This is hands down the hardest blog post I’ve ever sat down to write. I have no idea where to start and have restarted the post 10 times. So I’m just going to start. This is the story of our pregnancy loss. It is not a story I ever hoped to share or was expecting to share. Instead I was expecting to share the joyous news of our pregnancy, all about our first trimester, and the details of our gender reveal. Instead here we are.
It would be easier not to share. This isn’t an easy experience to process for the public to see. It’s hard and sad enough to process it privately, but this is our story and we’ve set out to share our story as authentically as possible. Our hope in sharing is that it will help you in some way. If we can help make at least one person feel less alone by reading our story or having learned something from reading our story, this will have been worth it.
So here we go. The first trimester, the loss, and the coping process.
Our Pregnancy Loss Story
The first trimester
In early November 2019, we found out I was pregnant. We’ve been wanting to be parents for so long and the timing was perfect as we had just moved back home after our year long fire displacement. We were overwhelmed with so many emotions. Utter joy and excitement, gratitude, disbelief, worry, and a million little things in between.
We had been preparing for this moment for so long and we couldn’t believe it was finally here. The time we would become parents. The child that would make us parents.
We kept a pregnancy journal. We followed along with all the apps and watched in amazement as our little baby grew from the size of an apple seed to a lime. We couldn’t believe all the wondrous things that were developing each week. How amazing the human body is. We were seriously in awe.
I talked to my belly constantly. I told the baby all the wonderful things I hoped for their life. I told the baby how much I loved him or her. That I was so grateful their soul chose me to be their mother. That I promised to do my absolute best to be the best mother I could be.
We couldn’t keep it much of a secret and told lots more family members and friends than you’re supposed to. Why keep such beautiful news a secret? We were brimming with the excitement of it all. There was no holding back!
I read all the books. I did all the things. We found our perfect birth center. We started developing our birth plan.
As magical and beautiful of a time this all was, it also was one of the hardest times of my life. I had really extreme “morning” sickness. I was severely nauseous all day and threw up any where from 2 – 10 times a day. There were days I couldn’t even keep tiny sips of water down. I vomited so violently some days that I would pop the blood vessels in my skin and around my eyes. I had the worst food aversions and the things I was eating shrunk down to maybe 3-5 really junky foods. I also experienced a bout of prenatal depression, which I can talk more about later. It doesn’t sound hard to write/read about, but it was so difficult to go through and I was not expecting it to be quite so hard.
The amazing thing was that it brought Bassam and I so much closer. I NEEDED him because there were many days where I was pretty debilitated. And he really showed up for me. The experience really bonded us.
my nausea remedies: saltines, apple juice, walks outdoors
As the weeks went on, I started to worry less about pregnancy loss. I felt so incredibly connected to the baby from day 1. Severe nausea usually is an indicator of lower rates of miscarriage. And the weeks were ticking by, with the baby growing strong, or so I thought.
I went into pregnancy with the word TRUST as my guide. There is so much fear mongering when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood. I just didn’t want to give into any of that or make any decisions from a place of fear. I chose to trust that my body knows what it’s doing, that I know what I’m doing, that I will have the resources and support that I need, and that anything that happens is what is best for us.
Little did I know how much that word would come to mean to me. What a double edged sword it would feel like at times.
We went in for our first appointment at 11.5 weeks. It was time to hear the heartbeat and do all the major blood work, including testing to rule out any birth defects AND find out the gender! We planned our gender reveal and invited our families.
The night before I mentioned in passing to Bassam that there was a possibility there wouldn’t be a heartbeat. I’m not sure why I said that. I just realized that he probably had no idea it was a possibility. I only knew because I had seen a few bloggers share about their experience. I wanted him to know about the possibility, so it wouldn’t be a shock, just in case. I didn’t believe in the slightest that would be our reality. This baby was meant to be. Plus, I felt so extremely pregnant. That nausea was relentless!
I carefully selected a pretty dress to wear to the appointment and did my hair and makeup for the first time in weeks. It felt like the first time we would “meet” our baby.
We spoke to the midwife for over 30 minutes, all about my overall health and how the pregnancy had been going. Finally, it was time to hear the heartbeat! We had chosen to limit our ultrasounds, so she used a doppler to hear the heartbeat. She was having a hard time hearing it, but we assumed it was because my bladder was full. I went to empty it and came back.
Again, she struggled to hear the heartbeat.
