Author’s Note: I realize that miscarriage stories are nearly “a dime a dozen.” With proven rates of up to 25 percent of pregnancies resulting in miscarriage, this is hardly an isolated event. However, writing is my therapy, and while sharing my experience may not mean anything to anyone else, it helps me process what has happened, what is happening, and what is still to come. If you are sharing the journey with me, welcome. If you have been here yourself and can relate more than anyone should to what I am experiencing, I’m sorry. I stand with you in solidarity and support. Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to contact me if you’d like to connect.
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The day before Husband’s birthday in March I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Elated, we shared the news immediately with family and close friends, and not too far behind was our public announcement on Facebook. We’d had two successful pregnancies resulting in beautiful children already, so we didn’t feel a need to wait until after the first trimester was behind us, like many first-time parents do these days, just in case.
For some reason the coming weeks brought with them a strange feeling of paranoia, that we should not have told the world quite yet, and that we could still easily lose this baby. I mentioned my ridiculous fear to my best friend in passing, and that was the most of it.
On April 24, at nearly 9 weeks, I had my first OB appointment. This being old hat to me, I went alone and expected a rundown of all the facts and information I already knew, followed by an official estimated due date and scheduling my next monthly appointment. This is what I got, except that instead of scheduling my next monthly appointment, I scheduled my lab appointment for my glucose test and left the nurse’s office with a pastel pink bag full of pregnancy paraphernalia and a bottle of orange-flavoured syrup in preparation for my 10-week glucose test.
When I finally got to meet Dr. Trussmeyer* (an hour and 20 minutes after my scheduled appointment start) I immediately liked her. She was professional yet kind and soft-spoken with a friendly smile. We talked all about how schedules would go (which I already knew), chatted about how I’d had gestational diabetes for both my previous pregnancies which meant it was likely I’d have it again (which I already knew), and chatted a bit about how long she’d been an OB and why she’d left the big city for a farm town in the middle of Michigan.
As I watched the ultrasound picture on the screen by my head, Dr. Trussmeyer didn’t speak. This wasn’t abnormal to me; many US technicians are quiet while they work and only say something when they’re pointing out a body part so the black and white mass starts looking more like a child to the untrained eyes of its parents. I was about to ask a question when she said quietly, “I don’t see a heartbeat.”
Even this did not alarm me. The fetus was barely an inch long; I’d guess the organs were barely the size of a pencil eraser at the most. Technology is amazing, but it’s not witchcraft.
I swallowed my question and just watched the screen as she searched again.
“I’m going to go see if I can find a colleague to check for me,” she said, standing and removing her gloves. “We never diagnose a miscarriage on our own.”
Tossing her gloves in the garbage she stood by my side and said, “Feel free to sit up; I’ll go see if Dr. Cooper* is available. I hate to leave you alone like this…” she trailed off, knowing there was no alternative. Then she left.
Still, I wasn’t worried. I laid there in the silent, dark exam room, staring at the empty sonogram screen, muttering prayers toward a God I know was listening and watching. I think I said something like, “Help the second doctor find the heartbeat, God. It’s there, the baby is just turned a funny way so the heart is hard to see. Help this second doctor find it easily. Thanks.”
My phone was on the counter by the screen, so I picked it up and texted Husband. “Well… The first doctor can’t find a heartbeat. She went to get a second doctor before diagnosing a miscarriage.”
It didn’t feel awful to say that. It didn’t feel real. It was like I was sharing the plot of what should have been an emotional movie with someone who was missing the opening scenes and I didn’t want them to be lost when they arrived. It was someone’s reality, but it wasn’t mine.
Dr. Trussmeyer came back with Dr. Yoon* who quickly introduced himself and immediately went to check for a heartbeat. I silently shot another prayer heavenward, probably the same as the first time, as I watched the screen, straining to see any semblance of movement.
“I see no heartbeat,” said Dr. Yoon matter-of-factly. His bedside manner was nowhere near the level of my doctor’s. “I concur with Dr. Trussmeyer. I’m sorry.” He stood, removed his gloves, and disappeared. I couldn’t even tell you what his face looked like, to be honest.
After checking my ovaries, Dr. Trussmeyer helped me sit up, then sat down on her stool with her laptop on her knees. In her quiet voice she told me she was going to give me a lot of information, and that it was going to seem like a blur. She told me if I had any questions later to feel free and call in. As she carefully ran down the list of things she needed to share with me, I wondered what she must think of me. When she said, “The first question that is often asked in this situation is why it happened,” I looked at her and said wryly, “There’s no answer is there?”She smiled back and shook her head. “No, there isn’t.” I was smiling, I was chatting. I wasn’t crying. I was sure she thought I was crazy.
Looking back I realize she likely understood completely. She’s been an OB for nearly a decade and in that amount of time I’m sure she’s had to tell more than her share of women that their babies were no longer living. She’s probably seen any and every reaction possible. I think what I was truly wondering was what was wrong with me that I wasn’t more upset than I was.
She told me to come back in two weeks for a follow-up. I got dressed and left the exam room.
At the checkout desk the receptionist pulled up her calendar, assuming (understandably) that I’d be coming back in a month. “Okay, we have your appointment set up for next week for the lab work…let’s look at next month,” she said, clicking away.
“Actually, I need to cancel that appointment next week and make one for two weeks from now.”
“Oh, no problem, we can reschedule.”
“No, this is a different appointment…”
There was a mother and daughter standing next to me at the counter, waiting their turn to check out. I wasn’t ready to admit to anyone that I had lost my baby, and I certainly wasn’t willing to blurt it out for the first time to an unfriendly receptionist at a doctor’s office I’d never been in before and some strangers who happened to be within listening range. I didn’t know what to say.
The receptionist looked up, confused. “Oh, okay…” she looked back at her calendar. “You’ll need to see Dr. Trussmeyer again, then?” When I conceded, she seemed to catch on. The appointment was made and I walked out of the building, still carrying that pastel pink bag of paraphernalia that no longer meant anything to me.
* Not their real names