Thursday, July 12, 2018

On Loss and Finding New Hope - Miscarriage From The Dad's Perspective

It took me a long time to want to put into words the journey we took to having my second son. It was long, it was arduous, and there were many tears and "off" feelings in our household. When we had our miscarriage, I found that I went online to find other dads who experienced the same loss. I know my wife was feeling a loss and it was a horrible loss, but I was feeling something, too. Different, but still a loss. It wasn't as physical as hers, but it was still there. I found that reading other dads accounts of their situations helped me heal and get past that initial punch to the gut.  So, that's what this post is going to be. It might be all over the place, but that's the state of mind we were in as a family. Before I get into it though, just know that if you are going through this right now, if you just received news that rocked your world - it gets better. The pain never truly goes away, but it gets better. Miscarriage is a very taboo topic, but it shouldn't be. It's my hope that this post is one small step towards making it less of one.

To tell the complete story, I need to take you back to Fall 2016. My wife and I had started trying for our second kid but not too seriously. We were just going to see what happens and when it does, it does. By December, we were pregnant. We were a little nervous because we already had one kid and weren't sure if we were ready for the second, but we were happy nonetheless. We told our parents and some close friends, but for the most part kept it hush like most couples do until you have the 12 week ultrasound.  We talked about the future, about how life would change with two kids and wondered if it would be a boy or a girl. My wife soon went into normal pregnancy mode and started getting morning sickness and things were progressing normally...until they weren't.

The first sign that something could be off was during my wife's 10 week midwife appointment when they couldn't find the heartbeat. By itself, this isn't super concerning because it could still be a bit early. But, at the same time my wife's morning sickness was beginning to fade until it pretty much stopped entirely. Again, not super concerning because all pregnancies are different. Just because our first son gave Reilly insane morning sickness didn't mean that the next pregnancy would. It wasn't until around 11 weeks when I was picking up Carrabba's curbside pickup for dinner when I got a text that read, "I'm spotting" that we became pretty concerned.

I'm an anxious person by nature. My anxiety is one of legend and if there is something to worry about, I will worry about it, but I had to keep a strong front on to keep my wife calm. The midwives and everything you read online tells you that a little spotting in pregnancy is fine but once an idea takes hold in your brain it remains there. We had an ultrasound scheduled the following Tuesday and I met Reilly at the hospital after work. We were staying positive, but both of us were worried out of our minds. Sitting in the waiting room, I can still vividly remember it like it was yesterday. The TV was playing reruns of the show "The Middle" with Atticus Shaffer in it (he does the voice of Ono in Lion Guard), a visibly pregnant woman was sitting across from us, and it felt like time was just crawling. When we were finally sent back to the room, Reilly got prepped and they spread the gel on her belly and began the ultrasound. Within seconds I knew something wasn't right. The techs cheerful demeanor was toned down a bit as no heartbeat came up. She continued to look but as the seconds turned into minutes, the feeling of dread kicked in. She asked Reilly to go to the bathroom and empty her bladder to see if it helped and I can remember the words my wife mouthed to me through eyes that were barely holding back tears, "there's no baby." Those words were true. After coming back, they attempted an internal ultrasound and then called for the doctor on call who came in and spoke to us about how this couldn't have been prevented and it wasn't our fault and spouted off some statistics about how 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage and how early detection pregnancy tests are horrible because it let's people know too soon about their pregnancy, but none of that mattered. In that moment, we had lost our child.

The next couple hours were pretty surreal. We had two cars at the hospital so Reilly went home while I went to my mother in law's house to pick up our son. Jack had known about his mommy being pregnant so we had to convince him that we thought she was pregnant, but she actually wasn't. We came home to find mommy on the bed and we snuggled for a bit before giving her space. The midwives prescribed medication to speed up the process of miscarrying and we waited. It was around this time, the day after, that the weight of everything that happened hit me. I was in the basement alone sending an email to my boss to let him know that I needed some time off when the tears came hard. I don't cry. I never do. I might tear up at a movie but actual crying? Never. But this time the floodgates just opened. In the days to follow, I would come to terms with the loss as reading about miscarriage and its probability being so high helped me to come to terms with the loss, but at that moment I mourned. I mourned for the loss of a future. This idea of a child who would be born, be loved, and grow into a child that would be a part of our daily life. Within seconds that dream was taken away. I mourned for the loss of snuggles and bedtime stories, of little league games and cartoons on a Sunday morning with two kids next to me instead of one. I mourned for my wife, who would have to go through this process of passing a mass of cells that at one point had the promise of being a child. And I mourned for my son who wouldn't become the big brother he was so excited to become. I stayed in the basement for about 30 minutes by myself, collected myself, and went back upstairs. I wouldn't tell my wife about this breakdown until much later, but after I was able to let it out, I could begin to move on and focus on what had to come to next.

The following days were rough. There was a very somber tone to our house as we waited for the medication to do what it needed to do. To top it off, it was also Reilly's birthday. We were all still obviously upset, but of course my wife was the worst. I can't imagine the pain she was going through of having a child inside her one moment and then within days she was waiting for it to pass. I was able to come to terms with the recent events much sooner than she was able to, and that's ok. Grief is a bitch and everyone experiences it differently. After taking the medicine, we were under the impression that the actual event would happen didn't. So we were prescribed additional medicine...and nothing happened. It was at this time that Reilly was sent to the hospital to setup her DNC. The DNC was supposed to take place that Friday morning, about a week after taking the first dose of the medication. Thursday morning, the actual miscarriage happened.

