Friday, November 14, 2014

There's No Heartbeat.

I had a miscarriage a week ago. I saw an ultrasound with no heartbeat 11 days ago. It’s been an incredibly heart breaking time for me. First, I want to tell you why I’m writing this. I don’t need you to accept my feelings  for me to know that my grieving is valid. I’ve accepted that most people won’t understand what I’m going through and that’s okay. It doesn’t make it any less valid or less difficult. I don’t need pity.

Yes, I hope that sharing my story might help others (reading through the experiences of others has helped me), but ultimately this post is for myself. 

This post is symbolic. When all of this happened, I decided I would give myself a week to be as sad as I wanted. I wouldn’t fight the emotions; I would ride it out and let myself feel what I needed to. Now that my week is almost up, this post is like me stuffing all my ugly emotions into a hot air balloon and watching it float away. This post is intended to be a therapeutic way for me to let it all out, and then let it go. After the week is up, although I’m 100% positive I’ll still be very sad, I’m dedicated to being as proactive about the situation as possible. I will focus on what I can change and what I can do to better my situation. However, for now, I won’t apologize for being mad at God, because I am. It's okay- He can handle it. And I won’t apologize for being emotional or irrational, because I am. I won’t apologize for not putting a positive spin on things. I won’t pretend to be thankful for this trial, although that may come with time.

 I think letting out your negative emotions is good, constructive even, to the process of moving on. I think it’s the Jews who have a set period of mourning after a loved one dies where they don’t do much aside from mourn their loss. I think that’s constructive. And now that my period of grieving is almost over, here is my “hot air balloon” post where I let it all out and then, hopefully, let it all go.  


Because of my difficult pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period with Ainsley, I was unsure if I was willing to go through pregnancy again. For her first year of life, I was sure that IF we had more kids, they would be adopted. But Ainsley was so great that somehow I found myself possibly, maybe willing to go through it again. Around Ainsley’s first birthday, Clint and I started praying and fasting that IF we were to have more children, we would know when, and that the pregnancy would go well and be manageable for me. Right around when Ainsley was 18 months, Heavenly Father started making it obvious to me that it was time to start trying. Because of health issues going on at the time and because I hadn’t mustered up quite enough courage, it took us another two or three months to start trying. In that time, I did my best to prepare myself in all ways possible. I was more vigilant about scripture study and prayers, I researched birth, postpartum depression, stepped up my healthy eating and exercise habits, etc. I was dedicated to preventing the issues that I had with Ainsley. I was willing to do what it took.

How did I know it was time for another? I wondered how I would know, but Heavenly Father made it obvious to me because that’s what I needed. I needed to be sure. I would be playing with Ainsley and feel another presence- as if there was another child with us. I had also gotten to the point where I felt that I was able to keep up with chores and my to-do list and could handle another child. There are many other instances, but one of the most obvious and profound was when I was sitting in a Relief Society lesson about family history work. I’m not sure exactly what the teacher was talking about; I think he was talking about how the actions of our ancestors affect us. Heavenly Father said to me, “Even with all you went through with Ainsley, it is a small price to pay to bring potentially generations to the gospel.” That’s what it’s all about. The gospel of Christ. My effect as a righteous mother had the potential to impact generations. I knew it was time to start trying and we started soon after that experience.

The first month we started trying, I was positive I was pregnant. At two weeks I was falling asleep randomly throughout the day and was SO fatigued. It felt like my limbs were 100 pounds each! At three weeks, the nausea had begun. At four weeks, the vomiting began.

I knew very early that I was pregnant, but I was still excited to take a test to see those two pink lines! How exciting! I took a test on a Saturday- negative. I took a test the next day- negative. I took a test that Tuesday- positive! Ainsley hadn't woken up yet and Clint was in the shower. I took the test to Clint with heavy heart and tears in my eyes. I was so grateful. We prayed immediately to express our gratitude. The whole day I was on cloud 9. I couldn't believe I was being blessed with another baby! I was scared, of course, but I knew that heavenly father was blessing me and with His help I could get through another pregnancy.

The nausea and fatigue increased and I got sicker and sicker. It was difficult but I was still so grateful to be pregnant AND to be “manageably sick”. At this point with Ainsley I had already lost ten pounds, had to go to the hospital for fluids, and was on heavier anti-vomiting medication constantly. I thought I was being blessed for my faith and prayers and fasting. I had done the “right things” and now I was seeing the blessings. At least, that’s what I thought was happening.

At 7.5 weeks I had my first doctor’s appointment. The doctor kept asking how far along I was and when my last missed period was. I knew something was wrong. She said something like, “at 7.5 weeks there should definitely be a heartbeat and I’m not seeing one.” I was crushed. “There’s no heartbeat.” My baby had died and I didn’t even know it. I held back my tears while she explained what would come next- more tests. I knew there was something seriously wrong when she didn't even offer the ultrasound picture to us.

