My Experience with Miscarriage
Updated: Jul 5
Today, March 2nd, 2023, is the three-year anniversary of our miscarriage, or at least the day that we found out that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. In honor of that baby, I want to share our story. This is our first time sharing our story publicly, and we hope that you find it encouraging and helpful.
We found out we were pregnant for the first time in January of 2020. I had been feeling weird at work, and all I could think about that day was Thanksgiving food. On a whim, I took a pregnancy test, fully expecting it to be negative. Of course, it was positive. It was a huge shock, and it took us a day or two to come to terms with our new reality. We were pretty sure we wanted to have kids eventually, but we also loved our child-free married life and the freedom we had to travel and be spontaneous. We were in the middle of an MAAT program (Masters of Arts in Applied Theology), and we were not specifically trying to get pregnant when we did. We had planned on having our own home before becoming parents and here we were in our 2-bedroom apartment with no chance of getting into a house any time soon!
After the initial shock wore off, we fell totally and completely in love with our baby and with the new life we would have. We began to dream about what life would look like. A few weeks later, I started to experience strange symptoms at work. I blacked out and had severe dizziness and my blood pressure was very high. Those symptoms prompted a trip to the ER and a two-day hospital stay. After several tests, they could not determine a cause for my symptoms other than the pregnancy. They sent me home to rest for several days before my first prenatal visit. During our hospital stay, I had an ultrasound to check on the baby. The tech told us baby’s measurements, which seemed a little off compared to my dates, but I did not think much of it.
At my first visit with the midwife a few days later, she told us that the size of the baby was virtually unchanged since my trip to the ER almost a week earlier. She explained that there could be a number of reasons for this, including inaccurate dates or inaccurate measurements by the ER tech. She also warned me that it could be a sign of an impending miscarriage, and she walked me through what that could look like if it were to happen. We told her that we were supposed to leave for a study abroad trip to Israel the following day, and she recommended that we stay home from the trip due to my symptoms and the possibility of miscarriage.
I was speechless after that appointment. The dizziness and blackouts were crazy, for sure, but everything else seemed to be going well, or so I had thought. I went from growing this unexpected but loved baby to finding out that I might lose this baby and that I needed to stay home from our study abroad trip. It was devastating. Miscarriage had not even been on my radar. My mom had five babies and never had a miscarriage. I had been training for a 10K before I got pregnant. I was young and healthy. I rarely drank alcohol, and I tried to eat nutritious food. I had recently had surgery for endometriosis, which now seemed to be under control, so it shouldn’t have been an issue, or so I thought. I just couldn’t understand why or how this was happening.
We cancelled our trip that evening. Our professor was miraculously able to find someone to take one of our spots on the trip, and we were able to get that portion of our money back. We are so grateful to our professor and to the person who took our place with less than 24-hour notice. We decided to keep the vacation days that we had already scheduled so that we could spend the next several days together. My friend from church gathered some women together to pray, and we prayed that my baby would grow but that God would be ultimately glorified.
The next few days dragged on slowly. We tried to keep busy, and we did what we could to keep our thoughts in a positive place. We told our parents we were pregnant and in the next breath told them we may lose the baby. It felt like all of the joy was stolen and replaced by fear and anxiety. My strange symptoms continued, and talk of some COVID-19 virus only increased over the next week. We prayed and prayed, but I had an inexplicable feeling deep within my soul that we would lose this baby. By the time my follow-up appointment came around, I knew that the life inside of me was gone. This time I was seen at the high-risk office, where they confirmed that there had been no growth and that the baby’s heart had stopped beating. I knew in my spirit that the baby had died, even before the appointment, but it was still earth-shattering.
Because I had not miscarried naturally, the doctor discussed my options, stressing the importance of making sure all of the dead tissue was removed, whether via surgery or medication. I opted for medication, only to call back after a couple of days because I could not bring myself to take it. I ended up scheduling a D&C. Brendan’s grandparents gifted us a two-night stay anywhere we wanted to go, so we decided to drive to Cincinnati since we already had time off from our scheduled trip. We even had to cut that trip short, though, in order to get back in time for the surgery.
