It happened. Again. I got pregnant and we lost the baby, this time at 8 weeks. This makes 3 miscarriages for me, with the last two in a row.
pregnant with Olive, 2011 // photo by Jose Villa
The first time I had a miscarriage, in May of 2011, I was unprepared for the grief. I had never been pregnant before and was actually amidst a very intense journey with infertility. There were doubts as to whether or not I even *could* get pregnant, medically speaking. So when I saw those 2 lines for the first time and received the good news from the doctor’s office via blood test, I was on cloud 9. It was inconceivable to me that I might not make it to full-term. I felt like my prayers had finally been answered and I was invincible. So when I received the crushing news that my HCG levels were plummeting and I would soon miscarry, I was devastated. I got the news at the worst possible time: while driving to San Diego for a party I was working on. I was going to have to see dozens of people that night and put on a smile and try to socialize. I ended up crying with many friends that evening as I couldn’t hold back the grief. I cried all the way home (probably not that smart to drive in that state, looking back…). It was a dark time.
But after that time of sorrow, an immense joy came into our lives when I got pregnant shortly thereafter with the baby who became Olive Iris. I had a perfect pregnancy. It wasn’t just normal, it was amazing. I felt great, she thrived, the delivery was smooth and we ended up with our miracle. Although the pain of my miscarriage was still somewhere deep down inside, Olive’s arrival healed so much in me.
With our fertility struggles in mind, we never planned to ‘wait’ to get pregnant again. To the contrary, we hoped and prayed we would get pregnant again somehow, anytime. When I was checked out of the hospital with a 2-day old baby the nurse asked incredulously, “Are you SURE you don’t want the pill? What if you were to get pregnant right away??” I laughed and said, “I would gladly take another baby right away.” I meant it. I still mean it.
Time passed by but we had the sweet distraction of watching our daughter grow and flourish. Last fall, however, I learned I was pregnant again. You couldn’t imagine our excitement. But once again, just a few weeks later, we learned I was going to miscarry a second time. I ended up having my miscarriage the week before Christmas and I began the emotional & physically-painful process at a wedding, of all places. I remember the night before the wedding, crying on the floor of our hotel bathroom and mourning the loss of that child. Once again, however, God gave me the strength and grace to lean on Him through the painful ordeal.
The first time you have a miscarriage, you are devastated by the unexpected nature of it. No one thinks that it will happen to them. No one could prepare themselves for it. But I soon learned (from sharing my experience with friends) that many around me had suffered a loss as well. Although this did not diminish my own pain, it served to encourage me that there were others who had walked in the same valley and found healing on the other side. I felt hopeful.
The second time I had a miscarriage, I was confused. What did this mean? Why was this happening to me again?? Was there something wrong with me? Would I ever be able to carry another child? With time, the fears faded away. I remained hopeful.
But now, three. The third time. I honestly cannot explain how it felt to get the news a third time. This time was different. We found out I was pregnant and I had concerns right away. The levels were low so we had repeated blood tests (four over the course of a week). We were amazed (BLOWN AWAY) by how the levels begin rapidly and miraculously rising. I went from having alarmingly low levels to having above average numbers. I thought I just had a slow starter in there! I felt like that week *was* my test. I felt like in some way, God was showing me that I had a fighter in there and that we would make it with this baby.
At my first ultrasound, we saw the gestational sac. And it was small. It was actually really small, but the doctor suggested I could be earlier than we thought. I could tell, though… I could tell by her voice and her very intentional phrasing that she already saw it coming. When she left the room, hot tears started flowing down my cheeks and I just stared at the screen, staring at that tiny black sac and prayed that somewhere in there was a healthy tiny baby. I hadn’t had any cramping or spotting or any other worrisome symptoms to make me suspect miscarriage. Erik had packed our ‘good camera’ for this visit and was prepared to shoot video of our baby’s blinking heartbeat. But instead, he slipped the camera back into his bag and prayed with me as I laid there, weeping on the table. We scheduled another ultrasound and went on our knees, praying desperately that week. I told a few close friends about the situation so I could ask for their prayers as well. We all had a glimmer of hope. We all wanted that miracle.
