I had a miscarriage.
It’s always liberating to say something you dread flat-out; no icing, no fancy wrapping. The medical diagnosis was early intrauterine fetal demise, in common parlance it’s called a missed abortion and as Google occasionally refers to it, a silent miscarriage.
The life that my body nurtured for almost 12 weeks died 2 weeks prior and my system did not recognize the demise. No indications, zero symptoms. Hence, my over 90-lb self went on its merry pregnant way until we went for our regular pre-natal check up at 12 weeks.
Don’t worry; this isn’t a pity party about the hitchhiker that we lost. In fact, this is our story about losing the baby that my heart wants so badly, my experience on discovering what’s important in life and God’s a thousand and one ways of telling Person A and I that He loves us so much.
This is my story of Thanksgiving despite the most painful loss I felt, and facing life with faith and hope that the best is yet to come.
We found out about my pregnancy on the 15th of October through a random pregnancy test. I felt the urge to conduct the exam to save me from arguing with the X-ray technician during the annual physical exam the next day. Before I hit the sack, I murmured to Person A that I am doing a PT; I am not excited since the first one I ever did a month before came back negative. I don’t want anymore heartbreak and take note, I did it to show the radiologist that I am not pregnant despite the 2-month delay in my period (that’s normal whenever I get stressed). While unpacking the box I accidentally dropped the urine container in the toilet, muttered a cuss, contemplated on picking it up or picking it up, said eeewww! and decided to proceed on my now gross test.
When the strip showed 2 lines, I dropped the urine container again and shouted for Person A to join me in the bathroom. When I showed him the strip, his only reply was: “Buntis ka?” or something like that. Clearly, we are not schooled in the art of pregnancy testing. Hence, that explained my widening hips which refused to shrink despite the proper diet and exercise I was pushing myself to do, my desire to sleep at 8PM, the need for afternoon nap on weekends, and the unexplained exhaustion which makes me say no to running and yoga.
Baby construction is one serious business.
The next day, I proceeded to have my first ultrasound and yes, our tiny Ziggy (the Zygote) is already 8 weeks old! I was already pregnant for 2 months and I did not know it. Ziggy was moving actively inside my tummy with a heartbeat of 160 bpm.
Since Person A missed the session, I described it to him looking like this.
I know, don’t judge me nor my artwork. Puh-lease.
That heartbeat changed my life forever; it was the best sound I have heard especially that it comes from our own flesh. You see, I’ve always been amazed by the miracle of life, how 2 cells randomly meet and join together, implant itself and be the seed of a would-be person. And with the beating fetus in my tummy, I am more amused than ever. Plus it’s made with lotsa love! *wink* *wink*
In a span of 1 month, I tried to be the healthiest I can be. I ate lean meat, peppered my diet with lots of fibers from fruits and vegetables, snacked on yogurt, nuts and dried fruits and filled my body with oatmeal in preparation for breastfeeding. I stopped running and was contented with walking, instead. I also dropped ashtanga yoga and replaced my toning routine with Barre 3. I was perpetually tired so exercising was always a mind-game.
It was the happiest I had been.
On Nov 15, I was scheduled to have a Nuchal Translucency scan to check if the fetus has Trisomy 21. The days leading up to it I was worried that our baby has an abnormality. Typical for a worrywart. When Ziggy was zoomed in the ultrasound monitor, s/he showed her/his cute self: big head, big tummy, arms and legs curled up.
Person A had his first view of our baby.
Then the doctor uttered the line that changed our lives forever.
“Bakit walang heartbeat 'to?”
I can sense the seriousness in her voice and in the 3 minutes (or was it 30 mins, 1 hour?) that followed, it was confirmed that Ziggy’s heart indeed was not beating, the fetus had stopped moving, there’s no blood flow and our child had chromosomal abnormality. The baby had subcutaneous edema, had thick nuchal fluid at the back of its neck – both signs of chromosomal abnormality – and had been dead for 2 weeks based on crown to rump length.
I had a missed abortion.
Although it’s not karyotype-confirmed that our baby had chromosomal abnormality, for us to gain emotional closure, we are working on that premise. As I google-medicated myself and in my discussions with the OB-GYNE, I found out that 20% of clinically-confirmed pregnancies result to miscarriage. Majority of the reason is chromosomal abnormality or viral infection. Since I did not have the latter, the probable cause for Ziggy’s demise was during meiosis/mitosis/zygote/embryonic stage the chromosomes did not divide properly resulting to a non-46-chromosomed Ziggy and once the body’s quality control mechanism checked our baby, it noticed that the baby’s chromosomes had an error and decided to abort the pregnancy.
