You never expect miscarriage can happen to you. At least I didn’t, especially with my history of easy conception, relatively easy pregnancies (all-day morning sickness sucks, but it’s not at all what I would call a complication), and ho-hum births (if you consider delivering our second baby on the side of the road boring, I suppose).
My experience with childbearing had been one of relative ease. Three pregnancies. Three healthy kiddos. All was grand. Everything would continue.
Until it didn’t.
When that positive test came, we were thrilled. Sure, our youngest wasn’t even one yet, but plenty of people have loved having a small age gap. We would, too. I scheduled my midwife appointment for the eight-week mark and requested my prescription for anti-nausea meds, as my previous two pregnancies had taught me my nausea kicks in early and hard.
Then it didn’t. And then the bleeding started.
I wasn’t even to week five in the pregnancy, but I told myself—and my midwife told me—it could just be normal. All I could do was wait. I couldn’t wait. I knew something was wrong, so I grabbed another home pregnancy test and waited an awful three minutes (digital tests are nice, but that wait is torturous sometimes). It was confirmed. Not pregnant.
I Felt Loss for an Unknown Child
I called the midwife back and heard her skepticism. Maybe the first tests were wrong. Except that I’d taken two different brands of digital tests, and both had been positive. Maybe this test was wrong. I took another. Also negative. Her skepticism remained. It was unusual to get a negative test the same day bleeding started. Something was odd about this loss.
I reeled. I couldn’t take my pastor’s phone call. I couldn’t stop shaking and crying. One week, I was pregnant. The next week, I wasn’t. One week, I was searching for a new car seat. The next week, I was trying desperately to avoid any baby products in the store.
I took a couple days off work, but the house was suffocating. I went to the store, but the sight of pregnant women everywhere stung, as did the eventual credit card bill from that retail therapy.
On one hand, I was thankful it had been so early. I didn’t have to go through the pain of seeing our baby in his or her early form leaving my body. Yet, with it being so early, there was skepticism that the baby had ever existed at all. Those plastic sticks could be wrong, right? I felt odd mourning something that I couldn’t even confirm existed.
Yet I did mourn. Even this early on, the loss cut deep, in no small part due to all the dreams that had been dashed. I had never gotten any time with our baby. No feelings of kicking or getting to know his or her personality in the womb. No picking out car seats, clothes, or names. Friends said to name the baby, but it felt so silly to name someone even my midwife was skeptical had existed. I decided it was sufficient for God alone to know our child’s name.
I Want a Guarantee We’ll Save the Next Baby
Three months later, we got pregnant again. To combat the fear that struck, I repeated statistics to myself, how it was common for women to have miscarriages, but it was not as common for women to have them repeatedly, especially with a history like mine. I still had those three easy pregnancies in my back pocket for comfort.
I once again called the midwife and scheduled the appointment. I heard their congratulations, and then I waited. The nausea never came. In fact, the bleeding came well before I expected any nausea to arrive. Again, a negative test confirmed my fears.
We were losing another one before five weeks. Two babies lost so early, before they ever had a chance.
This loss was easier to handle and harder. I knew what to expect. I had been through it before. Yet I was now in that small percentage of women who suffer repeat losses. I turned to our pastors and other women at church for support. I focused on what I knew and what I could do to fix this. My mind rattled through thoughts of progesterone supplements and tests to be done. I wanted a plan, a strategy, a way out of this bog of secondary infertility.
But my midwife disagreed. She simply wanted to wait. I was livid. Something was going wrong inside me, and I was desperate for someone to help. With the recommendations from friends, I sought out a new doctor. I made my appointment, and we met.
Having had no blood work done with our first losses, there was little my new doctor could do other than wait for us to get pregnant again and monitor my hormone levels. I asked if that meant we would inevitably lose the next one, too. I don’t remember her answer. I simply remember it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a firm guarantee we’d save the next one, but no guarantee was possible.
A Simple Surgery that Isn’t
Sure enough, three months later we were pregnant again. I went in for my first blood draw. My hormones were low. Too low. I told myself the numbers have to start somewhere, and after all, I was still relatively early in the pregnancy. The second blood draw came back with the bad news. Instead of doubling as they should have, the numbers had dropped slightly.
I wasn’t prepared for my doctor’s skepticism. It reminded me of my midwife’s doubt six months earlier. My hormone levels were so low the doctor doubted I had ever been pregnant. Though she had no confirmation the same had happened in my previous losses, she wondered if I wasn’t getting pregnant at all, but simply had something causing regular surges in my hormones.
I couldn’t breathe. Were my babies not real? My doctor wasn’t sure. How could I be sure? I couldn’t, but despite all the unknowns, my doctor reassured me it was good and right to mourn, because regardless these were losses to be grieved.
This grief was easier to handle, as we had a plan for moving forward. We scheduled an ultrasound to see what was going on in my uterus that would either cause such a hormone surge or prevent implantation of our babies. That ultrasound showed some tissue was remaining. I needed a D&C. I was scared and nervous, but I had no other options.
The surgery went well, but the recovery was harder than I expected. Having had three natural labors—one in a car, remember—I thought a simple surgery would be cake. It wasn’t. For a week, my body struggled to shake the effects of the anesthesia, but I tried to focus on this being the solution to our losses and the start of new hope.
The Hardest Thing Is the Uncertainty
With how often we seemed to get pregnant, my doctor assumed it wouldn’t take long for us to know if the surgery had been a success, the answer to our problems. Sure enough, just two weeks later we had another positive test. Initial blood work came back with great numbers. Two days later, they had nearly tripled. After another week, we saw the our first picture of our baby on the ultrasound, and two weeks after that we heard his or her heartbeat.
I’m now 14 weeks along with this little one, our fourth baby, who is also our fourth baby in one year—a tough year, a year marked with so much pain, grief, and doubt. The hardest thing—especially with my analytic, engineering background—is to not know anything for certain about our three lost babies. Were they nothing more than flukes of surging hormones, as my healthcare providers seem to believe, or were they babies who simply couldn’t survive? I may never know, at least not this side of Heaven.
And that’s okay. The painful truth about pregnancy loss—whether it happens early or in stillbirth—is we moms and dads rarely get answers or explanations. Too often the only answer to our desperate whys is a shrug and an “I don’t know.” Too often, there is no apparent reason.
Hearts simply stop beating. Babies simply stop growing. And we never know why.
In that painful realm of doubt and uncertainty, the one thing we’ve clung to is that it’s okay for us to not know. We aren’t the masters of this universe. We have little control over and simply aren’t meant to know and understand everything that happens in this life. Some things remain a mystery.
In the meantime, we cling to God’s word and his promise in Christ. Even if we don’t know who our children were, if they existed, or what happened to them, he knows all, and he knows them. In that, there is greater comfort than in any certainty I could have from my doctors and their tests.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 ESV). To this I cling as I hold dear this new baby growing within, knowing and trusting that whatever happens to us, blessed be his name.