I never thought it would happen to me. I never knew what it would be like to lose a pregnancy. It was May 28, 2015. My husband and I were in the hospital room waiting for the doctor to tell us what she was seeing on the screen, to tell us about the new life growing inside of me. We held hands and waited nervously with expectation and excitement.
The silence was deafening.
The moments that followed felt like an eternity and during that silence I knew deep down in my heart that all was not right with this little one. We waited for the words that were about to change our life: “I’m trying to find the heartbeat.”
My heart sunk deeper than I ever knew it could. The doctor told us sometimes this can be a mistake and that a better, larger ultrasound machine could possibly detect the heartbeat since it was still early on in the pregnancy (I was nine weeks along). But in that moment as I looked in my husband’s eyes, I knew he was thinking the same thing I was. This was already over. As soon as she stepped outside to give us a moment, my husband and I embraced each other and let the tears flow. I sank into his embrace, suddenly overcome with an emptiness in my womb. The only thing that comforted me in that moment was that I was not alone. My husband was feeling the same way, grieving the same loss. As we left the room, the doctor saw us weeping and kindly told us that she was praying for us and that she hated to see visits that go as this one did. I believed her.
Is It Over Yet?
The doctor sent us to another hospital where they had larger ultrasound machines, so that I could find out for sure. I’ll never forget arriving to the parking lot. We were overcome with sorrow and cried together, holding each other, letting the pain sink in. I felt frozen in my sadness, too weak to move. When we finally made it inside, we realized we had to wait because we did not have an appointment. This dragged out the experience even further. I just wanted to be away from all hospitals in that moment. I wanted to escape to another place and time, anywhere but there. We waited in silence and couldn’t think of what to say to each other. Everything around me seemed to be covered in a haze. Artwork on the wall of flowers and oceans mocked me with their peaceful and serene appearance. Finally, I was called in. I might have had the smallest inkling of hope as I waited for the results of this second ultrasound but alas it was confirmed that our baby had passed. What followed was a discussion of our options: 1) Wait for it to pass naturally; 2) Take pills to help it along, or; 3) Get an operation (D&C) to have it removed. It was in this moment I realized that it was not yet over. Now I had to CHOOSE how I wanted this process to be completed because my body had not yet let go. I still think to this day that my body was holding on for dear life to this precious little fetus because it was so incredibly desired and loved. The doctor kindly informed us that we could take our time and did not have to make a decision that same day.
The drive home was slow and painful. We had to sit with our feelings and sudden loss. We had to realize that this indeed was all real and had actually just happened. We had to face reality and come to grips with the fact that we could not just pause life while we got through this. We still had jobs to go to and life would continue on. Our hopes and dreams for this little life were snatched from us in an instant and it all just felt so cruel.
Ultimately, we decided to take the pills to help move the miscarriage along. I got everything I needed and we rented silly movies and tried to make it as comfortable as possible. I passed a large amount of blood and tried to stay calm. It was a long night but it felt good that I was getting some closure to this painful experience. The sooner it was over, the sooner I could heal and think about trying again at some point. It was more painful physically than I expected but my husband supported me the whole way. I visited the doctor a few days later for a follow-up and sadly there was still tissue that needed to be passed so I was told to take another set of pills. I could hardly believe I had to go through this awful and physically painful process AGAIN but there really was no other option besides surgery, which I wanted to avoid. And leaving any tissue inside could be dangerous for my health. So I proceeded to do the entire process over again. At my next follow-up, appointment I was overcome with despair and defeat when the doctor told me yet again that tissue was remaining.
The pills did not work.
