As our first Angelversary is quickly upon us, I decided to share our story of that day and the days shortly after.
On January 24, 2016, I was 12 weeks 3 days pregnant. I started spotting. I was a little concerned, but I had no cramping and it wasn’t a lot. By Tuesday, I was bleeding more. I called my doctor in the morning. She said it *could* be normal and to make an appointment the next day to see her. I already had an appointment with the specialist for a first trimester screening, so I decided to see the specialist. The next day, I already knew before I went into the ultrasound room. The technician took a look and within 30 seconds grabbed my hand and said “I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”
She called my OB’s office as we headed over there. My OB gave us our options of waiting to give birth naturally or have a D&C. We opted for the D&C. No resources were given for support groups or grief counseling. It was like it was a normal every day procedure.
I went home that night and lay in bed with my 2 year old. All I kept thinking was that my baby was inside me, no longer had a heartbeat, and there was nothing I could do about it. I sang to her and her brother. I talked to both of them. We fell asleep.
The next day, at the hospital, the OR staff was amazing. They were calm, talked me through procedures, and tried to keep me calm. They reassured me of the whole process. Some even told me their stories of their miscarriage. I couldn’t have asked for a better staff. On January 28, 2016, our baby entered the world. My first question I asked when coming out of anesthesia was “could you tell what the gender was?” I knew they couldn’t, but it’s the only thing I wanted to know. Walking out of the hospital, I felt so empty and alone, despite my husband holding my hand.
I called the specialist office that first told me they saw no heartbeat and requested my ultrasound pictures. They wanted to give me a refund (I had to pay for the pictures when I first entered). I refused and stated I only wanted my pictures. They had to ask the manager if they were allowed. I repeated- “I don’t care what you have to do, I just want the pictures of my baby”. It was sent several hours later with no call back.
Then it was the start of telling family and friends we lost the baby. News like that can make anyone uncomfortable and they just don’t know what to say. So I can’t really blame them for not knowing what to say. But saying “you’re young enough to have more” and “everything happens for a reason” (number 1 statement) just isn’t the right thing. I’m sorry- I lost a child. It’s not like my dog ran away. There’s no good reason my child had to die.
Several things happened that I didn’t expect and they were pretty hard to deal with:
- The on and off bleeding for weeks- I just wanted it to be over already so we can start trying.
- Then there is the fear of trying again.
- The sadness of telling my two year old when he says he’s a big brother – “yes, to your guardian angel”.
- The uneasiness when people ask me how many kids I have because they are never satisfied with the answer “two” (are they boys and girls? How different are they? Etc). So, I just don’t know what to say. I sometimes say one and sometimes I say a little boy here and a little girl in heaven.
- Seeing pictures on Facebook of other mothers who were pregnant and our due dates were only a few weeks apart. I got to see their bellies swell with baby and then see pictures of a beautiful healthy baby enter the world. Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m so incredibly happy for them. But it was a reminder of where I should have been and I was not.
- None of my clothes fit. It sounds petty but it really is a difficult feeling. I eat heathy. I exercise. Yet, nothing- NOTHING- fit. And I have no baby to show for it. At least the postpartum period with my son I was fine because I had a baby boy to show off for it. My tiger stripes showed I was a warrior during birth. Now what do I say?
- The blood stained underwear. I can’t bring myself to throw it away, because that’s the last thing I physically have of my daughter, yet I can’t wear them. So they sit in my drawer, untouched.
- It took well over a month to get the results of the chromosomal test. We found out we had a beautiful daughter. We named her Gabriella Angel. We also found out we lost her to Turner’s Syndrome- a chromosomal defect that is the #1 cause of miscarriage with baby girls. We also found out there was nothing we could have done to prevent it or to prevent in the future (though the rate of it happening again is very low)
Two positive things came out of this. One is that I continued my Bereavement Doula training and have created an early pregnancy loss program in honor of Gabriella, called Gabriella’s Hugs. I can speak out and let women know they are not alone. I made an announcement on Facebook since I had people constantly asking me how the pregnancy was going. I couldn’t take repeating the news that my baby girl had died. So my husband and I decided to make an announcement in order to honor Gabriella and to let me people it’s not something to be silent about or ashamed about. I had several people message me saying they had a miscarriage or stillbirth. That they were amazed at how “brave” I was to post something so “beautifully” and to voice what they couldn’t say about their own experience. It is now my goal to speak out and make people aware that this happens way more often than we could ever imagine and that we need a better support system in place.
The second positive outcome is Gabriella basically pushed me to be a Birth Doula. While working as a Bereavement Doula, I decided I needed balance. I was surrounded by so much grief that I needed to be reminded of the beauty and amazement in childbirth. I was always a little nervous to be a Birth Doula – my son was “so little” and I couldn’t imagine leaving him. But after a few months doing Bereavement work, I jumped right into the training and taking clients. I fell in love with my new career.
Moving forward, I wanted something special to keep the wonderful memories of Gabriella alive. I have started to create a photo album of my pregnant belly, my son talking to his little sister, my husband kissing my belly, my ultrasound pictures and write little stories of how she had a sweet tooth and had to eat every 2 hours. I will proudly display it and over time I will become more comfortable saying I have two beautiful children.
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(The picture shown above is a memorial at a cemetery in New York. It’s Titled: Rachel Weeping for Her Children. Memorial to the Unborn. I took a picture of it after my great-uncle’s funeral. This was only a few weeks before we lost Gabriella).