Two weeks ago today should have been a great day. I should have gone to my doctor appointment, seen my sweet, now 14 week old baby on the ultrasound, and found out their gender (or at least a pretty good guess). I should have then left my appointment and gone to Target to pick out an outfit for either a little girl or a little boy, wrapped it in cute baby-themed packaging, and waited for my husband to come home from work so he could unwrap it and find out whether we would be welcoming a little boy or a little girl into our family this October. Instead, I found out that our baby no longer had a heartbeat.
I had a feeling something was wrong as soon as the ultrasound started. In fact, I’d been feeling really anxious every since we had announced our pregnancy just three days prior. I remember driving to my appointment that Tuesday morning with my hand on my belly, telling my baby that I was sorry for being so stressed out and that I would feel better as soon as I knew that everything was okay. But it wasn’t okay. When the ultrasound tech began my ultrasound, she didn’t start showing me my baby’s anatomy and explaining what she was doing. She was quiet and intent as she took all sorts of measurements from all different angles and pushed lots of different buttons. I thought maybe that was just her style. Maybe she just liked to concentrate and not speak while she worked. I also didn’t immediately hear that comforting sound of my baby’s rhythmic heartbeat. But I was at a different doctor’s office than my two previous ultrasounds and the machine was different, so I thought maybe she just hadn’t turned up the volume or something yet. But then she asked me if I had experienced any bleeding or cramping (I hadn’t), and that’s when I knew for certain that something was seriously wrong. Then she put her hand on my arm and told me the words that I will never be able to get out of my head… “I’m so sorry, but I’m not getting a heartbeat.”
She handed me a box of tissues and went to get the doctor. I sat there alone in that room in total shock and disbelief at what I had just heard. I knew how common miscarriages are, and I always sort of knew that it was something I’d experience at some point, but I didn’t expect it to happen then at 14 weeks when there had been zero indication that anything was wrong. In fact, despite being a little out of whack (which is totally normal for the first trimester, and it was being treated), everything pointed to our baby being totally healthy. But the doctor came in a few minutes later and confirmed what the ultrasound tech had told me. He told me he had talked to the doctor at the hospital on post where I typically had my appointments and that I was to go there whenever I felt ready. The ultrasound technician gave me a big hug and then led me out the back entrance so I didn’t have to walk back through the waiting room. I got to my car and broke down crying. So many thoughts were running through my head… “How could this have happened? What did I do wrong? Why me?” I tried calling my husband even though I knew he couldn’t answer. He had a big day at work that day and wasn’t allowed to have his phone. I didn’t want to go home and sit there by myself waiting to be able to contact him, so I drove to the hospital.
I remember driving to the hospital, placing my hand on my womb and pleading with my baby to be okay while tears ran down my face. Despite it likely not being the safest drive ever, I made it to the hospital and rode the elevators up to the women’s clinic. After struggling to explain to the receptionist why I was there, she grabbed my chart and walked me over to labor and delivery where I was put into triage. Two doctors and a nurse met me in there and kindly and gently stated that they had reviewed my file and were so sorry for what had happened. They explained the process moving forward- that because I was so far along, the plan was to induce me and let me deliver naturally in the hospital instead of doing a D&C or having me wait for things to happen on their own at home. They told me that they didn’t have to start the process right then though. I could go home and come back later, or they could admit me and get me in a more comfortable room to wait until I was ready to get things started. All I could think about at that moment though was how much I needed my husband with me.
The nurse came back a little later and said she’d prepared a delivery room for me because she could tell I didn’t want to go home. She led me there and gave me a gown to change into and a bag to put all my things in. I tried repeatedly to call my husband, thinking that at some point soon they had to be done with what they were doing and he’d answer my call. After two other nurses came in and drew about a gallon of blood from my body, got me on IV fluids, and asked me a bunch of questions, I finally told the nurse that I was ready for them to use their channels to contact my husband.
About an hour or so later, four hours after my initial call to him, while the anesthesiologist was explaining to me how an epidural works and the process for administering it should I need it, the nurse popped her head in and said that I’d be getting a call. Almost immediately, my phone rang and it was my husband. He had been pulled out of class and given the hospital’s number to call, and they then told him to call me. I burst into tears as soon as I heard his voice. I told him I was at the hospital and needed him to come meet me there. He asked what happened and between sobs I told him that I had lost the baby. He was driven to the hospital by two of his sweet and supportive coworkers who didn’t want him to have to drive. When I heard his boots come through my door I immediately started crying again. He walked over to me with tears in his eyes and laid on the hospital bed next to me. He held me and we cried together, both so devastated over the loss of our baby and in shock that this could have happened to us.
The doctors and nurses came back in (pretty much the entire staff in labor and delivery at the time as I was the only patient) and explained what was going to happen so my husband would understand as well and asked if we had any questions. At that point our only question was why, which of course they couldn’t answer.They explained all the worse case scenarios- that I wouldn’t pass everything naturally and would need a D&C, that I’d hemorrhage and end up in surgery, etc.- which doesn’t sound like it would be helpful, but I like to have all the information so I appreciated it. They also told us about all of my options for pain management, from an epidural to about ten different IV administered options. Of course I’m thinking this is going to be really painful if I’m going to need one of these intense drugs. But I told them I didn’t want any pain medication initially and would ask for it if I needed it.
