The last thing I am is a writer but I feel compelled to write my story, even though I’m still picking up the broken pieces. I have always been a journal keeper, and so I’ve written a large private entry on jrnl.com, but thought I’d share a bit of my story with you. Writing about my experience has been therapeutic and healing, helping me grieve and process it all. For me, keeping my miscarriage quiet would have been setting myself up for more isolation than I already feel most days, as a solo business owner and all. It also feels very “millennial” of me to write about it on the internet and silly to make such a big deal out of something that happens to 20% of women but there are a few things I’ve learned throughout the process and I want to join in on the conversation that used to be much more secret. I find relief knowing we as women can lean on each other and build a sense of connectedness and community when we need it most. We can remind one another that our brokenness is beautiful, and we have the strength to get through hard things.
When we were first diagnosed with unexplained infertility my world shattered. That sounds pretty dramatic, I know, but as long as I can remember, the majority of my hopes and dreams revolved around being a mother. I was a dang good babysitter all through high school, I feel more comfortable around people who are younger than me, and I always imagined myself as a ‘young’ mom with littles climbing all over me. There are so many people who desire a child for 5+ years and go through all kinds of expensive fertility treatments and trials. It’s only been 2 years for us and immediately after I got a HSG test, I became pregnant so I feel incredibly blessed.
After a year and a half of trying, while we were in our Airbnb in Amsterdam, I had a heart-to-heart with God and gave him a “deal” of sorts. I told him I was walking towards the brink of depression and I wanted, no needed, a positive pregnancy test. I pled with Him to please just let me get pregnant so I know it’s possible. I didn’t want a blighted ovum. I didn’t want an ectopic pregnancy. I wanted a healthy baby with a heartbeat. I also mentioned that if I had to have a miscarriage I’d get through it. I just need that positive pregnancy test. And boy did He deliver just a couple months later.
We were Pregnant!
On the Saturday before we found out, I was being incredibly grumpy and hormonal. I knew it, Ryan knew it, and that whole day I tried my best to not get short and angry with him ha. I expected it was a period coming since I usually PMS a few days before. The next morning, I took out the last pregnancy test I had because Monday I was to have a follow-up appointment with my fertility doctor to discuss the HSG test results. I wanted to at least check that it was negative since every appointment with the fertility doctor is out of pocket. We have paid about $3,000 so far, obviously not as much as others, but it feels like a lot when there are never any helpful results except knowing “you’re fine and normal”. Definitely doesn’t feel that way! Anyways, I took the test and almost immediately the second line appeared. I seriously did not believe it, but it was dark enough that I knew my eyes weren’t deceiving me.
You can imagine what we were feeling when we saw that plus sign on the pregnancy test. It was the best feeling in my entire life. My wildest dream was coming true, I was finally going to be a MOM!! I shakily held the test behind my back as I walked downstairs to show Ryan. He said he immediately knew it was positive as he heard me coming because 1) I always run up and down the stairs and skip each step. Don’t ask me why I just do. And 2) he said I would have gotten breakfast first before coming downstairs. Both very true ha. I remember holding the test in the basement together and barely containing our excitement at church. I calculated that I was a day before 4 weeks. I am still surprised I had such a dark line when that is pretty early to find out. Everything seemed to be progressing nicely, I had none of the bad symptoms and all the good ones #napsandbigboobsgalore. I thought the days of trying to get pregnant were long, but being pregnant and waiting for your first ultrasound are much longer! (Nope, the days waiting for your cycle to normalize after a miscarriage is the monster winner there ha)
Finally our 8-week appointment date arrived. I scheduled it on the day before Thanksgiving, when Ryan didn’t have school. As soon as the ultrasound started, we saw the cutest little ball of baby — perfectly shaped with little arm buds on the sides. The baby had a strong heartbeat of 165 too! I sighed with relief although wasn’t letting myself get excited until I reached 12 weeks. Who am I kidding, I was checking three different pregnancy apps daily, listening to weekly pregnancy podcasts, and reading pregnancy books a week after finding out! 😉
Tender Mercy Moment In the Temple
I was able to go to the LDS temple and do a session when I was 8 weeks pregnant. While I was praying in the celestial room, I had this overwhelming feeling. Almost like a voice saying, “Whether you carry this baby full-term or not, you will have peace about it.” I clung onto the words that I will carry this baby full-term and left the room but kept that feeling in the back of my mind. There were many little moments following that I knew a miscarriage may be coming. Remembering my prayer back in August was one, the temple experience was another, and at 10 weeks I borrowed an at-home doppler from a friend and would spend way too long searching for the heartbeat to no avail. I knew that was common and held onto the hope that everything was just fine but my mind would wander. I would think about the day before my appointment, when we had plans to go to Star Wars with friends, and how that would be the last day before we found out the baby was gone. Or the day of, thinking of what sweater to wear to the appointment and knowing it may be correlated to the bad news I was about to get. (Yes I’m psycho.)