While still lying in the ultrasound room, my reactions once the doctor confirmed that we lost our baby were: (1) I apologized to God, Person A and Ziggy for not taking care of the baby (2) I should have stayed away from alcohol while I was in Canada (3) I should have not ordered that decaf toffee nut latte from Starbucks nor drank that chamomile tea in training. I went on blaming myself and then Person A and the doctor said “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT”.
Coming to terms with what happened, I realized that indeed LOSING ZIGGY WAS NEVER MY FAULT. Some people blamed my preference to wear stilettos and for still exercising while carrying Ziggy. The former is probably relevant had I been bleeding or the fetus was weakly implanted in my uterus. As for the latter, for crying out loud, exercise has always been good for anyone – pregnant or not. Also, I cleared my exercise routine with my doctor, so NO, the stiletto nor my exercise did not cause my baby’s demise. Unless someone has already proven that there’s an acupuncture point on my foot that once I wear stiletto it presses the “eject baby button”.
That’s my brother in law’s joke.
With Ziggy still firmly planted in my uterus, we decided to go for dilation and curettage using laminaria to eliminate the products of conception. At 8AM, the day after, I checked in the hospital and a seaweed stick was inserted in my cervix to dilate it for 12 hours. My doctor warned me that it’s going to be more painful than real labor but with God’s grace, I did not even notice that the laminaria had been inserted. Of course the instruments used to open my nether region was more uncomfortable and my ass hanging out with everyone in the Genesis Center examining every part of my body is another story to tell. The last 2 hours of cervix dilation was bearable nothing more than singing a nursery rhyme can’t comfort. Singing “1 little 2 little 3 little Indians… “ with Person A for an hour was the only thing my brain can process. It also prompted my husband to request, “Can we switch to Maroon 5 ?”
I guess that’s better than cursing your better half for the pain you experienced. Remember, you are a willing accomplice in making that baby.
At 9PM, my cervix was already fully dilated so I was wheeled into the operating room for a 30-minute curettage procedure: the fetus was scraped off from my uterus. Relatively, it was also a walk in the park. Praise God. My operating table memories are: (1) telling the anesthesiologist that my biggest regret in life was not having to try illegal drugs – don’t judge, I was heavily sedated (2) my arms on “Jesus on the Cross” pose – tied on both sides (3) 3 people wrestling me to curl up fetal-style for my epidural (spinal anaesthesia) (4) Me looking at Ziggy in a plastic vial and telling the OB “Ziggy is so cute” and arguing with her that the 2 dots in the head are its eyes. So no drama and horror story there, more of a comic scenario.
At 2 in the morning, I was declared anaesthesia-free, survived 12 hours of bed-pan use and had hands-on training on labor, epidural and sorta-normal-delivery. We did not take Ziggy home and allowed the hospital to dispose of his/her tiny body or use it for research.
On a Monday afternoon, I was discharged out of the hospital with my lower back feeling like it was wrestled by Hulk Hogan and having experienced the most tagtag car ride I have ever been.
It's been 3 weeks and I am recuperating fine; the uterus has been slowly healing, my cervix has fully closed and I am inching my way to normal activities - 5K run and yoga included, hopefully in 3 weeks time. Emotionally, I give myself time to grieve, there are moments that the loss and the thought of what could have been are very painful but my heart has been very grateful knowing that God is in control. He gave us Ziggy for a month to allow us to experience extreme happiness, greater than buying an IT bag or achieving a career high. He also taught me how to gracefully handle and accept the loss of a loved one. At the lowest point in my life, I was able to say that my priorities are (1) going to heaven (2) Person A (3) Ziggy. I said that in the parking lot in between sobs.
And so this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for:
1. God’s timing is perfect. He gave us Ziggy when I was distracted by worldly pursuits to remind me that true and great joy can only be experienced with his life-giving presents and not by material things. When He called Ziggy back to heaven, the timing was also impeccable. On the day that I had my D&C, I was to leave for Singapore for work but He did not allow that to happen knowing that scenario would cause more heartbreak, logistical nightmare and a bigger dent in our bank accounts – should Ziggy had to be taken out of the country.