She recommended the D&C operation. I could not believe that all of this was not over yet. All I wanted to do was move forward and put this behind me. It had been an entire month all together of trying to complete this process and it felt like the longest month of my life. My operation was scheduled for July 3. When we arrived, my operation was delayed due to some urgent surgeries that took precedence and to the hospital being short-staffed because of the 4th of July holiday weekend. I had a complete breakdown when I realized I had to wait even LONGER to have this process completed. We waited and waited and waited some more. Finally, it was time. This was my first ever operation so needless to say, I was nervous. Thankfully, the operation went smoothly and the nurses, anesthesiologist, and doctors were all wonderful. As I came out of the anesthesia, I felt my husband’s hand gently holding mine and heard muffled voices. I immediately broke out into tears. Relief does not even describe how I felt in that moment. It was over. It was finally OVER. The physical portion of the loss was complete. Now it was just a matter of dealing with the emotional weight.
A Lesson on Empathy
Throughout this terrible process, I looked to family and friends for support. Some were very compassionate and comforting. Others clearly did not know what to say. Even worse, some simply said the wrong thing. In fact, some reactions from friends and family were quite shocking and difficult for me to deal with. Here are some of the responses I received:
At least you were able to get pregnant.
You’re still young. You can try again.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
This was just nature’s way of taking care of something that wouldn’t have worked out.
Just pray about it and move on. (yes, someone actually said this to me)
I cannot express into words how frustrating these responses were to me. Were these kinds of words supposed to be comforting? It was as if actually dwelling on the situation was too much emotional work for some people and it was easier for them to just wrap it all up in a bow and focus on the future. Then there were those who assumed I did not want to talk about it. That could not be further from the truth! I was desperately seeking open dialogue and a listening ear. I needed people to ask and not be afraid of the subject. I needed people to confront it in an empathetic way. I simply needed someone to say “I am so sorry for your loss.” or “This must be so hard for you.” or “How are you feeling?” It seemed so simple to me but I could see very clearly that this was no easy task for many people who never experienced something like this. I learned a very important lesson at this time: People will only respond the way they know how to, the way they feel will help you. Most people are not maliciously trying to make you feel worse when you experience this type of loss. They simply do not know what to do and can only offer what they feel will be helpful. I had to appreciate the intention behind the words. I cannot expect someone who has never experienced a miscarriage or a loss of any type to completely understand and know what to say. Some people might just think that bringing up the subject would bring me more pain.
No one wants to talk about miscarriage. No one wants to talk about death. It is an uncomfortable topic. It makes people uneasy. The only people who I felt really understood me were those who had experienced a miscarriage or any type of loss in their life. Those who had lost someone understood the emptiness and most importantly, they understood that sugar coating the experience by saying things like “everything happens for a reason” or avoiding the subject completely, were both the opposite of helpful.
All this being said, I did gain something positive from this experience. I came to realize what empathy was all about. I was given a gift through loss. I now feel much more prepared to help someone who is grieving. I never understood before what to say to someone after a loss. What are the right words? What will comfort them? I realized now that simply being present with that person in the midst of their loss, was the most helpful thing you could do.
Ultimately, my miscarriage helped me to be a kinder, more caring person.
I found support through close friends and family, online support groups, and a dear friend who coincidentally had a miscarriage a month or so after me. When she told me the news I rushed to her home with ice cream (because I realized that is what I would have wanted!). We comforted each other and checked in on each other frequently. We had a quiet and deep understanding of each other’s pain. I felt blessed that I actually knew what to say to her. What a gift I was given, to be able to comfort someone! She gave me a beautiful pamphlet from her church that described a miscarried child as a butterfly who flies straight from the womb to heaven, innocent and pure, never having experienced pain. Every time we would see a butterfly, we would think of our sweet babies and ask them to pray for us. I still remember sitting in her backyard waiting for our butterflies to stop by for a visit. The weeks following the surgery, I saw butterflies almost daily. God was speaking to me through those little sweet butterflies and showing me that my baby was in good hands.
