I think if I’m going to talk about transparency in motherhood it only makes sense to start where my motherhood journey started.
I underestimated how easy it would be to go from not being a mother to being one. I foolishly assumed it was as easy as simply deciding when to start trying to get pregnant. Obviously I was prepared for pregnancy to get uncomfortable and for labor and delivery to be hard but I was naive in thinking that the rest would “come naturally”.
After having a series of discussions, Ben and I decided we would meet with my OB/GYN in October of 2017. I had a history of endometriosis and long-term birth control use so we weren’t sure what to expect. My OB gave us the green light for moving forward. Thus our journey to become parents began.
We didn’t tell our friends or family we were trying. I think at the time we said we’d wait to tell people until we were actually pregnant because we knew it could take a while – although I secretly assumed it would happen quickly.
I remember the first few months of trying. I remember being really expectant and peeing on A LOT of sticks way too early before any of them would even be able to realistically tell us if we were successful. I remember the disappointment that ensued every time the tests came back negative. I was anxious and impatient to say the least.
Then December met me with some unexpected losses. My grandfather passed away after a decade long battle with strokes and dementia. A week later, a beloved patient of mine unexpectedly became ill and passed away. It was my first bereavement case of a primary patient as a NICU nurse. December was rough, but we still continued our pursuit of trying to get pregnant.
Then came January. Little to our knowledge, we had gotten pregnant on Christmas in December. A few weeks later I had finally let go of the anticipation and anxiety of getting pregnant. I was finally okay with seeing the lack of pink lines on tests…and then we found out we were indeed pregnant.
I dreamt of that moment for a long time. I had spent a lot of time thinking of all of the ways I could tell Ben he was going to be a dad. I purchased a card a few months back and stashed it away in a desk drawer until this fateful moment. I took the positive test and it out on the bathroom counter along with the card I had, waiting for Ben to get home. I knew that Ben would come home from work and use the bathroom right away like he always does so I set up a camera in our spare bedroom to film his reaction.
I can’t bring myself to go back and watch the video. I know that when I do I’ll hear the excitement in his voice and see the embrace of a couple that was innocent and naive. I’ll see some of the most pure and untainted moments we ever knew of pregnancy. If I keep watching the video I’ll get to replay the conversation we had mere minutes into Ben finding out where we discussed when we would tell our family and friends. Ben was hesitant to share too soon because of the possibility that something could go wrong or we would miscarry. I thought he was being silly. All I could see was the joy. What could possibly go wrong?
So we celebrated. We went to bed that night and woke up the next day ready to tell our friends and family of our news. Was it early? Yes. But what could go wrong? We’re normal healthy people. We had planned for this baby. We were ready.
A week later I held my next primary patient as he took his last breath. It was the most haunting experience of my nursing career. Seeing a baby die is a very difficult thing. While nurses often become calloused to the realities of our job as a way to cope, there are still moments that can bring even the toughest and most seasoned nurses to their knees. This was one of mine. Holding a dying baby and feeling him breathe out his last breath and then feeling nothing as his body failed to breathe in again, all while waiting for his parents to make it to the hospital. I held him and I wept and for a moment I debated whether the tears were because I was hormonal and pregnant or simply out of mourning for this sweet boy.
3 personal deaths in 5 weeks and a baby on the way. I was emotional but I had some hope to cling to, something to keep me moving. So I stuffed the grief of my losses somewhere deep down and held fast to the excitement of being pregnant.
That following week Ben and I went to the happiest place on earth (a.k.a. Target). We went to stroll through the baby aisles and start to collect small little mementos for our baby. In the car, Ben prayed about all that God had done in our lives and all that He was going to do. Then He prayed that we would still hold fast to God and His word and give Him praise just as much in the hard times as we were accustomed to doing in the good.
24 hours later, we lost our baby.
I had just woken up from sleeping and Ben had gotten home from work. I work night shift as a nurse so I was in the process of getting ready when I realized that I was bleeding slightly. Nothing major. Nothing dramatic. Just a small streak of blood. Instantly my heart dropped, tears filled my eyes, and I assumed the worst case scenario as I frantically paged through the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book that I had all too eagerly purchased at the first thought of wanting to be pregnant like every other eager and excited first time mom. I cried as I told Ben that something was wrong. He reassured me as best as he could and I had decided to go to work. Nothing else appeared abnormal aside from just feeling “off” so I figured going to work would be better than staying home and stewing over the possibilities. After all, some women can notice a little bleeding in their first trimester and still go on to have completely healthy babies. I was probably overthinking things.
