[Trigger warning: This essay describes one woman's emotional journey with miscarriage.]
I knew something was wrong when my nurse didn't say anything after what seemed like an eternity moving the ultrasound wand across my gelled belly.
As many as one in four women trying to get pregnant will have a miscarriage—and yet I had no idea it was that common. You don't hear much about miscarriages until it happens to you or someone close enough who may share it with you.
So how could I have been prepared for it when it happened to me?
What they don't tell you is that by my 8-week appointment I had experienced the joy of that positive pregnancy test, of telling my partner, our parents and even some close friends. And in this modern era of pregnancy—I had worked diligently to follow my ovulation cycles, I peed on so many pregnancy tests, and then tracked every little thing I did on an app, checking to see what new fruit or vegetable or development was in store for my little one that week.
By that first appointment, I was already well into daydreaming about how to announce our baby and what my baby shower would be like and where I should take maternity photos and what names would be on our list.
And when that all comes crashing down after a somber midwife performs an internal ultrasound to double check what the first nurse already knew—I was too devastated to do anything but cry when the doctor told us our options.
Despite the lack of heartbeat, my doctor had us wait a week to be absolutely certain and to let things progress naturally.
That week was the hardest week of my life.
I would go to sleep crying as my husband gathered me into his arms, so strong for both of us. I re-watched the entirety of Game of Thrones as a distraction since misery loves company, even fictionally. When the bleeding started, it was almost a relief that it would be over soon, and we could begin to move forward, to try again.
On our third wedding anniversary, we ended up in the ER as my cramping pain got worse and worse. We spent a sleepless night at home, then went in the next morning for my scheduled D&C (dilation and curettage), where they checked that every piece of my baby was gone as I lay drugged and dazed on the table.
The next month was a blur of depression, wild hormones, and yes, wine and some bitterly eaten sushi. It was hard not to feel like I had done something wrong. Especially since, when so few people even knew I was pregnant in the first place, my miscarriage felt like a shameful secret instead of just a fact of life.
It truly helped me to be open about my miscarriage, to acknowledge my baby so it didn't feel like they never existed. I found myself telling far more people than I had told about my pregnancy, so if it happened to them they would at least know they weren't alone.
Two months after my miscarriage, we found out we were expecting again. Despite being overjoyed, my second pregnancy felt so different—gone was the carefree excitement of our first, in its place was a crippling fear that we could lose our baby again.
I went overboard on the things I could control—double checking that everything I ate was pregnancy safe and doing my best to keep my stress level down with workouts and breathing exercises. While people told me how lucky I was not to have much morning sickness, I wished I did as a sign my baby was okay (I didn't have morning sickness the first pregnancy either).
I nearly cut off my husband's circulation at our 8-week heartbeat appointment until the midwife said our baby was okay, then cried as I watched her, so tiny and so perfect. I don't think I truly let go of my anxiety until our 20-week appointment when they showed us every finger and toe and told me everything looked okay.
Even now, it helps that her kicks remind me she's alive and well.
Our little rainbow baby is due any day now, and I am so thankful we had friends and family that knew what we had been through to support us through the post-traumatic anxiety, the pregnancy pains, and the new parent fears. I cannot wait for them all to meet her, and continue being a part of our baby girl's life.