This time, she used the ultrasound. That’s when we heard the dreaded words, “there’s no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”
The very first thing that flashed in my mind was TRUST. I was eerily calm. I had an inner knowing that everything would be okay and to remember to trust.
The midwife recommended we head immediately to a nearby OB GYN that the birth center contracts with. She stated his ultrasound technology is more advanced and may be able to detect a lighter heartbeat.
The whole drive there and the whole wait in his office, we were so incredibly anxious. Calm but anxious. Such a weird combination. We told each other not to worry. Whatever was meant to be was meant to be. Everything would be okay. Just to trust.
When the OB did the second ultrasound, we saw a super clear image of the baby. I remember saying, “omg it’s so cute!” It was so cool to see exactly where in my body the baby was hanging out! Then the dreaded words came again, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” This time it was for real.
We went home in a daze. Unsure what to do with ourselves. We cancelled all work and personal appointments for the rest of the day.
Now we had to decide what to do next. Decide whether to have a D&C to remove the baby or wait for my body to miscarry naturally. I never knew these options existed. I always assumed if you had a pregnancy loss, your body would alert you with scary symptoms. I had no idea my body could think I’m pregnant and continue to act pregnant, even as the baby stops growing and their heart stops beating.
Making the decision was really emotional for me. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor after hanging up with the midwife and sobbing. I’m a person who generally likes to do a lot of research when making a decision and I just felt so lost with all of this. I like to choose the natural option whenever possible, but the idea of a natural miscarriage sounded terrifying to me. I didn’t think I could wait for my body to finally realize I was miscarrying and to go through the physical aspect of it over the course of a month. After much deliberation, I chose the D&C.
The next few days were extremely stressful in terms of logistics. Getting the D&C scheduled was very difficult. The birth center doesn’t do them and the OBs they contract with didn’t have any availability in the near future. It was also the weekend and difficult to get a hold of anyone. I went to see my OB, who I love, that Monday and begged her to please squeeze me in. After 4 days of hard work and lots of stress, I was finally scheduled.
It was such a strange feeling to know that the baby was still in my body, to know exactly where it is, to know what it looks like, but to also know it’s dead. That thought really tormented me. I couldn’t stop rubbing the spot in the belly and wishing I could so something to save the baby. I hated my body for still thinking it was pregnant. I hated myself for not feeling that something had happened.
I was terrified. This was my first surgery ever. I’m someone who avoids hospitals at all cost, hates IVs, hates getting my blood drawn. I started crying my eyes out the moment I got on the hospital bed. The surgery was much simpler and easier than I anticipated, but it was so incredibly emotional. To be rolled in to surgery knowing you’re going in with a baby and coming out without, just broke my heart. I woke up from the surgery asking for Bassam and cried until I was able to see him again.
After the loss
The next day after the surgery, I went to work. My doctor advised me to take the week off, but we had our yearly strategic planning for work in Santa Barbara and I didn’t want to miss it. After almost 3 months of being so incredibly sick, I just wanted to start feeling like myself again. Bassam was kind enough to go with me and we took all the things to keep me comfortable: heat pad, pain killers, snacks I could eat (I was still having nausea and major food aversions). It was extremely difficult and I had to skip out on lots of parts, but I’m glad I went.
I was cramping, sore, and spotting for over a week, but honestly, I almost felt grateful to have the physical symptoms. It was easier to focus on healing the physical symptoms than it was to heal the emotional symptoms. It’s so much easier to apply a heat pad and take a pain killer than it is to process difficult emotions. It’s so much easier to breathe through the pain of a cramp than it is to breathe through the pain of longing and sadness. The physical symptoms made me think I “went through something” and made me feel justified in feeling sad. Otherwise, I felt almost like I had no right to be sad.
My emotions were a mess. I felt such an overwhelming range of emotions. I was so incredibly sad. I was angry. I was confused. Yet, I also felt trusting and grateful. I couldn’t stop obsessing over what went wrong. My OB had assured me that everything looked great in my uterus and when the baby was growing, it was growing really well. This should’ve made me happy, but it just frustrated me. I wanted to know what was wrong so that I could fix it. I felt so out of control.
If you’re going through a pregnancy loss, please know that whatever you feel is normal. Bassam and I both went through every emotion imaginable. At one point we even felt relief and we both felt so guilty. We also didn’t understand at all why we felt relief since the baby was 100% wanted and not one teeny tiny part of us was ACTUALLY relieved. Emotions are messy, tricky things. Sometimes they don’t make sense and that’s okay.
