Jewish · miscarriage · slice of life

Moving Forward After a Pregnancy Loss

FullSizeRenderAfter months of pushing the “clean out Isabelle’s sock drawer” task down on my to-do list, I cleaned it out last week. It was something I hadn’t done in about three years! Sorting through the tiny socks was a walk down memory lane. The little Eiffel Tower socks matched her first day of preschool outfit. The socks with blue piping coordinated with one of her outfits I wished I could have had in my size. The black and white panda bear socks reminded me of an early conversation she had with the bears on her ankles. Of course, there were oodles of white ones — nondescript and representing all of the regular days of our lives — but the printed ones brought back special memories.
As I sorted and saved the pristine-looking socks in a plastic bin, I wondered, “Will I have another girl* who will wear these some day?” Tears welled-up in my eyes at that thought. Even the smallest of things, like packing away baby socks, can make you sad after you have a miscarriage.
We were expecting our second child.  And perhaps that’s what made the news about a too-slow heartbeat and not-enough growth excruciating to hear. It wasn’t just a fetus that wasn’t developing. It was our child — the one we already had hopes and dreams for — who we learned was not going to make it.
We took a lot of care with the decision to expand our family. We waited until Isabelle made significant progress with her speech.  We started calculating our next child’s due date, what the nursery might look like, and how we’d share the news with our family as soon as we found out we were pregnant.
I was cautiously optimistic even though we were giddy with excitement. I knew the reality of being 38 and pregnant. One’s eggs are considered old when you’re 38. They could have problems.  Our child could have a genetic syndrome or some horrible disease because of my “old eggs.”  But I choose not to focus on that.  Instead, I was filled with joy and anticipation for the next two-and-a-half weeks.
The thing about being a reproductive endocrinology patient is that you’re followed closely during the first weeks of your pregnancy. There are blood tests and early sonograms, which is reassuring when things are going well.  But when they’re not, as I found out this past summer, those early appointments are excruciating.
I heard my baby’s heartbeat at my seven-week appointment in mid-July. I smiled and silently said the Shehecheyanu as I lay in the darkened room.  When I finished my silent prayer, the doctor’s grim expression registered in my brain.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“The heartbeat is 69 beats per minute,” he replied.
“Is that too slow?”
“We’ll talk about it across the hall. Get dressed.”
My heart began to race. What could be wrong? There was a heartbeat. It was early in my pregnancy, but there was a heartbeat.  That was a good thing, right?
Five minutes later, I was dressed and talking with my doctor. He told me that at my point in the pregnancy the fetal heart rate should be about 100 beats per minute. While he had seen a couple of live births with a heart rate as slow as my child’s, he said it was unlikely. He offered me progesterone and the opportunity to come back in a few days. But he told me that in five days time there would most likely be no heartbeat.
My cautious optimism was traded for extreme sadness. Even though my family and close friends prayed for me, I found it hard to offer up prayers to G-d once I checked Isabelle’s baby book for her fetal heart rate at seven weeks gestation. (It was 142 beats per minute.) I wanted to pray, asking G-d to intervene, to perform a miracle and help my unborn child live, but I found it hard to ask for what seemed impossible.
The next five days were the most excruciating of my life. I sobbed by myself, to my husband, and even on my Isabelle’s shoulder. (Isabelle never knew I was pregnant and didn’t know why mommy was so sad, but offered me hugs regardless.) I was convinced my child had died inside me the day before I went back for a sonogram.
But I was wrong. I returned to reproductive endocrinology to learn the heart rate had increased to 110 beats per minute, but there was no growth. The doctor told me the prognosis for my pregnancy was poor. He gave me the choice: stop taking the progesterone or keep taking it to see what happened.  My husband and I talked through the options with my doctor. I decided to keep taking the progesterone just in case there could be a miracle.
In the week that followed, I found words to pray to G-d.  I thought that perhaps the prayers of my friends were being answered and that it was time for me to pray too. Maybe there was a chance this pregnancy could materialize.
But a week later, when I was out of town for a conference, I sought a second opinion. And there, in a strange doctor’s office, a heartbeat was no longer heard. I laid there, in yet another darkened room, watching a motionless fetus inside my womb feeling an emptiness I had never felt before. Where there had once been life, there was now nothing.
I kept taking progesterone supplements until I returned home a week later. The drug that felt like a curse — leaving me with cramping and acne — was also a blessing. It held the pregnancy inside my body until I could go home to have a D&C in mid-August. Being able to have a D&C gave me a shred of control in a situation that felt out of my control.
The body is supposed to heal faster than the heart after a miscarriage. Unfortunately, neither my body nor my heart have fully healed yet. I’ve had worsening abdominal pain for the past eight weeks, which concerns my doctor and me. On Wednesday, I’ll have surgery to determine the cause of the pain so it can be fixed. Afterwards, I have been told I am to do virtually nothing (e.g., no lifting more than five pounds, no exercising, no cooking, no doing laundry) for two weeks. I’m frustrated about this, but I know I have to listen to my doctor if I want my body to be restored.
The slow heartbeat was detected about a week before Mark Zuckerberg made his announcement that his wife was expecting a baby after three miscarriages. Even before Zuckerberg made it less taboo to talk about miscarriage, I knew I would share my story.  But I kept waiting for a good ending. You know, one where I was feeling like myself again. Or better yet, one where I could announce I was expecting another child. Even though that happy ending hasn’t happened yet, I felt it was time to put this slice of my life into the world. You never know who might be going through the agony of losing an unborn child… It is my hope that if someone is going through a similar experience, they will find comfort in knowing they are not alone.
I’ve talked to several women who’ve had miscarriages. One woman had more miscarriages than I could count on one hand! Even though she has healthy, living children, she told me she’s never gotten over her miscarriages. To this day, she still feels sad about those little lives she had so much hope for, but that weren’t meant to be.
Over the summer, I read an article by Rabbi Aron Moss where he seeks to explain what happens when one loses an unborn child. He posits:
“But some souls are never ready to leave. They are too sublime, too pure, too sensitive to be thrust into the harsh realities of worldly existence. It would be simply too cruel to plunge such a gentle soul into a body, to enter a world polluted by evil and selfishness. So instead of descending further, these souls float back to where they came from the higher and holier realms where they feel at home. Perhaps they will come down some other time. Or perhaps their mission is fulfilled, having come down far enough.”
I’ve thought about Rabbi Moss’s words for the past two months.  They helped me realize the child I was carrying was not ready for life on Earth. I will never know why.  I like to think that the soul of the child I was carrying is in a better place now. That notion has given me comfort and has allowed me to have a return to joy and laughter in my life, despite the longing.
*= Even though my thought was about a girl, I will happily take a healthy boy or girl if we are lucky enough to have another child.
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more Slice of Life Stories.
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68 thoughts on “Moving Forward After a Pregnancy Loss

