Losing Lennon -- Our Miscarriage Story

Monday, May 6, 2019

Writing a post about your miscarriage is difficult--and not just because of the sadness we still face over losing our first baby just a few weeks ago. It’s difficult because you want to do right by every other woman experiencing this kind of profound pain. This may be a little long, but it includes everything I wish I’d known. When I went through this I felt like I had no resources to guide me. This is your courtesy warning that what I write below may be triggering to some.

I found out I was pregnant on Valentine's Day. Unable to contain my excitement, I blurted out the news to the cashier at Target while picking up some booties and a Valentine's card to tell Spenser the news. She was the first person I told. I will never forget what an amazing feeling it is to share that kind of joyful news for the first time!

During the early weeks of my pregnancy I was naturally anxious about having a miscarriage; I think most moms are! I knew the statistics and the warning signs to watch for so I prayed for the baby's health and safety, constantly told it to "snuggle in close to Mama." With every week that passed, my nervousness started to dwindle. 

At our first scan at 7 weeks, we were able to see the little blueberry growing inside me and hear its tiny, flickering heart. I had chills down my spine listening to that rhythm of new life whispering "wow wow wow wow wow." There was no doubt about it in my mind, now. I was a Mom.

At my prenatal appointments, we continued to progress normally. Bloodwork and hormones were all coming back in perfect, normal range, and my pregnancy symptoms were continuing (all. the. naps. and. all. the. carbs.). I asked our midwife if we could see the baby again. I wanted to see how its heart rate was progressing since it had been on the lower side of average before, but she advised that we wait until our 12-week check up since I showed no signs of miscarriage.

Let me pause here to say to all expecting parents everywhere:  If you are pregnant and want to see your baby, push for an ultrasound. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that you have to advocate for yourself. Your healthcare providers should obey your wishes. I don't know if it would have been any easier had we found out the baby was gone at that appointment (it was), but I do think I would have been more emotionally prepared than I was a month later.
Weeks 9 through 12 came and went in a flash and, in our minds, everything was going smoothly. My nausea was disappearing and my breasts were less sore, but I was nearing the end of the first trimester! All seemed normal and I continually let myself relax.

The morning of our 12-week appointment I sprang out of bed and told Spenser, "It feels like Christmas morning! We get to see our baby today!" The appointment began as the others had: they drew blood, gathered a urine sample, and took my vitals. 

“Ok,” said the midwife. “Let’s hear that baby!” I started to get nervous when the doppler didn’t pick up any sound.

“Don’t worry, sometimes it’s easier to find the heartbeat with an ultrasound.” She left the room and returned with the ultrasound machine. She put the wand on my belly and it was silent. I could see a tiny little body -- it wasn't anywhere close to 12 weeks old. I knew.

I remember her saying, "There's no easy way to tell you this,"  and not much else. 

My mind raced. It can't be. I hadn't had any bleeding. How could I have miscarried? The baby was so small, this had to have happened weeks ago. How is this possible? 

I had read six different pregnancy books before even getting pregnant. Not one of them mentioned what the midwife said this is: a Missed Miscarriage. A missed miscarriage, or silent miscarriage, occurs when a baby stops developing early on in pregnancy but the mother’s body doesn’t recognize the loss. The pregnancy continues as the mother’s body continues taking care of the baby as though it’s still developing. From what I've learned, silent miscarriages are usually discovered between weeks 11-14 of pregnancy, after a viable heartbeat has been detected. They are very rare, occurring in only about 3% of miscarriages. Mine was especially rare, lasting more than 5 weeks without any signs of loss. Based off of our baby's measurements, it had passed within days of our first ultrasound at 7 weeks. 

As anyone who has experienced a missed miscarriage can attest, to say that this experience is confusing is the understatement of the century. I repeatedly asked myself things like how could my body have betrayed me like this and not shown me any signs? I felt so disconnected from my body through this experience, and it was extremely difficult to process. I wrestled some really dark thoughts about how long I had carried this baby after it was gone. Did I even have the right to grieve a 12 week baby when my baby was really only 7 weeks old? My belly had been growing and I no longer fit in my regular clothes -- how could a pregnancy continue on if the baby was not viable? I've worked through a lot of these emotions, but they take time, and for me, they took research to understand how this was medically possible. I just couldn't wrap my head around it.
This is where I'm going to share some of the medical information about what can happen when you have a miscarriage. This is extremely personal, but I genuinely think this is important to share. If it helps one mom feel less terrified going through this experience, then it's worth it to me to be vulnerable.
While I tried to wrap my mind around the news she had delivered -- our baby was indeed gone and had been for several weeks -- the midwife gave us three options forward. 

