This blog post was supposed to be a “What I Eat During the Second Trimester.” I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that things didn’t really go my way.
When I was 18.3 weeks pregnant with my daughter I went to the midwife for what I thought would be a normal checkup. My husband and I were excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat and to schedule our 20-week anatomy scan. The midwife attempted to find her heartbeat with the Doppler but after about five minutes of silence she decided to do a rudimentary ultrasound to try and find Baby Girl’s heartbeat. The midwife originally believed that my placenta had formed in the front of my uterus; aka anterior placenta. When our midwife noticed that the baby wasn’t moving at all she called another midwife in for a second opinion. The second midwife checked my daughter and noticed that her skeletal system looked great but that she couldn’t get a good angle to look at her heart.
I knew after the Doppler attempt that something was wrong but the midwifery group we were being seen by is filled with the most amazing women and they didn’t want my husband and I to worry. My husband and I sat in the room with our toddler, waiting for 45 minutes for the ultrasound technician to get to the clinic. My husband kept telling me that he didn’t think anything was wrong, but I knew it wasn’t good news. When the ultrasound tech arrived, we were taken into another room where she could set up her equipment to get a better look at our baby girl. She was such a sweet woman and she did a thorough job of taking measurements and looking at our baby from every available angle. The one thing she didn’t do well was control her facial expressions.
After 15 minutes of watching this woman look at the scans of the child inside of me with a look of such concern and pity on her face, I had to ask…
”Has she moved?”
“No, she hasn’t moved.”
My husband moved away from the ultrasound machine and came to my side.
“Would you like to see her?”
“I can give you details, as much as you want, or I can just tell you minimal details.”
“Just tell us.”
My daughter was dead. She had stopped growing between 14- and 15-weeks gestation. Her heart wasn’t beating, the ultrasound tech suspected that her heart was misshapen, but she couldn’t be sure. What she could be sure of was that one Baby’s kidneys was retaining fluid while the other appeared to be to small. The tech was unable to see the baby’s bladder and she noticed some extra fluid and tissue that had developed on the back of our daughter’s skull. She noted, like the midwives before, that her spine looked normal and that Baby had a normal looking brain.
We went home that night and neither one of us knew what to do. I laid in bed and stared at her crib all night. The mix of emotions inside me were indescribable. I kept asking myself what I had done wrong. What had I done to make this happen? Simply put, I didn’t do anything. There was nothing I could have done differently. I went to every one of my appointments, I took my vitamin every single day, and I ate well. Despite all of that, our baby didn’t make it into the world.
The day after our appointment, we were seen by a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist at the hospital but before we could see her we had to have another ultrasound performed. This ultrasound tech told us that our baby measured at 15 weeks and had a distended abdomen. She agreed that the skeletal system and brain looked good but other than that she couldn’t confirm anything else. The doctor was called to an emergency c-section, so my husband and I waited with our midwife for an hour just wondering what would happen next. When the doctor was finally able to see us, she explained our options: we could wait for my body to naturally go into labor, I could have surgery, or I could be induced. The doctor suggested the surgery because the risk of bleeding is higher the earlier the labor and delivery occurs. She told us from the very start that because the baby had passed three weeks prior that waiting to go into labor could be very dangerous, but I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting and I knew I didn’t want surgery. I knew from the moment they told me that the baby had passed that I wanted to be induced and the sooner the better. When the doctor asked if there were any questions the only question I had was, “Can we do this tonight?”
We were checked into the hospital an hour after that and had my first round of induction medication three hours later. Less than 12 hours later and she was “born.” It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have to push, really. I had to give “half-pushes” but even then, it was the equivalent of doing a squat, as far as pressure is concerned, and it only took two half-pushes.
The doctor took her immediately for examination and, honestly, that was fine with me because I wasn’t ready to hold her yet. It didn’t even feel real at that point. I knew what had happened, I felt it happening, the nurses breathed with me through contractions, and my husband saw her as the doctor carried her to the infant bed on the other side of the room. Despite all these moments, it wasn’t a fluid occurrence for me. I just couldn’t believe it.
After just a few moments, the doctor came to tell my husband and I what she had seen. She told us that our baby looked swollen because of the amount of time that had gone by since she passed. There was nothing outwardly that told her that something had gone definitively wrong. The anomalies found on the ultrasounds were likely because she had died three weeks before but there was really no way of knowing why her life ended before it began. This doctor, she was so sweet and gentle, she told us that her cord had been wrapped around her little body “a couple of times” but they couldn’t know for sure if this had caused her death.
In situations like this genetic testing is performed due to necessity but even then, we might not get any answers. I keep hearing and reading the phrase “these things just happen sometimes,” and it isn’t inaccurate but that doesn’t mean it helps. Logically, I understand that “these things just happen” and this isn’t my first miscarriage, it is just the first I’ve experienced outside of the first trimester. My previous miscarriages happened so early that I didn’t know about half of them when they occurred, and the other half happened within a week of finding out. The percentage of miscarriages in the second trimester is on 2-3% whereas first trimesters losses are around 15-20% (APA 2017,). Regardless of when a loss occurs, there is an inexplicable amount of pain. This loss was particularly hard for my husband and me because we had tried for over a year to get pregnant, we had started setting up and preparing for her, and she had a name: to us, she was a person.
Miscarriages aren’t really understood and there isn’t always a reason for them to happen. As far as the doctors and midwives were concerned, I was perfectly healthy and there was no reason for this to have happened. But it did.
If you know anyone who has gone through or is going through a situation like this or is having any kind of pregnancy loss at all, be there for them. Listen to them, cry with them, be there for them, but do not try to fix it. Let them grieve. And please, love each other.