  1. Dear Stacey,

    I am sorry. You are brave and honest to share this hard story. Praying that you keep healing- your body and your spirit. Thank you for trusting your writing community enough to share. We will all hold you close, even from afar. Lisa

      1. I have to say that your honesty and willingness to be so vulnerable in your writing has really stuck with me since I read this post early yesterday. My heart aches for what you’re going through, but I am also just so very impressed by your bravery- and you’ve nudged me to write about the hard stuff- the stuff I dance around often but don’t quite say. I think your post has probably impacted many of us.

  2. It is in our vulnerability that we find connection with others. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It brought back memories of my own miscarriage, one that I knew would happen from the moment I saw the line on the pregnancy test. And yes, another test and another baby followed. Praying the same for you!

  3. Thank you for finding and sharing the words for us all to learn. I am hoping you find that once your body starts healing you heart can too, but I am sure you will always keep this child close to your heart.

  4. I have tears this morning, Stacey, and simply hurt for you. Thank you for sharing this “sorrow” track on the joy and sorrow road we all walk. Healing and deep peace to you.

  5. Stacey, I was so surprised to see you sharing this story today. Surprised in a good way. Writing helps heal us (of course, you know that). I know this has been a long and sad road for you, and I’m sorry for that. I admire the strength you have shown in these past weeks, and I admire your bravery for sharing this story with the outside world today. I have a feeling you brought comfort to several women today. Your words heal you and help heal others.

    Hang in there. I am thinking of you and am always here to help or listen. Always.

  6. You are so brave to share this story and I admire your honesty. I too lost a child and I’m certain I wouldn’t have made it through without the love from my first child. After my miscarriage I got pregnant again and had my second daughter on September 11th, 2013. I wish you well on your journey.

  7. Stacey, Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry to hear that you have had additional complications, perhaps making it even more challenging to heal. My prayers are with you and your family. I hope that sharing your story has brought you some peace and healing.

  8. Thank you for being brave and caring to share this sad journey with us. I have a lump in my throat for you, but I am praying that you will be well and that another beautiful life will enter the world and your family in good time. Even though I don’t slice, I want to, and feel that you have created such a rich, supportive community here. I admire you tremendously. Take care.

