Friday, December 1, 2017

"We shall find our little ones up above" - St. Zelie

I am definitely a person who finds a lot of peace and closure through sharing about and talking through things, more so than working through them on my own (for example, if I'm feeling sick, Matt knows every symptom...). Sometimes that is with my family or my closest friends, and sometimes it is with anyone who is interested and asks.

Miscarriage is a strange topic because of all that is linked to it (and because of what it is, a mother losing her baby), and everyone deals with it differently and has their own very unique experience with it. So I think that sometimes people wonder if asking about it will be what the mom wants, or if they would rather not talk about it because of the hurt it brings up, and it can sometimes all be a little uncomfortable.

For me on the opposite side, I don't know if people want to hear about it because I don't know if it makes them feel uncomfortable, but I personally have found a lot of solace and peace through talking about it. That baby is still my baby and always will be, and I don't really feel any need to keep the baby a secret even though I lost him or her. It definitely is a painful thing, but I have really appreciated anyone who has asked me about it, or asked how I'm doing - or has listened as I talked to them about it even without prompting because I just needed to talk about it. That has been something that has helped me a lot. I have felt so supported and loved through this experience and it has been the most heart-warming and touching thing to experience the love and caring of the people around me.

I thought a lot about whether it would be a good thing to write about my miscarriage on here. I know it would be good for me and I would love to share my story, but would it be strange for people to know that information that is fairly personal? Then, on the other hand, I shared my birth story with Rose, and though this experience was very different than that and is an experience of pain instead of joy, the stories feel equally personal to me. They are both personal, but something I want to share. So I suppose that if people feel they don't want to know these stories in my life, then there is no reason for them to read this and that is completely okay. But I feel compelled to put it out into the world.

One reason I want to share my story (and feel totally fine with sharing it) is that I don't fully understand the very secretive approach to miscarriage - I don't really feel the need to keep my miscarriage a secret. I don't totally understand but I know that's what a lot of couples choose to do (maybe more so in the past) and whatever is right for them is what they should do. I suppose for a more private person, not having anyone know about your miscarriage would be the preferred choice - and telling people that you've had a miscarriage would be painful and difficult. I think because that is not my personality and sharing it actually helps me, I didn't really embrace the secretive and taboo side of miscarriage.

So here is my story of how I lost my little baby. I didn't know much about the details of miscarriage before I experienced this and I wish I had heard other women's stories so that it all didn't feel so foreign and I didn't feel as confused - wondering what was normal, if other women went through similar things, etc.

Going into childbirth I felt much less scared because I had so much familiarity with the experience of childbirth. My friends were very open about their experiences, I had read countless birth stories and had heard so much about childbirth, and had even witnessed a birth before. I think it would have been so much harder if I didn't have any familiarity with it and was completely shocked by everything, wondering if every little thing was normal, as was my experience with miscarriage because I had barely heard anyone talk about miscarriage before (other than that they had one).

We found out I was pregnant when out of the blue I started crying about something that made so little sense I couldn't help but laugh as I explained to Matt why I was crying. He looked at me and said, "Alicia, do you think you're pregnant?" I didn't think that I was, but Matt thought I should take a pregnancy test just to make sure. We took one and Matt looked at it before me, and came out of the bathroom and told me it was positive. We were so excited, but of course I needed to go buy another pregnancy test to make sure. Sure enough, another positive. I calculated the due date and it would be exactly a week after Rose's due date two years previous, and just five days after her birthday.

We could barely wait to tell our family because we wanted to share the happy news with them. We had told them really quickly with our pregnancy with Rose as well. We talked about what would happen if we had a miscarriage, but knew we would want our families prayers and support if that were to happen so we decided to just tell them right away. I accidentally told my sister-in-law before any of our parents because I am a terrible liar and made an excuse for not having a drink of wine so awkwardly (while staring straight at Matt who was smiling at me), then just screamed and told her.

Besides my close family, I also told some of my close friends that I was pregnant, as well as my grandparents and some of our family. I would kind of tell people I was close to about it as I saw them.

