You will always be our second child: A physician’s take on miscarriage

It’s only been a week since we lost you, and I already miss you so very much. There are days when I feel like I’m OK, but there are nights I cry myself to sleep thinking of what life could have been for my second son or daughter.

Miscarriage: Losing a baby before reaching full term can be as devastating as losing a child at any age. My first experience with a child loss embodied itself in a child named Jared. He was an 8-year-old Michigan boy who fought cancer of the most aggressive kind, and he and his parents regularly attended our church. Our hometown community rallied with him by wearing shirts, and holding fundraisers. I remember seeing Jared at church one day, as he was the only 8 year old being cradled in his father’s arms. He was too weak to sit up on his own. The dark circles were apparent under his father’s eyes and the silent grief was clearly written on his face. Modern medicine can only do so much, and when it’s reached its limit, people begin to rely on their faith even more. The day he passed away, the entire community mourned, myself included. I never knew him or his family personally but I sensed their loss and their pain, but I never knew what it was like to lose a child.

My baby was eight weeks in utero when she or he had passed, but I found out two weeks later at a routine obstetrics appointment. How could I have carried this baby for two extra weeks and not know something was wrong? I was semi-nauseous, fatigued but noticed I no longer had cravings for white rice drenched in ranch dressing: my staple pregnancy indicator. This was no cause for alarm as my first pregnancy with my son two years ago, was very low key with minimal nausea, some fatigue and various cravings for odd food combinations.

“I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.”

Words I never imagined I would ever hear, I heard during a second ultrasound done for reassurance. Shock, grief, and devastation all conglomerated into a big ball of emotion. All I could muster to say was, “Oh …what??” then silence. My husband immediately held my hand, and we hugged, cried and stared at each other and the ultrasound screen in utter silence. The OB and staff said caring words of condolences to me, but I just felt numb inside.  How?

Many thoughts have run through my mind since that devastating day. As a physician, I thought it must be bad genetics. My baby was probably missing a chromosome or had an extra chromosome and could not develop properly. As a mother, I thought maybe I shouldn’t have had that chicken salad or had that cough syrup. I’ve only been through a few steps along the stages of grief: denial, profound sadness and ultimately, acceptance. I somehow skipped the anger and bargaining part.

Granted, my baby was not 8 years old like Jared. I never heard my baby cry. I never spoke to him. I never dropped him off at school.  I never hugged him. I never named him. Yet, age shouldn’t make a difference. A loss is a loss, and the pain is just as heartbreaking.

As a hospitalist physician, I’ve encountered death, grief and helplessness almost daily. I’ve run codes on patients with family members weeping in the room. I’ve delivered bad news. I’ve seen bad outcomes. Nothing prepared me for this day.

I write this piece in memoriam for our second son or daughter. Though he or she is gone, I feel peace and hope and trust in God always. To all the ladies that have suffered a miscarriage or are battling with infertility — whether you are a fellow doctor, teacher, nurse or businesswoman — you are not alone.

John Piper so eloquently wrote, “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then, wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Lizbeth Hingst is a hospitalist.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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