“I’m having trouble finding a heartbeat.”
These words from the doctor broke a long period of silence. They echoed in my ears. Silence is the last thing you want to hear at your ultrasound appointment. Silence while you lie there watching the screen, desperately searching for some sign of life. You look to your husband for reassurance only to find him searching too.
It’s the loudest silence that exists on this earth.
Our First Prenatal Appointment
Our excitement was exactly what you’d expect from two first-time parents. I had only been off of birth control for about two months when we got a positive test. I still smile thinking of those two pink lines coming through so bright.
We had gotten married just three months prior. Our little bubble of happiness was the most perfect, exciting place there ever was.
Until Those 6 Words Shattered Our World
“I’m having trouble finding a heartbeat.” was followed by a secondary ultrasound downstairs with more advanced tools so that they could verify that there wasn’t a heartbeat. We were then sent back to the original doctor where we would get the results. My husband continued to say, “It’s still early.” and, “They wouldn’t send us to get another ultrasound unless they thought there was a chance.” His eternal optimism was lost on me. I felt sheer terror. I shook that entire time.
When the doctor said,
I stopped listening.
I just stared.
He handed me a box of tissues and some literature about my options moving forward. That’s when the tears started. He explained that miscarriage happens in one out of every four pregnancies, that there isn’t an explanation for it, that the baby measured exactly eight weeks so the heart must have stopped very recently, and on and on.
It was surreal, and I’d never known a pain that deep. It made all the times I’d been “hurt” in my life seem like splinters. (And I’d been through a lot in my young life.)
Our Hearts Were Broken
I would like to be able to put how I felt into words…but even as I type now, it’s slowly. The words don’t exist. The closest thing I found to explain the emptiness was a drawing I saw once. It was a side view of a woman sitting on her knees with a large half-circle missing from her belly. She was holding it like a bowl in front of her, and it was collecting her tears.
I remember saying to my mom a couple of weeks after it happened, “It’s like I forgot how to be human. I can’t interact with other people.”
After a week off work, I was back for three hours and decided to leave permanently. I wasn’t allowed any more time off and I was in a leasing agent position where smiling and making small talk was a requirement. That wasn’t possible. It physically hurt to smile. It physically hurt to talk about anything other than the (almost) baby. The loss. The pain. It was all-consuming.
My husband tried to go back to work the next day but came home (thank God) in tears. Over the next few days we:
- Cried together
- Talked about trying again
- Talked about the religious aspects of what had happened
- Tried to reason with the pain
- Ended up taking a 9-hour road trip to the Oregon coast
We stayed at my aunt’s beach house, and we both drank a lot the week we were there. I didn’t sleep much and experienced several panic attacks. Our pain was fresh, and our nerves were raw, but we took that time to figure out how to communicate again.
It was important to rediscover how to smile and laugh together once more. Perhaps it wasn’t the healthiest way to do it (the drinking anyway), but it that’s how it happened for us.
I Shared My Miscarriage Story to Tell You This…
If you have experienced a miscarriage, you have every right to mourn that loss of life. Mine was at eight weeks and affected me so deeply it truly changed me as a person. I can’t pretend to understand the pain of a loss later in pregnancy. But the reality is that no matter when it happens, you have a right to handle it however you need to.
Don’t Compare Your Pain to the Pain of Others
We should never feel guilty for having heart-wrenching pain over an early loss. Everyone handles grief differently and some people can move beyond a loss more quickly than others (especially if it’s early on.) You can’t predict how you will feel during something like this until it happens. While miscarriage is common, it isn’t something any can prepare for.
“There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.” – David Platt
Whether that child was lost at eight weeks or 20 weeks… it was yours and you had prepared a place for them in your heart, mind, maybe even in your home. No matter how you rationalize it, it never feels natural for that place to remain empty.
Moving Forward With Another Pregnancy
At every appointment with my second pregnancy when they asked if this was my first baby, I explained what had happened to our (almost) first baby. While that hurt, it also felt good to acknowledge that first life that made me a mother. One of the hardest parts of being pregnant again was feeling like I was expected to forget the first life we created.
Being afraid to lose the second pregnancy was the hardest part. My anxiety spiked at every ultrasound until I heard that beautiful heartbeat. Luckily, our little girl was a constant kicker up until the end which helped reassure me that she was alright.
The best cure for anxiety like that is your doctor. I went in just to hear the heartbeat or have an extra ultrasound on a few occasions when I was feeling uneasy. Explain your situation to your doctor early and keep in contact in case you have fears or concerns. DO NOT sit and stress yourself out! Repeat after me: I WILL NOT GOOGLE!
Time Really is the Only Thing That Will Patch the Wounds
I didn’t use the word “heal” because I don’t know if you ever actually heal from it. I still cry when I hear the song “Bright” by Echosmith. I used to sing it when I was overwhelmed by happiness during that short time I was pregnant. A little piece of my heart aches when I see my daughter play with the sock monkey we originally got for our (almost) first baby. But in the time since it happened my heart has patched itself (as hearts often do). The memories of the hardest times give way to new memories of love and laughter.
It Will Get Easier
It has been about two years since we experienced that loss and as painful as it has been, it’s no longer in the forefront of my mind. There will always be a place in my heart that I prepared for that child and that’s where he/she lives forever.
The amount of time it will take for you to grieve is not something I can predict. I can’t tell you when the tears will stop or when the emptiness will be replaced with love again. I can tell you that it will get easier. Not all at once, but over time and with hard days in between, it will get easier. I promise you that… and I hope that promise brings you some peace when you need it most.
If you are having a hard time and need to speak to someone (like we all sometimes do) you can use these resources:
Help Finding a Therapist 1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274)
Online Chat Help https://www.7cups.com/
Featured photo: Edited from Giulia Bertelli- Unsplash
In-article photo: Edited from Sabastian Pichler- Unsplash