At about 4:00pm, six or so hours after I arrived at the hospital, they started the induction process. A little while later I began to feel what simply felt like regular menstrual cramps, uncomfortable, but not unbearable by any means. I ate a delicious [sarcasm] dinner of tortilla soup and jello, played some rummy with my husband, and watched Fixer Upper on HGTV. The doctors came in again at 10:00pm to check my cervix and administer another round of the medication they were using to induce me. I was still only feeling relatively moderate cramping at that point. Again, nothing I couldn’t handle. My husband and I slept on and off at that point, which was pretty difficult considering the blood pressure cuff on my arm would automatically take my blood pressure every hour on the hour, and make a lot of noise while it did so. I woke up a little before 4:00am and decided I needed to go to the bathroom. I knew the doctors were planning on checking me again at 4:00 and a cervical exam when you need to pee is not fun. So I woke my husband up to help me go to the bathroom. I was having a hard time walking to the bathroom on my own at that point because anytime I would stand up I would start violently shaking. I was also having much stronger contractions at this point. He got up to help, unplugged my IV, and helped me stand up.
As soon as I stood up I felt something trickling down my leg. I told my husband something was happening and rushed to the bathroom, as much as someone can rush when they’re shaking and have to drag the IV pole with them. As soon as I sat down on the toilet I felt large amounts of fluids come out of me, and it was not urine. My husband went to grab the nurse and I told her that I thought I was delivering my baby. She grabbed one of those hat things they put under the toilet seat if they need to collect your urine to catch everything, and then waited outside the door. As my husband stood by me rubbing my back, I sat on the toilet with my legs violently trembling underneath me and fighting back tears while what felt like crazy amounts of blood and other liquids came out of me. I kept thinking that had to be everything, but then I’d feel more being released. I sat on that toilet for what felt like an hour, but was probably only about ten minutes. The nurse grabbed me some of those mesh underwear they give you after you give birth and huge pad and my husband helped me back to the bed, while she cleaned everything up.
She came back in a little bit later and told us that it looked like I had passed everything. She asked if we wanted to know the sex of our baby to which I quickly said yes. She told us we had a little boy, a perfectly formed tiny little boy with all ten fingers and all ten toes. We chose not to see or hold him, preferring to keep the perfect image of him in our heads. He had a nice long umbilical cord that wasn’t wrapped around his neck or anything, and a very healthy placenta. My husband held my hand and we cried some more together. I had been hoping for a baby boy from the moment I knew I was pregnant, although we both were thinking the baby was a girl, and I’m not sure whether finding out he was a boy made it all hurt less or more. I just know I heard her say the word boy and I felt this huge swelling of love and loss all at once in my heart. We named him Ellis Ford as that was the name we had chosen for a boy and we didn’t feel right saving the name.
I continued to have contractions and some bleeding for the next few hours, but chose to continue to not receive any medication for it. Choosing to forgo pain meds during this whole process wasn’t a bravery thing or me wanting to prove how tough I am. I don’t think I consciously had the thought at the time, but I believe now that I needed to feel everything. I didn’t want to be numbed my medication. I wanted to be physically and mentally aware when my baby was delivered and in the following hours. I needed to feel the physical pain to help me with the emotional pain. Not that anything can really help with that level of emotional pain.
When I appeared to be physically okay the following morning, the doctors released me from the hospital with some pain medication and pamphlets on healing from miscarriage. I walked out of labor and delivery past all the pregnant women waiting for their appointments in the women’s clinic next door, not with a baby in my arms, but with a memory box the staff had made for Ellis.
We went home, both emotionally drained and rather numb from the whole experience. I took the ultrasound pictures off the fridge and hid them with the memory box and the shoes and onesie we had bought for him in the guest bedroom so I didn’t have to look at them. Those first few days were incredibly tough. I was still bleeding quite a bit and the cramping continued. I started to take the pain medication they had given me at this point because I no longer wanted to feel anything. Neither of us could do much besides just sit on the couch and stare into space.
But with each passing day things started to get a little easier. We leaned on good friends who brought us food and just hung out with us, talking about our situation as much or as little as we wanted. We received support from friends and family back home in the form of flowers, food, and lots of love and prayer. Now, two weeks later, it still sucks. I’m still sad. I still cry every damn day. I miss my little boy more than I could ever put into words. But we’re becoming okay. I’m still bleeding, but it’s more like a super long annoying period, and the cramping stopped after about the first week. The cervical pain I experienced in the few days following also ceased. And emotionally things are getting a little more okay too. We’re trying to navigate what our lives look like now without the promise of a baby in six month’s time (and how to support each other through this when we both process things so differently). But I have faith not only that we will get through this, but that we will have a baby one day on this side of heaven.
In vibrant (but so very sad right now) health,
A quick note for my baby boy: Little Ellis Ford, your mommy and daddy love you so much. I’m grateful for the time we had together, pissed that we didn’t get more, and hopeful that one day I’ll understand why taking you from me was part of God’s plan for us. You will always be our first baby, our little peach, our perfect little boy, and we will hold you forever in our hearts. All of my love, your mama.