Content Warning: This article is a deeply personal story of late miscarriage. This article contains medical descriptions & details pregnancy/infant loss.
Ami is mom to two girls and one angel boy. She works full time, as well as having her own Reiki practice. She loves foraging, earthing, painting, and anything with a little bit of magic in it. She is a friend of our regular blogger, Caitlin, who reached out to her after seeing the strength and vulnerability with which she shared her story of late miscarriage on social media. At Lil Helper we are all about supporting each other. Since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, we are honored to share Ami’s story.
Late Miscarriage: The Longest Weekend
One Friday afternoon, while my husband packed up the camper for us to be out all weekend, my mother took me to the city for my midwife appointment.
We joked. We laughed. We did all the official intake forms. Then she checked me out. Uterus was exactly where it needed to be for my 16 weeks 4 days. But baby's heartbeat was missing.
Anterior placenta, maybe baby is just hiding? We'll do an ultrasound at the hospital to confirm and so my nerves aren't shot all weekend. She calls over to get me in. Then I hear the words.
Suddenly, this has become more real. More serious. My vision starts going a little darker. But it's sunny out. Why is everything so hazy?
We head to the hospital. Mom is refused at the door. I walk the hall alone. I wait alone.
I see you in my head - learning to walk with a sister on each side. Playing peekaboo after changing your diaper. Your beautiful face. I can see it. Deep breath.
The tech finally calls me in. She does all her measurements. Tells me the doctor will review.
I wait. Alone.
She comes back. "You said your mom was outside? We've also contacted your midwife to come." No. That doesn't sound good. No. This can't be right.
Everyone comes. Our midwife confirms. Late miscarriage.
I am 16 weeks and 4 days.
Baby is 14 weeks 1 day. There is no heartbeat and no additional growth.
My husband comes. We go upstairs to L&D. Now to explain over and over that I have allergies. I need the pharmacy to go over ingredients with me. Please give me a day or two. Let my brain catch up. While my heart is breaking, I also know I need to be safe, I need to be HERE for my children.
Saturday, everything is arranged. We go to the campsite with the kids. Splash in the lake. Toes in the sand. And grieve together.
Sunday morning, we take the kids home and continue to the city.
Bedside ultrasound confirms what I already know. But I had to be SURE. I had to have my husband see and confirm with me. Just in case.
We had the option of a D&C. But I wanted to hold my baby. I needed to. That option meant baby would not be whole. I couldn't give him the life he should have had, but I could still deliver him. I could still give him a "dignified birth".
I was told I would be given doses of Cytotec (only 3 needed in total), every 4-5 hours. First dose at 9:45am. Cramping started immediately. So did the chills (teeth chattering chills - side effect of the medication). Our midwife is there, the nurse, my husband. We talk. About everything and anything. We laugh. It all feels so surreal. So wrong. I cry a little. But I feel calm. I try to shower to ease the pain. It helps.
Second dose at 1:50pm. More cramping. Contractions begin. They attempt to put a port in me "just in case". That looming impending potential emergency - what if I hemorrhage? With my allergies... what will they do? 3 nurses, 1 anesthesiologist and 6 stabs later, they get the port in. Contractions stop due to all this new pain.
Third dose at 7pm. My husband tells me to walk. I'm in pain. The reality is setting in. We walk the long hallway twice. Back at our room there is the tiniest bit of blood. My husband goes for a smoke. I text our Midwife to come back. I try to shower again. I feel pressure. I'm scared. I call the nurse. She helps me out of the shower and back to bed. At the bed I panic again. More pressure. Nothing visible. I give that nurse credit, she got down on her hands and knees to look UP and make sure. I sit so that I'm closed off completely (heel tucked basically in me). I'm not ready yet. My husband comes back. The midwife comes. We talk through it. OK. I turn on my knees. And everything comes.
That night, at 8:38pm, I delivered our Baby. 34 grams. 12.3 cm in length. All 10 fingers and 10 toes. But no first cry. No heartbeat.
The Eye of The Storm: Saying Goodbyes
We held him. Cried. We said our goodbyes.
