May Grant. They brought us joy in our grieving. What more could we ask?
There’s no real end to this story. Grief doesn’t stop. It comes in waves and sneaks up when you least expect it.
Despite it all, the pandemic was a special part of our lives. It may have been wrapped in heartache, but it was also full of love and hope. We were encouraged and supported by so many people, many of whom knew the sting of loss, too. They helped us find light in the darkness and believe that better days were ahead of us.
We repurposed the purple blanket from the chaplain into a set of masks for our family. What was once a symbol of grief became a symbol of hope.
Grieving in a pandemic is lonely. But we were not alone, and we hope by sharing our story, others will feel less alone, too.