If there is one thing I regret about the miscarriage it is that I wasn't there for Reilly when the actual miscarriage was happening. It was early and I had work the next day and Reilly passed it sometime in the early hours of the morning while on the toilet. A lot of people have different thoughts about what you should do when that happens. There is no wrong answer. Reilly agonized on what to do and how to proceed in this situation that no one  wants to ever find themselves. In the end, Reilly flushed the toilet. I wasn't there and I wish I was because it wasn't until I woke up in the morning and found her missing from her normal spot in bed that I realized something had happened. I came downstairs to find her in the living room crying. The physical event was over, but the emotional pain would remain.

After the miscarriage, we tried to get back to some sense of normalcy. I went back to work and we resumed our normal day to day activities but the sorrow and grief was still there. We had Jack and we tried to put our focus towards him. We would go out to stores and restaurants like we used to but something was just off. The miscarriage was like a constant companion we carried around with us and overshadowed everything we did. I remember a woman at work was pregnant and finally showing and while happy for her, I was incredibly jealous. Why did she get the luck of the draw and get a successful pregnancy where we didn't? These irrational thoughts would consume me as it seemed like everyone around me was talking about babies. I remember one really rough night when we took my son out to dinner at P.F. Chang's. The hostess sat us in an area that was definitely being held for families with small children. As the universe would have it, there were two newborns sitting near us. That was rough for me as it brought forth emotions that had been subsiding, but it was especially hard on my wife. I won't try to explain her emotional state in detail during all of this, that isn't my place, just know that it wasn't in a good spot and remained that way for some time. It wasn't until she started therapy and really talked through her emotions with someone that she began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Events like the actual due date of the lost baby really hit my wife hard, but we made it past it tried our best to keep our heads up.

Life continued this way for some time. It had it's ups and downs, but the memory of the miscarriage was still there. We knew we wanted to try again, but it took us a while to finally get there. Sometime around September 2017, we decided to try in earnest to get pregnant. We used fertility strips and within a month or so, we were pregnant again. Little did I know, the stress was about to come flowing back in droves.

To say we were anxious with this pregnancy would be a gross understatement. We did every ultrasound we could to make sure everything was progressing naturally. The feeling of dread at that first ultrasound was palpable, but we saw and heard the heartbeat and everything was fine. Reilly had spotting throughout the early days of her pregnancy which hit us like another punch to the gut. When you have gone through something as traumatic as a miscarriage, experiencing any of the events again puts your body into an immediate fight or flight mode. After trips to labor and delivery on multiple occasions when the spotting occurred, we were assured that everything was fine. Doing the anatomy scan, something as simple as the baby's hand being in a fist sent us into thoughts of something obviously being wrong with him. When the doctor came in at the end and asked for another shot of it, this just scared us even more, especially since it was the same doctor that had given us that fateful news earlier that year. His hand was fine, we were just overreacting but it puts into perspective the mindset we were in. The general feeling throughout the first half of the pregnancy was that we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. We were just waiting for something bad to happen, a piece of news or a symptom to show up that would once again fuck up our lives and unceremoniously dash our hopes and dreams. This feeling never truly went away although it did subside a bit when the percentages of something going wrong in later pregnancy drop. That all went out the window though when we checked into the hospital after my wife's water broke and they told us that "there might be meconium in the womb."

That feeling of dread from early in the pregnancy that had subsided a bit came back in full force all at once. Meconium in the womb puts everyone on edge at the hospital, especially when the baby's heartbeat is dropping after every contraction. We had more nurses and doctors in the room during this birth than we ever did with my first. After a long day of labor where my wife was an absolute rock star, our son Henry was born shortly after 8pm that night. No issues and perfectly healthy.

It's been 4 weeks since Henry was born and life has been great. Jack has his moments as he develops into a big brother, but overall as a family of 4, we're doing well. I still look back at that moment in January 2017 when we had that fateful ultrasound and have a pang of sorrow over what we lost, but having a baby in the house helps heal that wound. I'm not a spiritual or religious person, but a part of me feels like this was just the journey we had to undertake in order to bring Henry into our lives. My wife and I hit some pretty low points mentally during those early days after the miscarriage, but when everything was said and done, we came out stronger as individuals and even stronger as a couple. What was an absolute awful time in our life has made way to a joyous and wonderful addition to our family.

So, just as I bring my story full circle, I'll do the same with this post. If you are a dad who just lost your child to a miscarriage, I am so sorry. Feel the emotions you're going through, accept it, mourn, and do whatever you need to help heal. Don't forget your partner though. The major difference between my wife and I was that I was able to mourn and move on and miss the idea of a future where my wife actually felt like she lost a child that was inside of her. I think this plays into the whole "sometimes a dad doesn't feel like a dad until the baby is born" notion. We aren't growing a life inside of us and as such, tend to be a little detracted from the whole experience. This might not be true for everyone, but it was true for me with both of my kids. Whatever you are feeling, just remember to take time for yourself as well as giving your time and compassion to your wife during this rough time. It gets better. I promise. The raw emotion you're feeling now will subside and you'll feel that hope and excitement again. Just because you and your wife miscarried once doesn't mean you are at any higher probability of it happening again. No one is at fault, sometime mother nature is just a mother fucker.

I hope this post can help heal the heart and mind of others out there like true life stories did for me when I was in the thick of it. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there like you are right now, please reach out. You can do so on this page on the contact me section or on my twitter and facebook pages which can be found on my site. Keep your head up and keep on keeping on.

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