I kept waiting for the dreaded nausea to come. I kept saying to Matt, "Is it normal that I'm not nauseous yet?" but I couldn't really remember when it came on with Rose so I wasn't sure if it was weird that I didn't feel sick or not. I called my mom about it one day and she told me that she didn't even get morning sickness for most of her pregnancies, so I thought maybe this pregnancy was just different from my last and that's why I didn't feel sick. Yet I remember often thinking to myself, "I don't feel pregnant," and had to convince myself that I was in fact pregnant even though I just didn't feel like I was. When siblings would ask me how I was feeling I would casually answer, "I don't even feel pregnant yet." I wasn't really worried that something was wrong, it is just in retrospect that this absence of "feeling" pregnant is very clear to me.

I started spotting around the seven-week mark. I was a little worried but had heard of this happening to my friends so I didn't think it was anything to be too scared about. I also read on my pregnancy app that some spotting in the first trimester is completely normal, so that reassured us a bit. I would tell myself that being scared was irrational and everything would be fine.

The second and third days of spotting had me a little more worried though, and on the third day when I looked and there was a bit more spotting than seemed normal to me, I felt myself go into a panic. I had just put Rose down for a nap and was standing upstairs, and it was the first time the possibility of a miscarriage hit me and I could feel an adrenaline-rush like fear surge through me. I called health link and described everything to the nurse on the phone. As soon as I mentioned that this was the third day, he told me that I needed to see my doctor within 24 hours.

At this point, I was really scared. I saw my doctor the next day but really all he could tell me was to wait and see. He said I had the option of being examined and that could tell me if a miscarriage was happening or not, but he said it wouldn't change anything either way, and he didn't think that this was a miscarriage. Spotting could be totally normal in the first trimester - however, he did mention that as I was 8 weeks along it was too late for it to be implantation spotting so he wasn't sure what it was. I told him that I wasn't really worried and that I thought it was probably fine as well and so I didn't need to be examined. I had my dating ultrasound coming up in two days so I think that was also why I decided against being examined, my doctor and I talked about how the ultrasound would be a great reassurance for me. I think in my head I thought everything was fine, but I was stressing out like crazy subconsciously.

To be honest, I was a complete mess this week. I thought it was pregnancy hormones, and I think my changing hormone levels did have a big part to play in how much of an emotional wreck I was. I was on the verge of tears constantly and cried often, I was so irritable and grumpy, I couldn't handle anything and things Rose would do would make me feel overwhelmed and frustrated when they had never fazed me at all before. I couldn't think straight and was so scatterbrained, and I felt stressed, but mostly I just felt so sad and uncertain.

I didn't know if I should be excited for this baby and celebrating this pregnancy, or if I was going to lose the baby and something was wrong. I think the hardest part of it all was the complete and utter level of uncertainty. Of having no control, not knowing what was going on, and just waiting to find something out. It was a really, really hard week.

Matt was really good for me, giving me hugs when I needed them and being loving and caring even though we were both really stressed.

The day of the ultrasound came and at this point I had been bleeding (fairly lightly) for six days. They called me at seven in the morning and told me that the lady who was supposed to do my ultrasound was sick and couldn't do it. In my head I freaked out, "I need to have an ultrasound," I thought. I needed to know that the baby was okay. I couldn't handle this uncertainty anymore. I asked if there was any way I could still have one. She told me that I could drive to Calgary and have an ultrasound done there at a little bit later time, and I said yes. She was very curt with me and wasn't the most polite person so I was really flustered by the whole thing. She added at the end not to bring any unattended children and then hung up.

My sister-in-law had offered to watch Rose but now it was at a different time and would be much longer since I would need to drive into Calgary. I was worrying that it would be a big inconvenience and thought, "No, I need to have the ultrasound in Okotoks," and tried calling back to ask the lady if there was any possible way, but the building wasn't open for the morning yet. I called Matt upset (he was already at work), and he said he would call and make sure someone could watch Rose that long and that it would all be okay, and that he knew they would be happy to watch her for any amount of time (which I know is true haha). He was so reassuring and kept reminding me that no matter what happened, we would be okay.

His sister was completely happy to watch Rose longer and said that she actually needed to go into Calgary anyway so she could drive me. This was so so so amazing because I didn't know where it was, didn't know where to park, hate driving in the best of moods, and I was a bit of an emotional mess. All the classic things were happening because I was so all over the place (spilt my smoothie, can't find my keys, etc.).

