Disclaimer: This contains details of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.
“I suffered 22 miscarriages in the past, yet it seemed like I would get pregnant every other month. Even on months we avoided it, like the time I got pregnant on day 29 of my cycle. Each time was no easier than the last, but we became accustomed to this cruel cycle – get pregnant, find out, lose it. Some would last a little bit longer than others, but typically they ran almost like clockwork…we started planning our lives based on potential miscarriages.
If I ended up pregnant, we would cancel plans, avoid major outings, and make absolutely zero commitments. So, on Friday, March 30, 2018 when I had the oh-too-familiar cramps, I decided I needed to go to urgent care to check my HCG levels and confirm my suspicions: I was about to lose another baby. Just two days away was Sunday, April 1st (not just Easter, but also my birthday). And if I was going to be miscarrying, I wanted to cancel the whole weekend…especially my birthday!
We got to the urgent care around 3 p.m. and they very quickly did an ultrasound. To my surprise, the baby was fine, except for the fact it was growing in my fallopian tube. The doctor at urgent care got in touch with my fertility doctor and he told them to get me in an ambulance and get me to the hospital right away! We waited for the ambulance for forever! Hours went by. We just wanted to get in the car and go, but they told me I could die on the way and we couldn’t risk it. So, we waited.
We finally made it to the hospital around midnight and it was like a scene from those popular TV shows, the ones where there are no rooms available and hospital beds line the hallways. That was me, lying on a gurney in the hallway alone, getting bumped into and shifted around like I was a chair in the way. I was so humiliated and so alone, but I oddly felt comfort in knowing the longer I stayed in the hallway, the longer I got to keep my baby.
They got me into a room after about an hour and finally let my husband join me. We weren’t in the room long before two student doctors came in and just told me, ‘You have an ectopic pregnancy. You have to terminate this pregnancy. We spoke to your doctor and you have two options, surgery or an injection of methotrexate.’ I burst into tears and they just stared at me. I knew I was making them uncomfortable and it just upset me more. They wanted me to make a decision right then!
I pulled the blanket over my head and sat there like a toddler in a standoff, just waiting for them to leave, but they just stood there. I remember them mumbling a couple of forced sorries that honestly seemed to make them more uncomfortable than me crying did. I wanted to scream at them to leave, but that would have required me to come out from underneath the blanket and to speak. They finally left after what was probably only a couple of minutes, but felt more like an hour.
I told my husband over and over I wanted to keep this baby…I asked him, ‘How can they ask me to not only terminate but also to choose how to do it? Do they not understand how long we have waited for a baby that sticks? They just walk in and tell me to choose like it’s no big deal!’ I honestly felt like this was a sick joke being played on me. I knew I did not have an option; I knew I could die if I refused to terminate the pregnancy and I knew if I didn’t make a choice, I would leave my son without his mother, but knowing all of these things didn’t make it any easier.
I wanted surgery, I just wanted it to be over, but I listened to these two student doctors, my doctor’s advice, and my husband who all thought the shot of methotrexate was the best option. They told me I was a great candidate for it, and I’d be able to keep my ovary and my tube, but most importantly I wouldn’t be risking my life by having surgery. Around 5 a.m. I received the shot, and just like that I was on my way home as the doctors said, ‘Just wait it out.’
I spent the next day resting and processing the 15 straight hours of hell from the day before. I was more broken than ever, but I knew I was going to be okay. Again, I had lost so many babies before, and as messed up as it is to say, this was my normal…lose a baby and get back to life. I spent the following days doing what I was told, getting my blood checked every 48 hours to make sure my HCG levels were dropping to confirm my pregnancy had successfully ended.
They did drop, every two days at an impressive rate, and my doctor was pleased. I remember thinking these were such weird ways to describe any aspect of my loss ( ‘impressive’ and ‘pleased’), but these words meant I was no longer at risk of dying from this. Every day was hard, but slowly I started to get back to normal and find things to keep my mind busy, like the full-blown kitchen remodel we were in the middle of or the homework struggles with my 12-year-old. I knew I had a long way to go, but I thought the worst of it was over. I was healing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Little did I know, the real trauma was yet to come.
Exactly two weeks from the day I lost my baby, I woke up with the worst pain I had ever felt! I reassured myself the pregnancy was over so it couldn’t be that…I thought maybe I had to go to the bathroom, so I rolled out of bed and literally crawled to the bathroom. I don’t know why, but I kind of had this feeling like I was going to die. Once I finally made it back to bed, I prayed to God and asked him, ‘God, if this is serious, please let me know!’ Not a second later, I could feel the color drain from my body, I started pouring sweat and every ounce of energy left my body.
I woke my husband up and the look on his face when he looked at me confirmed it – I was definitely dying. He was in a panic! ‘We have to get you to the hospital! I have to call your mom! We don’t have time to wait!’ He was not waiting for an ambulance! He carried me through the house and to the car. When we got to the hospital, he told them everything my doctor had told us to say. There was supposed to be a bed waiting and they were supposed to be prepared for my arrival. They weren’t. My husband, the most non-confrontational person I know, became irate! ‘Do you really have to weigh her! She can’t stand! She was here 2 weeks ago! Look at her chart! Quit wasting time! My wife needs help! Get her help!’ He was scared, and it scared me.