I got to work and started my shift. I was anxious and afraid but ready to fill my head with vitals and diaper weights for the next 12 hours to keep me occupied. I suddenly started to feel crampy so I excused myself to go to the bathroom. What had started as a small streak of blood became very obviously something much more significant. I cried in the bathroom as reality sunk in. I was miscarrying.
I remember the tears streaming down my face and pleading out loud, “No. Please Lord, No”. At some point I knew I had to move. I couldn’t stay in that bathroom forever. I went back to the unit feeling completely numb. There was no rule book for miscarriage, no step-by-step guide for what to do next. In all fairness who would buy that? Who would purchase a book about miscarriages when they’re fully expecting not to have one? Nonetheless, I had no clue what to do next. So I found myself back in the unit and holding myself together with as much composure as I could muster. I went to another patient’s room and stood in the doorway until the nurse turned and asked me if I needed anything. My eyes were as lifeless in that moment as my womb and all I could say was, “I think I’m having a miscarriage”.
Thankfully she took on the task of contacting the charge nurse and arranging for someone to come take my assignment so that I could go home. I called my OB to figure out next steps medically. I was so early in pregnancy to even have a first appointment. She walked me through what to expect my body to do that night. Then I called Ben. That was such a difficult phone call to make. I’m confident I did the thing I do when I try to talk on the phone but get too emotional and choked up and words don’t come out. By the time I got back to my work space, another nurse was waiting to take my assignment and send me home. She didn’t even allow me to attempt to give her report. She simply took my notes from me and sent me home.
I left the hospital and did the next logical thing anyone would do when they don’t know what to do. I drove to Target. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I think part of me was trying to avoid having to face reality and what better place to do that than Target? I bought some “granny panty” underwear because I knew I would need some and I grabbed a pack of pads for the bleeding that was still yet to come over the next few days.
I made my way home and I can honestly say I had the worst night of my life and the most raw and vulnerable experience with my husband. There was a lot of blood that I wasn’t emotionally ready for. There was a lot of hurt and deep sadness that overwhelmed me. I collapsed on the floor in our hallway and cried until a small puddle of tears and snot and saliva collected on the hardwood floor around me and Ben just held me with tears running down his face too. That was the moment when I became completely raw and vulnerable as a wife and as a mother.
I don’t know how long we sat on that floor. I don’t even know how I ever made it into bed that night. What I do know is I didn’t sleep well. I woke up early in the morning when it was still dark out and I cried in the kitchen staring at a tomato plant Ben had started from seed. I thought about the growing process plants go through and the sometimes necessary pruning they need to become stronger and thrive. Then I grabbed my bible and sat in the living room and poured over the stories of Abraham and Sarah and Job. I didn’t feel like worshiping God (it took me a few months to want to worship God again) but somewhere deep down I knew I needed Him. So I sat and I cried and I read.
Later that morning we sent a message to our friends and family to inform them of our miscarriage and our request for privacy as we tried to process through things. Ben went to work and my OB called to check in on me. Ben unexpectedly came home shortly after arriving to work after his boss learned about our loss and sent him home. So there we were, sitting in our living room in comfy clothes with no words to say between the two of us. My dad gave me his login to watch cable online, some friends had flowers sent to our house and ordered us pizza and we sat together and began the process of grieving. That night we decided we needed to get away for a few days and escape reality for a bit. The following morning we had our first ultrasound and blood work to confirm our loss and left the hospital to drive a few hours away for the weekend.
In January 2018 I became a mother with no baby to hold. I never met our baby. Labor was traumatic and nothing like I ever expected my first delivery to be. Pregnancy came and went in the blink of an eye. I lost more than just a baby. I lost a sense of identity as a mother. I lost the symptoms of pregnancy I was once so expectant of. I lost my dream of what pregnancy would be like. I lost the loose sense of guarantee that a pregnancy test would ever provide. I lost an untainted pregnancy experience.
I often live life thinking, “I know [this] happens but it won’t happen to me”. What I learned was that I am not the exception to the hurt and sting of sin in this world. I also learned that I am not alone. Miscarriage happens far more often than anyone realizes because few people are comfortable talking about it. More than anything, I learned about the unrelenting grace of God that covered me in the months that followed our first pregnancy and loss.
A lot of hurt and healing happened in the months that followed our miscarriage but I’ll share more of that at another time.
If you’ve miscarried or lost a baby or a dream of pregnancy or motherhood, I am SO sorry for your loss mama. There is nothing that can take the place of that hurt or loss. I’d love to pray over you and/or your baby by name. Feel free to share your story in the comments.