*Some of the following details are graphic and, perhaps, hard to read. Please understand. Although sensitive in nature, part of the process of moving towards awareness, is shining a light on the once darkened view of Pregnancy and Infant Loss. This includes the understanding of the impact it has on a woman. If you are offended, this may not be the blog for you.
October 31st is traditionally a special day for young families and many children, alike. The culmination of planning for months. The decorations. The face paint. The plastic pumpkins. The chaos of the day all subsiding when the clock shows 6pm and the porch lights come on.
For me, it was (and will always be) a difficult day.
In early 2003, I was 23. Only months after graduating from college. Graduating in December makes finding a teaching position right away, virtually impossible. And so I was helping to run a local child care program through the YMCA. Then just dating, Brett and I were in a great place. Traveling. Living separately. But a once-cloudy vision of the future was slowly coming into focus.
I had this gut feeling that something wasn’t normal. My body just felt…different. It probably could have been many things. However, 23 + dating = pregnancy test. So I bought a 3-pack. And, one by one, took them all.
It was positive. They were ALL positive.
(Long pause) It still makes my heart race.
After he got home from work, I sat Brett down on the edge of his bed and told him the news. Showed him each test. Although it seemed fairly clear, we both agreed that we should go to see the doctor.
Not long after, the doctor confirmed what we had already known. We were PREGNANT! Due date? October 31st, 2003. Our Halloween baby.
We were anxious- we were young. Not married. I was still living at home. Hadn’t landed that perfect teaching position that I had always dreamed about. Excited- we were going to be parents. Of a baby.
The 8 weeks that followed were filled with some challenges, but mostly excitement. We survived the days of telling our parents. We told our friends, our other family members, our bosses and other colleagues. We started cementing plans for our future. We moved in together and started talking about marriage. We never missed a doctor’s appointment. Got to hear the baby’s heartbeat and held onto every word the doctor said about our baby.
Pregnancy consumed nearly ALL of my thoughts, by this point. Every dream of the future now included our child.
I don’t recall everything about that day. The day that it all changed for us. It was a warm day. And I was at work, on a field trip to a park. I felt, what can only be described as, period cramps. Which wasn’t possible. By the time I asked for another staff member to watch over my group of kids, my shorts were already soaked through with blood. I called and left a message with Brett’s work for him to call me back. My colleague, and friend, rushed me to my car so that I could make my way to the hospital.
I was embarrassed to go to the hospital wearing shorts that were covered in blood. Afraid that people would see it and think that I got my period. So I decided to go home to change. It was a 40-minute drive. 40 debilitating minutes that the waves of cramping escalated from “mild” to excruciating. I cried the entire drive.
After making it home I went into the bathroom and felt the sudden urge to push. I rushed to sit down and reached down as I pushed out some “tissue” (the only way I really know how to describe what I now held in my hand) that was once inside of me.
Alone. I sat there. Crying. Scared. Very confused. Unable to truly wrap my thoughts around what had just happened.
I looked closely at the “tissue” to see if I could identify exactly what I was now holding. I placed the “tissue” on a towel and put it in a bag. I sobbed as I tried to clean up. The floor. The toilet. The sink. All covered in blood. I wiped myself down and got dressed. By now, most of the bleeding had stopped. Brett called and, without much explanation, agreed to meet me at the hospital. I cleaned up the seat in my car. Then drove to the ER.
I held tightly to the bag as I waited in the ER, and for Brett to arrive. The waiting room was full and I felt so embarrassed to start crying again. I can still recall the empathetic look on the face of the triage nurse when I opened the bag and showed her what I held in my towel. As I explained the pain I had been through over the past, now, 2 hours. Brett arrived. I did my best to explain what happened in a whisper voice. He gently rubbed my back and consoled me as I tried to hold myself together.
Hours had gone by. I don’t exactly know how many. A nurse called us back to see the doctor. I explained what happened, and then, for a fourth time, to the doctor when he came in. I remember that he listened intently. Made very little eye contact. He examined all that I had wrapped carefully in the towel. Asked me a few questions about my symptoms. And excused himself from the room. Many minutes later, he returned with the nurse that had led me to the room following closely behind him. I will always remember what she said to me and the sound the words made leaving her lips. “I’m sorry”.
Somehow I knew in this moment that I had just delivered my baby to them on that day, wrapped in a towel, placed in a bag. My cramps were not cramps, but contractions. And my pain was labor. We cried.
The doctor was very matter-of-fact. I didn’t ask questions. We were grieving. He asked us to stop at the lab for bloodwork. I recall standing in the hospital hallway. Brett’s arms wrapped around me as if he was the only thing holding me up. I asked, “did we have a miscarriage?” He said “I think so.”
The upcoming days were a blur, even to me now. I struggled to understand how our futures could change so quickly. A struggle that we would face on our own. And one that would last a long time. I was ashamed for not being able to take care of our baby. Embarrassed to now have to tell all those people that we told our exciting news to. Did we tell people too soon? Sadness. Longing. Fear. Guilt. Confusion.
I recall the desperate need for an explanation. I longed to understand why. Was it something I did? Was it the time I put my feet in the hot tub? What went wrong? Why did the heartbeat stop? I needed to understand why our baby died. I wanted someone to blame. I wanted to blame myself. Looking back now, I needed to hear the word “miscarriage”. I needed to hear that it wasn’t my fault.
A few months later, we found out that we were pregnant again. High risk, because of the miscarriage, we found out early that we were expecting a girl. Our rainbow baby. Madison Quinn was born on April 23rd. And we welcomed Camrynn Paige on December 15th just over 18 months later. I checked on them constantly. Worried that we could lose them, too. Without warning. A worry that, for me, has never faded. All these years later.
It is NOT lost on me that without our miscarriage we would not have Maddy in our lives. Something I often think about. I have learned that healthy babies do not erase the trauma of pregnancy or infant loss.
Today is October 31st, 2020. Halloween. Our baby would be turning 17. I think often about who they would be. A son? A daughter? All the best parts of Brett and of me. This Halloween, as with all those that have come since 2003, is difficult. I struggle from the pain of loss. But, I no longer will suffer in silence. And on this final day of October, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month, I can’t help but feel grateful for the progress our communities have made in bringing awareness to a subject that was once incredibly taboo.
The groups. The programs. The teams of amazing people focused on education and support for moms, dads, and families alike. Sharing and hearing our stories helps us all turn shame into hope. Guilt into faith. Confusion into clarity. And our loss into light.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
Jenn L. -owner + founder of online bath + body retailer, Saucy Asylum