What Might Have Been

Three months ago I took a pregnancy test that totally flipped our world upside down. I was feeling off, a few days late, and I just knew that I was pregnant ... It was the moment I had dreamed of even though we weren't technically "trying" at the time. Despite how sure I was that it was going to be positive, I immediately went into a state of shock, excitement, and pure joy all at once when the test came back positive, and in that very moment, I became a mom. 

I had just ordered a t-shirt that said “Dad” on it a few days prior for when this time came, not having any idea I would need it so soon, and I decided to wait to tell Sean that our world was about to change until that shirt arrived -- it seemed like a super cute way to tell him the big news! Well, that plan lasted a whole two hours before I decided I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I’m kind of the worst with secrets / surprises / anything that requires me to keep my mouth shut …

After dinner that night, I changed the background on my computer to a graphic I made that read “We’re having a baby!” and told him I had something exciting to show him on my laptop. I remember him mentioning how awesome of a job I did with acting totally normal all night, up until that point ... Sean’s not really the emotional type, but in that moment I could so clearly read everything that was going through his head by the look on his face. He went from excited, to shocked, to anxious, back to excited all within a ten minute period of time. It was the most amazing moment to share together, and I couldn't imagine it happening any other way. 

We told our families a couple of days later, completely ignoring the whole "wait until you're twelve weeks" rule, and I'm so glad that we did. I wandered into Target trying to think of a sweet way we could tell them that their first grand baby was on the way. I found a onesie that said “I have arrived” on it, and decided it was perfect … Sean said that the baby hadn’t actually arrived yet so it didn't really make sense, but I mean, come on. They don’t make clothes for babies who haven’t been born yet! I found a couple of cute gift boxes, tied them with bows, and we gave them as gifts to both of our families. 

Everything was perfect. I had changed my eating habits immediately, I restructured the way I went about my day, and was absolutely aware of the little life that was growing inside of me every second. I was constantly checking the apps on my phone I had downloaded as soon as the test read positive, and I was saving things to my new secret Pinterest boards every chance I got. My jeans no longer fit me by the ninth (almost tenth week), and I was feeling extremely thankful that fall and leggings weather was just right around the corner … 

I’ve been writing this post for a few weeks now trying to find the right words to say, and finally I decided that the right words don’t exist. I’m now one in four. One in four of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Something that you hear about, but never actually think will happen to you … Well, the worst happened. 

When you have a miscarriage the sadness isn't in what changes in your life. The second bedroom is no longer reserved for a nursery, you have no need for the extra space in the home you just moved into in preparation of your growing family, and you’re left grieving what could have been. The sadness isn't in what changes, it's in what stays the same.

The night we got back home after a long drive from my grandfather’s funeral in Tennessee, I went into the bathroom, and my worst fear had happened. I had a little bit of brown spotting, and immediately spiraled into a panic. I spent all night long googling the worst, asking my mom if it was normal, texting my mother in law who’s a nurse, and reading so many conflicting stories. I chose to focus on the good … That some women bleed through their entire pregnancy, and it is absolutely normal. Even while focusing on this, it still didn’t change how anxious I was. 

I spent that night in tears right up until I fell asleep with Sean trying his best to comfort me, and woke up just as anxious. At this point, I was a week away from my first appointment with my doctor … My mom encouraged me to call my doctor and schedule an earlier appointment just to ease my mind. The nurse I spoke to on the phone was extremely calm … She said that spotting like this is totally normal in the first trimester, and she was sure that everything was fine. Regardless, she could hear the worry in my voice, and booked an ultrasound appointment just a couple hours later.

That afternoon was spent in a whirlwind of emotions and constant prayer before my appointment. Every moment I had I was praying to God to please let our baby be okay … Comforted by the fact that everyone else was optimistic that it was nothing, and constantly anxious on the verge of tears for the slight chance that it wasn’t. I already loved this little life so much. I couldn't imagine losing it. 

Sean and I pulled into the doctors office parking lot, and my stomach was in knots. Almost like butterflies, but the kind that make you feel as if you’re going to burst into tears at any second. We rode the elevator up to the third floor with a lady who was clearly pregnant, and all I could think about was the chance that maybe we weren’t going to make it that far. What if it’s not good news that we were about to receive.

We walked into the office, I got signed in, and sat next to Sean until my name was called. He asked me if I was excited, and I remember telling him that I was more stressed that excited … This wasn’t the way I had planned to feel at our first appointment … The first time we were supposed to see our baby … He assured me that everything was going to be okay, and how he was sure that I would be crying tears of relief in just a few minutes. 

My name was called, and we were lead straight back to get an ultrasound. They had a big flat screen in front of the table so we could clearly see everything that was going on. The technician pointed out where the gestational sac was, pointed out my ovaries, and asked a couple of times if I was positive about how far along I was … Yes, I was absolutely positive. There was no way I was any earlier than nine (almost ten!) weeks along at this point. 

The ultrasound tech left the room, and my heart sank. I knew something wasn’t right. If there was a baby to see, she would have pointed it out, right? Why did she keep asking if I was sure how far along I was? Why couldn't she tell me exactly what she was (or wasn't) seeing? All of these questions were racing through my mind, and out loud to my husband at the same time … Something wasn’t right. I could feel it. After I had cleaned myself up, we were lead to a waiting room. There was another couple sitting there, too. They had photos from their ultrasound in their hands … Pointing out details of their baby to each other … Something we didn’t get. I knew then it was all over. 