Before I left for the ultrasound I just started balling. I balled and balled as I sat on the step, and Rose just came up to me and sat on my lap cuddling into me as I cried. It was one of the sweetest things that I have experienced, the way she understood that something was wrong and gave me just what I needed.

I gained my composure after my therapeutic cry session (I just needed to get all the fear and emotion out) and drove to my sister-in-law's house. It's all kind of a blur but I do remember talking my head off to her about how I was so worried but I knew I shouldn't be, and things like that. I felt so much better to be with someone though, rather than being alone, and felt distracted talking and watching the cute babies (okay toddlers) in the back seat. Rose and her little cousin were being so cute, at one point they were fist-pumping each other and Rose was making funny noises that her cousin would laugh at.

I got into the ultrasound and I was so glad that I got a super nice ultrasound tech. I read a sign in the room that said she couldn't reveal any medical information and to not ask questions during the exam as she needed to focus on what she was doing. I told her right away that I had been bleeding for 6 days.

She told me that she couldn't find the baby, only the gestational sac, but that this could be normal as sometimes dating based on the last period can be off, so the baby could be younger than we thought, and that could be why she couldn't find it. I was asking her questions but would say that I understood if she couldn't tell me, and she was just really vague with all her answers and kept saying that it could just be that our dating was off.

She asked if I wanted to do an internal exam, because then it would be much more likely that she could find the baby. She said it wouldn't be 100% that she could find it, but most likely. I said that I did want her to, I really wanted answers.

I went outside to empty my very full bladder and wait outside while she got everything ready. I prayed to God over and over for him to give me peace and strength when I went back in and found out what was happening. I had the internal exam and something didn't seem right. The ultrasound tech wasn't giving me any information, and any question I asked she would (and she was super kind through the entire thing) kindly tell me that she couldn't answer that or would give me a very vague answer. She told me that she would go talk to the doctor and would come back.

I waited, praying for strength and peace. I thought the doctor would come back and tell me what was going on, but the ultrasound tech came back and just told me that she couldn't reveal any information to me and that my family doctor would get the results and that he would be the one to interpret them and let me know how everything was going, and that I could get my hCG levels tested and that might "give more information." I had no idea what that meant or what they even needed information on. I just felt completely confused and in the dark as to what was going on, and asked, "So you can't tell me anything?" and I started to tear up as I asked it. She said that she couldn't and I looked down so I wouldn't start crying, and went and got dressed, then went out to the waiting room.

While I waiting for Matt's sister to come I typed questions into google. Mostly forums would come up, and there were many stories of this happening to women and it would turn out the dating was just wrong and their babies were completely fine. There were also articles that made me feel like maybe I was going to miscarry, and so I still felt completely unsure as to what I should think and expect. It was so hard not knowing if I should mourn my baby or look forward to meeting my baby.

Matt's sister was so amazing in the car and it was so nice to talk and be distracted. When I got home my doctor called me to check in and see how things went at the ultrasound (he is an awesome doctor!). I asked him if he had gotten the results yet and he said that he hadn't, and I explained what happened to him. I think he was expecting me to tell him that everything was okay, but when I explained the situation to him he told me he could call me as soon as he got the results, but asked if it was bad news if I would prefer to hear it in person. I told him that I definitely wanted to hear the results over the phone because I wanted to know as soon as possible. I just really needed to know what was going on.

I called Matt and told him everything, and then got another call from my doctor. He started to phone call telling me that he wouldn't beat around the bush, he didn't have good news for me. They couldn't find a heartbeat, and they dated the baby at about just over six weeks, which was just a bit before I started bleeding. My doctor was so good about it in the way he delivered the news to me, the way he worded everything so respectfully (I really liked that he would refer to it as the baby and not the fetus, it just felt like he was acknowledging that this was my baby who I already loved), and he told me that his wife miscarried her first pregnancy and he was so sorry I had to go through something so difficult. I told him that I think I knew deep down that that was what he was going to tell me because I could feel that something was wrong at the ultrasound, and I thanked him for telling me and for everything. He said I should get bloodwork done to confirm that the baby was lost, and explained that I could take medication to accelerate the process or I could wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally, which was what I said I wanted to do.