Walking in for surgery was excruciating. I felt numb and in agony at the same time. I remember holding Brendan’s arm as we walked through the halls of the hospital after checking in. Everything in me wanted to run back out the door, but I pushed forward one step at a time, my feet feeling like lead. I gained a new understanding of bravery that day. I was a wreck that whole morning, from the time the nurse started my IV to when the team came and got me for surgery. One of the residents came with paperwork asking me to initial whether I wanted to keep the tissue they remove or not. She explained that there is not much to keep at this stage but that I could if I wanted to. I initialed and signed in a state of numbness. It was a question I was not at all prepared for. When they came to get me, I started sobbing uncontrollably, so they gave me Versed, a medication commonly used for pre-procedure anxiety, which helped bring me down just a bit. I remember falling asleep still sobbing and shaking. The next thing I remember was waking up screaming, “I want my baby back!”
We never received a definitive reason for the miscarriage. The doctors' best guess was that he had some kind of chromosomal abnormality. We named our baby Samuel, which means “God has heard,” because we prayed for him so fervently. Even though we ultimately lost Samuel, we believe that God heard our prayers. Instead of healing Samuel, though, He welcomed Samuel into His arms and began to heal us instead.
Coping with the Loss
Not long after my D&C, the whole world shut down. In a way, the pandemic was helpful for the grieving process. We were at home basically any time we were not at work. I continued having the same strange cardiac symptoms for the next year or so, and I had many follow-up appointments related to that before the symptoms finally resolved on their own. It was nice to be at home, watching movies, vegging out, crying, and just being with my husband. I really struggled, but we were able to spend a lot more time together than we would have sans pandemic. I was exhausted, and I could burst into tears at any second. I had my procedure on Friday, and I had to be back at work on Monday, so I did not have much time to grieve and process before life just continued on. I reached out to my company’s HR department to ask if I could use bereavement leave, only to be told that it was not a “qualifying loss.” To make matters worse, one of my coworkers was also pregnant, and her due date was the day after mine. Every day at work, I saw exactly where I would be – where I should be – if Samuel had lived. I was able to temporarily move desks for a while so that I would not have to face the frequent reminder of what I had lost.
When I think back on how I coped day-to-day after my miscarriage, I honestly cannot remember. I really believe that time was the biggest healer. God was so faithful to me in that season of grief. I was angry and confused, and I did not find prayer or Scripture at all comforting. I felt that God had betrayed me. I do not typically pray hard for miracles, but I prayed hard for that baby. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for anything. God knew all along what we would experience, and instead of preventing us from suffering, He strategically placed people in our path who helped to make that suffering bearable. Our theology program played a huge role in my healing. We were also blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, and church community. People sent flowers and brought us meals, and my mom came over and cleaned our apartment. A coworker who had experienced a miscarriage herself and who was also a believer gave me a beautiful wall hanging and necklace in honor of Samuel. I was so grateful that she valued his life. There is something about having one's grief validated that brings healing. Having others remember Samuel also helped. One friend from church just cried with me one day, and that was tremendously healing. I also remember finding the Disney films Frozen 2 and Onward particularly helpful. Both films have themes of grief and loss, and I felt that those perspectives were so raw and real. It’s amazing what God uses to offer comfort and healing.
Why Heard + Held?
The week of my miscarriage, a friend of mine sent me a care package. She had experienced the stillbirth of her daughter in 2018, so she knew firsthand the pain that I was feeling. While I greatly appreciated the care package in the moment, I had no idea just how significant her sweet gesture would be. After I had begun to heal from my loss, I began sending care packages to friends who had experienced losses, and one May day in 2022, I told Brendan that I wanted to start sending care packages to other loss moms, even strangers. Heard + Held was born through our grief, God’s faithfulness, and the kindness of a friend who simply wished to alleviate some of our pain.
While the acute grief period is over, I find that I still have moments of “flare-ups.” We feel strongly that our baby was a boy, so we named him Samuel, because we fervently prayed for him. Every time his due date or the anniversary of his death comes along, I feel a fresh pang of grief. He would be turning three this year, and I wish I knew what he looked like. I wish I could have held him. Every year around this time, I watch Frozen 2 and let the memories come flooding back. Samuel is still very much a part of me, and I look forward to meeting him one day in heaven. Until then, I know he is very much loved and held in the arms of Jesus.
Starting Heard + Held does not make the pain of Samuel’s loss go away, but it does help to give meaning to his loss. So many other parents have experienced this kind of loss, and though the stigma surrounding pregnancy and infant loss is decreasing, our society still has a long way to go. I pray that Heard + Held can play a part in sharing comfort with grieving parents and changing the way we handle pregnancy and infant loss moving forward.