As she was leaving the room, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and started crying. She told me not to cry yet and that we still have things to figure out. I told her, “Last night I was crying over how badly I wanted Olive Garden breadsticks, of course I’m going to cry over this!” Hey, at least I have a sense of humor in adversity. Seriously though, hormones are no joke. Neither are Olive Garden bread sticks. I still want some.

Okay, put your serious pants back on.

Immediately following the appointment she sent me across the hall to get blood work done to check my hormone levels. There was another lady waiting there with a perfectly round belly and I became overwhelmingly jealous. I reminded myself that maybe she too had gone through this and was now being blessed with a baby. I hoped that someday I would be in her shoes. Seeing her both crushed me and gave me hope.

When they called me back for my blood draw I felt empty. I just stared straight ahead. I couldn’t make eye contact. I felt like I was in a nightmare. As the lady started drawing my blood I started crying. She looked at me awkwardly and asked in her thick accent if I needed some water. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t the blood draw upsetting me but she didn’t understand so I gave up and just walked away.

The drive home I alternated between sobbing and being in that out-of-it nightmare-like state. Clint had scouts that night so I was alone for several hours after we got home. That night I couldn’t fall asleep. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t relax. I remember rubbing my belly and thinking that maybe if I loved it enough that its heart would start beating. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe this is my fault. Even though I knew I was still relatively early in my pregnancy, I had spent the last two months daydreaming of this sweet baby. Actually, the daydreaming began even before I was pregnant! Halloween was especially exciting “knowing” that I would have another baby to dress up next year. I had a running list of baby names. I had dreams about the baby. I felt of its presence. In a way, I knew him/her! Above all, I loved him/her. Not to mention, I felt all the physical changes that come with pregnancy, especially the morning sickness. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically very invested in this child.

I woke up more exhausted than I was when I had gone to bed the previous night. I cried the entire next day. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The worst part was that I was still sick. Every time I threw up I grew more and more bitter, knowing that it was all in vain. This baby that wasn’t even alive was still in me making me sick. I found out that I had been pregnant a full two weeks past when the baby was alive and growing. I was so angry. I was angry that I was still sick. It felt like a prank. I thought that the timing of this pregnancy and the fact that I wasn’t AS SICK as I was with Ainsley were blessings and the result of my praying and fasting. What I thought was a blessing was a trial. I felt deceived. When I read about how my baby was growing arms and legs and moving around, it wasn’t. I was sick without a purpose. My sore breasts, my fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, heart burn, pelvic pain….it wasn’t for a purpose. It was because my body didn’t get the memo that I didn’t have a live baby in me anymore. It’s what’s called a “missed miscarriage.” I thought I was being blessed but had learned it was far from a blessing.

The next three days of waiting were torture. My heart was broken and we were at a stand-still. The waiting was the worst, and being sick magnified it. Every day felt like a week.

My "pregnancy sickness" was a constant reminder of what was happening. On the second day, my doctor called me and told me that my HCG levels were really high and we definitely should have seen a heartbeat with how far along I was. She wanted me to come in the next morning for an ultrasound to make sure nothing had changed. I was actually relieved to hear some news. It was progress. I still spent the majority of the day crying, but I knew at least part of my suffering would end soon. I was ready to be rid of the morning sickness, at least.

The next morning, we dropped Ainsley off with a friend and Clint and I headed to my ultrasound appointment. I remember feeling numb and staring off into space most of the time. The doctor came in and began the ultrasound. Almost immediately I knew the news. She was thorough, though, and looked for at least ten minutes. There was definitely only one baby in there and it definitely wasn’t alive. No movement, no heartbeat. Even though it wasn't a surprise, I was crushed. 

We began discussing my options. I could to a D and C surgery immediately, or I could go home and take some pills that would force my body to complete the miscarriage. Because they couldn’t put me under anesthesia in that short of time and I didn't want to wait until Monday, I opted to go the medication route. Being awake during a D and C sounded traumatic to me, although both options seemed pretty terrible.

We went to the pharmacy to pick up the medication. Covering the packing were tons of big, bold warnings about not handling the medication if pregnant. I was so mad that I was being forced to take this. I was angry that the medication to abort my baby was only $10! Why couldn’t my body have realized two weeks ago that the baby wasn’t alive? Why did I have to spend all that time being sick? And now, why did I have to go through what felt like a forced abortion? I was so angry that I was having to do what some people choose to do because they don’t want their babies. I was mad at my body for not recognizing and going through the process on its own. I was mad for more reasons than I can list. And I let myself be mad. 

We picked Ainsley up and went home. Clint headed off to work and I was left to care for Ainsley. I took the medication and almost immediately felt the cramps begin. The pain made me even more angry. I wasn’t supposed to be cramping. I was supposed to be growing a sweet little angel baby. When you see those two pink lines it’s almost like a promise. A promise that after all this pain and suffering and sickness, you will get a precious baby and it will all be worth it. I felt like I was lied to (Sue First Response!). Every contraction was a reminder to me of the baby that I would never get to hold. That sweet newborn scent that I would never smell. Yes, I was bitter and yes, I was grieving.

