August 2012 marked a low point for me: I lost a baby boy at 10 weeks gestation. The baby had been a surprise, most likely conceived on our 10-year wedding anniversary, and we had been ecstatic. Now he was suddenly gone.
It was a Friday when we learned I had miscarried. We had an appointment with my ob-gyn for our first ultrasound, and we were so excited we both took the day off work. We planned to go out to lunch afterwards to celebrate. Instead, we left the doctor’s office with me sobbing behind huge sunglasses. There was no celebratory lunch, only an immediate appointment with a maternal-fetal specialist to confirm that the pregnancy was no longer viable; my ob-gyn hadn’t been able to find a heartbeat, even though the little baby on the screen looked perfect to us. Two hours later, with the awful news confirmed, I was scheduled to have a D&C (a procedure to remove the baby’s remains) the following morning. My doctor had told me that it could take a month for the baby to leave my body naturally, and I just couldn’t wait that long. I needed to let him go for my own sanity.
The procedure itself wasn’t awful, I don’t think. I don’t remember much beyond feeling achingly empty afterwards. I was filled with grief so thick I felt like I was suffocating. I spent the weekend afterward in sweats, sobbing every time my then-3-year-old son wasn’t around, feeling empty and desperately alone. I wrote a letter to Angel Baby. I purchased a heart bracelet to wear in his honor. Groggy from the medication I was given during the procedure, I slept a lot.
The weeks after that were filled with ups and downs. I’d burst into tears at random times. I’d see a newborn out with his mom, or a pregnant lady would walk past me on the street, and I’d feel insanely jealous. My son would innocently say “I want a baby brother,” and I’d have to leave the room until I could pull myself together. I’d see on Facebook that yet another friend was pregnant, and I’d have to swallow feelings of self-pity for my own loss. I even endured some incredibly thoughtless comments from people (I was showing when I lost the baby and had been called out a few times) that left me angry and speechless. In a particularly unbelievable moment, one pregnant co-worker said (while rubbing her swollen belly), “You’re so lucky you can drink now! Hopefully the next one will be good.”
Then, two months after my miscarriage, something miraculous happened: I was pregnant again. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, but as excited as I was I was also terrified. My heart had broken so badly after the loss of my second son, I couldn’t imagine enduring that pain again. The holidays came and we shared our big news with our parents and grandparents, but no one else. I didn’t want the word to get out until after we received the results of our first trimester tests, since we lost our little boy due to a devastating genetic disease (Trisomy 18). I wore layers of clothing trying in vain to hide the little bump that seemed to appear within days of my positive pregnancy test.
Our first ultrasound with baby #3, which took place around 7 weeks, went beautifully. We saw the baby’s gorgeous heartbeat. We left my ob-gyn’s office — this time thrilled, a stark contrast to how we felt after our last ultrasound — and I counted down the days until our 11-week ultrasound. That ultrasound was even better; this time the baby waved at us and filled me with incredible happiness. I held my breath through our first trimester ultrasound and blood tests; once again, all went well. The tests were normal. To calm my anxious mind, we had one more genetic test: Materni21, the new blood test that screens for dozens of genetic diseases with 99 percent accuracy.
At 8 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, we got the best imaginable news: Our Materni21 results came back normal. And then the doctor delivered a huge surprise: We were having a little girl! We were elated and shocked. Elated because our test came back normal, which had been my biggest concern. Shocked because we were having a little girl — we had been convinced it was another boy. Of course we were delighted too; we didn’t care what our baby’s gender was, we just wanted a healthy baby.
It’s been two years since my miscarriage, and I can honestly say that getting pregnant again helped heal my heart more than anything else. It wasn’t that the baby I was carrying replaced the baby I lost; I’ll never forget him, he’ll always have a special place in my heart. It’s just that I had a much more profound appreciation for the miracle of life, and how delicate and fragile it really is. And I was so thankful for a third opportunity to become a mom again. (My daughter, Poppy Belle, was born healthy and happy in August 2014; she just turned 20-months-old!)
But here’s the thing: Those first six months, especially, were so difficult for me. I sobbed on February 27, 2014, the day that would have been my second son’s due date. I cried for the little boy I would never meet, and for his terrible fate — even as I celebrated the new life growing inside of me. I reached out to a close friend and told her how I was feeling, and in consoling me she said, “I’m happy that you won’t have to go through the day wondering if you’ll ever get pregnant again.”
Her words gave me perspective, and so have the words of other friends. Talking to moms who have had miscarriages has been especially helpful. If you’ve lost a baby recently, and you can stand to talk about it, I encourage you to reach out for support. I couldn’t have gotten through those first six months after my miscarriage without the phone calls, emails, and text messages that I’ve received from other women, some strangers, who have been in my shoes — and I’m trying to pay that support forward by writing about what I’ve been through and reaching out to other moms that I know who have lost a baby. My message today is that it does get better. There is hope, you will begin to heal. I promise.
© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Momtastic.com