What Should’ve Been You

I know something is wrong.

The midwife can’t find the heartbeat with the doppler. He moves it around and around, and I start to get nervous. He moves to use the small ultrasound machine next to where I am laying. I am 12 and a half weeks pregnant. I’ll hit the second trimester in a few days. He should be able to detect the heartbeat with the Doppler by now. He should. He reassures me that sometimes you can’t but the ultrasound will be quick. He squirts some jelly onto my stomach and moves the wand around.

I look at the screen. I see the baby right away and the midwife pauses on it. He pauses too long. My heart sinks. I know there should be a flicker. A flicker of life, a heartbeat. There was one a month ago.

“Let me just go grab someone real quick. Sometimes I have trouble reading these things,” he says.

I nod.

I know there is no heartbeat. I know he is just getting someone to confirm it.

After he leaves the room, I squeeze my eyes shut. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s hope. I start to pray, but just manage “please please please”.

He comes back with an OB—the one I worked with while we did some fertility medication over the summer—and an ultrasound tech. They look at the screen, move the wand around and around my belly. I see them zoom in on the baby. No flicker.

“Is the baby dead?” I ask. I already know. But I ask anyway.

“That’s what we are trying to figure out,” The Ob answers.

They look at the screen for maybe 30 more seconds.

“I’m so sorry,” the ultrasound tech says, “it’s passed.”

I’m crying. I feel embarrassed to cry in front of three strangers, but it bubbles out of me.

The midwife puts his hand on my knee. The Ob puts her hand on my shoulder. The ultrasound tech gives me a hug. They are so kind.

“I’m so sorry,” they all say, over and over and over.

***

It’s called a missed miscarriage. It’s when the baby dies, but your body doesn’t recognize it, and still goes on acting pregnant.

I had one four years ago, before Auden, at 8 weeks. I took a pill at home to miscarry the baby properly, and found myself in the most excruciating pain of my life.

So this time, at 12 weeks, I opt for a D&C. Can’t get scheduled until next week.

They tell me that the baby probably died weeks ago. So I’ve been walking around carrying a dead baby for weeks. Still nauseous and throwing up, still a growing belly, still very much planning and dreaming. All while the baby was already gone. So waiting for a D&C…what’s five more days?

They tell me I could miscarry naturally before that, but I probably won’t. I don’t know what to hope for.

***

We did a gender dna test as early as we possibly could and found out we were pregnant with a girl.

Isla. I still love the name.

We were pretty certain she would be our last baby.

Everything was perfect. She’d arrive in May, just when Rob would be wrapping up school and home for the summer. We’d spend the summer in newborn bliss.

And now?

Now it seems it was too good to be true. Thinking about how perfect everything was, how excited I was for a little girl, it just feels like a knife twisting in my gut.

“It feels like a cruel joke,” Rob says.

***

We told the boys that we were going to have a baby.

Auden started counting the family members on his fingers, one finger for each member. When he got to his pinky, he’d smile and say “And baby Isla!”

Now, Auden is confused.

I tell him God takes care of the babies who die in Heaven.

“Is the baby in God’s tummy now?” Auden asks.

***

 The D&C can’t be scheduled until Wednesday. Six days away. It’s too long to wait. I thought I could wait, but I can’t. I just need this to be over.

I know taking the medication will be painful. I remember last time. It was four years ago, but I remember. Last time, when I was writhing on the floor and bawling. Last time, when I got violently ill on both ends and Rob had to help me on the toilet. Can I do that all over again?

I call the midwife and ask him to send the prescription. I’ll take it tonight.

I just need this to be over.

***

It’s not painful.

I mean, it hurts, but it’s not as bad as last time. I don’t have any GI upset. Just some moderate cramping. It’s manageable. It feels like mercy. It’s not gentle, but it’s almost gentle.

A strange peace settles over me as I feel the blood flow out of my body. I feel God’s presence.

***

In the early hours of the morning, I feel the baby fall out of me in a little whoosh-like-motion, hear the sound of the mass hitting the toilet bowl. There’s no mistaking what it is.

Rob brings me a large slotted spoon and I fish it out of the toilet.

I hold her, cradling her in the spoon. She’s in her sac. I can see through the sac, see her tiny body just as it was outlined in the ultrasound. Given that she probably passed weeks ago, she’s a lot bigger than I thought she’d be.

I stare at her. Rob looks.

I say goodbye to Isla. I find mercy in the closure.

***

It’s over now. Now it’s time to rest, recover, grieve. I don’t know what the timeline looks like from here. I feel numb, shell shocked. The future will not look like I thought and it feels like the ground I was standing on has been ripped out from under me.

Rob says he’s angry. I’m just sad. All emotions are valid, I think.

I’m so glad we have each other. We move forward together.

***

I write all this and send it out into the world, very raw and very real, because I think we need to talk about miscarriage. When we shroud something in silence, it has too much power. Maybe we’d feel less alone if we talked about things like this. So I share my story with you so we all feel a little less lonely, myself included. Because miscarriage is so, so hard and it’s even harder alone.

I don’t feel alone. Not at all. So many of my friends and family reach out to me, supporting me. I feel touched by the collective kindness–a kindness I will need in the coming days and weeks. Another mercy amidst this hardship.

***

Taylor Swift came out with a new album not that long ago, and this song now has new meaning for me. I’ll end here with these lyrics.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
You were bigger than the whole sky
You were more than just a short time
And I’ve got a lot to pine about
I’ve got a lot to live without
I’m never gonna meet
What could’ve been, would’ve been
What should’ve been you
What could’ve been, would’ve been you

3 thoughts on “What Should’ve Been You

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry you lost Isla. I’ve had two myself. And now that I’m pregnant again, I can’t quite accept that it won’t end like the others did. I sometimes agree that talking about it more would help. Sometimes I keep it to myself, so I don’t have to relive it. I have yet to really share my experience publicly, but I know I will eventually. I hope you find peace from sharing and processing this loss. Always here to talk.

    Like

  2. Dear Anna,
    I am sorry to hear about this. You write with the rawness that you feel. I hope it helps with your grief and loss.
    Know we think of you and your family.

    Like

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