Sean started searching online for typical nine week ultrasounds … Careful not to let me see his phone for fear of worrying me even more. We both knew everything wasn’t okay. My biggest fear was unfolding right in front of us, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it, or to prepare myself for it. I tried my best to hold it together until the news was definitive. Nothing was confirmed until I heard the words come from my doctor's mouth.

We were then taken back to another exam room, and waited there for what felt like an eternity for my doctor to come in. She sat down, introduced herself, and it was like ripping off a bandaid. She said the words I so desperately didn’t want to hear … “From what we can tell, it looks like you’re experiencing what’s called a Blighted Ovum”. I immediately broke down into tears … Even just writing out that sentence is making me break down all over again. I remember just a week before hearing this news I was telling my mom and sister about a girl I follow on Instagram who had experienced a blighted ovum, and how absolutely heartbreaking something like that has to be, and now it was happening to me. 

A Blighted Ovum, in the simplest of terms, is a missed miscarriage. Our baby stopped growing almost immediately after conception, but for some reason my body didn’t register that it happened. My hormone levels continued to rise, my body was changing, my belly was growing just as anyone else who is nine weeks along, but there wasn’t a baby ... My doctor assured me more times than I could count that it wasn't my fault. Nothing I had done caused this, but that's not where my mind went. My first instinct wasn't to blame myself, but to immediately start wondering why something like this can even happen.

"What an absolutely cruel thing to have to experience," was all that was running through my mind. To believe for over two months that we're having a baby, only to find out a few weeks from being in my second trimester that a baby had never developed. My doctor outlined my options for miscarriage … to either allow my body to miscarry naturally as it had already started to, or to use medication to speed the process up. I chose to go the natural route, and I can’t even really tell you what followed in the weeks after. I feel like I’ve been in a haze for the last few weeks, and I’m just starting to come out of it.

I still cry when I’m watching TV and someone brings a new baby home from the hospital, I still get upset over the fact that we just moved into a bigger townhouse because our last one wasn’t big enough for our then growing family, I struggle when I see newborn babies and expectant momma’s everywhere I go, but I’ve also found peace. Almost immediately I was thankful that if something like this was going to happen, I’m thankful that it happened like this. I don’t think my heart could have handled physically miscarrying a baby at nine weeks. I continue to find comfort in the fact that the full on labor contractions I was feeling just a week ago was to clear out where a baby was supposed to be, but thanking God that there wasn’t actually a baby there for me to see. 

One of the biggest pieces of wrong information I’ve read over and over again is how a Blighted Ovum isn’t a “real” miscarriage since a baby never developed. Friends, I’m here to tell you from my personal experience that it absolutely is. I hope that by me sharing my story here today it offers some insight about this common type of miscarriage, and how real the grief and loss actually is. I think I’m able to understand and heal from this type of miscarriage easier than the latter, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a loss. It's been three weeks since we first heard the news, and I'm still experiencing pregnancy symptoms, and that in and of itself is heart wrenching.

We had already started altering our lives for this baby. We had celebrated with our families, made a move into a bigger space, and talked every night about how big our baby was compared to jelly beans and grapes and seeds. We were throwing around potential names like crazy, and taking silly string tests to find out whether we were having a boy or girl. We had prepared our hearts for our life to change forever, but nothing is changing. There are no baby names to pick out by May, there’s no chance of having a baby on Derby day, or any need for the clothes that I bought one size up to prepare for a growing belly … None of those things are happening anymore, and that’s where I find myself the most vulnerable in all of this. 

We were ready. We didn’t plan for a baby just yet, but in our hearts and minds, we were ready. Now we’re ready for something that isn’t coming (yet). What I find the most comforting in all of this is that experiencing a Blighted Ovum doesn’t increase your chances of miscarriage in the future. This was just simply bad luck … My body knew that the pregnancy wasn’t going to be viable before it even started, and the chances of this ever happening again are slim to none. 

The worst of it is passed us … The physical healing process is complete, and now I’m left with my heart to heal. I still don’t understand why this had to happen, why it’s even possible for me to be a daze of happiness for nine weeks all the while there was never even a baby to be excited about, but I know that I’ll likely look back in 5, 10, 15 years down the road and have a better understanding than I do now. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just one of those things that doesn’t warrant an explanation … Something that’s impossible to understand. 

It makes me anxious to try again, in fear of something like this repeating itself. This last month has absolutely been the worst thing to ever happen in my life … My biggest fear has always been experiencing some sort of fertility issues because my biggest dream has always been to be a mom. It’s the one thing in this world that I know I’m meant to do, and the fear of not having that chance is paralyzing, but I have hope. I have hope that God has a bigger plan in all of this, and for some reason going through something this painful had to be a part of our story.

For those of you who have reached out to check on me from lack of posting, thank you. I hope this offers some clarity into why I haven't been on social media, responding to text messages, or why emails have been delayed … For those momma’s who have posted about your own miscarriage stories this month in honor of October being “National Pregnancy Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month”, thank you. Knowing that I’m not alone in my feelings of none of this being fair has been more comforting than you’ll ever know.

I thought about condensing this story ... making it short and sweet, but I want to be able to come back to this blog post and read through this story. Read about the joy we experienced, how much love was shared, and the realness of our loss. This isn't something that can be shared without sharing every piece of it ... I think we need to start the conversation about miscarriage, share the messy parts of our lives, and connect with people who have shared the same pain. That's exactly why I decided to share my story in this unedited, emotional, raw, and imperfect way. Thanks for reading this until the very end, and for all of your support. Love you all. xo 

Chelcey Tate is a photographer, blogger and graphic designer based in Louisville, KY.