First things first, in order to talk about miscarriage, we have to discuss our short pregnancy and how it ended.
COVID-19 changed things for so many of us. For us it changed our priorities. Work and life were busy, and we were very happy. When the world began to shut down, however, we had more time to reflect on what was most important to us and Jeff and I determined it was time to start a family. We went off birth control in April and figured we would wait and see what happened. Tracking the details, but not over-thinking it.
In September 2020 we were enjoying the extended summer weather and the short reprieve from COVID lockdown (man do I miss eating in restaurants!). One day I looked at the calendar and realized my period was late. Trying not to get too excited I waited until the next morning and took a test. I set it on the counter and looked away to brush my teeth, when I glanced over thirty seconds later it was already positive! Holy cow, this was really happening! Jeff was playing a golf tournament that morning and I didn’t want to distract him so I took off for work with this giddy disbelief, my little secret. We went to Jeff’s parents for dinner after work and I could hardly focus on the conversation because I just wanted to get home and take a second test to show Jeff. I raced home and grabbed a test. When I came out of the bathroom with two positive tests, Jeff looked up and I said, “we’re pregnant.” He blinked and said, “no, we’re not,” but I held up both tests as proof. With wide eyes he smiled and embraced me and we spent the night taking turns saying, “I can’t believe we’re pregnant!” to each other.
What the movies don’t tell you is what an obnoxiously long time you wait between taking an at-home pregnancy test and when you actually go to the doctor for an ultrasound. I knew I was pregnant for over a month before I was seen by a doctor, which is standard protocol by the way. That amount of time between finding out and getting to hear our baby’s heartbeat felt like an eternity. In that amount of time we had already picked baby names, done the math on when we would find out the sex of the baby (right around my 30th birthday), started a baby registry and done endless research on all things pregnancy and motherhood. The rest of my energy was consumed with pregnancy symptoms, nausea, fatigue, weird cravings and the rest, but you don’t mind so much when you know it’s for your baby.
Our ultrasound was scheduled for Friday, November 6. I had taken the day off work so that I didn’t have to worry about giving an excuse for being away from the office. As fate would have it, the ultrasound tech was out that day and they had to reschedule me for Thursday, a day earlier. It’s hard to get away from work for a 10 minute lunch let alone a 45 minute ultrasound appointment, but we made it work and got to the appointment. Thankfully they allow partners to come for ultrasound appointments and I didn’t have to go alone.
We were so excited to see our baby on the ultrasound and I wasn’t sure how I was going to play it cool when I got back to the office since I hadn’t told anyone yet. We told our families we would text them pictures of the ultrasound images after the appointment. We arrived, got our temperatures checked and sat in that sterile waiting room that had signs on every other seat asking us to leave 6 feet of space for social distancing. Jeff stood awkwardly in front of me in order to be close enough to hold my hand, and the nerves began to set in. I realized in that moment I had no idea what to expect for this appointment and couldn’t decide if my anxiety was a good or bad sign. When they finally called us back, the tech took us to a dark room for the ultrasound. We sat in anticipation of the ultrasound tech using that jelly and wand to bring up the image of our baby. I pulled up my sweater so she could touch the wand to my still flat stomach, but this part would not go as my friends with babies told me it would.
As soon as she placed the wand to my stomach, she said “Oh, baby is very small. We are going to have to do this transvaginally.” This made me nervous, but she assured me it was perfectly normal at this stage. However, after moving that wand around for awhile she said nothing about what she was seeing on the screen. We saw no heartbeat and we saw nothing that resembled a baby, just little bubble like shapes. Jeff and I had never been to an ultrasound and did not know what to look for, so we thought maybe we just missed it? Then she removed the wand and said, “We are not seeing what we like to see at this stage. The doctor will come in to do some blood work and talk to you about next steps.” At this point I think the room began to spin. I said, “wait, when should we be able to see a heartbeat?” and she replied, “usually around 6 weeks, but it can vary.” This was NOT a good sign, I was a day shy of nine weeks along at this point. Then as quickly as it started it was over. She left the room and Jeff and I exchanged glances. We knew this wasn’t good, but still didn’t know what exactly it all meant.
When the PA came in she was kind, but direct. She was holding my chart with an image of the ultrasound, except this image did not contain a baby, it was just black, the gestational sac looked empty. She looked at me, and told me my pregnancy was measuring almost two weeks behind. She then grabbed a tissue from the box, put it in my hand, made eye contact with me and said, “I want you to be prepared that this is probably not a viable pregnancy.” Cue the waterworks. The reality of what we were facing suddenly hit me all at once and my world came crumbling down. We were not going to have the baby for which we had dreamed.
The doctor then came in and said something about not crying yet because she had seen miracles before, but I already knew how this was going to go down. They scheduled me for several blood tests and a follow up ultrasound, and like a zombie I walked out of the building to face our new reality. I called in to work to tell them the basics of what happened and that I’d need some time off. Everything for the next week felt like I was watching a movie — seeing myself go through the motions of clinic visits and bouts of tears. I had an ultrasound a week after the first one that confirmed there was no heartbeat and increased the doctor’s suspicions of a molar pregnancy. I was scheduled for a COVID test 30 minutes later and for a D&C the next day.
It was official, we were not having a baby in June and the next day I would no longer be pregnant.