Heartbreak After Losing A Baby
Updated: Aug 9
My worst fear came true. My life changed in a heartbeat.
This isn’t going to be a neat and tidy piece of writing because, to be honest, my emotions are raw as fuck. I had a missed miscarriage late in the game and I’m heartbroken. It wasn’t something I had considered possible given that we had multiple early ultrasounds with a fetal heart beat and an ultrasound at 8 weeks showing a healthy beating heart, at which point the risk of miscarriage is less than 1.6% . The last time I heard her little heartbeat was at 10 weeks. Unfortunately, going in for my first second trimester checkup didn't turn out as I expected.
Missed miscarriages are different in the sense that I had zero symptoms other than just feeling like something was off intuitively right before finding out. I felt pregnant and had all of my pregnancy symptoms even after the baby died. No bleeding. No cramping. Just more energy which I was told was normal in the second trimester. My body just wasn’t ready to let go.
Nature is Cruel
I went in for a routine ultrasound and will never forget being told she couldn’t find a heartbeat. I could see my baby on the screen, but she was just floating there and her little legs weren't moving. They wanted me to wait to see if it was a mistake and go in for a follow up a week later.
I knew something was fucking wrong at that point. I responded with my typical no overt emotional response, just absorbing information and my new reality for the time being. As a result of so much severe trauma in my life, I have been conditioned to be somewhat ambivalent in regards to death. I am the one cool and collected in a crisis. I don’t break until after and it usually manifests as self destruction more-so than anything else.
Alex attempted to comfort me saying it must be a mistake, pointing to the fact that sometimes babies are positioned in a way where belly ultrasounds can’t pick up the heartbeat, but I told him to stop giving me false hope. I also intuitively felt the baby was gone... I texted my best friend and just waited to get confirmation for what I already knew, while crying sporadically and intensely through the week.
I continued to work as a much-needed distraction, all the while knowing that my baby was most likely dead inside of me. How can life go on in such a robotic fashion while I sit here losing my baby? It’s a feeling I never want to experience again. The problem is I cannot be guaranteed that it won't happen again as many of you know.
Things were rough for me and Alex in this transitional phase of being pregnant, to not being pregnant with no baby to hold. He lost his shit a couple times because he tends to cope through self-directed anger, whereas I passively self-destruct with old learned behaviors. Rest assured, we are in this game of life together and both a work in progress to be our best selves. A deep understanding and acceptance of each other's healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms is what anchors our relationship.
We were both in an immense amount of emotional pain. We held each other every day and grieved what we knew. I wanted to hold on to the possibility that it could have been a mistake, but my damn brain is too logical for my own good. Not sure if it can even be considered logic though, or just a hefty amount of data points that tell me most things don’t work out like I have planned and I tend to get lemons more often than not.
The following week we went in for the second ultrasound to confirm. They told Alex he needed to wait outside due to COVID and I burst into tears as he left upset. Normally I can control my emotions, but this time it was too much for me to handle. I felt so alone and didn’t want to hear the final words by myself. I finally just told the receptionist all I wanted was for my husband to be here with me and she apologized for the COVID guidelines.
To my surprise, they conspired to sneak Alex through the back entrance and meet me in the ultrasound room. I will appreciate their kind gesture and rule-breaking for eternity. As she gelled me up, I told her that I knew my baby was gone and to not feel like the bearer of bad news. The tech confirmed there was no heartbeat and told me the death was likely chromosomal due to the thickness of the neckfolds. The only absolute would be to send the baby off for testing, but her expert opinion was enough for me to briefly stop blaming myself.
I cried uncontrollably for another three days waiting to meet with my midwife/obstetrician to see what my options were. They recommended either wait and see, or Misoprostol, a synthetic prostaglandin that induces uterine contractions. After asking a bunch of questions about the two options, I chose to go with the medication. I won’t go into details here, but I had contractions and it was painful as fuck due to how far along I was. I was warned of the pain so I stayed glued to my bed for a couple days during the process, obsessively reading what I could have done wrong.
“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd - The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”
― Fernando Pessoa
At first, I was upset with myself for even announcing my pregnancy to the world. I followed most recommended guidelines and waited until after my risk was around 1%. The heart rate was strong and healthy, I had multiple ultrasounds, and we did genetic testing for sex — it was a baby girl.
The baby was developing perfectly and had such a strong little heart. Then one day it just stopped. They said it most likely hit a wall in the developmental process due to genetic abnormalities. Standard genetic testing, unfortunately, cannot test for every possible outcome. I didn’t and still don't want to tell anyone. Babies aren’t supposed to die, I was hurting and disappointed, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel the discomfort I was.
I ate all the food, slept all the sleeps, quit drinking all the coffee, and still lost my baby. I didn’t even exercise because I was scared of overdoing it due to years of chronically overtraining. As I always say: know thyself. I was trying to do everything perfectly as most A-types do.