A New Beginning
Eight months after our loss, I was pregnant again and incredibly terrified and excited all at the same time. The first trimester was filled with anxiety and panic attacks. I was convinced that I would lose the pregnancy and tried my hardest to not connect with this little growing life. I could not bear to think of another loss and hardened my heart in order to prepare myself for the worst outcome. I was overcome with fear. I got through this anxious time period with art, meditation, distraction, and lots of lots of prayer. I thought those first months would never come to an end. I read other people’s experiences and held onto a sliver of hope that this could actually work out and lead to a beautiful healthy baby that I would actually be able to hold! It was the smallest sliver of hope but I held onto it secretly, deep inside my heart. I prayed the same prayer every night:
Heavenly Father, how we praise and thank You for the little baby that is growing in secret, inside of me. Lord this is such a wonderful miracle and I give thanks and praise for what You have done in me.
Lord – we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made and to realize that You have scheduled every day of our precious baby’s life already is a wonderful thought. I pray Lord that You would protect this little one as he or she is being prepared to be born into the world. Place Your hand of blessing upon them and I pray that they will grow up to know and love You Lord Jesus.
Prepare me too Lord for parenthood and give me wisdom and grace as I get ready for the day when a new little life will be born into the world. Thank You for giving me the privilege of being the parent of this little baby, in Jesus, Amen.
At the first doctor appointment I prepared myself for the worst and so did my husband. We waited with anxiety as the doctor started the ultrasound. We heard nothing. She looked at me with no expression at all, as if it were just another mundane day. I asked with fear and a quivering voice, “is there a heartbeat?” She replied, “Oh yes! I was just about to show you that” as if she had never seen anything other than a healthy heartbeat on every ultrasound she had ever done. There was such confidence in her voice. The sound of that heartbeat was the most incredible sound I have ever ever heard in my life. The galloping, happy, joyful rhythm of this little peanut was our hope and light. My husband and I cried our eyes out as we listened to the beautiful dance of life, a precious gift after months of pain and sorrow.
Once the first trimester passed, I still did not share the news with others aside from a few close friends and family. At the 18 week ultrasound I was still a nervous wreck. I was waiting for terrible news but instead we found out we had a healthy baby girl growing inside of me! We started sharing the news with more and more people after that appointment and it was finally beginning to feel real. Doctor appointments became easier and easier and my fear lessened and lessened each time. I began to feel little taps from inside, then kicks, then large squirmy movements – all these sensations were the most beautiful things I had ever experienced! It was pure joy. I counted her kicks every day and continued to pray and hope. Each week I read about where my baby was in her development. I took it day by day, week by week. Not planning much but quietly hoping and praying. Nonetheless, even though every appointment went beautifully, I was still not 100% convinced that this was all going to happen. Fear did not leave my side.
And then it happened. Our precious rainbow baby was born!
It wasn’t until we heard that first cry after about two whole days of labor, that my husband and I could breathe. It wasn’t until that moment that we could truly rejoice in the fact that WE HAD A BABY! A beautiful baby girl that we named Luna Manuntun Kouttjie. Luna, Spanish for “moon”, was the perfect fit for this precious light in our darkness. And “Manuntun” was the middle name of my dearly departed mother-in-law. It is an Indonesian word that means “guiding”. She is our everything. She is our rainbow after the storm. She was absolutely perfect in every way. She was here! I cried in shock as I held her for the first time on my chest. I could finally breathe and smile and rejoice. She was as healthy as can be with beautiful dark hair and striking dark eyes. She was everything we had waited for and more. The storm was over and a bright new journey was just beginning.
That little girl is almost eight months old now and is crawling around, giggling, smiling, and is the happiest little baby there could be! I believe she knows how much she was desired and prayed for and I will tell her this story someday so that she knows how special and amazing she is. How she healed us and gave us hope. My precious rainbow, my guiding moon.
To anyone reading this who has been through a miscarriage and is scared of what will happen next, I know that you are feeling crippled by fear of another loss. Please know that there is hope. I believe your rainbow baby will be in your arms soon enough. The storm does not last forever. And most importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.