You never think it will happen to you until it does. And when it does, it is a moment that will change you forever. The change isn’t necessarily negative, but you will always carry a special and empathetic connection to those soul-sisters who have struggled with miscarriage, infertility, and other prenatal issues. Pregnancy loss is both physically and mentally draining, and no amount of understanding of just how frequent it really is can prepare you for the moment you discover your pregnancy is over.
I have had an internal battle of exactly how I wanted to share my story of pregnancy loss and whether I wanted to reveal it at all because it’s a very personal and still raw part of my life story. And that’s just it—my loss is part of my story, but does not define me. It’s simply a chapter of my life-book that was really hard, but the book doesn’t end there. My goal for this post is not to muster up sympathy and “I’m sorry for your loss” replies, but to hopefully provide some practical mental, nutritional, and physical exercises that helped me through recovery and may help you. And, hopefully you’ve never had to experience a loss, but please read anyway so you can learn strategies on how to be the strong one for someone you love.
My husband and I decided to open our hearts for the possibility of another baby a few months after my son turned two years old. I was fortunate enough to fall pregnant rather quickly, which was a sigh of relief for both of us as we thought maybe the ease of our first pregnancy was a fluke. I remember saying to David, “I’m feeling so laid back about this pregnancy. It happened so quickly, that I’m totally okay with whatever happens”.What a weird thing to say, right? But I wholeheartedly believe God was mentally preparing me for something I never (ever, ever, ever) thought would happen to me.
I was just over 5 weeks pregnant and visiting my mom in Austin for the weekend. We weren’t ready to tell family just yet since it was still so early and we hadn’t been seen by the doctor. I even said to David a few times, “No, let’s wait to tell everyone. I just want to make sure it’s in the right spot”. Another weird thing to say, right? I’m such a believer in a woman’s intuition and how enhanced it becomes during pregnancy and after birth, so in hindsight, my belief is that this was my body and God whispering to me to get ready for a bump in the road.
Before bed one night while still away in Austin, I mentioned to David that I felt a little different. Not a “bad” different, but not as “pregnant” feeling. I brushed it off and trusted that things were just fine; after all, I’m young and healthy and have a previous pregnancy under my belt. The next morning I woke up, took a quick potty-break, and all seemed normal until the moment of “this is not normal” slapped me in the face. I still get flashbacks when I pass by that bathroom at my mom’s house. (Does anyone watch ‘This Is Us’? SPOILER ALERT: Kate’s scene of walking by the bathroom over and over and needing to toss out the shower curtain is SO real.)
I was pretty convinced I was having a typical miscarriage. (Not that there is anything “typical” about it. And not that typical makes it any easier. It still sucks.) One of my best friends had been battling recurrent miscarriage over the previous year, so I reached out to her to see what to do. Do I wait it out? Is it supposed to hurt this badly? Why am I feeling so faint? My mom really encouraged me to go to the doctor immediately, but I figured that if my body needed to miscarry, it would know what to do, so we left to come back home. (Why haven’t I learned that my mom is ALWAYS right? Like, always…)
The drive back to Houston was torture. Every bump in the road sent me into a pained panic. After arriving home, I thought I’d take my dog for a walk to get my mind off of things, but ended up fainting in a parking garage. The rest of that Sunday was day was spent hulled up in my bed hurting both physically and emotionally, and eagerly searching every “mommy” forum for stories of hope of women who had bleeding during pregnancy and still had a healthy baby. After a few hours, I finally called my ob/gyn to get a little guidance, and she promised to get me in to the office for a scan first thing Monday morning.
Somehow, I mustered up the energy Monday morning to get my son to school and get to the doctor’s office. When the nurse practitioner began the ultrasound, part of me hoped that I was one of those miracle moms you read on those “mommy blogs” that had all of these horrible symptoms, but when she got checked out that baby was perfectly happy and wiggling around. But we saw the exact opposite. Nothing. Absolutely nothing in my uterus. Not even evidence of a miscarriage. “Are you sure you’re pregnant?” she asked. (Insert face-palm emoji here). “Yes, woman, I am pregnant!” I thought to myself. So we did routine blood work to check to see if perhaps I had a chemical pregnancy. I left the office still in pain, still confused, and still with no answers. To keep my mind occupied, I went into my office to work for a few hours.
As I’m leaving work and arrive home I get a frantic call from the OB/gyn office that my HCG blood levels (pregnancy hormones) did come back pretty darn high and that we should have seen a baby on the ultrasound. She requested I go to a high risk ultrasound place to see where my pregnancy ended up, since it obviously wasn’t in my uterus. After a very long, quiet, and painful ultrasound, the ultrasound tech informed me that I’d have to wait to get my results until the doctor reviewed. Another medical worker I wanted to punch!
I arrived back home (again, without answers) and received another frenzied phone call from a doctor. This time, the Radiologist, who informed me that my pregnancy was ectopic and located in my left Fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies are life threatening if not treated immediately, so time is of the essence once they’re identified. Thankfully, my ectopic hadn’t ruptured, but was a ticking time bomb in my body. Often times, ectopic pregnancies can be treated with methotrexate shots (a type of chemotherapy agent), but once the “products of conception” (the rather unfortunate term they use for ectopic “babies”) reach a certain size, the shots are not entirely effective, meaning that the pregnancy can continue and results in a rupture. Therefore, surgical removal is the only option. The radiologist told me to go to a nearby emergency room right away and my OB/gyn would meet me there and I’d be having surgery immediately. The following few hours were a blur. We dropped my son off with a friend for the evening and I was in surgery within a few hours on June 12 (my mom’s birthday). Never in a million years did I think that I’d suffer from an ectopic pregnancy as they’re estimated to affect only 1-2% of all pregnancies.