I only cried a little bit after the phone call. I think I was so emotionally drained and had cried myself out the week previous. I think I had been mourning the loss of my baby for the last week. I felt that once I knew I was able to accept it and that God really did give me the peace and strength that I had been asking for even though I was still so so so sad. I went and did the blood test that evening, and picked up yummy snacks and Matt and I ate treats and watched Survivor together. We were just there for each other and were so appreciative of our little Rose.

Three days later I miscarried the baby. It felt similar to a period with mild cramping, but then there was 45 minutes of what felt like very painful period cramps. I was super exhausted so I went and lied down, and fell asleep for a couple hours. When I woke up I delivered what I think was the gestational sac and the baby. I have to say that I felt really saddened, scared, and a little disturbed by it all, even though I knew it was a natural process. It was just hard. It's difficult to even describe all the emotions I was feeling because it all felt so foreign and upsetting and surreal. In a way, I didn't really know what to feel, I think.

My Gramma had told me that God told her the names of her babies that she miscarried, so I was praying about it and the name Cecilia came to me really strongly. I told Matt about it and asked if we could name our little baby Cecilia.

I had bought one little sleeper when we found out we were pregnant (because who can say no to newborn sleepers...), and I put that in my treasure chest to keep as a little memory (the one in the photo at the top).

I would say that my faith was a huge source of peace and hope for me. It is incredibly reassuring to know that our baby is in heaven, in the arms of Jesus, praying for us and looking down on us. It is so reassuring to know that we can be with our baby one day in heaven.

I think having Rose also made our loss a little less challenging to bear - she is seriously such a joy with all her little words and personality and cuddles and love. I feel like I was given a newfound appreciation for her. I also feel that I have an even greater appreciation for what a blessing a healthy pregnancy is. I think it was something that I almost took for granted (it is really easy to just focus on all the negative parts of pregnancy). I knew how incredibly fortunate I was to have a healthy pregnancy with Rose, but it was hard for me to fully grasp that until I experienced this loss.

The outpouring of love and support from the people close to us just amazes me. I was in such a vulnerable place and everyone was so kind to me. From bringing me meals so I didn't have to cook (seriously soooo thoughtful!) to talking to me on the phone or sending kind text messages, to kind words and just support and love and caring. I just felt so supported and loved through it all by all the people close to me, especially our two families and of course Matt.

I am actually glad that we decided to tell people who were really close to us about our pregnancy early on because all the people who I told that I was pregnant would have people I would have wanted to know that we had miscarried. Our families were able to understand what we were going through and be there for us in words, actions, and prayers. I would say that I'm glad we didn't tell a whole bunch of people (say on social media or something) though. Even when talking about the miscarriage with people I'm close to, who I completely want to talk about it with, I notice I stammer a bit and am a little bit awkward. I'm not sure why that is but I hope everyone knows that I really appreciate every person who offered kind words or asked how I was doing or feeling.

Even though I still feel sad, I have so much more peace about it now knowing that I will always carry that baby with me in my heart. I am so grateful for my little Rosie who is the sunshine of my life and brings me incredible amounts of joy, and for Matt who is my best friend and the best support, and for my little baby up in heaven :)

I wrote this a little while ago but didn't publish it right away because I wanted to wait til I felt the time was right. Then today I read this quote:

"We shall find our little ones up above" - St. Zelie Martin

I teared up a little and decided I wanted to post it. 

To give a little context to the quote, St. Zelie lived in the 1800's and was the mother of St. Therese of Liseux. Zelie lost two baby boys, a five-year-old girl, and a six and half week old infant girl within 3 years. In a letter to her sister-in-law Zelie wrote: "When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through... People said to me, 'It would have been better never to have had them.' I couldn't stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above."

Since St. Zelie still had hope after the unimaginable hardship she went through, I think her words are incredibly beautiful and comforting.


  1. You are so brave for posting this, Alicia. It seems so important to me that miscarriage is not kept in the dark, and your sharing of your story will help it not to be that way. You have such a gift with words, and such a gift of faith. Thank you for writing your story.