The decision to write this blog was an easy one… I had to get it out. It was cathartic. All the beautifully tragic, sad, even hopeful details of my/our experience. But the harrowing decision to publicly post it was one I agonizingly debated for days now. I guess I was caught in the “well, what would people think” trap, and I most certainly didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, for us. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I wanted. I also struggled with having people see me in a new light. I’m the tough one, the unbreakable one (ironically with the broken foot), the resilient one. How could I write something that would allow others to see the side I try to keep cloaked behind a million different layers of toughness… the vulnerability.
But in the end, I decided who gives an actual F what side of me people see, and these absurd reservations took a back seat to the opportunity to share a story that might help someone else going through a similar situation.
You see, for the most part, what gets posted about babies, pregnancy, motherhood, it’s all the good stuff, all the professional photos, the quotable funny one-liners, the happy moments. It’s all very one-sided. But the cold hard truth is, for a lot of us, that’s only part of the truth. The journey, the struggles on how we got there, are often omitted.
However, there are those that share their brutally honest truths on social media, the brave ones. And in their shadows I hope to follow. I want more women to know they aren’t alone in their struggles. I’m not going to post the statistics on this fact even though i know them all too well, because the point of this post is not to frighten others, the point of this post is to share my story in hopes that it helps just one other woman or family going through this, or have gone through this, that they are not alone, they should not be ashamed, and that it will be OK.
The story starts here.
A few months ago, I decided it was time for another challenge. I’ve run marathons, swam marathons, overcome my fear of open-water swimming (i know, I know, for a swimmer this was a ridiculous fear, but hello…. sharks!! Jellies!!! Rips!!!)…, and was eager for something more. Something big. Something 70.3 big. 70.3 miles of swimming, biking and running… a half IRONMAN. The Vietnam half ironman to be exact. I was so excited. A grueling endurance event – my absolute most favorite kind. The tougher, more brutal, the better! Those that know me well can attest to that! Bring on the pain!!!! The training was just starting to ramp up when something unexpected happened…
I stress-fractured my foot. Ok, no big deal, I could still swim, still bike on the trainer, and just have to curb the running for 4-weeks and wear the goofiest looking boot walking cast you’ve ever seen. Minor setback, but not a deal breaker. I could overcome this, no problem.
Then, something unexpected happened… again.
Can you guess?
We got pregnant.
A beautiful, terrifying, exciting surprise. This threw us for the biggest loop of our lives. We were not expecting this second blessing so early. We had always planned for a second child, just not quite yet. So the news rocked our world. We immediately made an appointment with a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, as early pregnancy and I (from weeks 4-5) don’t really get along. Suffering two previous super early miscarriages around this time before our girl was born. We didn’t want to take any chances.
So, off we went to the doctor who confirmed the pregnancy was in the uterus. Ultrasound one = success. Ultrasound two was just a mere two weeks later and was another success as we were able to see the little bean for the first time, and its little heartbeat, flickering away. Ultrasound three, another two weeks later was also fine. Little bean growing per schedule backed by a strong heartbeat. We were so confident at this point, and getting used to the idea of this beautiful surprise that we began to relax. Which was a huge deal! See that’s the thing with previous miscarriages, they don’t just take away your baby, they take away the excitement and joy you are supposed to feel in subsequent pregnancies instead leaving you with trepidation and anxiety. My pregnancy with my daughter I was absolutely terrified every single minute of every day until about the 9th month! But not this time. Everything was going so well. So smooth. Not even a hiccup. But then, at our routine 10-11week ultrasound, our world came crashing down, when the doctor was unable to see the heartbeat. Our little miracle had stopped developing. A missed miscarriage is what the doctor said. Basically just a fancy way to say that your body missed the memo and is still supporting a non-viable pregnancy.
I’m not sure what all was said after I heard the words, “no heartbeat.” I was alone. My husband was home taking care of our little girl who was sick, as we couldn’t very well bring a sick kid to an OB’s office. So, while the doctor discussed my options with me, I was trying to be brave, be strong, and not break down sobbing in the middle of his office. Somehow, I managed to get through the rest of the appointment, pay the bill, get all the routine pre-op procedures and blood work AND take a taxi ride home without shedding a single tear. Without even flinching. I think I was in shock. But then the second I got home, I fell to the ground and broke down. And my husband was there to pick up the pieces, as always.
