It has taken me a long time to write this story. I wanted to make sure it came from a place of love and happiness, rather than fear and sadness. On September 22nd 2011, I became a part of the ten percent of women who have a miscarriage after hearing and seeing a healthy baby’s heartbeat. We know that miscarriage is a possibility when we conceive. We are taught to be fearful that we could lose the baby for the first three months of pregnancy. We want the world to know, but we are told to wait. But… I wasn’t afraid. I had been pregnant before. I knew what to do, and my daughter Anjali was as healthy as could be. Miscarriage wasn’t something that would happen to me; it’s something that happens to other people, but not to me.
We were on a family vacation: first stopping in San Francisco to visit friends; then, on to Lake Tahoe to meet my parents. I was so excited to share Lake Tahoe with my husband Shesha and my daughter Anjali who was three years old at the time. I was feeling so happy and confident in my pregnancy. I had just competed and won at the National Jitterbug Championships while keeping my secret. I had also just traveled to Herrang, Sweden to teach at the most famous Swing Dance camp in the world. I was happier than I had ever been in my life.
I began having menstral-style cramps when we were in San Fransisco but ignored them. By the time we got to Tahoe, they were a bit worse but inconsistent. They came and went throughout the day, and I didn’t think anything of them until I began spotting. There was very little blood, and it was dark (which supposedly meant old blood); so at first, I wasn’t concerned. I called my midwife and left a message thinking that if she felt it was urgent, she would call me.
On our first full day in Tahoe, we did a ten mile easy bike ride that I had done before as a kid. It wasn’t strenuous at all. I remember thinking as we rode that Baby Marvin number two would also do this ride with us someday. After our bike ride, we hiked down to the famous Viking House, a simple two mile hike total down and up. Anjali was a trooper even though Papa, my dad, had to carry her most of the way. The spotting and cramps continued.
The next day, we took a boat tour of the lake. It was beautiful, but by this point I was getting very nervous. I felt like part of me knew what was happening, but I was trying to stay positive. The cramps became increasingly worse, as did the spotting. I remember telling Shesha, on the boat, that maybe we should prepare ourselves for the worst. I didn’t know at the time, but he was scared too. He calmed me and told me everything would be fine. That night, the cramps were difficult to ignore. I went to sleep thinking that I just needed rest because I had overworked myself and I would feel better in the morning.
I woke up around 1:00 am, and everyone else was asleep. The cramps were unbearable. I used the restroom, and there was more blood but still dark and only a little. I called the Kaiser advice line, and they told me to lay on my left side and call back in an hour. I woke Shesha up and told him the plan. He went back to sleep, and I waited for the cramps to go away; they didn’t. At 2:30 am, I used the restroom again. This time there was more blood; and it was bright red, so I called Kaiser again. Each phone call to get to the nurse was about a thirty minute process. They asked me the same set of questions each time. Finally, the nurse told me to go to the nearest Kaiser, but the nearest Kaiser was over two hours away. I woke Shesha up again and this time, told him to take me to the ER.
We arrived in the tiny Tahoe ER around 4:00 am. It wasn’t until they were checking my blood pressure that I realized these weren’t cramps; they were contractions. I grabbed Shesha and told him. At this point, I had a small hope that maybe this was just some form of preterm labor, and maybe they would give me a shot or medication to make the contractions stop.
The doctor came in and ordered fluids to slow down the contractions and pain medication to make me more comfortable. He did a pelvic exam and gave me more hope; he told me that my cervix was still closed, which was a good thing. The next step was the ultrasound. The ultrasound tech came in and wheeled my bed to a dark room. She wasn’t going to let Shesha come with me, but he did after she told him, “As long as you don’t ask questions… the dads always ask too many questions.”
The tech began the ultrasound but didn’t say a word. She turned the screen to where she thought we couldn’t see, but we could. We knew what we were looking for. She wheeled us back in our room in silence, and Shesha and I were alone. We both knew that we didn’t see a heartbeat. That’s when the tears began. The doctor came in to explain what he saw. He told us that even though I was supposed to be 13 weeks pregnant, the “fetus” only measured 10 weeks. He was very nice but always medical. He refused to say the word “baby,” using “fetus” instead; it was making me angry. He left us alone again, and I cried… devastated and shocked. What were we going to tell Anjali about the baby? She was convinced it was a girl, and so were we. We even had a name picked out, Ellington.
