PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — One of Rihanna’s 2011 hits blared throughout the room as I lay on a cold, hardened steel surgical table. An anxious nurse looked down upon me.
“What type of music do you like?” she asked eagerly.
“Well …,” I forced out as if as a sudden urge to sleep fell over me. Trying not to be rude, I continued, “I like a lot of different types of …,” I muttered before slipping into darkness.
I woke up to another nurse in the recovery room. I had just undergone a cervical dilation and curettage; aka a D&C. A medical procedure designed to remove all remaining content from my uterus after the miscarriage.
Four weeks prior, I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. At the time, my husband (who is also active duty) and I were stationed apart. He was attending pre-deployment courses and we were unable to share the joys and fears of prospective parenthood in person.
Like many first-time mothers, I was nervous as I waited in the Obstetrics and Gynecology lobby. The nerves turned to excitement once I saw a small sac on the large screen in front of me.
“Your baby is in this sac right here,” the nurse said as she circled the image with the electronic cursor. “Let’s see if we can hear a heartbeat,” she said. She made small talk as she clicked more buttons on the machine. But the chatter stopped when she realized something was wrong.
There wasn’t a heartbeat.
As my fear intensified and maternal emotions grew exponentially, the doctor assured me this happens sometimes if the gestational week is wrong. He recommended a blood test to check my hormone levels and scheduled another appointment the following week.
My heart raced as they drew blood. I definitely felt pregnant. Nausea, extreme hunger and sleep deprivation were in full force. I was suffering from all the misery that comes along with becoming a mom-to-be. The test results were good. My hormone levels had doubled — a good sign my baby was growing.
Since my husband was on temporary duty, my superintendent accompanied me to my next OBGYN appointment. After receiving my blood test results, I was naively optimistic the week leading up to the follow-on appointment.
This time the doctor took the lead and looked for signs of life. No heartbeat. Again. The doctor’s prognosis: The pregnancy wasn’t viable and I was to be scheduled for surgery.
The days leading up to surgery were difficult. I still felt all the side effects of being pregnant. All senses prompted the impulse to throw up. I would sleep for 12 hours and upon waking feel like I hadn’t slept in days. As if knowing my baby wasn’t alive wasn’t painful enough. I just wanted it all to be over.
One of the most confusing thoughts was ‘why had I never heard of this from others?’ Statistically, my pregnancy was one of 500,000 annually that ends in a miscarriage and yet no one talks about it. Not my medical practitioners during my entire feminine development process. Not my network of friends, colleagues, church, nor family. Not my mom, aunts, and other extended family.
No one warned me that miscarriages are extremely common and I would feel the loneliest I have ever felt. No one mentions the grieving process for someone I’d never touched or seen with my own eyes. No one mentions that you feel like less of a woman.
I don’t share my story for sympathy. In actuality, this is the first time in the seven years since I have shared it beyond my husband and a few close friends. I share it so another woman won’t be blindsided, as I was. I share it to let other women know they aren’t alone, as I felt. I share it because there is hope, no matter the outcome.
Two years ago, we found out we were pregnant again. The pregnancy wasn’t without complications. After two emergency room visits, doctors told us we were going to have another miscarriage. By an act of fate, the doctors were incorrect and my husband and I welcomed a healthy, bright-eyed little Champ into the world.
Motherhood hasn’t erased the pain of loss, and never fully will, but it has given me hope. While I wish all mothers would be this fortunate, statistically many won’t. But there is no reason you should suffer alone. The Air Force has resources available during your times of grief and doubt.
If you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, don’t hesitate to call the Chaplain, Mental Health or someone in your Air Force family. Just as my superintendent helped me, your Air Force family is here to support you through difficult times.