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Each pregnancy loss carries with it deeply personal heartache. I know this from experience. My first loss was nearly four years ago, when I was 6 months along. The only reason I can write that sentence is because I've done the work of falling apart, being numb, mourning, going to therapy, being angry at God, cutting hurtful people out of my life, finding glimmers of hope, and learning to live in a new normal.
COVID-19 definitely has made this miscarriage and my resulting grief even more challenging than under normal circumstances. I share my story in the hopes of making someone else's miscarriage recovery journey during coronavirus isolation even 1 percent less lonely and fearful.
Making the decision to get help
The night the bleeding began, my biggest fear other than losing the baby was going to an emergency room. The news seemed to indicate people should stay away from hospitals if at all possible to avoid exposure to the virus. As things quickly deteriorated and it became clear we couldn't manage my bleeding at home any longer, my husband and I knelt on the floor of the bathroom and tearfully weighed our options.
Our other kids had been asleep for hours. My parents live 25 minutes away, and under normal circumstances, we'd call them to come over. But they're older and had been self-quarantining together for weeks to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Calling an ambulance or waking the kids would scar them for life. So, we made the heart-wrenching decision that I'd drive myself to the emergency room. That ride was among the worst of my life – bleeding, sobbing, begging God to make this stop, and fearing what might happen when I arrived at the ER.
Alone at the ER
The entrance to the hospital emergency room reminded me of the scene in ET with the tent and all those people wearing hazmat suits. I stumbled up to an admissions table, where I was asked for my ID by a discompassionate worker who seemed not to notice I was shaking and crying, completely terrified. And alone.
The theme of stoicism endured throughout my hospital experience. Most hospital personnel seemed expressionless under their masks during the lonely hours I ended up spending as I endured cramps, and bled out the baby we'd so desperately wanted. A few nurses offered me kind words and even a quick arm rub. But understandably, the focus was on keeping everyone safe.
Upon being admitted, I was taken directly to a private room. I was kept away from other patients at all times, even when I was transferred to another floor for the ultrasound that revealed the sac I'd seen just days ago had, inexplicably, disappeared.
Although I was crushed and, when I called my husband, could barely form words to tell him the horrible, unthinkable news, I was aware enough to wipe down my phone and bag repeatedly with antibacterial wipes that I'd brought from home. I washed my hands or rubbed them with hand sanitizer frequently. The last thing I wanted was to transport germs to my loving family waiting for me at home. I was discharged around noon, feeling the hospital had done its best to protect me from exposure. But a quick glance in the mirror was shocking; I'd cried so much, I looked like a completely different person. Wasn't I?
Recovering without shoulders to cry on
When I got home from the hospital I didn't fall into my husband's embrace for the comfort I gravely needed: I stripped off my clothes and showered. But soon I was able to hug him and each of my kids. I am so thankful for those hugs, since they're the only ones I get as I work to accept the loss and start to crave support.
My own parents can't hug me. My close friend stood across the street and listened as I tearfully shared my heartbreaking news. Most of my friends don't even know what happened since, like everyone else, I don't go out and see anyone. Dealing with grief following a miscarriage already feels extremely isolating. These circumstances are almost unbearable.
On the other hand, after my first loss, I struggled to put on an even remotely happy face and see people at school drop-off or the grocery store. All I wanted to do was stay home and cry. This time, I can. There's nowhere to go, nowhere I have to be. Many days, when I'm feeling low, I can't help but feel there's a silver lining to the timing of my miscarriage being when the world is self-isolating.
The way forward is different this time
Suffering a miscarriage during the coronavirus outbreak has been devastating. When you lose a pregnancy, it's already disorienting. It sucks you into a hole of hopelessness so deep you wonder if you'll ever climb out. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is also knocking us off center. Like many folks, I look around for signs of my life as I knew it just weeks ago, when I was excited to be expecting a baby, when playdates and going out for pizza were normal, safe activities. Those things are gone.
Thankfully, when I hear my daughter laugh, I feel the faintest sense of comfort. Not everything has changed. Not everything is gone forever. And deep down somewhere, I know if I found a way to move forward after my first loss, I'll be able to do it again. And as I tell my children, we'll go to Disney World and celebrate life and love, which helped heal us years ago. One day.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.