  9. This loss is palpable. I am so sorry for everything. There are no words to take away the pain and loss. I am inspired by your faith. You and your family continue to be in my prayers. I’ll be thinking about you on Wednesday. Thank you for trusting us with your story today. With love!!!

  10. You’re so courageous to share your story, and it will help others, I’m sure. I’m sorry that you have had this sadness in your life, and wish you happier times in the future, and also that you soon are feeling much, much better, Stacey.

  11. Sending you peace and healing. Your courage in putting your sorrow to words will likely help someone else to find her own words and courage to talk about this-something so many don’t feel they can share.

  12. Stacey,
    When our children leave too soon, the gutwrenching heartbreak is unexplainable. It’s been 17 years since my stepson was killed in an accident and there are still days when I wake up at 4:30 to hear the pounding at the door when the officers came to notify us.

    Thanks for your trust in your readers and your willingness to help others through difficult times. Take care and prayers for Wednesday (and all days) will be sent your way.

    1. Oh, Fran! That sounds like a much worse tragedy than what I have been through. I can’t and don’t even want to imagine that. I’m so sorry for your loss.

      I posted a day early (I inserted it into my WordPress UI yesterday and meant to have it go live tomorrow morning. I inserted today’s date, instead of SOL Tuesday’s date, and here I am with so much love and support. I am floored.) by accident. I, too, hope things go well on Wednesday. Looking for answers that will lead to good things.

  13. I’m so glad you took the challenge to write through this difficulty. Your strength and courage will get you and your family through. I pray for healing and happier days.

  14. You captured grief in that image of sorting socks…the simplest of things…tears welling up in your eyes. After my mom died, I found a tissue she’d used to blot her lipstick. Her red lipstick,on this tissue, by her bed, because, of course, she thought she’d be back. In that moment, as I clung to that tissue, I felt broken, like I could never be me again without her. You have my deepest and most sincere sympathy.

    1. Oh Susie, the loss of a parent is so great. I can’t even imagine.
      Thank you for “getting” why the sock thing did me in. I had been writing this piece in an Evernote note for the past two months. It wasn’t until the sock thing happened that I had clarity on how I wanted to share about this loss.

  15. Beautiful words for sharing a searingly painful event in your life. How smart of you to allow this news to gestate until you were ready to share it. You have offered your heart to this community and we send you back all the love we can.
    We/you can’t change what happened but we can honor your pain and your love. Now you must allow yourself to heal…completely.

  16. Stacey, my heart aches. I have three children and five pregnancies. I did not have your courage to write about it. Thank you for sharing this. The quote from Rabbi Moss will stay with me. Prayers for your healing.

  17. I could talk about the power of your writing, but that seems beside the point here, Stacey. We were fortunate with our three children, although we had some moments in those same stages, and into the birth, where we had panic and worry (and one child in ICU for a bit). There’s little I can say that others (the long list of friends offering thoughts here) have not already said, other than, you’ve made me thoughtful this morning — both in compassion for what you and your husband had to go through and in appreciation for what I have.
    Take care of yourself.
    Kevin

  18. Stacey, thank you so much for bravely sharing your story. I hope that writing it helps with the processing of your grief and pain and is another step toward healing. My son died when he was three days old, and almost 23 years later, I still miss him and the knowing of him. But I find it so important to acknowledge that he was part of my life, just as your child was part of yours. Your story is a testament to your child and your love and to those lost wishes and dreams. Thinking of you and wishing you peace and health. Thank you again for sharing.

  19. I think our common bond as women is often our stories about building family. This is something we all understand so completely. Parenting is so hard, but so worth it. This is such a painful story. The beauty of technology is that we know so much now. The bad part about technology is that we know so much now. “It wasn’t meant to be” is not something any of us need to hear. Hold everyone tighter because it’s a miracle they are there and happy and healthy. I think about that miracle every day when my little ones wake up and hug me good morning. xo

  20. Morning Stacey,
    I’m so glad that you took the time to share this experience with your Slicer community. We moved through your sorrow with you and send you back love and support. I hope this process gives you a sense of reflection and peace. I’m sure Isabelle can bring a smile to your face in a flash. Wish I could give you a real hug right now.
    See you in Minneapolis?

  21. Stacey, This post is filled with heartbreak and wisdom. You have walked through your own special hell and come out the other end with wisdom to offer yourself and other women who may be going through the same experience. I hope writing and sharing your experience have given you a modicum of solace.