We told Olive about the baby in my tummy and at nightly prayers, she would say in her tiny voice, “Dear Jesus, Thank you for Mommy. Thank you for Daddy. Thank you for baby brother.” I don’t know why she always insisted that the baby was a boy but she did. Thinking back on these prayers is bittersweet. I know Olive would make a wonderful big sister.
On the morning of my last ultrasound, Erik and I prayed in the car and we prayed again before the doctor came in. He still brought the good camera, hopeful in his heart. I knew the moment that the screen went up that it was over. I could see the sac right away and while it had grown, it was far too small. No yolk sac, no visible fetal pole, no heartbeat. The doctor gently explained my options and discussed genetic testing and offered words of comfort about how young I still was, and how she felt like I still would be able to have another child. I just nodded politely, the tears streaming down my cheeks and hitting the crinkly paper cover on the table. I remember the doctor’s look of horror when she accidentally said “baby” instead of “fetal tissue” while discussing genetic testing. Although Erik and I would call my loss a baby, I know most in the medical community would not use such a personal, emotionally charged word when it comes to a first trimester loss. She offered her condolences and left us alone in the room. I laid there for 5, 10 minutes, not saying a word. Erik prayed for us again. We left the building quietly and drove home in mostly silence. I cried on and off. I didn’t make a sound. It was actually very reminiscent of my labor with Olive (one day I’ll share her birth story), when I just wanted to be silent and alone. The tears seemed to come without any effort, spilling down my cheeks in constant rivulets. I looked out the window as the landscapes whizzed by and I said farewell in my heart to the hope and the dream of this second child. My fourth pregnancy, my third miscarriage. I said goodbye to the baby who was going to be due the week before Christmas, who was going to be due right around the time I miscarried the last pregnancy. It seemed so poetic when we thought about the timing. Still poignant now, but in a painful way.
You would think that the third time you go through a painful experience, it might hurt a little less. Grief has no such familiarity. It is a new grief each time. In fact, with this third miscarriage, it is a little more terrifying. I have now entered the 1%, the extremely rare group of people diagnosed with recurrent pregnancy loss. I take the best prescription prenatal vitamins on the market, I had daily omega 3 supplements and organic food and no caffeine or alcohol or smoking and plenty of vitamin D and rest. I have a perfectly normal uterus and am “only” 30 years old. It is sort of baffling.
But then, it isn’t. Because I believe that everything, including these painful miscarriages, are part of a plan: God’s plan for my life. I know that the pain, the experience, the growing that has occurred because of these miscarriages, has been for good. That sounds crazy, right? How could losing 3 babies be good? I know all 3 babies are safely in heaven, where there is no pain and no suffering. I know that I will see them there one day. I know that I have become stronger, more resilient, more dependent on Christ, more trusting in His will, through these experiences. I know that I love and cherish Olive more because of these experiences. I know that Erik and I have been strengthened in our marriage through these experiences. I have even been blessed to see some others around me say they have been blessed and encouraged watching us walk through this trial. That is so humbling because I do not handle things perfectly but I know that anything I am able to do, it is because Christ strengthens me.
I also want to remind those who may not share my beliefs that prayer is not a magical incantation or spell. Some might wonder how or why I would go through these painful experiences when I prayed so hard for the babies. Why weren’t my prayers answered? Well the short version is because God is sovereign and His will is perfect. Sometimes prayers are not answered the way we want them to be, but God is always there and His plan is perfect. I want His will and not my own. I am grateful for all the prayers that went “unanswered” in my life that ultimately were demonstrated to be answered later, in much greater ways.
So now. I am still going through this miscarriage. It took Olive a few days of our gentle reminders that there was no longer a baby brother on the way. She looked confused, but has now phased that phrase out of her evening prayers. Erik is giving me incredible support and love and encouragement. My friends and family have been amazing as well, checking in on me and sending their prayers on our behalf. I know it will be a while before I can think on this without fresh tears, but I know that time will come. Writing this post helped, even if a few new tears were shed. :)
I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read this post. I know it may seem oddly placed here, amongst happy photos of Olive and gorgeous images from weddings. But this is a part of me and my story. I pray that none of you will suffer the same loss but if anyone reading this has gone through the trial of miscarriage, I pray you know that there is hope on the other side. I am assured of this with everything I am.