I felt so bad about so many of my emotions. I especially felt bad about feeling angry. I feel uncomfortable feeling anger and yet, I was so angry. I was angry at myself. I was angry at God. I was angry about my word “trust”. I was angry that now I could have sushi and wine and I didn’t want it one tiny bit. I was angry I felt like I wasted 3 months of my life. I was angry I went through so much and it felt like for no reason.
I hated my body. My belly was so soft and round, but empty of a baby. I felt so frustrated at the weight I had to lose. I wanted to jump start getting really healthy so that I could feel ready to get pregnant again. I focused on controlling that, since I felt like I had no control over anything else. Yet I rebelled against the pressure I was putting on myself and binge ate carbs and sugar.
I wanted to skip straight to the joy and gratitude. I kept going back to my word “trust”, but at the same time, I still felt deeply sad. I had a hard time remembering that my sadness, anger, and trust could all coexist.
Logically I knew that it wasn’t my fault, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t obsess over every little thing. Could it have been the days I skipped my prenatals? Could it be the lack of healthy foods I was eating? Could it be the days I threw up extra violently? My patient OB patiently reassured me with each new concern that no, that had no effect. There was just something nonviable about the baby. Bassam also struggled with this. He wondered, was it because he kept skipping his pregnancy journal entries? Was it because he didn’t connect with the baby enough? Guilt and self blame aren’t exclusive to the mom.
Dealing with feeling pregnant while not actually being pregnant anymore was so hard. What was even harder was when the pregnancy symptoms slowly began to subside. I slowly started to regain more energy or be able to eat more foods. At first, I’d be excited and happy, then I’d realize why and I’d burst into tears. The more physically well I started to feel, the more emotionally sad I’d feel.
I’ve never dealt with so much duality before. Pregnancy loss has been one giant experience in duality.
Coping with the loss
It’s only been two weeks, we are still coping with the loss. I’m more outwardly coping with it as the sadness surrounds me on a daily basis. I cry at least once a day. I still struggle with getting through the day or being as efficient as I normally am. I’m really tired as both my body and my mind recover.
For Bassam, the grief is a bit more buried. It still hasn’t totally hit him. He feels like right now his job is to be there for me and that in the future it may hit him harder.
There are a few things that I’ve/we’ve done to cope with the loss that have helped us that I’d like to share in case you’re going through this too. Please know, I don’t have all the answers, and this is still something I’m taking day by day. This is just what’s helping so far.
Name the baby
I wanted to baby to feel real and for us to be able to easily reference them now and forever. We chose to name the baby “Baby Feta”, after the feta wraps Bassam made me in late first trimester that helped my nausea.
Create a memory box
We put together a box of special keepsakes for Baby Feta. Many of these were special gifts we received. A pair of bunny slippers. A Christmas ornament. The positive pregnancy test. The pregnancy journal. Mommy and daddy mugs.
Write a letter
We’ve been putting this off, but we plan on each writing a letter to Baby Feta to say bye and to express to Baby Feta the ways in which he/she changed our lives.
I’ve been prioritizing getting some exercise daily. In the beginning days when I was still in physical pain, this looked like a really slow and short walk. Now the walks are longer and quicker. They are always outdoors. There’s a lot of research on the benefits of exercise, especially outdoors, for mood. I’ve seriously felt the drastic effects of it. There have been many days I can barely get myself out of bed, but after I force myself to go for a walk, my mood is much lighter. I can experience bits of joy along with the grief.
I’m setting really strong boundaries. Saying no to things. Being okay with not getting everything done. Avoiding sad or triggering content/situations. For the first time in my entire life, I’m putting myself and my well being first. I think a big part of why I’ve been able to do this is because I have serious motivation to get to a “good” place so we can try again.
I did an online counseling session and it was immensely helpful. I didn’t think I needed to talk about the loss at all, I actually wanted to talk about my struggle with emotional eating. We ended up talking about the loss the entire time and not at all about the emotional eating. It was so helpful and helped me uncover a lot of thoughts I didn’t realize.
I realized that I felt guilty for grieving so hard because I felt like I’ve been through bigger losses and I shouldn’t feel so bad. I also felt like I didn’t have the “right” to feel so sad, especially since so many people told me the baby “wasn’t real”. More on that in the next section of what not to say.
I realized I really struggle with feeling out of control and the pressure I was putting on myself to get super healthy for the next pregnancy was related to me wanting to control something.
I realized I was having such anxiety over the due date of the next baby because it felt like I was letting go of this pregnancy and everything I had imagined for it.