  22. One little soul not being ready to be on Earth yet, This is a comforting thought. Nevertheless I am deeply sorry for your loss. I am humbled by your trust in your blog readers and the honesty and vulnerability you were willing to share. Sending you a virtual hug across the ocean.

  23. Stacey, I know you are feeling the love from every word written to you. My heart breaks for you and Marc. Your story has already touched many. I understand how the heart heals so slowly. Take care, you are surrounded by love and support.

  24. Having never had a miscarriage, I can’t fully imagine such a loss; however, our culture has too long conflated miscarriages with a woman’s monthly cycle, and we’re long past the time when we should treat a miscarriage w/ more compassion. My sister-in-law had five miscarriages, and I know the suffering she experienced. Sending good thoughts that your surgery w/ offer answers and hope. Thanks for all you do for the TWT community, Stacey.

  25. Stacey, while difficult to read about your miscarriage, I felt that your courage in the face of difficulty will help others find their courage to face loss. We grieve when loss occurs but then find the strength to move on. I wish you well as you face your surgery. Your writing is a shiny example of faith.

  26. Stacey, I am so sorry for your loss. Kathy suffered a miscarriage many years ago and it was traumatic. We still think about how old our child would be. What s/he would be doing. My thoughts are with you and your husband.

  27. Stacey, I am so sorry for your loss; and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your sweet family. I am sure that your story will reach and touch many others who need to draw strength from your words.

  28. Thank you for having the love and the courage to share your story that still hurts so much. I hope you will feel the prayers of those like me who have read this and pray for that happy ending to come soon.

  29. Stacey -your writing is beautiful as always and your message universal. For those who have had your experience and for those who are holding back on sharing a piece of themselves. You are truly brave and selfless in sharing. I have been struggling with sharing a slice, going public, and have not found the courage. I am unclear why I resist going public in writing or in person. It is something I am thinking through and trying to understand about myself. Your piece has pushed me to keep asking myself why and come to a place of acceptance and going public.

    My thoughts are with you… you are so strong, I know you will find the blessing in this as you always seem to do in your life. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Clare

  30. There is a club that you did not know existed until it happens to you. I too miscarried. I was so oblivious to that possibility until it happened. I don’t remember the doctors talking about it as a possibility. I found out so many women in my workplace has endured the same. They courageous shared their story and gave me hope. I am so honored that you shared your story. I believe that in sharing painful stories, it allows others to help us carry the burden. Thanks the gift of your words. I still think about my daughter’s older sibling too and it was over 13 years ago. Sending prayers to help the healing!

  31. Sending you hugs and prayers, and wishes for joyful moments, precious memories, and hope and love. Thank you for sharing these words. This is community. I cherish being part of it.

  32. Hugs and love to you. I’m so sorry for you loss. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s encouraged that women share their stories of their angel babies so that women who have lost know they are not alone. It’s very brave of you to do so. Know that you have all the support we can offer. Never let anyone rush your grieving. All my love to you..

  33. You are a very strong woman! I am sadden by your loss. I had one miscarriage before my daughter was born & one after. They are never easy. I feel the same way you do. I’ve always shared my story because it helped me when other women shared their story with me. I never realized how many women had miscarriages until I had mine.

  34. I am so overcome with the outpouring of support. Thank you. I truly intended to respond to every comment, but it’s getting late (9 p.m.) and I have to report for surgery EARLY tomorrow. But thank you… each and every one of you… who took the time to leave a heartfelt comment. It has made my heart a little lighter at a time when it feels so heavy.

  35. Very bravely, truthfully written and I’m sorry for what you and your family are going through. Your lines that affected me the most (being well past child bearing age were: “The body is supposed to heal faster than the heart after a miscarriage. Unfortunately, neither my body nor my heart have fully healed yet.”
    Sometimes the heart takes a very long time to heal. A time that feels like forever…

  36. Best wishes for a speedy recovery – your body and your heart. I love the quote! We can’t fully understand why these things happen. They just do.

  37. Stacey, thinking of you today and sending prayers for healing your way. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy to write about the difficult things in our lives, but it is important writing. Take it easy after the surgery, sounds like a good time for some R & R (reading & relaxing).

  38. I missed seeing this when it happened and just saw it through your olw post, Stacey. I appreciate your courage, and I can relate to your pain! Before they had me, my parents lost my brother, who only lived two days, and I was supposed to be a twin, but the twin miscarried and my mom had to be on bed rest. I was so nervous something would happen to my baby before she was born because I understood how real of a possibility that is, and I am so thankful for the incredible blessing of her health. I hope someday you tell your daughter so she can appreciate what your family has been through.

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