Our pregnancy news was supposed to be about Baby Bernal coming in April of 2019. I had scoured Pinterest for hours finding inspiration for a perfect fall-themed pregnancy announcement. A tiny pumpkin next to our bigger pumpkins, Gracie holding a tiny matching Halloween costume, autumn colors and quotes about spring blooming new life. Instead we find ourselves grieving the loss of a hope and a dream, our tiny poppy seed at 9 weeks along. The overwhelming emotions, the physical and mental rollercoaster have taken a toll, and most days I haven’t quite been sure whether to laugh or to cry.
We didn’t formally announce anything yet as we felt it best to wait until we saw a heartbeat, that first glimpse into the life of our precious gift. You see, we had already been through one miscarriage before, and although it occured even earlier in the pregnancy than this one, the reality of loss was vivid, it was painful and it was a mere 10 months ago. We did choose to share our news with our closer group of friends and family feeling that the positive energy and prayers wouldn’t do anything but help our little one grow and be that much more protected. In the event that something went wrong...the love and support would help carry us through. We didn’t want this little life, or a loss, to be a secret.
From the first ultrasound things were worrisome. Based on my last period I was 6.5 weeks along but the gestational sac measured at just about five weeks. We stayed hopeful and scheduled a follow up in a week. That ultrasound showed a larger sac plus a yolk sac, progress! Perhaps I ovulated late? I stalked Google for hours at a time finding any tiny reason that we could still be hopeful. Every nauseous moment and breast pain kept me positive that this was real. I even took a blood test while on vacation in Idaho just to be sure my HCG levels were rising and they were...more hope.
The third ultrasound more than a week later brought our nightmares to life. There was no heartbeat and no further progress. Our hearts sank. More tears. It was like I was in an alternative universe. I had no cramping, no bleeding, I felt pregnant...but no baby. It was a cruel joke. We were heartbroken texting our loved ones the news. Just to be sure the following week we did a confirmation ultrasound. Still bad news. The D&C would be later in the week. I just wanted to not be pregnant anymore.
Today I am recovering from D&C surgery. Something I knew very little about prior to one week ago. I had a vague notion of what it entailed, but didn’t realize until I had to book one myself that it included being in the hospital, general anesthesia and a team of nurses in the room. Although the procedure itself is merely minutes, the emotional toll seems endless. As the doctor and his team prepped me and Ryan, talking through what would happen, he assured me I’d recover quickly but it was ok, important, to mourn. “Miscarriage is a real loss that we don’t talk about a lot in our society,” one nurse explained with a caring hand on my shoulder. I told her I planned to blog about it, and she said she hoped more people would be aware that being open about it is nothing but helpful.
Our pregnancy journey did not just begin with a decision to try. Ryan had a vasectomy in his mid 20s and last September had a reversal. This past spring we were told his sperm count was far too low for natural conception and we should consider IVF. We knew the pregnancy just two months after his reversal has happened, so we kept faith that our deepest desires and instincts would suffice and we could conceive naturally. With the positive pregnancy test on August 3, just 11 months after his reversal and two days after our one year wedding anniversary we just couldn’t believe our wonderful timing, and the miracle that had happened in our favor. The emotional rollercoaster that followed was traumatic, yet...we will keep trying for our rainbow baby.
In retrospect, which we have had a lot of over the last few weeks, we would not change a thing. We explained our pregnancy to our 5-year-old daughter in a manner that made explaining our loss not as difficult. Some people question telling young children about pregnancy early, but we would never hide something so incredible from Gracie. Her understanding was that there was a seed that should grow into a baby. When we knew there was no further growth we explained it that way. Her response? “Ok, then start making another seed!” It was precious and we laughed and cried all together. One way or another Gracie will be a big sister as we have not ruled out adoption.
More retrospect - we are so happy we did not contain our excitement about our pregnancy as well as our devastation about our loss. We will definitely do something different when it comes to doctor visits. No more early ultrasounds. It was unnecessary torture. Our doctor confirmed that unless there is pain and/or bleeding, an office visit is not necessary until 8-10 weeks, even with my “advanced age” of 38 and previous miscarriages. As soon as we get another positive we will call and discuss our plan of action, but the outcome of a healthy pregnancy will not change - it can just cause unnecessary stress. In addition, this was a lesson on how our fears can take control of our emotions, and Ryan and I learned a lot about making these first few critical weeks more enjoyable and in support of one another. At times we took our fears and stress out on one another, and we now have a better, more relaxed, plan of action to lean on each other.
One last bit of retrospect- I had no idea how difficult a “missed miscarriage” can be and in the past when my friends shared their news with me...I did not get it. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for not being there more, for checking in more and for not asking my friends if they wanted to talk about it. I let the illusion of secrecy and ignoring the pain guide that decision. If you know someone who has gone through or is going through miscarriage of any kind...love them. Ask if they need anything and be there. It’s ok to not know exactly what to say, but say something. Pregnancy loss is real at any stage, and it hurts very deep within the core of the mother and the father. The pain doesn’t simply disappear once the baby or any remnants of are out of the body. Help your friends and loved ones heal.
We are still on this journey and hope that this blog will encourage moms, dads, friends and family to share every stage of life’s most amazing miracle. Even when there is loss.