I’ve sat down to write this story countless times over the past 10 weeks. I’ve told it to friends, family and just about anyone who has asked but for some reason sitting down to write it out just seems so personal. I’ve shared a broad generalization of the event on social media and I’ve even shared a bit on the details but writing them all out seems so much harder than just speaking it. Putting that day and that night into words, typing them out, gives it a level of tangibility. This is real life and this happened. I’m still working on that realization.
This space, my space on the internet, my blog… it’s tidbits of my life, the things I love and what I’ve learned along the way. There’s a lot I’ve learned over the past 2 months and so many things I want to talk about surrounding miscarriage and loss but they all start with simply sharing my story first. This post is long and straight from my heart so bear with me. The emotions are raw.
Let’s start with a little history. We decided we wanted to start trying for another baby when the New Year came. I had been thinking about it for years at this point but the timing just wasn’t right. When the New Year came, I was starting to get a little desperate for a baby. Have you ever had that insane baby fever? It’s all consuming! I thought about it nearly every day, it was as if my body actually ached for another baby. We conceived in mid-March and were so excited. Flash forward to 5 weeks pregnant, we had just found out we were expecting and we hadn’t told anyone yet, except a very few close friends. On April 14th, I was at a photography session and started experiencing severe cramps. At first I thought it was just gas because your body does crazy things when pregnant but shortly after the cramps came the blood. I was convinced I was miscarrying. We went to the hospital to make sure it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy, as I had never experienced a miscarriage so this was all very foreign.
At the hospital, they were able to see the baby and a tiny little flicker of a heartbeat. We were discharged and diagnosed with a sub-chorionic hemorrhage and a threatened miscarriage, the terrible medical term for any first trimester bleeding. I was followed weekly by the OB team and I continued to bleed with the sub-chorionic hemorrhage until week 9 when the bleeding began to taper off to spotting and then eventually let up almost entirely around week 11.
On June 6th , at 12 weeks and 4 days pregnant, after 2 weeks of nearly no bleeding, I began to bleed again. I had an appointment the week prior and all was okay, they couldn’t see the sub-chorionic hemorrhage any longer and I was cleared to resume life as normal! This time, I was sure something was wrong but I tried to stay positive. We had a pretty busy week, I was really active and thought maybe I just over did it. My husband was set to graduate his surgery residency that weekend and we had just surprised my in-laws with our special pregnancy announcement. I also shared our pregnancy on social media. I had made it past 12 weeks and after all the stress of the first trimester of this pregnancy, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I wanted the whole world to know I was pregnant! I thought we were safe. I thought I was in the clear. I knew the stats and I knew the probability of miscarriage after you see the heartbeat. I knew we were safe! After two months of worry, I thought we had made it past the scary part of this pregnancy and that it would be smooth sailing until December. We were so naïve and so wrong.
The bleeding tapered off that night but I decided to go in to my OB’s office on June 7th just to get checked out. I thought they’d just do an ultrasound and see the heartbeat and tell me I’m worrying too much, just like they’d said every week for the past 8 weeks. I went in around 12:30, shortly after my husband walked that glorious stage and graduated residency.
By this point, I had talked myself off the cliff and into thinking it was all going to be okay. I’d go in and see the heart beat; it was a great day to see my wiggly, sweet, lime sized baby on that ultrasound. We were done with surgery residency and we were all set to celebrate, what could possibly go wrong? All felt right in my world for a brief moment. I’d give anything to go back to that hour, to feel that bliss again.
We got to the OB’s office and had to wait a bit. Ryan went home with the babes and my mother in law and I grabbed lunch and we chatted about the weather. We talked about our plans to fit the baby in to our tiny house. We laughed at the idea… 5 people sharing 900 sq. ft. We were crazy but we knew it would work. Finally around 2pm they called me back for my ultrasound.
The doc came in and started and within seconds, I could tell something was wrong. I could see my beautiful baby on the screen, my little lime sized baby, two perfect arms, two perfect little legs, a perfectly rounded head. Still. She was still. Motionless. No flutter or flicker, no movement. Just still.
I finally got up the courage to ask if all was okay and her words struck like a ton of bricks crashing down on top of me. Words I’d never thought I’d hear, words I’ll never forget. “I’m sorry, I can’t find the heartbeat” tears pouring down her face. You know it’s bad when the doctor herself is crying. I lost it. I wailed. I begged for her to double check. She brought in another doctor to make sure and that doctor confirmed what we already knew, her voice shaking with sadness. My mother in law held my hand. The tears flowed from all of us. How could it be? How could I have worked so hard over the past 12 weeks and 5 days to keep this baby in me, to keep her alive. How could she not have a heartbeat? Why?
My husband came up and met us and he held me and we cried. The tears just wouldn’t stop. This was by far the worst moment of my life… at the time. The doctor came in after a bit and presented our options. The first option … I could pass the baby naturally, but I couldn’t do it. She explained that I would have labor symptoms and it may be painful. I couldn’t do it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. She explained that it could happen that night or a week from now, that it would be up to my body to let the baby go. How could I let my baby go? I couldn’t do it.
The second option was to schedule a D&C for the following week but to keep in mind that it was possible that I could begin to labor the baby naturally if I waited. Also not an option for me. I could not labor my baby, my dead baby. Seeing my tiny, dead, lime sized baby. Laboring her. I could not do it. The third option was to schedule the D&C for that night. She explained that it was a quick procedure and I’d be in and out in about 30 minutes and if there were no complications, I’d go home and sleep in my own bed that night.