The 12-week appointment arrived, having to go a bit earlier at 11.5 weeks because of Christmas break. Ryan wasn’t able to come, he ended up having a dental patient at the same time. I tried to reschedule to Monday when he was out of school but there weren’t any good options so I went alone. I was way more nervous this time. I mean with those thoughts in your head who wouldn’t be? After a full hour of talking with a nurse about shots, future appointments, and other things, I met with the doctor. He couldn’t find the heartbeat with the doppler (I could have told you that doc!) and he sent me to the ultrasound tech. The tech spread on the gel and as soon as she put it on my stomach, I saw the baby and knew it was bad. The baby was just as small as the 8-week appointment and from my endless Googling, I knew the baby would have looked a lot different at 11-12 weeks. The tech was quiet for a bit, searching with a certain ultrasound option that detects blood flow. Everything was showing colorful dots except for the baby. I stopped watching. She gently placed her hand on my arm and said the baby had no heartbeat. Hearing her actually say the words was one of the worst moments of my life. It’s the moment that plays over and over in my head. I am glad she was able to actually say something and didn’t have to leave in silence to get the doctor like I’ve read in other stories. My quiet response was, “How far along?” and she said she would find out but asked if I needed some time alone. I told her no, I just wanted to know how far along I carried my baby alive for. She determined exactly 9 weeks. So literally 5 days after our first appointment. And my body had no idea.
She left the room since I had to talk to the doctor about next steps and for the first 10 minutes, I just sat there. Processing it all and staring at the door. Then I walked over to grab my phone and saw a text from a friend asking when I’d be done. I was supposed to switch with her to babysit my neighbor’s kids so she could put her boy down. I told her and then texted my mom who had been waiting for an answer from me. Then just waited until the doctor came, which took another 15 minutes. They moved me back to a normal room and the doctor gave me the options. I told him to schedule me for a D&C and thankfully there was a spot left since they only do them Tuesdays and Thursdays and we were leaving on a Thursday. At that point, I realized it was a good thing I didn’t reschedule because we would have most likely missed the chance to do the D&C and no way was I wanting to miscarry during Christmas break in Washington. I didn’t want to have to worry about a risk of infection while away and just wanted to have it be done with, so D&C it was. Any other situation I probably would have chosen not to do a D&C but it was nice to know it would be over with for Christmas.
After 3 hours of being at the hospital, I had to go downstairs and get my blood drawn before leaving. I had to act like nothing was different while small-talking in the elevator with a nice lady and then got to the car to immediately drive to the dental school. I sobbed the whole way, the kind of sobs that you make embarrassing noises and everything, but I let it all out. Ryan luckily had just finished (which was another little blessing because he hadn’t expected to for a while) and after calling family in IL, we decided to escape and spend the weekend with them before my D&C.
It truly is amazing how our bodies work. As soon as my mind knew the baby was no longer viable, my body took over and no more than 24 hours later, the process of naturally miscarrying began. Previously, I had had no symptoms. No bleeding, no cramping, nothing. And to have my body naturally miscarry after my mind had realized it’s done was very intriguing to me. Our bodies are so amazingly and divinely designed. That they know how to take care of making us better is no short of a miracle.
Two days after the dreadful appointment, the day before I was going to announce to the world, I miscarried at home. I guess technically speaking, I miscarried at 9 weeks and this is called “passing tissue” but that phrase is just gross. I will spare you the gory details but if you want to know more, I am an open book so feel free to reach out. In summary, it was absolutely the most painful experience I have ever had. For 3 hours straight I had very intense cramping and ‘contractions’ (I have nothing to base that off of but I would assume they were contractions). I’m so glad I had Ryan around to grab this or that for me and just be a moral support nearby. It was also nice to be visiting family and have a sister-in-law who had gone through two miscarriages herself to talk to. There were moments that absolutely could have been traumatic, but I think God was by my side to give that peace He promised me in the temple.
The next day we drove back home and straight to the hospital to get an ultrasound in order to determine if the D&C was necessary. I think my lowest point was sitting in the passenger seat, pale as a ghost, with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” blaring on the radio while I held the remains of my baby in a Ziploc and Walmart bag that I couldn’t bear flush away and that the doctor asked me to keep. The song seemed to be mocking me. I’m sorry Andy Williams, but I no longer like your song.
Throughout the whole week, I was so sad and yet peaceful. I am not angry or blaming myself, and I don’t feel like God was punishing me. I started to regret praying to get pregnant but all these thoughts were gently and quickly pushed aside and I scrambled to hold onto that peace I felt in the temple. It honestly just feels surreal, like I never was actually pregnant. It’s odd how something like this, something that in reality only changes our plans by setting them back a little can feel like there has been a cosmic shift. Everything feels different and everything feels the same.