2. He has blessed us with family and friends who are amazing prayer warriors. We requested prayers for a successful D&C, for physical recovery and emotional healing. Aunts and godparents responded by offering mass that Sunday, friends recited the novena and up to now, never fail to remind me to reconnect with God. God’s grace was quick to descend on us, both Person A and I were in a state of bliss even if I was lying on a hospital bed with my cervix being dilated. We were even volleying jokes despite the fact that our first baby was about to be taken out; a far cry from the emotional wreck that we were the day before that even the sight of a baby stroller would illicit tears running down my cheeks. Such is the power of God’s healing hands that I did not feel intolerable pain during the dilation period, the curettage was successful and again pain-free and as I have been thanking family and friends who were with us in prayer, it is indeed a miracle that everything was a breeze.
Red velvet crinkles from Jappy to celebrate Ziggy's zygote stage -(",)-*wink*
3. God has also blessed me with the best team of medical practitioners. My OB-Gyne did not only take care of me to physically recover quickly but made sure that I was in good emotional state before and during the procedure. Apart from expertly completing the procedure she was constantly on the phone with me during the cervix-dilation stage to make sure that I fully understand every step of the way and offering assurances. Her care priority was to preserve the uterus and cervix for succeeding pregnancies – hence the decision to switch to epidural. Speaking of epidural, my anaesthesiologists were also the best. Both doctors explained to us the risks and how to manage uneventful situations in the OR so that I come out of the procedure unscathed, alive and amnesia-free :P Even the assisting OB-Gyne is also an angel; inserting a seaweed stick in your cervix is no joke in the pain department but you know what, I did not even noticed while she was doing it. God has worked his healing hand through them to make sure that I am still encouraged to go through the birthing experience the next time around. After the ordeal, I can say I have been trained on labor, epidural and post-partum recovery. Oh so ready for the real child-birth experience!
4. Flowers and food galore! The weeks that succeeded my procedure were filled with visitors, fruits and flowers at home. We need not replenish our fruit stock from the grocery and Rocco was even able to enjoy my favorite Sonja’s cupcake that my friends brought. He stole it from my plate after he made out Yakie. He is not permitted to do both - a huge failure in the manners department.
5. The gift of companionship. I can never say thank you enough to Person A who has showered me with emotional support during the ordeal. From the moment it was certain that Ziggy’s loss was indeed true and not caused by a miscalibrated ultrasound machine nor a sleeping baby, he held my hand and allowed me to cry – hagulgol telenovela level. He was at my side while I walked the halls of the hospital with puffy eyes, hearing mass and walking around the mall with tears running down my cheeks and getting curious stares from strangers. He also patiently listened while I was rationalizing what just happened to our baby in between sobs, self-blame and trying to pick myself up from the emotional low. Our parents have stormed the heavens with prayers and showered us with love. Mama spent a week with me while Person A was on a business trip. It comes at a price though: constant nagging that I should stop using the stairs (i.e. don’t-ever-go-downstairs-to-use-the-bathroom-and-use-the-arinola level). Eeeewwwww. I succumbed, though.
6. Gift of healing. I never thought that I would be one of those women who will bear witness to the loss of her child. The impact of the loss was too much to bear that a 9-hr crying binge followed suit after that ultrasound. In between sobs, consuming a McDonald meal and preparing myself for the D&C procedure, I begged for God’s emotional healing. It came that day and His grace is still rushing through our lives now. I can’t bear to see Ziggy’s ultrasound film but after 4 hours, I found myself kissing the image and smiling looking at it. He even sent 3 colleagues at home with one of them sharing her own missed abortion story and her family’s journey through healing.
I don’t feel the need to cry everyday anymore (please do so, it is really essential to process what you feel) but I still have my triggers: pregnant women, infants, onesies, Mothercare, ultrasound pictures and toddlers. Everytime I feel the pain of the loss, I am comforted knowing that God is in control and that this trough is necessary for the crest that He has prepared for us. The image of Ziggy with his fluffy angel wings, big head and bundat tummy playing in heaven was my first leap at healing knowing that our baby is already in paradise.
By taking Ziggy, we strengthened our bond as a couple to cope with the loss gracefully, I have learned to acknowledge God’s plan in our lives and patiently wait for the 2 healthy kids that our hearts greatly desire. He knows that we may not be the best parents to a child with special needs and He wants to give us the best. I still grieve, I still mourn but my heart is now in a much better place, a little more patient and fully trusting to God’s ways.