13 weeks. That’s when I miscarried our second baby.
My husband David and I had gone in for a routine OBGYN visit and ultrasound at week 10. The large black screen mounted on the wall showed a beautiful baby that was still at the bottom of my uterus. Instead of the reassuring THUD, THUD, THUD of a heartbeat and a flickering light, the sonographer turned up the eerie, horrific empty sound of pure static on full volume. I ripped my eyes off the screen.
They called in another doctor to confirm the “missed miscarriage.” A term I had never heard of until that day. It meant my body was attempting to sustain a baby that was no longer living. The doctor gave me three options: go in for a D & C surgery to remove the baby, take pills to induce labor, or wait up to four weeks to see if my body would naturally pass the baby on it’s own. We chose the last option.
We walked out to the waiting room full of a sea of pregnant women with live babies in the stomachs. The receptionist, who obviously didn’t know what just happened, called after me to schedule my next prenatal appointment. Dave said we would call later and opened the glass door.
We entered the elevator to go downstairs. A mom with three beautiful, living children got on, too. I smashed my back against the elevator, my mind screaming the same two questions, “What did I do to cause this? Why did you allow this to happen, God?”
It took us a full year after the miscarriage to get pregnant again. And though I wanted to be happy, that pregnancy was rife with fear of a repeat miscarriage. Any spotting. Any cramping. I was a wreck, though I prayed Scripture and tried to surround myself with truth. But after nine long months of anguish, God graciously gave us a beautiful dark-haired baby GIRL – Esther. And after, that, He in His unmeasured goodness and mercy, gave us another gift: smiley Hannah.
And here I am again. Pregnant. With each pregnancy, it seemed the old miscarriage fears were fading. The joy was building. The happiness was even exponentially bigger because of the loss. But nothing prepared me for what happened at my 12-week appointment a week ago.
I don’t know how other women handle announcing their pregnancies after experiencing a miscarriage. But I am just a bit more private about it until we are out of the first trimester. It’s not that I am living in fear, it’s just that I want to walk that faith hand in hand with God, my husband and our closest friends and family that are our prayer warriors. And, in my mind, passing that fated 13-week mark makes me take a breath of peace. I’m really pregnant. I’m not going to miscarry. This is going to be a healthy, real-live baby.
So we had only told family and a few close friends before my 12-week – end of the first trimester – appointment. I casually mentioned to Dave that I had an appointment for the 12-week mark to hear the heartbeat, but “you don’t have to come, Honey. I’m sure everything will be fine.” Dave grabbed my shoulder in our kitchen, “Everything will be just fine, honey. I have a business appointment, but really, it will be fine.
On the drive over, Fear started to unleash. “What if you don’t hear the heartbeat? You may have heard the heartbeat at week eight – but they measured your miscarried baby to be nine-weeks when it stopped growing. What if???? What if??”
I looked down at my hanging wall calendar in the passenger seat behind me. I brought it so I could schedule my next appointment. But would they find a heartbeat. Would I even need it?
I HATE FEAR.
I grabbed my phone and started blaring worship music in my car to drown out Fear. I was embarrassed at my lack of faith. Here I was – a Christian my whole life, a mom of three beautiful healthy living children, battling fear in my 30’s. C’mon, Leah. Get it together.
I parked my trusty hotttttt minivan and walked in the waiting room, white as a sheet from morning sickness and on heavy medication for nausea. They were unusually busy that day and I sat for almost an hour in the waiting room with my pregnant comrades waiting for my name to be called. I started to get more sick from lack of food, and the waiting induced more Fear. They finally called my name, took my blood pressure (I wondered if my pounding heart battling fear would register), my weight and then led me back to a room.
The nurse was shutting the door when she said, “No need to undress. He’ll just be using a Doppler for the heartbeat. No sonogram today.” I tried to act casual, “Oh, so do they usually find the heartbeat easily with a Doppler at 12-weeks?” “Oh, yes. Unless the patient is heavy, and you are not, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
I laid down on the bed and waiting another long time, staring at the wall. I was so sick with nausea, but my fear was trumping my sickness. Finally, the polite knock sounded. And my heart started racing. “Please, God. Please let us hear the heartbeat.”
He squirted cold gel on my bare stomach and started the searching. And searching. And searching. “No, no. That’s your heartbeat.” He kept muttering, pushing the wand to a new location. As time passed slowly, I started to feel terror. No heartbeat. Just like last time. No live baby.
“Leah, it’s probably nothing, but it looks like I will need to do a sonogram since I’m having difficulty finding the heartbeat. Again, don’t worry – you are early and there’s probably nothing wrong. The nurse will be in shortly to show you to the sonogram room.”