The surgery went relatively well and the magical doctors were able to save my fallopian tube, which is incredibly rare. It takes a very skilled set of hands to slice open something so delicate and salvage the tissue. I’m so thankful for the doctors at Women’s Specialty Healthcare who took such good care of me.
Despite the good news of saving my tube, some bad news lurked around the corner. With a solemn look on her face, our doctor informed us that they discovered a large amount of scar tissue in my pelvis, which we now know is from having my appendix rupture as a child. With the amount of scar tissue present around my right Fallopian tube (near the appendix) and now having a surgery on my left Fallopian tube, my fertility would likely be compromised. This is HEAVY news to get hours after surgically removing your pregnancy.
The next week or two were brutal. A whirlwind of hormonal changes, physical pain from surgery, and uncertainty of my future fertility affected me more than I could have imagined. I have never felt so down, unmotivated, sad, angry, confused, all while feeling completely numb. Those emotions are the closest to what I’d think post-partum depression would be, and it was horrible. To my sisters who have battled PPD, it is real, it is hard, and it’s impossible to go through it alone. Thank goodness for my husband, my mom, family, close friends, and even a few distant friends who intuitively stepped in and lifted me up. I’ll forever be indebted to you all and hope that my words here provide at least half of the support and comfort as you all have!
Dredging through the healing process felt like swimming in quicksand, but now with hindsight, I’ve identified a few things that I believe truly helped me heal most of the way.
Allow yourself to grieve. Pregnancy loss sucks, period. Whether it’s a chemical pregnancy, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, abortion, etc., it’s hard. Your hormones are completely out of whack and you will cry a lot. You’ll see a commercial on TV with families and babies and you’ll hate them. You’ll give evil eyes to moms of multiple kids. Seeing pregnant women will feel like a punch in the gut and you’ll lose your breath. That is all normal, but please know that it won’t last.
During this time, lean into your emotions, acknowledge them, name them, and allow yourself to fully feel them. Hiding them away will only prolong the process. Cry to whoever will listen. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make yourself ask for help. (I received tremendous help through some sisters in Christ and a counselor from BirthFit). Talk to others who have gone through it. Stay off of internet message boards. I repeat, stay off mommy-blogs! Remind yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong, and as painful as it may be, realize that God truly does have a plan. Get spiritual, whatever that means to you. Whether it is a Christian church or not, find whatever gives you hope that there is a bigger force out there governing things. It’s a relief to know you don’t have to control everything. Focus on the long-term and good things to come as much as you can.
Immediately after surgery, my physical activity was limited. I went on family walks, stretched, did yoga, and allowed myself to rest (which rarely happens). There was a lot of quality time spent on my couch watching Netflix. As the healing process ensued, I was anxious to get back into the gym. It took a few weeks to return to the groove of things, but everything did eventually go back to normal. Getting back into a routine with exercises made me feel human again and was a great stress reliever.
Fortunately, my surgical scars are small since the surgeons were able to go in laparoscopically, but I do have three little spots that remind me of what happened. That reminder doesn’t make me sad anymore, but rather reminds me to embrace the goodness in my life that I’m currently blessed with. However, to lessen the intensity of the scarring, I applied coconut oil topically to keep them hydrated and kill possible bacteria and other “bugs” that could grow in the wounds.
Supporting physical and mental healing is crucially dependent on good nutrition. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids are essential for creating neurotransmitters (chemicals your brain uses to “talk”), hormones, immune cells, and anti-inflammatory chemicals. Healing post-op requires an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in antioxidants from vegetables, herbs, and spices and includes quality proteins, healthy fats, and natural starches. As much as I wanted to sulk and eat ice cream on the couch all day, my goal was to repair my body and make it a better environment than before my surgery. So, to step it up a notch, I added into the mix my personal anti-inflammatory LEAP protocol (while forgiving myself of needed indulgences when the time felt right).
To help manage the internal scarring and repair, I took high doses of oral Protease(proteolytic enzymes which help to dissolve scar tissue), RepairZyme (which contains ingredients like broccoli, spinach, rose hips, butcher’s broom, kelp, and enzymes to help promote tissue and cell repair), and Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a potent modulator of inflammation as well as key in hormonal homeostasis, both important during this time. I increased my probiotic to twice per day to account for the antibiotics, and added in magnesium glycinate before bed to reduce anxiety, improve my sleep, and keep my bowels moving in the presence of painkillers. A supplement called CatecholaCalm provided me mental clarity, ease of mind, and anxiety reduction with ingredients like ashwaganda, passion flower, lemon balm, taurine, L-theanine, and valerian.
A few months later…
Remember all that scar tissues the doctors discovered that likely blocked all my tubes? Well, three months after surgery, a follow up HSG scan (a scan that looks at the patency of Fallopian tubes and uterus)revealed no build up on the tubes (aside from at the surgical site, which was to be expected). NO evidence of major scar tissue. It is nearly unheard of for scar tissue to disappear on its own. I call this part miracle from God and part the undeniable power of the human body to repair itself when given good quality food, sleep, exercise, and mentality.
My journey is far from over, and as painful as this road has been, I’m ultimately grateful to have experienced it. Whether my story helps you or helps a loved one, I know in my heart it happened for a reason, and I’m completely at peace with that now. Thank you for allowing me to share this tender moment with you! I truly hope you’ve found a glimmer of hope, guidance, comfort, and peace.
Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor and/or nutrition professional before starting any of the supplements listed above. These statements are not approved by the FDA. Personalized supplementation protocols are the best way to ensure regimens are the right fit for you. The results presented here are individual and are not promised to be the exact results you’ll get.