By: Crissie Miller Kirby
I will never, ever forget that day – Friday, March 16, 2007. I was 11 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child and scheduled for a routine ultrasound. My nerves were a wreck. My husband had been away for 3 weeks working a shift of border patrol for the SC National Guard, and I had experienced some spotting during that time. It was nothing major and the midwife had assured me that if it stopped on its own that everything was most likely fine, but we would make sure when I came in for my appointment on the 16th.
The nurse came to the door and said that my doctor was running late after his shift at the hospital; I could either reschedule my appointment or wait. I immediately said that I wanted to wait because I’d been having some issues and wanted to make sure that everything was okay.
When he arrived, we went back in the exam room and my OB started the ultrasound. At 11 weeks, we should have been able to see some sign of the baby, but couldn’t. He switched from the external ultrasound to the vaginal ultrasound, thinking maybe my dates were wrong and I wasn’t as far along as we had originally suspected. However, our fears were realized when he said that while the gestational sac was present, there was no baby; it had not developed. Tears flooded my eyes. I was heartbroken. I was devastated.
My OB-GYN and his staff were absolutely wonderful. They hugged me and offered their condolences and words of consolation and prayers. The decision about how to proceed was left to us; we could wait for my body to realize that there was no baby to support and it would begin the miscarriage process on its own or I could schedule a D&C. The uncertainty of when that might happen, combined with the fact that Pierce was only 15 months old caused us to schedule a D&C for the following Monday.
We left the doctor’s office in tears and headed back to my office. I couldn’t face anyone right then, so my husband went in to tell my co-workers what had taken place and that I would not be back that day. We went home and made the phone calls to our immediate families and our closest friends.
I just didn’t understand why or how this had happened. I had had such an easy pregnancy with Pierce; I was, literally, the woman other women loved to hate. I never had morning sickness, no spotting, no swelling, and minimal weight gain. Pregnancy had been so easy for me – how could I now be on the cusp of miscarrying? I blamed myself. Surely I had done something that had caused this situation. I thought that maybe even God was punishing me for things I had done in my past.
That weekend I experienced the worst physical and emotional pain of my life. Emotionally, I was drained, devastated, and just wanted to get everything over with and get back to “normal.” Physically, my body began to miscarry and I wound up in the Emergency Room. Monday morning came and I underwent the D&C. God bless my doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist and the nurse anesthetist; they did everything to make me comfortable, put my mind at ease, and to keep me from getting sick after surgery.
The partial ending of this story is that about 5-6 months after my miscarriage, I became pregnant with my precious Smith and my pregnancy with him was, like my pregnancy with Pierce, pretty easy and enjoyable. Other than the initial concerns, until we heard his heart beat, and saw him growing well in utero, it was a great pregnancy. Unfortunately, my miscarriage also had a profound negative effect on my marriage and less than 4 years later, I would be divorced.
I share my story with you because as women we all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you also know that October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day? Too often, we neglect pregnancy and infant loss, because we are uncomfortable with it – we don’t know what to say. The truth of the matter is, pregnancy and infant loss is just like the death of someone else that you dearly loved. The biggest difference is that in most instances, you never knew the person that died; you may not have even known that the little person existed. But, to the parents, that little person had a name, hopes and dreams attached to him or her. That loss is just as important to the parents as the loss of a spouse or a parent or sibling; it can be devastating.
Even more so as, in most circumstances, there is no funeral or memorial service during which to say final goodbyes; no real opportunity for “closure.” Well meaning individuals try to console us by proclaiming that there can be other babies; they insist that something must have been wrong with the baby; or, that it was just simply God’s will. Their words, while well intentioned, often serve to lessen or negate the loss. Many feel that we should just be able to move on and live life as if the loss had never happened. Unfortunately, those losses have the power to transform families; some positively, others negatively.
For those of us who have loved and lost children we did not have the chance to ever know, we take a moment today to reflect and remember those tiny lives that touched us so immensely.