October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and Jennifer knows the pain of loss all too well — she suffered from a missed miscarriage. She is now the mom of a baby girl, but there will always be a special place in her heart for her lost little one.
Jennifer lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with her fiance Scott and 3-month-old daughter Maddison. Jennifer and Scott met 11 years ago on ICQ. "I was just fresh from a breakup, and found myself looking through the different profiles," she happily remembered. "I saw him and thought he looked familiar, so I messaged him. Turns out we did have some mutual friends. We met up and the rest is really awesome history."
About two months before she found out she was expecting a baby, she discovered that she had a cyst on an ovary. She was put on birth control to see if it would help shrink it. When her first pack of pills was gone, she didn't get a period as expected, so she took a pregnancy test — it was instantly positive. "I was excitedly nervous. I previously had a loss in 2006 so I was worried, but I tried not to let it overcome me," she explained.
She enjoyed a normal, average pregnancy in the beginning, although it was not an easy time. She experienced the joys of morning sickness and was prescribed Diclectin, a prescription medication for morning sickness available to Canadian women. She was also training in the OR to be a scrub nurse, which had its own set of challenges. "It was difficult having that nausea while attempting to learn something new (and remaining sterile in the process!) and I was also exhausted," she told us. "I remember napping during my breaks at work, and my coworkers waking me up when my break was over. I was pretty excited when that started to subside."
When things went wrong
Aside from normal first-trimester issues, her pregnancy seemed to be going well, but when she was nine weeks on the dot she started spotting at work. "I had been on my feet for about six hours, so I assumed I had overworked myself," she explained. When her shift was over, she experienced even more bleeding and cramping, so she took herself to her family doctor. Unable to find a heartbeat with a handheld Doppler, she was sent to have an ultrasound the next day. "There we found a little bean, with a heartbeat of 176 measuring exactly nine weeks and one day, right on track. Both Scott and I were elated, everything seemed OK. We were confident enough that we announced our news to our friends and family around 13 weeks."
Unfortunately, things were not well. At her first appointment with her OB at 14 weeks, her doctor attempted to listen for a heartbeat, and again, was unable to find one. It's not always easy to detect a heartbeat, so again, she was sent for an ultrasound. She was not able to get in until the following day, so she spent the rest of the day worrying.
Worries were confirmed
The next day, she and Scott went in for their scan — and got bad news. "At the ultrasound my worries were confirmed, we had lost our baby," she shared. "We discovered it was a missed miscarriage, and our little bean was still only measuring nine weeks and one day."
She went home and spent the next few days trying to contact her OB, but was unable to get through. She wasn't able to make an appointment until over a week later, and she began miscarrying the Sunday before her appointment. "Seeing our baby up on that screen, exactly what he had looked like five weeks prior, was the most painful experience I've ever had," she said. "The time in between the ultrasound and when I was taken to the hospital was spent in some twisted limbo. I was still pregnant, but I wasn't. Our baby was there but was not alive. I will never be able to articulate how that felt, and to this day over a year later it still hits me the same way."
The physical act of miscarrying was terrifying for her. She was in a great deal of pain and was in denial that things were going badly. "Scott forced me to go to the hospital, and I'm glad he did," she remembered. She suffered from hemorrhage and had to have an emergency D&C.
A whirlwind of feelings
Jennifer first experienced severe grief, which was followed by anger. "I was irrationally angry at everything, especially at myself," she shared. "I believed that I somehow caused my loss, and I spent days wondering what I had done. I had to withdraw myself a few times from friends, as I found social interaction to be exhausting. It was the lowest point in my life, and it took a while to pick myself back up."
Fortunately, she had an excellent support network of friends and family, and their presence really helped immensely. "Those who allowed me to grieve in my own time, and allowed me to express that grief in whatever way it came out, were the biggest pillar of support for me," she told us. "I cannot express how soothing it can be to be in the presence of someone in complete silence." She also found support and healing through online friends, who helped her through her darkest days.
Jennifer and Scott decided to bury their baby and also give him a name. "Scott and I also talked it over, and we decided to name the baby Noah, which is appropriate as it means 'rest' or 'comfort,'" she explained. "Having a name and a resting place for our baby made things a little easier, as it brought a little closure. To be honest, though, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about Noah, and I wonder what he'd be like now."
A mom to Maddee
Jennifer and Scott are now the parents of 3-month-old Maddee, and she is the light of their lives. "She amazes me every day as she grows and learns new things," she happily shared. "She is the best thing to ever happen to me, and I am so very lucky that I am her mom. She makes me try to be a better person every day, so I can be the mom that she deserves. I love her more than anything in this world, and I am so very excited for what the future holds for us."
^ For moms who are suffering
She also had a few words of advice for moms who have suffered through a loss of their own. She said loss is such a personal experience that you need to grieve in whatever way feels right for you, and for as long as you need to. "If you can, talk to other women who have been through similar experiences," she suggested. "Pregnancy loss can make you feel so isolated and alone, and it helps knowing that other people have gone through the experience and come out the other side. Don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about your loss from time to time. It's a painful journey, and it leaves its mark on your soul, but you will find a new 'normal,' and every day it gets easier to cope. Finally, be kind to yourself. If there's one thing that is the most destructive, it's blaming yourself for what happened."