1) Wait for nature to take its course and to miscarry naturally, which in my case, wasn't an option because it had been so long
2) Take a medication called Cytotec to induce the miscarriage at home
3) Have a D&C surgery to empty the contents of my uterus

The only thing I knew was that a D&C required anesthesia, and for some reason that frightened me, so I chose to take the medication. If, God forbid, I ever have to face this again, I don't think I would make the same choice. The Cytotec essentially induces labor. It was extremely painful, extremely traumatic, and caused me to have an intense and prolonged recovery that I was not at all prepared for. Prior to this experience, I didn’t know much about miscarriages. I didn’t know what could physically happen as the mother's body reconciles the loss. As naive as this may sound, I didn't realize it would be a birth.

I have worked really, really hard to not harbor anger through this experience, but this is where I get angry: I had essentially no information, no guidance, and no preparation from my providers about what to expect during a miscarriage. We walked away from the doctor's office with broken hearts, a prescription, and a pamphlet full of poems. That was it

Everything I learned about what happened to my baby--and what was about to happen to me--I learned from other moms publicly sharing their stories online. To those brave moms, thank you. Your vulnerability and willingness to talk about your loss helped me feel more prepared and less alone during an extremely frightening time. In sharing my story, I am following your example.
Amidst the blinding grief in those first few days after our loss, only one thing was very clear: I had to talk about this child I love. Somehow God gave us the words to say goodbye and the strength to share them with you, and that has helped me so much. I needed to have other people know there was a baby here, and I am so glad I did, because sometimes the entire pregnancy feels like a dream; like it was never real to begin with. Being able to talk about Lennon with you is helping me to process that this trauma did happen. It was real. I did suffer. I did lose something. I'm allowed to not be okay. I really needed that, so thank you for listening. 

Chances are you know someone or will know someone who experiences a loss like this at some time in their life. How I wish I could be the last woman to ever suffer this kind of pain. I would take it on for all of you if I could. Unfortunately, I can't, and already I have had friends find themselves walking this same path. When I've had people go through this before, I really did not know how to help and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. 

So here are some things I found helpful: 

The most helpful thing you can say is "I'm sorry." My favorite card I received said "this absolutely f***ing sucks." I would kindly advise you to avoid telling a bereaved Mom that "God needed another angel" or things like that. Try saying, "this sucks so much, it's not fair, and I'm so sorry." I promise that will be more helpful than anything else.

Providing food really does help. It was a blessing to have even a small burden like cooking taken off my mental load. Alleviating that small burden of having to prepare a meal was such a gift. Thank you, thank you, to all of you who helped provide food for us in those weeks, and stopped by to provide company and a hug. It is frightening to knock on the door of grief, but I am deeply thankful you did.

The most comforting gift I received in honor of Lennon was a small, soft heart that fit in the palm of my hand. Having something to physically hold when I think of Lennon has been such a gift. I hold it every night as I fall asleep and it makes me feel closer to my baby.  I found this Etsy shop that makes a small little peg doll in honor of babies lost, and I wanted to share it as a resource if you know a Mama who may need it.

Patience with my grief.  These emotions are complex, persistent, and surprising. Parents who have lost a pregnancy have not just lost the potential for a child, they have lost a real member of their family - one they wanted, loved, and deeply miss. If they want to talk, patiently listen. Ask how they are doing and allow them the space to answer honestly. Thank you to everyone who has patiently listened to me (in particular, my Godsend of a husband). I am an external processor, so sharing my story and feelings helps me acknowledge them and let them go so they don't consume me. You willingness to listen is oxygen to me!

This grief workbook. I have found this to be one of the most helpful exercises to give space to my pain and release it. I highly recommend this as a gift to a bereaved mother - especially if you are able to give it to her a few weeks after her trauma. I wasn't ready to open this book right away, but once some time had passed, I have found it so helpful to work through these prompts and feel guided to work through my grief.
I won't ever know why this happened, and I don't honestly believe there is a reason. But I do know that I have been tasked with making the most of the experience I've been given, and I will find a way to create life in this void. Hopefully some of the words on this page will touch you, or someone you know, or someone I have never met and help them feel less alone. And if you are going through this experience yourself, my one piece of advice to you is to let the Light in. Light will drive out the darkness, of this I am sure.

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