I picked up my purse with shaking hands. The nurse echoed “Don’t worry” and led me to the empty sonogram room and told me the doctor would be right in. She handed me a worn washcloth to use to wipe off the gel. She shut the door behind her and left me alone.
I laid down on the sonogram chair and the towel dropped off my stomach onto the floor. I was so upset I didn’t pick it up. I felt like I was about to vomit from the morning sickness and stress. When a few minutes went by, I popped out of my chair, jabbed my ice cold hand in my purse to fish out my phone. I quickly texted my mom, sister and husband with trembling fingers, “Couldn’t find the heartbeat. Going in for a sonogram.” Then I threw the phone back in my purse like it was on fire, because I was trying to act casual. I didn’t want the nurse and doctor to know how scared I was. Oh, fear.
Fear is not of the Lord. He says, “Fear not for I am with you.” Fear and faith cannot live simultaneously.
After what felt like an eternity, the polite knock came. I did not look at the screen on the wall. I never look at sonogram screens until they detect the heartbeat. I always just study the sonographer’s face. My doctor’s face was concerned at first, because the machine wasn’t set up or turned on. He apologized with a wrinkled brow as he attempted to get the right settings. Finally it popped on.
“Ok,” he sighed, looking at the screen through his glasses.
After a few seconds, that felt like the longest seconds of my life, I muttered, “Is there a heartbeat?”
He turned on the sound, but my ears were deaf. “Is there a heartbeat? I asked again. He turned to me with a smile, the loud THUMP THUMP THUMP in the background, “Yes. Hear that?”
Oh, that joyous magical sound of life! I couldn’t help it. I don’t care if I’m in my 30’s and have been a Christian my whole life. I was a pregnant mother that desperately wanted this baby to be alive and I burst out crying, tears streaming down my cheeks. “I’m so sorry that this upset you, I’m sorry we didn’t find it sooner,” the doctor kept saying. I put my hand out, while ugly sobbing, “Oh, no. Don’t worry. I’m. Just. Glad. There’s. A. Heartbeat.”
He took more photos of the baby. The baby measured a perfect 12-weeks. He pointed out a tiny arm near the sweet little head of MY BABY. My living baby. It was all surreal from that point. I remember saying good-bye to him as he left the room. I remember tying up my turquoise converse tennis shoes. I remember picking up my phone, trying to type with wobbly fingers, “FOUND HEARTBEAT! PRAISE THE LORD!!!!”
Right above my text, was my precious husband’s text: “On my way.”
Now, ladies. I don’t know what you perceive as romantic. I don’t know what you perceive as chivalrous. But I know that text blew all my fears right out the window: my husband was on his way. Wherever he was, he was canceling and driving to me as fast as he could when he heard the news.
I will never forget that text until the day I die.
I walked out to the scheduling room. My phone vibrated with another text from my knight in shining armor, “I’m downstairs in the lobby.” I texted him that I was making an appointment and would be right out. But when I opened the door to the waiting room, there he was. He jumped off his chair like a hot potato, and rushed to my side. “Are you ok?” he asked, grabbing my shoulders. “Yes,” I muttered. “There’s a heartbeat.”
I was then reminded how shook up I was physically, emotionally and spiritually. “Ma’am?” a lady called out. “You forgot your purse.”
Everyone in the waiting room tried not to smirk as I laughed nervously, “Oh, thank you. Ah, must be pregnancy brain.”
But really it was the surreal high of God deciding to give this baby LIFE. I couldn’t focus on much else.
My story ends on a good note. I’ve passed the 13-week anniversary of that horrible miscarriage with a living baby. We found out last Saturday – through an amazing big gender reveal party – that this baby is a boy. A MANCHILD. (My thoughtful mother-in-law filled a piñata with blue bubble gum cigars that my husband burst in front of all the guests – so fun to celebrate LIFE and God’s GOODNESS).
But there are others – maybe you – that are facing fear with unknown outcomes right now. I am praying for you as I type. My eyes fill with sympathetic tears. I wish I could write a happy ending for everyone facing fear. I can’t. But I can tell you to cling to God, as David did through the Psalms. Even when he didn’t understand – even when he was angry with God – he kept the communication going. Keep praying. Wrestle with God, as Jacob wrestled with the angel. Surround yourself with truth and those that will point you to the God of all comfort. Go to church. Listen to worship music.
And when you walk in to hear your own personal “heartbeat” – your diagnosis – know that He is right there beside you. He is not against you. He loves you. No matter the circumstance, God is for you.
Want more stories like this? Check out Leah Spina’s Amazon Best-Seller book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years on Amazon or click this image.