In Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

These are the words from a mother who has experienced the profound impact of pregnancy and infant loss. I will be continuing to share more stories throughout the month of October, in honour of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Elizabeth Schiavo’s Story:

It was 5 a.m., my husband was getting ready to go to work and I woke up needing to pee, as always. I ran to the bathroom and sat down. And there it was. The dream I had only weeks before had come true, it was my worst nightmare. Dark, red blood.

I knew. But I hoped it wasn’t true.

I walked out of the bathroom, shaking uncontrollably. I looked at my husband and said “I’m bleeding,” he looked at me like he was unsure of what I was saying. I lost it. All I really remember at this point is starting to cry, hysterically. Telling him we needed to go to the hospital. Calling my mom, waking her suddenly at 5 in the morning, hysterically yelling at her that I was bleeding, I didn’t know what to do, we were going to the ER and I needed her to come.

We rushed out the door and off we went. I called my doctor on our way to let them know I was coming. They checked us in rather quickly. At the time I hated it but looking back I’m appreciative of the nurse I had telling me how she bled the first 3 months of her pregnancy, telling me I’d be okay, that my baby would be okay. Doctor came in. Checked my cervix, said it was still closed and that was a good sign. Asked me to change my pad so we could easily tell if I started to hemorrhage. It seemed like it was stopping. It seemed like an eternity, but they finally had me ready to go to an ultrasound. We waited, with baited breath to hear that little heartbeat come across the monitor. The tech looked confused, studying the screen. She said nothing. Brought us back to our room. They came back saying they wanted to take another look. Someone else came into the ultrasound to look as well. I’m crying, begging them to just tell me, whatever it is I just needed to know. Then the worst words I’ll ever hear, and if you ever have I can’t even begin to say how sorry I am:

“There is no heartbeat.”

The tears. Uncontrollable, as they wheeled me back to our room. We would later find out our baby had passed two weeks before, when we were around 10 weeks pregnant, my mind would go back to the day when I had used my Doppler and failed to hear their little heartbeat.

When we came through the door all I remember was my mom looking at me as I shook my head to let her know. She left the room to give us some time. I don’t remember what we said to each other, I don’t think I could even look my husband in the face, I was just in so much pain. The doctors and nurses came in, said how sorry they were, told me my options. I just wanted to go home. We left and I called my doctors office, they said if I wanted medication I’d need to be seen in the office. We made an appointment for later that afternoon. We walked into our house, where we live with my husbands grandparents. As I set foot in their kitchen they asked the burning question: was everything alright? I hugged my daughter, shook my head and walked upstairs in tears. My mom offered to take my daughter home with her but I refused, even though I shouldn’t have.

Later that afternoon we sat in yet another waiting room, had yet another ultrasound and were told that I was miscarrying. There are few options when this happens—you can let everything happen naturally which can take quite some time, you can take a medication to speed up the process or you can have a D&C where they remove the tissue for you surgically. I didn’t want any of the options but I also didn’t want to wait, I wanted to have it happen while I had my husband with me so I opted for the medication, I was adamant that I did not want to have surgery though.

We got home, with the meds—“take 3 pills, every 4 hours vaginally,” yes you have to stick them up there, it is not something I would ever recommend to anyone going through this situation. The doctor had warned me that I would feel some pain but Tylenol should take care of it and that I would pass large clots but that’s all I would see.

That warning was bullshit so let me give you a real one:

the pills will put you straight into labor, your water will break and you’ll start contractions. You’ll sit on the toilet writhing in pain for hours before the pain starts ramping up to a point where you can’t sit yet you can’t stand either. You’ll know its finally coming when it gets so unbearable. You’ll drag yourself to the bathroom one last time. You’ll have to push. There will be so much blood you may think you’re dying. Finally, your baby will be born, small but still attached to their placenta and very very obvious. You may flush your baby down the toilet or if you’re like me you wont be able to bear the thought of doing so. If you’re like me you’ll wrap up your baby just like if they had been born alive, you’ll look at them and wish you could change reality, you won’t know how to tell your husband. It took me a little while before I finally told him. I showed him, we cried, together on our bathroom floor. Hating ourselves and what had happened. Blaming ourselves for it all.

Finally, we went to sleep.

A few days later I went back to the doctor. ANOTHER ultrasound. My uterus still had tissue left behind. More pills or surgery. Still adamant about avoiding surgery I took the pills again. I asked for painkillers this time and knew it wouldn’t be as bad seeing as the worst part was already over. We buried our baby that night, we cried, together huddled in our backyard while it rained. I watched as my husband dug a small hole where we placed a small wooden box containing the remnants of a life we yearned for, inside. We said goodbye, filled the hole back up and planted two flowers—one pink and one blue in memory of that beautiful soul.

The next day one of my best friends was getting married. I was so happy for her, starting her life with her best friend, looking forward to welcoming her own baby. But I was reeling from the pain of losing mine, I was in physical pain from the pills but I still put on that goddamn maternity dress I had bought for the wedding and I showed up to be as supportive as I could. I tried to hide my misery like I was hiding the wad of cotton between my legs that was absorbing my hopes and dreams. We left without going to the reception and I hope she understands why.

The next week I went back to the doctor to check again. MORE tissue. I wasn’t passing it all, my risk of infection was steadily rising. The doctor didn’t recommend any more pills, she told me I could either try letting it pass but I could get a life threatening infection if I did or I needed to get the D&C. I finally agreed to surgery.

A few days later they brought me into the surgical center. The only good part of all of it was that hour that I was happily unconscious thanks to anesthesia. When i woke up, it was finally over. Bleeding for a few more weeks but thankfully I could try and mentally recover now. Went back for a check up was told I was fine, physically. The doctor told us we should wait one cycle and start to try again.

TRY AGAIN. Those words stung so bad. But I sucked it up and went home.

A year later we struggle with the reality that now this has happened a total of 3 times. 3 losses, 3 heartbreaks. We wonder whether we’ll ever have the joy of welcoming a second child into our lives. We began IVF this summer and are awaiting our first transfer. We know we can suffer yet another devastating loss but we want nothing more than to complete our family.

This is the journey we’ve been dealt but we keep hope alive that one day our dreams will come true.

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