Once they got me in a room, a doctor came in and we told him what was going on. He said (with zero examination), ‘Oh, it’s probably an ovarian cyst, my sister gets those, they can hurt.’ I let him know I’ve had them, I know the pain, and this was not that! We again asked him to look at my chart from 2 weeks ago. He came back and told me if I had methotrexate then my pain couldn’t be from the ectopic pregnancy. My husband told him he needed to get my doctor on the phone.
I’m not really sure what transpired for the short time after, but I ended up getting an ultrasound. Other than the excruciating pain this caused, I only remember one thing about the ultrasound. The ultrasound tech had the screen facing me, and I knew from my past, they normally weren’t. I stared intently at the screen about 2 feet from my face and I remember looking at my husband and saying, ‘That’s our baby.’ The ultrasound tech said, ‘You’re right, that is your baby, and it grew.’ The baby I lost was still alive.
The methotrexate did not work, and our baby continued to grow, causing my tube to rupture. So here we were again, having to terminate the same pregnancy for a second time to save my life, except this time it wasn’t preemptive. This time, my life was in serious danger and emergency surgery was the only option. I am grateful every single day God was by my side that night, because had this been any other day I would have just dealt with the pain and gone back to sleep. I didn’t know in the moment If I had not asked God for guidance, I wouldn’t have made it through the night.
On April 13, 2018, I lost my baby for the second time. I had to start the grieving process all over and more than ever, I had no clue what it was supposed to look like. Every one of the 22 babies we lost before this was significant and heartbreaking, but the trauma with baby 23 broke me beyond repair. The weight of the trauma was too much for me to carry and I ended up in the darkest place I have ever been, and my grief held me hostage in that place for over a year.
Every day was a battle to just give the bare minimum. Getting out of bed, holding a simple conversation, physical touch…all of these things felt like they would kill me. I forced myself to go through the motions. I knew I had to, not for myself but for my son. On Mother’s Day at the beach, I tried so hard to hide the emptiness I was consumed with. My stomach was still swollen and my fresh pink scars as small as they were, were a constant reminder of what should have been.
It literally took everything in me to make days like that even just somewhat okay for him. I knew I wasn’t giving my son the best of me, the mother he deserved, but knowing this only made me feel worse. I knew my husband felt like he had lost his wife and that only made me resent him. Other than the self-awareness I had about how I was failing as a mom and as a wife, I had absolutely no clue what was wrong with me. For an entire year, I couldn’t articulate a single feeling. Not feelings of sadness, pain, anxiety, and straight-up heartache. These feelings just didn’t exist.
After a year-long battle, I woke up one day and was able to say, ‘I can survive this!’ I remember that moment almost as vividly as I remember every detail of the trauma. I woke up with clarity and understanding that I was not okay, and I hadn’t been for a very long time! For the first time in a year, I could feel again, and I wanted to. I was able to finally not just see I was in a dark place, but also to give it a name, and that was depression.
It took me a long time to unpack all of the pain and grief. At first, I wanted to think I just snapped out of it and I was okay again – just like that, get back to life. This didn’t work. Then I assigned blame to those around me, my loved ones who watched me struggle for an entire year and never once suggested maybe I wasn’t okay. No one offered me help, no one suggested I get help, instead they just tip-toed around me, so fearful of making things any worse for me they just pretended like I was okay. Blaming them didn’t work either.
The healing didn’t actually begin until I was able to realize I wasn’t just grieving baby 23, but the fact that I’d never allowed myself to grieve the 22 before. I remember one specific miscarriage, I started miscarrying at 7 in the morning, and by 7:50 a.m. I was in the car taking my son to school, and then I went to work. Not because I wasn’t sad, but because I was strong, or at least I thought I had to be. Baby 23 didn’t break me. Not giving myself the time and space to grieve each and every loss, forcing myself to be strong, letting the pressure of society force me back to ‘normal’ when I wasn’t ready to be, and my need to be okay – these are what broke me.
Although this was the hardest thing I have ever had to overcome, and I will never understand why I have been given these 23 angel babies only to have them taken away, I do know baby 23 forever changed me, and in a way saved me. Climbing out of my grief and acknowledging the years of pain and trauma I had stuffed away made me so much stronger and so much more compassionate towards myself. Creating the space inside of me to honor every one of my blueberries that never became limes, grapefruits, or watermelons allowed me to fully live life with my little family, to enjoy every second of watching my son grow up and to not let my love and joy for him bring on feelings of sadness and guilt… and to enjoy the beach again!
I still have days I get hit with waves of sadness, anger, and doubt. There will always be waves. I have learned to not just accept them, but also to be still in them. Embracing each wave as it comes, allowing myself to process and understand what I am feeling so I can truly heal. I think I will always have this inherent need to be strong, but going through this has given me the ability to truly be present within myself, to be able to identify the feelings and behaviors that got me here in the first place, and to quickly shut them down. Constantly reminding myself it is okay to not be okay!
1 in 4 of us are a part of this club we never signed up for, but being a part of this club means we are not alone, and we don’t have to carry our pain in silence. We don’t have to force ourselves to be okay to make others comfortable. We don’t have to protect people from our feelings. We deserve to allow ourselves to experience our loss for what it is. An unimaginable tragic loss, worthy of our heartache, worthy of our tears, and worthy of our healing.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jamie Reichenbach of Florida. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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