We just couldn’t understand how this happened, why this happened. Why us? Why so late? Why can my body excel at all these physical endeavors I subject it to, but can’t do the one thing that is supposed to be so natural for us? We were so confident in the pregnancy. Everything was going so well. And, although it was a surprise, we had warmed up to the idea, and began relaxing and settling into the pregnancy routine – imagining what life would be like with two overly strong-willed kids running around. I mean let’s face it – my kid is STRONG WILLED to the max, and I’d expect the second one to be pretty much the same.
Now here’s where it gets even crazier…
My doctor called me back into his office at 10:30pm that same night. Three hours after my appointment. He immediately took his stethoscope out and listened to my heart. I couldn’t understand what was going on. What the hell is he doing? Why is he listening to my heart – we are supposed to be scheduling the d&c. Well, as it turns out, my routine pre-op ECG revealed a “possible anterior infarct.” Basically, a previous cardiac event that damaged my heart.
Ok, God, what are you trying to do to me here? Miscarriage AND heart damage? Seriously?
I mean, I’ve run countless marathons in absolutely blistering conditions that break even the most seasoned of runners, swam 6 miles for fun in the ocean over insane waves and currents, I was training for a fricken ironman for god’s sake…. I think I would have known if I had suffered from a previous “cardiac episode.”
Even though I could barely remember or hear anything he said up until that point, too overcome with grief to process, I very distinctly remember what he said next. “Lauren, I’m not saying you’re having a heart attack right now, but according to this, you have damage to your heart, and it is unsafe to put you under general anesthetic until we get this cleared from a cardiologist.”
So now, on top of grieving for our baby, I was freaking out over a potential heart condition! The next morning was a blur. They rushed me in to the cardio appointment where an hour-long ECG was performed, thorough health check and another just-as-long echocardiogram. I felt like I was in an episode of HOUSE. When all was said and done, 4 hours later, the cardiologist said, “I’m really sorry you had to go through all this, your heart is extremely healthy, there must have been a mistake in the earlier reading. You are absolutely 100% fine. There is not a damn thing I can find wrong with your heart.”
PHEW. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hug him, or strangle him for putting me through all of that.
He sent the results back to my OB’s office, and we were able to proceed with the d&c the next morning, no issues. Very smooth procedure, and as smooth as can be expected recovery so far. I can’t say enough about the level of care we received from the doctors and nurses here in Singapore, both emotionally and clinically. I mean, the doctor and nurses called my mobile just to see how I was holding up! And, thank God, we are blessed with friends and family that have dropped everything, literally, to come and help us out during this difficult time. And the husband. My god. This guy. A rock. The amount of rescheduling, shuffling and canceling international trips, meetings, calls, all to drop everything and take care of our daughter while I ran around Singapore dealing with this. Never faltering even one step balancing work, fatherhood, and care for me. He’s one-of-a-kind. Really and truly. And I am so so SO damn lucky. Period.
I decided to make this public on our blog, because, just as much as the beautiful moments, exciting trips, and new adventures are a part of our lives – so too are these dark points. T hey help shape our lives, for better or for worse. Life isn’t always pretty, and moments like this are painful reminders of that fact. Death is as much a part of life as birth. But, in these moments, these awful, dark, painful points in time, I have a choice. The one and only thing I am in control of in such helpless times, actually! My attitude.
Miscarriage will not break me, it will not break us, We will try again. We will rise past this with the support of our friends and families and people who have gone through similar situations. It will not define us, it will only scar us. And I wear my scars like a badges of f*ing honour. We are stronger than this. And sharing our story to help other women is the least I can do to bring light and awareness to such a dark situation. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT.
So for now, as I try to make sense of the situation myself, as I heal emotionally and physically, I hold on tightly to the fierce love from my little girl, the endless love from my husband, and the comforting love from our friends and family and know that maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but overtime, it will get better, I will get better and we will get through this.
And, I WILL get back to training. I have a bloody IRONMAN to do, after all.