I needed this to be over. I held my belly and prayed. All the begging and pleading for her life did no good. I couldn’t keep her safe inside me. I needed it to be over, as soon as possible. We started the paperwork to have the procedure that night.
We waited at the hospital until 9pm when they had scheduled the procedure. The only thing that got me through that 5 hour wait was knowing we would try again. This would be the saddest experience of my life but we would try again. I would grieve this sweet baby but we would try again. I would honor her by trying again. We would bring to life a baby; we would hold our third child. I would rub my pregnant belly again. I would feel life inside me again. We would try again. I wish we could try again.
I wish I could go back to those hours before the procedure. I wish I would have held my belly tighter. Savored it more. I didn’t know I’d never carry life within me again. I didn’t know I’d never place my hand on my perfectly plump belly again. I wish I would have taken more than one picture in my hospital gown. I wish I could prep myself better for what could happen, what would happen. I wish I would’ve listened more carefully when the doctor went over the risks. The risks. You don’t think they apply to you. Until they do.
This is the part where my world gets turned upside down… where it gets a bit hazy for me. The anesthesiology team came in and we chatted about my wishes. My one wish was to not be intubated, they agreed that wouldn’t be necessary and they went ahead and began to place me under anesthesia. I was wheeled into the OR awake and spoke with the doctor although I don’t recall any of this. After I was out, they started the procedure.
The first half went well until they attempted to retrieve my placenta, the second part of the “D&C”. I began to bleed out and after several failed attempts to stop the bleeding, they decided it was best to open me up to see where the bleeding was coming from.
They determined that the bleeding was coming from the uterus, my placenta had grown through my c-section scar and through my uterus, a condition known as Percreta. Percreta was never even on their radar, it’s a condition that isn’t usually diagnosed until around 20 weeks or later and is incredibly rare in the early second trimester. And by rare, I mean, I’m one in 27 documented cases in the U.S. … but it was a risk. I was at risk for an accreta (the least severe of accreta, increta and percreta). I had a prior c-section and I had been bleeding in my first trimester. This was a risk. This was that part I wished I had asked more questions and had taken more time to understand the risks.
Due to the severity of the Percreta, the only way to stop the bleeding was to remove my uterus. After hours of blood transfusions and the doctors doing everything they could to save me and my uterus, an emergency hysterectomy was performed and the bleeding stopped. By the grace of God, and an incredible medical team, I was alive and I was sewn up and wheeled into recovery.
I woke up in the ICU and as confused as I was, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe and I was in pain. Too much pain for this to have been okay… and I was intubated, why was I intubated? And there it was, my answer… written all over my husbands face, the sadness, the fear, his words… “it didn’t go well”.
The doctors came in and extubated me, the room was spinning and I was in so much pain. They explained what happened. I felt so out of body, like I was watching from the hallway. I could hear every word they said and it cut like knives but nothing really registered… I wanted to cry but couldn’t. The physical pain was so much to bear that I couldn’t even tap into the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t even cry. I couldn’t realize how close I came to losing my life, to not hugging my babies ever again, how much pain I’d feel knowing I would never carry another baby again. I just couldn’t register it.
It wasn’t until later when I was able to piece the puzzle together that the emotional pain and the heaviness started to set in. Hearing my husband recap the story from his perspective, my mother in law from hers, seeing my friends shed tears and reading texts from my sisters while I was in the OR. It all came together like this horrific slow motion movie. The movie of my life. A movie that I never wanted to star in. A movie that won’t stop replaying.
To say those few days in the hospital were the hardest of my life would have been a jump to conclusion. The real battle comes with living with the pain. The pain of watching your dreams slip away. The immediate plans you made for every room in your home, the new car you’d have to buy to fit three car-seats in. The life you thought you’d lead long-term because our family wasn’t finished growing yet. I wasn’t done being pregnant. My body was made for this, wasn’t it?
Bearing the weight of that day and all that is lost is heavy. Knowing we can’t simply try again is heavy, knowing my miscarriage ended up being so much more than a miscarriage is heavy. The one solace I found that evening of my procedure, gone. The longing for life inside of me is painful, pain that is stronger than any I’ve ever felt before. The knowledge that I almost wasn’t here to see my babies grow is heavy. It’s all so heavy.
I’m not sure what’s next or how I’ll get there and I wish I could say I did. I wish this story had a happy ending like so many who have shared their miscarriage story. I wish I could say we tried again. I wish this story had an end point but if it does, it hasn’t been discovered yet. I’ve learned lessons along the way but I’m still searching and learning to accept what has happened. I’m alive and I have two beautiful babies and for them and my life, I’m eternally grateful but I don’t know what comes next.
I can only hope that by sharing, I start to raise some awareness around what percreta is. I hope that more people who have had c-sections look into what accreta, increta and percreta are. I hope I open some doors to help others talk about miscarriage and loss and heavy, heartbreaking topics. I plan to share some hard lessons I’ve learned while navigating this grief. I hope that this story brings comfort to someone else going through miscarriage or loss.
Brene Brown once said “owning your story is the bravest thing you’ll ever do” and while I don’t feel very brave, I do hope that by being open, I make someone else feel less alone. And to those who have lifted us up and carried my family through this traumatic loss, thank you. As alone as this feels, I can’t fathom doing it without the amazing support we’ve had and continue to have.
Photos by Jolene Redfern: I set up this shoot with some friends because I knew one day I’d look back and not want to forget the emotions of the moments after this event. Scars fade and so do memories. Pictures don’t. I never want this to fade for fear I’ll forget the journey.
“The wound is the place where the light enters you”