The doctors told me it was a rare occurrence and that there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. Still, I blamed myself. Nature can be cruel. Miscarriages are typically due to genetic errors that we just cannot control. More often than not it occurs within the first several weeks as many of you that have previously been pregnant have been warned.
I’ve experienced a lot in my life, and with my cancer, the one thing I felt I still needed to do in this lifetime was have a baby of my own. I’ve always had a strong maternal drive and I spent over a decade caring for my ex’s kids, my kids. I sacrificed my safety and happiness for these children, at least until things turned deadly yet again and I finally had the courage to flee for my life. You can only play Russian Roulette for so long. I knew this.
I don’t regret my choices, but they did leave me in my mid 30s without babies of my own. My ex cut off all access I had to his (my) kids and started using them in attempts to manipulate and hurt me. I had absolutely zero intent of being in a serious romantic relationship after that, let alone start a family of my own. I was cynical and cold and didn’t think anyone would be able to handle my checklist of trauma, fear, intimidation, and no-bullshit approach to life.
And I was right, at least for a little bit.
Alex ended up wrecking my plans to spend the rest of my life as a little old cat lady when he moved to New York in an attempt to date me. I made zero promises to him and fell quick and hard. When things got serious, I felt a strong intuitive calling to start a family with him. He was the first person that I have ever genuinely wanted to have babies with. Of course, as life has it, I was diagnosed with cancer early in our relationship. One more hard lesson from the universe before I moved on to my new adventures. But once I was in the clear, as far as no active signs of disease, we started trying.
Within a few months of trying we pursued fertility treatments in Manhattan to ensure everything was working optimally. We had been together for 1.5 years at that time and never used birth control, but never conceived. Since we both came from disordered backgrounds around eating and training, we just assumed that some of our old habits were contributing to infertility.
To our surprise, all of my hormones were phenomenal and I had a healthy reserve of eggs that were chronologically younger than my biological age. This surprised us because I spent years with hypothalamic amenorrhea when I was with my ex due to using exercise as a way to manage anxiety. As a result I maintained around 12% body fat for nearly a decade. I know it wasn’t the best option, but until you live in a war zone, please keep you’re unsolicited opinions to yourself. Thankfully, dating, and weight gain in Manhattan returned my cycles to normal quicklike.
The one thing the doctor did find was what looked like a little scar tissue, possibly from the endometriosis I had in my late teens and early to mid twenties. When I changed my diet around that time, the severe pain vanished and I haven’t had issues with endometriosis since — but scar tissue can still inhibit fertility after the primary issue is corrected. She wanted to do a minor surgery to remove any potential scar tissue that could be interfering with fertility, and we were scheduled for that mid-March. Alas, COVID hit and shut down everything in Manhattan.
As for Alex, he had a very low sperm count when we tested, which we think was due to his use of TRT. Alex spent a good deal of time walking around at 5–7% body fat before moving to New York and during the first 1.5 years that we dated, which obviously tanked his testosterone levels. But, instead of gaining some fat back, he just started working with a longevity clinic to maintain normal physiological levels of testosterone while being uber lean.
He decided to stop using TRT and gain some fat about 6 months before we got pregnant, and it takes about 6–12 months for hormones and fertility to return to normal. Imagine that!
In the midst of COVID, we went ahead and moved to Scottsdale, something we had been planning to do eventually. We stopped focusing on pregnancy and started focusing on moving. Once we got here, we scheduled with the top fertility clinic in the area to move forward with where things left off.
My first cycle in Arizona was late, which was weird because I'm like clockwork every 28 days since fixing my hypothalamic amenorrhea. I waited a week to test despite my boobs hurting too, because in my brain I just never considered that pregnancy could be a cause. I had already accepted that we would need help conceiving.
I tested the day prior to my appointment with the new fertility doc and got a big fat POSITIVE. I didn't believe it and told Alex who just looked at me blank and kept unpacking. It was amusing. He turned to me several minutes later and asked, “You said negative right?” “Nope, a positive, you should probably go get a few more to make sure.” I know the error rate of false positives are highly unlikely on those bitches, but it wasn’t making logical sense to me seeing that I thought we couldn't conceive naturally.
Life Lived Publicly
As time progressed and my little belly grew, I had people sending messages asking if I was pregnant because they “could tell” in my videos. I figured I couldn’t wait much longer — part of the downfall of being small, showing early, and being in the public eye.
As many of you know, social media has played a large role in how my life has played out and I feel obligated to a greater good to expose flaws I see in the devine system that infiltrates our culture. My life path is clearly one of teaching others how to navigate these painful random life experiences and perhaps this miscarrage was the ultimate plan. I write my way through tragedies as I find it cathartic and healing. The universe knew I’d write about the physical, tangible aspect of losing a very wanted baby.
