‘I’m sorry your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. It probably stopped about a week ago.’

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“28 days. I was only knowingly pregnant for 28 days.

My husband and I always took the long way to do things — got engaged after a long six years of dating and were waiting a while to even agree I should get off of birth control. We got married in 2014 and a year later I suffered a panic attack in an elevator that changed me drastically. I immediately started feeling anxiety and panic over the thought of children. My anxiety disorder and OCD kicked into high gear and I was nowhere near ready for a family. I knew my husband would be a great father and some of my college friends were going to start trying to conceive soon, so I figured within a year I’d get off the pill.

In the summer of 2016, I got off the pill. I started prenatal vitamins and took very good care of myself. We started tracking ovulation on a consistent basis. Of course, in doing everything ‘right,’ we couldn’t get pregnant. After about six months of trying and my anxiety hitting an all-time high, I decided to start therapy and back off of all of the ovulation tests and just let things happen.

We had no news in the following months, until August 1, 2017. It was the day after my best friend had moved to Charleston, South Carolina, near me and we had toasted with champagne the night before. My Ovia app popped up and told me to ‘take a pregnancy test.’ I remember I literally laughed out loud like ‘Ok, Ovia, there’s absolutely no way, but ok I’ll take a test.’ The two-minute wait was just like any other, I was expecting to get a negative, but the other line showed up. I stared at the test for what felt like an hour, I started to cry, got my husband up and the tears started flowing even more from me. I looked at him and said ‘I think I’m pregnant,’ and I started to bawl. He was thrilled, I was terrified.

My past anxiety was taking over and I felt the fear of being a mom creep in all over again. I wasn’t fit, we weren’t well enough off, I had a bad childhood…I wasn’t celebrating this miracle, I was regretting it.

We went in at what supposedly was our six-week appointment and everything went well. I was incredibly nauseous (nerves and morning sickness), but felt a tinge of excitement when I saw the heart flutter on the ultrasound. My husband and I got tears in our eyes and while I was still anxious, I felt like ‘I can do this.’

They told me to come back in two weeks. I didn’t think anything of it because some women had told me they may or may not have me come back, nothing to be alarmed of.

I will never ever as long as I live forget August 29th, 2017 — the day my world went dark. I remember what I was wearing, what my husband was wearing, how he arrived a few minutes late, the ultrasound tech’s face…I remember everything.

I went back to the dimly lit ultrasound room alone and told the front desk to let my husband back when he arrived. I felt nauseous and was eating Saltines and drinking water. The tech came in and I did my usual pre-ultrasound routine. She started the ultrasound and it look a bit longer to locate the baby and once she did there was no flutter. She looked at me and said, ‘I have to find a doctor.’ My husband then walked in and saw the look on my face — sheer panic. I just shook my head at him and we started to cry. We sat holding hands for over 30 minutes when the tech popped her head back into the room, ‘I am still looking for a doctor.’

‘Is everything ok?,’ I asked. She said, ‘I need to find a doctor.’

We just kept crying. We finally got a doctor in the room, not my doctor, and she started another ultrasound: ‘I’m sorry your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. It probably stopped about a week ago.’

I went numb. Was this my fault? I should’ve been more grateful, more excited. Why is God punishing me? Because He knew I’d be an unfit mother? Why did this happen? I wanted all the answers. Instead, we were taken to a cold exam room through all the waiting, very-far-along pregnant women, and we were told our options: Carry your deceased baby in your stomach until your body decides it is time to get rid of it, a D&C which carries some major risks, or take Misoprostol to start the process medically. What? How are these my options, how are we even having this discussion? Is it because I was ungrateful?

After some time, we decided on the Misoprostol and I was in no way prepared for what came next. The pain — emotional, physical, mental — literally cannot even be described. I’ve had kidney stones, which felt like Hell on Earth, but this was much more painful and left me sick and weak, sad, angry, yelling, crying. I didn’t think of it as ‘going into labor,’ but that was exactly what was happening without pain management. I bled for a week straight and had to visit the same doctor’s office in the same area where more far along pregnant women were. They did another ultrasound and found I still had uterine lining that needed to pass, so another round of Misoprostol was ordered. This time I was just sick, no blood, nothing. Subsequently I had to do four rounds of blood withdrawal to test my levels. I never thought I’d get back to zero, back to normal, back to happy.

Here we are now, three days before my expected due date. I am on three anxiety meds, seeing two therapists, dealing with OCD, getting acupuncture and missing my child. I didn’t even get to know the sex. I constantly think about the ‘what could have beens.’ I have finally moved past that it wasn’t my fault and that I wasn’t being punished, but I don’t have closure and I question God’s plan. I avoid pregnant friends, baby pictures and baby showers. I have a tattoo to remember my sweet pea, but I am still broken.

I share in hopes of giving women a better understanding of how it’s ok to feel a spectrum of emotions, whether you are newly pregnant or going through unspeakable tragedy. I also want to express my strong belief in self-care, therapy and meds (if needed). I hope that OB/GYN practices get better processes in place to always have a doctor around for every ultrasound so couples don’t have to wait alone in a dimly lit room for the worst news of their lives. And I hope some practices take time to set up another exit for grieving parents. Most importantly, it needs to be understood that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Do not ever let anyone try and dictate how you grieve, how long you grieve, what you do to remember your baby…nothing.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Vickers. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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