16 weeks 6 days.
My brain knows baby was gone almost 3 weeks. But in that moment, and even now... so many questions and no good answers.
What could I have done? NOTHING. I did everything right.
Why did this happen? We don't know and won't know.
He rode home on my lap. Not in a car seat.
We decided to call him Nate. It came to me in the shower. My first shower at home in what felt like months, but had only been a short few days.
It means "God has given".
And we were given the gift of Nate, if only for a much shorter time than we would have ever imagined.
Fast Decisions in Times of Grief
Less than 48 hours later, after much discussion between myself, my husband, and our amazing midwife, the day went from calm to extremely busy.
With my allergies, medications become an issue. Injections, vaccinations, treatments... I need to know everything. Now factor in I am Rh-. While that might not seem like much, as a woman, as a woman who has had babies, this can become a huge issue. If a positive blood type baby is made, and the blood crosses to the mom (trauma, during birth, a miscarriage), the mother will form antibodies that will then attack baby, and any future positive babies... meaning possibly facing further miscarriages.
We were told we had 72 hours to make a decision. And the only version in Canada has an ingredient I am allergic to in it. While I have some faith in our health care system (mostly the nurses), this is real life, not House or Grey's Anatomy.
So we talked. We hadn't worried about it after the girls. I believed if I was antibody free after each, then that was our sign it was ok to have another. But this was different. We didn't get our healthy baby. We weighed the pros and cons. I rationalized - a 1.3ml dose with 10% allergen... it's small. So small. And the option to have more children, so much bigger. I don't like having my choices removed without my say.
She called/faxed it in. He took me to the local hospital. I loaded on Benadryl... and got the shot. 30 minutes waiting at the hospital. No reaction.
There is so much relief in that. But the fact remains I wouldn't had that knowledge and been brave enough to try it if not for Nate. A major decision to work through, while all so fresh.
After the Storm of Late Miscarriage
"How are you?"
Physically, emotionally, in my soul, I felt bruised (the physical bruises healed the fastest). We have all had to heal. My oldest took it pretty hard. She wished she could have come to say goodbye. But we have pictures thanks to our amazing midwife.
Bruised. Not just on the outside. The bruising from the port attempts… This didn't even touch on the physical pain inside. Sitting, standing, sneezing, laughing... any small stomach contraction and my uterus reminded me that it was bruised too. You couldn't see it. It's like nothing happened. But I could feel it.
My children were a constant light. My oldest was so snuggly and wants to talk through everything. By helping her process, it helped me process. My youngest is like her father - she's a fixer. A do-er. She swept the floor "because she wanted to help". She helped fold laundry, bake muffins. If she saw me crying, "oh, mama's crying again? *runs for a tissue* here you go, mom!"
The grief comes in waves. The hollowness a chasm in the moment. Tiny cramps, my brain trying to remind me it is cramps, not kicks. "Phantom kicks", the same I thought I was feeling those last couple weeks.
I made comfort food. Homemade tomato soup and bread/ham sandwiches. Which in itself brought tears - I avoided deli meat while pregnant. You're "supposed to". And the main thing I craved was a ham sandwich... and now I can eat it. And I hate it.
The call to say his ashes were ready, while we were still deciding on an urn. I asked if it was ok to leave him at the funeral home until it's ready. "Yes. He's safe here." 3 simple words. And they crushed me a little. Because I should still be that safe space. I should be the "here". But I'm not. And that... sucks. When I did pick him up after, they did everything as an actual service. It hurt... but it helped.
Grief & Loss
When you have a baby, it hurts. To put it mildly, it hurts. Things stretch to unimaginable sizes, your uterus basically creates a time-able Charlie Horse in your entire abdomen and lower back that last minutes at a time and comes back quicker than you can catch your breath in-between. Afterwards, you cramp and bleeding for "4 to 6 weeks", and just when you think the bleeding has stopped... JUST KIDDING.
But through that, you have your new baby. This new "bundle of joy", this life YOU helped create, that YOU grew and made and can snuggle and kiss and touch and talk to.