I’m sure to many onlookers my life seems like a series of unfortunate events, and I guess I sometimes feel this way too. This is exactly why I’m so resilient though — not because my life has been easy, but instead because I view these things as necessary lessons to learn. The most painful lessons bring the depth of life wisdom to light. What started as a terrible and painful loss can become an unexpected opportunity for evolution.
Shame on Women
The thing I don’t understand the most is after grieving this loss is why do we have so much shame around this? I was warned by everyone not to announce until after at least the first trimester. Almost like that was a failsafe, but obviously that didn’t apply to me. Once the grief had set in, my brain moved into shame for even announcing it — despite the fact that I followed all the “rules”.
I kept arriving at the same place of anger and self-blame. It was my fault. I must have done something wrong to cause this. I have some devout haters out there — a byproduct of living in the public eye and having strong opinions — what will they say? Will they pour all their hate on me when I am hurting? These thoughts wouldn’t go through my head if I didn’t feel so damn guilty and upset at myself for potential mis-steps.
Women tend to conflate carrying the baby with causing the pregnancy to fail. It is exactly where my brain went too. What the fuck did I do wrong? It also isn’t uncommon following a miscarriage to have a sense that your body failed you. I am still upset that no matter what I do it seems my body doesn’t like to cooperate. No one even considers that sperm is half of the equation [2,3]. Why? Because it’s never really talked about unless you’re immersed in the fertility circles. Well friends, I am here to tell you that both make up 50% of that baby. Just because you couldn’t carry doesn’t mean that it was exclusively your fault.
I tend to take blame for everything in my life. It was the same with my cancer. If I did something wrong, then I can prevent it in the future. Another desperate reach for control in a situation that feels uncontrollable. But alas, my cancer is another place where others attempt to shame me for doing something wrong, not knowing the extent of the physical and psychological trauma leading up to my diagnosis.
So, here’s my question for all of you: why the fuck do we advise women to not say anything until after the first trimester, or even past the second trimester depending on who you get your advice from? That is bullshit. So women can deal with their pain alone in shame? How the fuck is that healing?
Losing a baby engulfs us into a dark and secretive place, full of unwarranted shame and isolation. We don’t talk about it, we don’t post about it on social media, we lie and say we are “sick” to avoid work, and many of us, as I have discovered in the last few days, don’t even tell those closest to us.
Talking about miscarriage opens up the channels for grieving and collective healing for women. Speak up ladies, if you feel you can tell your story. This is how we remove the shame. It is impossible to open fully to things that we keep hidden.
I am not implying that everyone should feel obligated to announce to the world when they are in pain; rather, if you feel strongly that you want to make a difference in the collective pain and shame women carry, sharing is a sure way to expose the commonness of a pregnancy loss. There is no right or wrong here as we all process and cope differently. It takes a lot of courage to expose our vulnerabilities to the world.
I am grief stricken. I also feel dumb and cheated. Why did I put so much faith in the ultrasounds? I still cannot answer this and no one really knows how much love and hope we invested into this little life because we kept it secret for so long. To most, this was an abstract idea; to us it was our future and a glimmer of hope after a long storm.
The word ‘miscarriage’ doesn't properly express the impact of our loss. I also want to remind readers that the length of one’s pregnancy doesn’t determine the intensity of grief; the depth of attachment does. I do want to say that as time went on, after hearing the little babes heart beat so many times, seeing her little legs kick and her wiggle around — it did paint her in our future and we were immensely attached to the life forming inside of me. In the end, the most valuable lesson I learned here is we cannot quantify the amount of love you have for another human by time.
The research on why women feel so much damn shame: Miscarriages are incredibly common, with around a million occurring each year and ending 25% of all pregnancies. Yet, a survey of over 1,000 men and women in the US found some widespread misconceptions :
55% believed miscarriages were uncommon (<6% of all pregnancies).
22% believed lifestyle was the primary cause, rather than genetic or medical problems.
75% believed that a stressful event or longstanding stress could cause miscarriages.
64% believed lifting heavy objects caused miscarriages.
41% believed STDs caused miscarriages.
28% believed past use of an IUD caused miscarriages.
22% believed past oral contraceptive use caused miscarriages.
21% believed getting into an argument caused miscarriages.
On top of all these inaccurate beliefs about miscarriages, of the women that actually had a miscarriage, 41% reported feeling that they did something wrong, 41% reported feeling alone, and 28% percent of reported feeling ashamed. Over one third (38%) of those with a history of miscarriage felt that they could have prevented it.
It’s unfortunate that society has silenced women around miscarriages due to perceived fault. Women grieve alone desperately wanting to know they are not alone and there is hope in having their longed-for baby. It isn’t uncommon, from what I have observed, that women are desperate to find someone who has experienced the same immense pain. Yet, no one is there because no one is sharing.
