Loss comes in all shapes and sizes; through people, dreams and difficulties. I met Shanelle of Full of Bliss Baked Goods (BTW – she makes a butt kicking makes anyone feel better chocolate chocolate chocolate cake) at my very first “Tweetup” here in Lancaster. Maybe it was our matching uber-Lancaster county roots that drew me to her, but I sat next to her and enjoyed her humor, her smile, and her heart of gold. When I found out weeks later she was pregnant, I was so excited for her. When I saw a picture of a hospital room posted on Twitter soon weeks later and read of what she was going through in her own loss, I grieved for her. There is a happy ending here in lots of ways, but as someone who too experienced loss, there is always a bitter sweetness in wondering “what if?” Thanks for having the guts to share Shanelle.
I wish I could tell you how much I loved that baby. How many hopes and dreams and plans were tied up with it.
I wish I could tell you how much it hurt when the ultrasound tech looked me in the eye and told me that she couldn’t find a heartbeat.
The pregnancy was an unexpected blessing but a blessing no less. It took a day or two to adjust to the idea of having a baby, but we were truly ecstatic. Our families even more so. We had been saying “2 more years” every time they nosily asked when they could expect a grandchild, so this came as a welcome surprise to them as well.
I had finally made it over the morning sickness and the overwhelming tiredness of the first trimester. I was feeling great, just like all my friends had said I would. We were making plans and picking out paint colors and fighting over names. Then I had my 14 week appointment.
“Don’t worry,” the nurse said as she was unable to find a heartbeat, “the baby is still very little – we’ll do an ultrasound and I’m sure everything will be fine.” The next morning I rushed out of the house with conditioner still in my hair. I was so flustered that I couldn’t even shower myself properly. Kris and I waited as the ultrasound tech arrived 10 minutes late. Didn’t she know how we just wanted peace of mind? She took us into the room – no patients in the waiting room, no staff to check us in – the office wasn’t even open yet. The TV screen flickered and a picture came up… and disappeared almost as suddenly. She put her hand on my armed and whispered, “I’m sorry”.
I’ve never been more crushed in my life. Just three months earlier I had watched my 5 year old cousin succumb to brain cancer. This was the light at the end of our tunnel. And now it was gone.
The next two days were kind of a blur. We were hosting a party that night and I refused to cancel it. If I ever needed to be surrounded by my friends and family, now was the time. More than 60 people showed up at our house, bringing with them flowers, food, hugs… everything I needed. I spent the next 3 hours with them, embracing the loss, celebrating our relationships and enjoying the festivities of the local fair and parade. It was the best possible thing I could have done that night.
The next day I was up early again, this time for surgery. Since the pregnancy was fairly far advanced I had to have a D&E. I didn’t feel nervous or afraid. In fact, I was almost anxious to have the surgery – to be rid of the last bit of me that could remind me of that part of my life. That may sound awful, but it’s hard to describe how it feels to be completely betrayed by your own body, then to also know that you’re carrying around a broken dream. Surgery was like therapy.
I wish I could say that it was as simple as that. It certainly wasn’t. We grieved for a long time, spending a lot of nights just crying in bed, praying that it was all just a bad dream. I honestly don’t know if I would have ever been able to make it through without my family and friends. Suddenly, people were telling me about their miscarriages – more people than I ever knew had experienced this horrible loss. It’s like a secret club that no one talks about until you’re a member. Then the floodgates open and you see the pain that no one wanted to discuss. These women knew where I was, knew how I was blaming myself. They helped to heal me. At first Kris and I felt like the worst part of the miscarriage was having to tell everyone that we lost the baby. I later realized that it was the best part – it opened up doors and discussions that I never would have experienced had I suffered alone.
When I found out a few months later that I was pregnant again, I became paranoid. I followed every pregnancy rule to the T. It was extremely stressful even after I hit my 12 week “safe” mark. I had been there before. The paranoia lessened a bit, but even up to the day I delivered Harper, I was still convinced that something would be wrong. I remember the drive to the hospital and thinking that it wasn’t going to work out – that I would never be able to have a healthy baby.
But here we are, almost a year later. Harper is the happiest baby I have ever seen. Every day she fills me with love and joy like I have never known before. I won’t forget the loss of our first baby and that pain will never go away, but Harper healed my heart in a way that nothing else could.
I wouldn’t have made it without my friends. Without my family. Without the multitude of cards and the flowers that clogged up our house with their beauty and made our cat sneeze. Without the random Starbuck’s deliveries from people who cared. Without the prayers and support of my church. And now I know. I know what it’s like to feel that loss. And I hope that, when people around me experience this tragedy in their lives, I can be one of the people who lift them back up.
For those who have experienced loss through infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth, please visit Solace for Mothers.
In the meantime, I’m going to share a relative’s recent story of miscarriage. Well, sort of. It’s amazing and even for my measly mustard seed of faith I can see that God does has his hand in all things (as much as it sometimes pains me to admit that). Read it here.