Ainsley watched a movie and ate snacks while the cramping was manageable. When it got too painful, I laid her down for a nap. They gave me Tylenol with codeine and I took that to try to manage the pain. It did not even come close. It felt just like labor, only with hardly any breaks between contractions. I laid on a heating pad, took the hottest bath I could stand, listened to hymns, prayed, cursed God, doubled over in pain, tried to watch movies, anything to try to cope. The pain was excruciating for about five hours. After the majority of the large tissue passed, the pain subsided but it was still difficult to manage. Thankfully, the pain medication made me sleepy and I was able to get some rest that night. I was so physically, emotionally, and mentally spent.

The next day was Saturday. I was still in a lot of pain but I needed to get out of the house. I had only left the house for doctor’s appointments all week and it was getting depressing. We drove up to Santa Cruz to see the butterflies. There were thousands and it was beautiful. I tried to focus on Clint and Ainsley, the family I have now, but couldn’t shake the feeling that we were missing someone- and that I was cheated out of that opportunity. We still had a great time, and it was great to get out of the house and have a good time with my family. I think I was even able to think about something other than my miscarriage for a few minutes at a time. However, the heartache was still overpowering.

It’s hard to explain the pain of a miscarriage. Of course there’s the physical pain, which is terrible. The emotional pain, though, is much more painful. Aside from the heartbreak of missing out on the potential of this child, there’s the guilt. Even though it’s completely out of my control, I feel like I failed in my purpose as a woman to bring children to the world. And even more, I’m so upset with myself for not knowing. I felt completely pregnant and had no idea that there was something wrong with my baby, especially for that long. Where was my mother's intuition? I didn't even know that it was possible to still be pregnant and feel pregnant without a live baby. And of course there’s also the heartbreak of the missed expectations.

The hardest part for me has been working through my anger with God. I felt like He told me so directly that it was time to have another baby. Given my health problems at the time and all the issues I had at every stage with Ainsley, getting pregnant again was a huge leap of faith. I felt like told me to jump and then watched me fall. I really do believe that everything we go through is for our good, but in this situation, I couldn’t feel of that truth. And I think it’ll take a lot of time to get there. Right now, I just cry until there are no tears left. Once they replenish, I cry some more.

The constant reminders don’t help either. The day after we found out there was no heartbeat, I pulled up because I was planning to buy some maternity pants for a sale they were having. It was like a wave came crashing over me. I won’t need those any more. I kept forgetting that I wasn’t pregnant anymore, and then got rude reminders. Like when I went to add a new name to my running list of possible baby names. I ended up just turning it over and using it as a grocery list. I had also just taken my maternity clothes out of the garage the day before my appointment. I had to pack them right back up without even getting to use them. I have to make Christmas cards with no announcement. Of course the physical pain is a reminder. The baby swing in the garage I had bought a few weeks earlier at a consignment sale is a reminder. Everywhere I look, there are reminders. Reminders of what I prayed and fasted for and thought I was receiving, but was ultimately taken away from me. 

It's hard to explain how much love and concern you can have for someone you've never seen. To me, it wasn't just a cluster of cells. It was a baby- my baby. I loved that baby even before there were two pink lines on a little plastic stick. And I will continue to love him or her forever. I don’t know what happens to miscarriage babies. I don’t know if that was their shot on earth or if they get back in line and come later- maybe it’s different for every baby. No matter what happens to that baby and where he (I’m pretty sure) is now, I will love him forever. And it’ll hurt, but a mother’s heart can’t just stop loving. 


Sarah said...

Alexis, I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for being so transparent. I too have been angry with God over things in my life and not felt as if I could share. So thank you for teaching me differently. Again, I'm sorry about your baby boy and your sorrow.

Lauren Gardner said...

Bless you sweet girl.

karajean said...

I know nothing I can say will help but I am so sorry. You are great and brave and I wish you were here (or I was there) so I could buy you some ice cream and let our little ones play together! I hope sharing your story takes away some of the burden.

McKenzi Harrop said...

Alexcis, thank you. Your honesty gives me hope, for you, for me, for us women in general. Thank you. You filled an emptiness I didn't know was there.

Camille Millecam Whiting said...

Just sending some love your way <3

Whitney said...

So sorry for your loss. I miscarried with my first pregnancy just days after hearing a heartbeat and it was so so rough. And it was right at this time of year as the holidays were so gloomy. Thank goodness for the love of your family and friends to see you through. Prayers sent your way!

-Danica- said...

Although I know that you feel incredibly alone in all of this, just know that you aren't. Through my miscarriages I found so many women who experienced the same thing and have found some relief in talking about it. There is something beautiful about connecting with another woman over something that hurts so much. I'm glad you are sharing your real and honest feelings. I think it not only helps in your grieving process, but helps other women in similar situations grieve or understand their own feelings about it. I truly am sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and that little boy.

Caitlyn said...

You are amazing- a very talented writer and mother. Thanks for sharing your feelings and emotions. I really love this post and the next and understand the guts it takes as well as the essential role it can take in your healing and grieving process. Take care and know I am always here around the corner :)