And so much more. It was so so so helpful and I’m SO glad I did it. I’m all for self care, journaling, and talking to loved ones, but 1 hour of therapy did for me what 15 hours of working on myself on my own could’ve done.
Feel all the emotions
I’ve really been working on feeling my emotions. Not running away from them. Not feeling guilty for having them. Not trying to avoid them.
I take a deep breath and name the emotion I’m feeling.
I still talk to Baby Feta.
I’m working on sitting or walking in silence sometimes.
I’m learning to be patient with myself. I’m learning I don’t always have to control or fix everything and that’s okay. That’s a hard one for me.
What to say and what not to say
I’ll end this story with some advice on what to say and what not to say to a loved one who is dealing with pregnancy loss. We have so many wonderful people in our life who really care about us. They all tried their best to be there for us, but many of them said the entirely wrong thing. We know they didn’t mean to be hurtful, but it was so hurtful.
DON’T say – “it wasn’t a real baby” or “at least you weren’t further along”
NO MATTER how early in pregnancy the loss occurs, to the parents, it’s a real baby. This is so hurtful and untrue to say.
DON’T say – “Oh it happens to everyone, I’ve had 5 in a row”
While you think this is being empathetic, this is not what the couple wants to hear at that moment. It’s not helpful to hear about more miscarriages. I have so much fear of my next pregnancy resulting in a loss and hearing detailed stories of multiple losses in a row was the last thing I needed in that moment.
DON’T say – “oh you should hear about what happened to my friend…”
I absolutely hate the game I call “who had it worse”. Grief is not a competition. It’s not helpful to hear worse stories. Even if you think it helps put things into perspective for the person. All the person hears you say is that their own loss doesn’t matter. Of course things can always be worse. But that’s not helpful in the moment.
DON’T say – “you’re so strong, you’ll get through this quickly”
I got so many messages about how “strong” I am and how “quickly” I’ll get through this. I felt like it invalidated my feelings so much and put pressure on me to move through this as quickly as possible otherwise I wasn’t “strong”.
DO be emphatic
Saying things like, “my heart is broken for you” or something to let the person know you get that this is extremely difficult.
DO ask about the father
I can count on one hand the amount of people who asked Bassam how he was doing.
DO send flowers or a gift
Every single flower bouquet or gift we received spoke volumes to me. It told me the person was there. It told me that they got it that this was a loss. With so many people telling me it wasn’t a loss, I really needed that.
DO share your experience, IF the person wants to hear
It was helpful when others told me they’d been through it to and asked if I wanted to know about their experience or if I had any questions for them.
DO validate the baby is real
What was so hard for me was accepting that I was no longer a mother and the baby no longer existed. I had developed a relationship for almost 3 months and people telling me the baby didn’t count, really messed with my head. I was so grateful to those who told us things like the baby will always be a part of us, we are now parents and nothing can take that away, our baby is waiting for us in heaven, or anything like that. It made me feel like they understand how real this was to us.
THE BEST message we got:
“Your relationship with your baby is something the three of you will always have. Even without the baby coming to full term. That baby had a purpose and will always have that purpose in your life. Nothing can take that away. You are now parents and always will be.”
Thank you Baby Feta for coming into our lives and allowing us to be your parents for a short period of time. We love you deeply. It’s amazing how much you changed us in less than 3 months. We are very different people than before we got pregnant and we have you to thank for that. I just know you’re up in heaven, hanging out with your grandma, my mom.
To the universe, my word is still trust. As difficult as it is, I know that my intuition picked that word for a reason. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience pregnancy. It was truly a privilege and one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. As sad as I am, I trust that everything worked out as it should, for all of us. Our earth side babies will come to us when the time is right. I’m learning to let go of my need to control and just give in to trust. I’ll do what I can on my end and I have faith the universe will deliver the rest.
To anyone else going through a pregnancy loss, my heart is with you. Pregnancy loss is one of the most confusing experiences I’ve ever gone through. There is such a giant range of emotions, most people don’t know what you’re going through, and most people don’t understand. It’s such a deeply personal experience and it deeply impacts you. You are now a parent and nothing can ever take that away from you. You have every right to fully grieve this loss. I’m sending you so much love. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Dear readers, thank you for making it this far. I know this wasn’t a pleasant topic to read about. I don’t know how to do anything but share my heart openly and honestly. I couldn’t write about anything else until I wrote about this. We share the good parts of our life with you, along with the bad. I hope that in the near future we will be able to announce a pregnancy to you. In meantime, I trust.