Miscarrage isn’t publicly identified as a trauma; therefore, we often question our sanity around these experiences. I knew right away that I was experiencing a big T (big trauma). It’s easy to mischaracterize the trauma around a miscarrage as women over-reacting, but check this — shame is what deepens the trauma response and leads to incredibly unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to mute emotional reactions that are standard in a traumatic event.
Women who experience miscarriages need to hear others’ stories, as it helps validate the extent of suffering as a reasonable reaction to a deep loss.
At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do. There is no way to write in words the gravity of our loss. I do know one thing for certain — I will never approach a pregnancy with utter optimism and blind faith again. Next time I see a positive pregnancy test, I can assure you it will not be excitement, but rather a visceral panic and fear of what may come.
I know after immense trauma I guard my heart, and I’m not sure I will let myself get too attached or too excited for the possibility it may save me future grief. I did the same when I met Alex. I am forever thankful for his patience letting me cautiously date him with zero promises of anything more until I felt safe. I will say that I've been trying to lean into my discomfort over the last few years and I really hope I don't hinder my feelings of joy for a new life due to my guarded heart.
I know another miscarrige is unlikely, or so they say… My body doesn’t like to follow statistics. I’m the one who has historically ended up with medical conditions that are extremely rare in spite of my efforts. So I don’t have much faith in the advice from my docs saying this was a fluke and doesn’t typically happen again with no pre-existing conditions that affect fertility. In the end, what is meant to be will be. I approach new trauma with a level of acceptance. Acceptance of what is, is the only path to true internal peace. What we resist, persists.
Disclosure: I fully expect insensitive comments. Not that I have the capacity to interact with them at this time — but I know no matter how many blighted comments come at me, I do know it comes from a place of concern and care. I am not sharing for sympathy or to make others feel uncomfortable in my presence, but rather to break some of this shame for other women, so they can fully integrate their stories and heal.
I will leave you with this mantra on repeat in my brain currently: Life is not without tragedy — if we dare to love we dare to lose.
Books I Found Helpful
I read two of these while I was pregnant and they helped me immensely through this process:
Spirit Babies: How To Communicate With The Child You’re Meant To Have by Walter Makichen
I sent this to my bestie who unexpectedly conceived after she was done having children, or so she thought. I accidentally sent her two copies and she brought me the other copy when she found out I was pregnant.
I’m sure it’s a little too abstract for many. My brain can easily grasp the unknown and try to make sense of it. I chalk it up to so many near death experiences in this short life of mine. Most humans don't even have one, let alone several. It really redefines how you see mortality. Most humans can only grasp the tangible aspects of life. So this book isn’t for everyone and definitely requires a mind that can entertain possibilities.
The meditations were extremely helpful for me after I lost the baby. I reread the miscarrage section while I was trying to pull my shit together.
You can find the book here.
It Starts With The Egg by Rebecca Fett
I read this while I was pregnant, but it gave me hope after I lost the baby. She is a molecular biologist (not a scientific writer) that had her own struggles with infertility. The book primarily focuses on the quality of eggs and what women can do to improve their eggs for conception. It is full of analyses of the current literature and definitely changed the way I think about diet and lifestyle leading up to conception.
The entire premise of the book is that egg quality and chromosomal abnormalities are largely due to oxidative stress via lifestyle and environmental input. It seems to cite the same studies over and over, but in the world of IVF and fertility, we only have so much data to pull from given it is a relatively new field of study (first IVF baby was born in 1978). Something to note for fertility novices; most studies are done in women seeking more invasive treatments, although we can extrapolate the findings to natural quality of eggs if critical thought is applied when interpreting these studies.
She takes a close look at the world of fertility supplements and what may or may not be helpful for individuals unique fertility complications. Many of the supplement recommendations to improve egg quality I started taking a few months prior to conceiving after my own research (hey confirmation bias) and will start them back up when we are ready to try again.
You can find the book here.
Empty Arms: Coping With A Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss by Sherokee IIse
I read this a couple days after I confirmed that the baby was gone. This book is based on coping and embracing the death of your baby, or a loved one's loss of a baby in utero or a stillbirth. It covers the options you have and informs readers what the grieving process may look like. The overall writing is poor and was hard to follow with my tendency to correct grammar as I read.
It had a few helpful parts but overall I wouldn’t recommend it. It embodies a method of coping that I find unhelpful. Constantly reliving trauma does nothing to heal yourself from it as I’ve learned with my past PTSD experiences. Although I did find some things helpful, the tone of the book doesn’t help a person like me who doesn’t want to use faith and yearly tributes to cope.
2. Turner KA, Rambhatla A, Schon S, Agarwal A, Krawetz SA, Dupree JM, et al. Male Infertility is a Women’s Health Issue-Research and Clinical Evaluation of Male Infertility Is Needed. Cells [Internet]. 2020;9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells9040990