Now we look at miscarriage.
Understanding Late Miscarriage
Early miscarriage occurs before 12 weeks. Baby doesn't look a whole lot like baby yet. Most of these are passed in the comforts of your home unless there are complications.
Stillbirths are after 20 weeks. Babies are tiny. There are so many pictures of these precious angels available to see...
But there is this grayed out area... "late miscarriage", that falls between the 12 to 20 week mark. Many women choose the D&C option - it's supposed to be one of the safest in order to control bleeding. You can be put under and the doctor goes in and just... removes everything.
I'm a stubborn one... I needed to birth Nate even if it wasn't the birth I had so desperately wanted. I had had plans, damnit. WE had had plans. On where and how and who and EVERYTHING. But for my own mental health, I needed to do it myself instead of them "taking him away" if that makes sense?
It was not without it's own issues.
My placenta tore and left a chunk in there. I feel like it came out fairly quickly afterwards, but our doctor present was... amazing. I hate her a little but am also super thankful. She explained that she understood my need for the least amount of medical intervention (unless we started getting into life and death because I may have felt like I was losing my mind but I had Shawn as a very vocal reminder that I still needed to be here after this was over). She explained that she did not want to do a D&C just to "explore". Made sense. Instead, at 1 cm dilated, she had to reach in, hook her finger in my uterus, and do a sweep. Twice. Honestly... at that point... I'd have taken full blown labor pain over that.
I was then monitored for 2 hours, every 15 min, to check bleeding and have them push down on my stomach to contract my uterus and slow the bleeding. By push down, I mean I think the tiny nurse came off the floor a couple times. Your uterus doesn't start making the connections for Oxytocin to have any really beneficial effects until after the 17 week mark. I was 16 weeks 6 days. They basically were trying to manually make my uterus contract down. Think a balloon with a pin hole, you squeeze it and ever so slowly it shrinks and is less likely to pop (or in this case, continue to bleed). Thankfully... this was enough. 2 hours after delivery, we got to finally see him.
The bio-nerd in me was fascinated afterwards. The entire sac came out, still intact, with him inside. Part of me wanted to just find some way to... I don't even know. Put him in an incubator like you do with eggs. It works on those, right? But this was a human baby and he had already been gone for almost 3 weeks. There was no trauma, there was no "accident", he was just growing one minute and gone the next. And my brain still needed to catch up.
When they opened the sac, he was perfect. For the size of him (34 grams), he was perfect.
If you have ever been around birth, either for yourself or on the farm, there is a smell that comes with birth and the fluids. It doesn't smell awful, it's very faint, and that's what I smelled to start with. But I've been on farms enough to also pick up on the other smell... the very faint smell that was death. And once I smelled that, I knew. I knew he had been gone for almost 3 weeks. Hearing it told to me vs smelling it was a totally different thing.
Then the realization of how bad that could have been for ME. This was the smell after 3 weeks. What would have happened had the sac broke? What would have happened if he had continued to be left until the ultrasound on the 8th? Because our supposed "doctor" did not check for heartbeat even once. Our Midwife was the one who did everything in a VERY short amount of time.
I still had to do all the post delivery things. And no baby.
Hormone changes (woo... hoo...)
A week later and I could finally lay on my stomach without crying in pain but definitely not "comfortable".
When I picked Nate up from the funeral home and they.... did all the things. I was shocked. I was prepared to go in and sign whatever they needed me to and then take him home. I was not prepared for... all the things. I cannot thank them enough for the care and consideration they have taken at the Stettler Funeral Home.
Which then led to me sitting in my car for 45 min, and use my "phone a friend" card... who proceeded to let me sit in the dark place, in the car, in the rain, and cry. My gosh did I cry. Then she helped me shake it off, rise again and continue on with my day.
Again, as shitty as this situation has been, I have had the best support, the best nurses, the best midwife, the best doula, the best all around everyone reaching out and being there.
Thank you again to Ami for sharing her powerful story. We hope that by talking about pregnancy and infant loss, all who have experienced it can feel less alone.