I (like most people) have become accustomed to tragedy. I don’t say this lightly. After losing my mom, I have learned that having sadness in my life is always within arms reach. Things will happen. There’s nothing we can do to stop the evil. We just have to keep moving, going, hoping that it stays away for as long as possible. Losing my mom was and is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. It’s something no one can understand until they’ve gone through it – and you hope to god they never have to… not until they are very, very old. Not until the goodbye is sweet.
I remember when I got pregnant with Jude and in a hushed voice my mom said, “Wait to tell people, Katie. I remember the hurt after I announced a pregnancy and later had to go back and tell everyone that I had a miscarriage. I don’t want you to go through that pain.”
I remember how that brought fear in my head. I remember heeding her words and waiting until I was 12 weeks along before I told the world about Jude. Because of her words, I waited just as long for Hattie.
When I got pregnant for a third time, I planned to do the same. But even knowing I was waiting that long to tell everyone else… that didn’t mean that I could wait that long to fall in love with this baby. How could I? It was growing inside of me. It was making me abnormally hungry and sleepy. I was starting to crave spicy foods, smell things too strongly, and have aversions to shrimp. It was taking over my body and I loved every bit of it. I loved knowing that Hattie would have a sibling 20 months apart in age. I loved that Jude would have another brother or sister to love on. I loved that our family would be complete.
I started creating Pinterest boards. We’d tell our family around Thanksgiving. It would be a surprise – but the sweetest and most special surprise. We’d postpone the wedding until the Fall. It’d be perfect – everyone would have more time to save and our whole family would be there. We’d have one more sweet child to share in our family joy.
We talked about who would be in what room in the house. Hattie could share a room if it was a girl. We’d move the girls into Jude’s room and he’d take Hattie’s since his room had a bigger closet. If it was a boy, Jude would take the room on the 3rd floor. We had plans. Maybe we’d even sell this home and buy a bigger one. What if it was twins? They run in my family. Maybe we’d really need that bigger home.
I know when we conceived but can’t remember the exact date of my last menstrual cycle so I have my blood drawn at Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill. The midwife wants me to get an ultrasound to measure my estimated due date. After getting my blood drawn it is determined that I am 5-6 weeks along. They wanted to wait until 7 weeks for the ultrasound so I scheduled for October 12th. I’ve known I am pregnant since September 24th.
A friend of mine is going to watch the kids but the night before she has to cancel. I put Jude into camp and decide to bring Hattie with me. I rush to get to my appointment on time after being stuck in traffic. After stopping at a McDonalds and getting breakfast, I shove half of it down before walking into Rex Women’s Center.
I am excited. Part of me hopes it is twins. I’ve always wanted four or five kids. I know this was my last pregnancy, so getting two kids out of it would be a dream. I roll Hattie into the office. I’m directed to the elevator by the woman at the front desk. I get to the right office and the woman at reception asks my name.
“Katherine Karambelas,” I tell her.
“Last name isn’t Hill?” she asks.
I scrunch up my nose. “No, not Hill. It hasn’t been Hill in years. I’m long divorced.”
She laughs and says, “I understand that. I’ll update it now.”
She goes through confirming address and phone number. Finally, she asks, “Are you single or married?”
“Engaged. Somewhere between, I guess.” We both laugh. “We keep having babies. Someday we will get married.”
Hattie starts to get anxious and the woman lets me take a seat. A minute later, I am being called back. I walk down the hallway, past a largely pregnant woman waiting to use the bathroom. She jiggles the door before the woman in front of me tells her it is in use. I weave around her and get settled into the room with the ultrasound equipment.
The ultrasound tech has me lie back and pull my pants to my pubic bone. She squirts a small amount of gel on my stomach and applies pressure. “Nope,” she says rather quickly. “We’re going to have to do this transvaginally.”
She leaves the room and I try to calm Hattie down while I undress. I pull the sheet over me and when the tech knocks on the door, I let her come in.
She starts the ultrasound and tries to be quick since Hattie is starting to throw a tantrum and doesn’t want to be in her umbrella stroller anymore.
“Here’s the sac,” she tells me. She takes a few pictures and measures it from different angles. She takes photos of my ovaries. Then she says, “It’s hard to measure exact age based on just the sac but this looks like a 5 week old sac.”
“5 weeks?” I blurt out. “How is that possible? How would I have known I was pregnant so early? I was told a week and a half ago that I was 5-6 weeks. I should be like 7 now.”
The tech keeps moving, typing things into the computer. “Maybe you aren’t as far along as you thought,” she suggested. “I am going to show the doctor everything and she will come talk to you. She comes in and talks with everyone after an ultrasound.”