Of course, I know this is not the end of the world. I find reassurance in that and know there are so many worse things that can happen. There are women fighting their battles with cancer who will never know what having a child will be like and families who are losing spouses and loved ones much too soon. The majority of miscarriages in the first trimester are caused by chromosomal abnormalities and I know there is nothing I could have done differently. I am glad I was able to notice the many blessings and tender mercies along the way and I’m hopeful we’ll get pregnant again soon, just like so many other people have in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I was completely devastated and still am, especially as due date’s of friends and family start to pass mine and bellies grow when mine doesn’t. I am trying to come to grips that for now, we are not meant to be parents and although I don’t really understand because I feel like I’d be a dang good mom, there is something else I need to be doing before then. Not quite sure what it is yet, but hopefully I’ll figure it out soon. I have come to accept this as just another chapter of our story that we will eventually get to tell our children about: our journey to them.
Tangent up ahead: Something I’ve realized through this experience is that when it comes to emotional pain or vulnerability, I tend to automatically add a ‘but…‘ or say a silver lining even if I don’t really believe it. Or I do believe it, but there is a lot more complication underneath it. It’s almost like a defense mechanism for me. I’m sure you can probably find it multiple times above. Someone would give me a hug and say they are sorry and I would immediately say something positive about it, like the fact that we know we can get pregnant. Maybe I did that because I wanted to say it before they did. Or maybe because I’m just trying to convince myself. Other times I truly do believe it and know there are so many blessings I’ve seen throughout. I guess it’s not necessarily a bad thing but some days I get sick of being so dang positive all the time but I can’t stop, or don’t feel comfortable enough to break down that wall of positivity with others. I now notice it and am trying to keep my responses real and vulnerable in the future. Tangent done.
Light in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of pain, joy in the midst of sorrow.
We have been an open book throughout our whole infertility journey and after our first appointment, we started telling lots of friends and family of our little summer baby. Ryan’s whole dental class ended up finding out and then he had to slowly tell everyone after Christmas break. There are times I wish so many people didn’t know about it, but most of the time I’m glad I don’t have to suffer silently and can reach out to numerous friends and family who will listen and have similar (and much worse) experiences.
I’ve started making conscious decisions to focus on the positive things, and I’m hoping I can see the light at the end of the tunnel soon. For all we know, I could get pregnant in 2 weeks or it may take us another 2 years. That’s the weird thing about infertility, having absolutely no control or idea of our timeline and trusting in God’s timeline. I can’t say I’m grateful for the experience of loss — I wish it had never happened. But I am grateful for the empathy I now have for others who’ve walked this path, and the hand of God I have seen along the way. I don’t share our story for sympathy or anything like that. I share it in case it helps someone who may have to suffer the tragedy of losing a child they didn’t get to know. And I share it to honor the child of mine dearly wanted but not meant to be. We are stronger because of our scars, more beautiful because we are broken.
Broken & Beautiful
For those confused by my title Broken & Beautiful and the images, I became obsessed with kintsugi after my miscarriage. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken objects with lacquer and gold. Instead of taking super glue and making it look like it was never damaged, the cracks are highlighted and the object is viewed more beautiful than the original product. This centuries-old method adds the cracks into the aesthetic of the piece and it becomes part of the object’s history. We are not beautiful in spite of our brokenness, but because of our brokenness. I absolutely love this symbolism and imagery, I vaguely remember learning about this method in Art History class and it found it’s way back to me when I needed the message most.
A week or so after my miscarriage, I was researching kintsugi like crazy and found a place to buy a kit. It took almost 3 weeks to get to me but it came in perfect timing, right around the time we would have been finding out the baby’s gender. My bowl is not perfect, but I guess that’s the whole idea right? There is value in our breakage, our so-called failures, and all the things that make life interesting and our story.
These are pretty words and all, but some days it can be frustrating to think that our brokenness is actually beautiful. No, sitting on a toilet while life literally leaves you is definitely not pretty. Bald spots from chemo are not that beautiful and panic attacks do not leave you feeling radiant. These words won’t magically make you feel whole, it does take a little bit of action. Some days you just need a quick griefburst to let out your sorrow while other days you can find motivation from the idea of kintsugi and take those steps to feeling more whole.
This is what we need to do with our soul when we feel broken: fill our cracks with gold. I started thinking about what the gold could actually symbolize (obviously I have way too much time alone and am overanalyzing everything ha). But the answer, at least for me, is God’s word. If we are feeling broken, we can fill our cracks with His word. Whether that is the scriptures, the Holy Spirit whispering truth to us, or whatever it may be, we can take our shattered pieces and give them to Christ. He sees the beauty in us when we can’t and He can piece us back together.
Embrace the damaged, flawed, and imperfect. Recognize beauty in the broken things. There is restoration in brokenness. As we are made whole again, through time or Christ or both, we become even more beautiful than before. Let’s celebrate breakage as part of our own story and highlight the cracks that make us who we are. I am broken and I am beautiful!