The morning of my scheduled 12-week OBGYN appointment was just like any other morning. My husband let me sleep in as he usually does and our morning routine went like clockwork. I stood at the back door rubbing my belly and waving as my 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter said goodbye to me before I left for the doctor’s office.
As I closed the door and turned around, I could feel my anxiety level rise. This wasn’t a normal 12-week appointment for me; I had already lost two pregnancies and my daughter’s twin in the last year, so I was feeling very nervous and, to top it all off, I was going alone. I never went to my OBGYN appointments alone before Covid. My husband always had time to be there by my side.
Even with all my nerves, I didn’t know that I would walk out my door pregnant and would walk back in a couple hours later not.
This appointment would consist of seeing my doctor, having a quick talk on how things were progressing, and my favorite part, the hearing the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler. I could sit there and listen to my baby’s heartbeat all day. My doctor has been there since the beginning for me, through countless IUIs, IVF, two beautiful pregnancies, and my losses. My doctor knows me, and that is so important to me.
I sat in my chair, fidgeting, which isn’t like me. All I wanted to do was hear my baby’ heartbeat. I hopped on the table, my heart beating fast, and pulled down the top of my pants just enough for the gel to have a place to go for the doppler.
It was taking longer then normal to hear that beautiful sound, the doppler wasn’t picking up the heartbeat. My doctor reassured me that it wasn’t abnormal to have difficulties picking it up at first. But my breathing started to accelerate and I think it was fairly obvious as my mask was moving up and down quickly with each breath. She knew I couldn’t leave this appointment without hearing my baby’s heartbeat so she went and got the bedside ultrasound.
I sat in the room alone, waiting for her to come back as fear slowly started to consume my body. I wanted so badly to rip off my mask so I could take a giant cleansing breath. When my doctor reentered the room, we tried again, this time with the ultrasound.
After the longest thirty seconds of my life, she took off her face shield to take a closer look and instantly, in that moment, I could feel the warm tears start to fall down my face onto the paper sheet I was lying on. I clenched my fists at my side because my husband wasn’t there for me to hold on to. The doctor looked at me and gently placed her hand on my leg and said she didn’t see a heartbeat. It was the kindest touch, and the only thing I was going to get for comfort in that moment.
She went to get the ultrasound tech just to be sure. In the room alone again, I wondered how my day had become this. I sat soaking my mask with ugly tears and snot, trying to catch my breath, holding my womb so tight, begging for the heartbeat to be there. I wanted nothing more than to meet this child, to be their mother, to love them and to take them on so many adventures. All that slowly was taken away from me.
The ultrasound technician came in and my doctor stood by my side and placed her hand on my arm with a firm squeeze. I think I later told her that that simple act helped me calm my breathing and slow my tears. I remember looking up at her and seeing that she shared the pain I was feeling in that moment.
The rest was such a blur, the phone call to my husband from this tiny room asking if he was alone and to close his office door. I would later find out that he saw it was St. Lukes on his office phone and his heart broke because he knew we lost the baby. My doctor walked me out the door to the elevator where I walked alone to my car feeling like the whole world around me didn’t even exist.
When I made it home, I found my husband waiting for me, ready to hold me and listen to my unbearable screams of grief.
It’s been only been four months since that visit. I still think about everything that happened daily, even if just for a brief moment. Grief has no timeline. I am so angry my husband couldn’t be there by my side, but I can’t change or dwell on it. But I am grateful that my gentle doctor was by my side and that her tender gestures helped me during a heartbreaking experience.
This was my fourth miscarriage. No woman should have to endure this emotional and physical pain, but there are many of us out there who do. I challenge us all to reach out to someone to talk to, to take time to accept our grief and not hide it, and to never forget our lost babies.