“Okay. So there’s no baby in there yet?”
“No, there’s no embryo. Just the sac now. I didn’t print any photos since there’s nothing really to see.”
“Okay,” I say. She leaves and I pick up Hattie, bouncing her up and down, up and down.
I feel sick. There’s no embryo. That’s not possible. Something is wrong. The thought of miscarriage becomes strong. My mom had two. This was always my biggest fear. But it couldn’t happen to me. My mom was my angel now, right? She was supposed to protect me from this. This couldn’t be happening. I’d already lost her. I couldn’t handle more loss. I needed this baby to be okay.
The doctor comes in. She’s older, definitely a grandmother, with delicate features and a small frame. She offers to hold Hattie but Hattie won’t go to her.
“I’m a bit concerned…” she begins.
The rest feels like five minutes stretched between eternity. The words – possible miscarriage, no embryo, sac is large, unsure, can’t say for sure until another ultrasound, I don’t want to give you hope – come out of her mouth. I try to piece them together but I can’t stop the tears once they start. She holds a box of tissues in front of me and I grab one, desperately patting the corner of my eyes.
“What do I need to do?” I ask. I’ve never been here before. I feel alone.
“We will schedule another ultrasound in ten days. That will be conclusive. You can call Women’s Birth and Wellness and ask if they want you to do anything else too.”
I nod as she tells me she wishes she had better, more conclusive news. I push Hattie back down the hallway with the bathroom and translucent lights. Everything feels brighter and my eyes sting. I tell the lady at the front that I need another ultrasound. I choke down the tears, feeling my throat burning as she asks what day of the week works, what time works. I make it down the elevator as a couple of nurses compliment Hattie’s pink bow. I make it past the woman at the front desk who had directed me to the elevator when I got there. I make it just outside the double doors.
Then I let the heaves of hot, heavy tears consume me. I give myself 30 seconds. Then I walk to the car, sunglasses covering my eyes, as tears continue to roll down my cheeks. When I get in the car, my hands shake as I put myself into autopilot driving home.
I tell Jordan the news. He is kind. He is always kind. But I know it is different for him. I will need him to hold me up because I won’t be able to do it myself.
The next few hours are a mix of salty tears, a blood draw to confirm my HCG count, and the comfort of my bed. My boss is understanding and takes over my projects. My dad watches Hattie.
I am broken.
I wait to hear about my blood test. The next day, no one calls in the morning like I hope. I take Jude to a soccer game and then I spend a couple of hours in bed as the kids nap and play. I don’t sleep. I can’t turn off my thoughts.
I started spotting after the ultrasound, which is normal. But when the blood turns heavy and bright red in the afternoon, I’m a mess. My midwife confirms that this is probably my body catching up to what has happened. I’m having a miscarriage.
But life must go on and our friends are getting married this day. I squeeze into tights and a dress. I do my hair and make up even though I’m in pain, even though I’m dying inside.
I smile for photos. I sit in a chair and pretend I’m fine as I’m miscarrying my child. I’m sitting beside people who are happy and full of life and have no idea that I’m breaking. I can’t find the words to say: I’m having a miscarriage and I can’t dance like I want to now. I can’t celebrate like I should.
Someone asks me if I’m okay and I say yes. I tell them I’m just cold. I am cold… in more ways than one.
The bleeding continues. It might for a few days. Jordan and I learn that October is actually Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. It seems ironic. I ask him if I can write about it, because for me, it’s the only way I can fully process what is happening. He says yes.
Miscarriage is a lonely thing. It’s isolating and heartbreaking. But it doesn’t have to be… because we need to talk about it. We shouldn’t hide from our pain. It’s so common. Unfortunately so. One in four. We should feel united and lean on each other. It’s something that is impossible to comprehend. My midwife reassured me that it meant that something was wrong with this pregnancy and it was my body’s way of realizing that. As much as I want to find comfort in this… it isn’t all that comforting.
I know that I can go on and have healthy pregnancies. I know that this is not the end of our family. But now, in the thick of things, literally still bleeding, I am falling apart. I’d give anything to hug my mom.
For many women, seeing other women pregnant, watching the days go by knowing your anticipated would-be due date is approaching, or seeing certain ads is hard. This is our opportunity as women (and men!) to come together and support one another. This is our opportunity to let others know that they are no alone in this pain.
Someday, we will get our rainbow baby. But for now, I’m going to dwell in this moment. I’m going to appreciate those couple of weeks where I dreamed about this baby. I’m going to mourn this loss. It’s all I can do. <3