We didn’t know what to do next. The doctor said he was going to let us go. He said there would be some pain and bleeding. He thought it would be a good idea for us to go back to the hotel, pack and drive home right away. He really had no idea what to tell us. He didn’t prepare us for what was about to happen, in any way; it seemed as though he looked up “miscarriage” on WebMD. We wanted things to be as normal as possible for Anjali, so we decided to stay in Tahoe another day. We stopped at the drug store and picked up my prescription for percoset (pain medication) and went back to the hotel to see my parents and Anjali.
I cried on my mom’s shoulder and told her that I thought the baby was a girl and that we were going to name her Ellington; that made her cry harder. Shesha sat down and explained to Anjali what had happened. We all pulled ourselves together and decided to go to breakfast. At breakfast I tried to eat, but I was dizzy from the medication and didn’t have much of an appetite. The contractions were still coming, and they were getting more painful. I popped another percocet while at the restaurant. We went back to the hotel, and my parents decided to take Anjali on a catamaran ride so Shesha and I could rest.
By the time we got back to the hotel and I climbed into bed, the pain was almost unbearable; I took another percoset. I tried to sleep but within minutes, I was rushing to the restroom. I sat down on the toilet, and blood and tissue poured out of me. I was crying uncontrollably. Shesha came in to help and saw the incredible amount of blood. I was beside myself. In shock. No one told me this would happen! No one told me that I was going to go into labor! I guess I should have known, but I didn’t. There was blood everywhere. I remember at one point trying to clean blood off of the floor on my hands and knees through my tears as the contractions continued. I was in labor, and it was terrifying. Shesha and I were alone, and we were not expecting this. I spent the better part of two hours going back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom. This scene haunted me for months, and it still does. I understand that when faced with a miscarriage, some women opt to have a natural experience instead of a D&C; I wish I had had the option. I may have still chosen a natural miscarriage, had I known what to expect. For something so “common,” most women really know nothing about the process of a miscarriage. I know that this is graphic, and gross, and sad, and that many women choose not to share what they have experienced; but I wish that someone would have told me what to expect.
After the initial loss, Shesha and I recollected each other on the bed and sobbed together…loud and painful. Our future forever changed. All of the hopes and dreams of baby Ellington, gone. She was real to us, our baby to be. I am thankful now that all of this happened in a hotel far away from home. I never have to see that room again. My mom had to explain to the hotel staff why the sheets and towels were all ruined. I was ashamed and could not look the hotel employees in the eye. I just wanted to go home.
We left early the next morning. Contractions were still coming pretty regularly, and I was still bleeding quite a bit. About an hour or so into the drive, we stopped for gas. When I came back from the restroom, I was in tears again. I remember Anjali asking Shesha at the gas station, “Why is mommy so sad?” I held her and cried before we got back on the road. A couple more hours passed, and it was time for lunch. We stopped at a truck stop; and this time when I went into the restroom, there was a full length mirror. I stood in front of the mirror and stared at myself. My baby bump was already gone.
The drive from Lake Tahoe to Orange County was the longest drive of my life. I was dizzy and nauseous from the percocet and couldn’t even lift my head. I’m sad that a place that holds so many wonderful childhood memories for me and my family is now forever tainted; I don’t know if I can ever go back. What if we had listened to the ER doctor and drove home after we left the hospital? I would have gone into labor in the car or at a rest stop. I can’t even imagine how horrific that would have been. Again, I wish someone would have told me what was going to happen. We hear over and over again how “common” miscarriage is: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Then why don’t we know what to expect?
That night after returning home, just before bed, I began contracting, bleeding, and losing large pieces of tissue again. We were concerned because we thought that the worst was over. Shesha called his brother to come watch Anjali, and we went back to the ER; but this time at the Lakeview Kaiser near our home. Upon check-in at the hospital, we had to tell the same painful story over and over again to the receptionist, the nurses and finally the doctor. He did a pelvic exam; and this time, my cervix was wide open. He pulled tissue out of me for a good 20 minutes, prescribed some more percoset, and then, we were on our way. It was all just part of the process. I never heard of a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) until later.
The next day, was a friend’s wedding. I debated going and decided that I wanted to be around my friends for the support; we needed the support. I made it through the wedding in a percocet haze. I wanted to tell everyone what I had gone through not just for myself, but for them. The next evening, I invited my girlfriends over my house to talk. I was surprised to find that all but one had no idea what happened in the event of a miscarriage.
We are taught many things when we are pregnant, but we are not educated on the process of a miscarriage. I did not know about a D&C or in my case a “natural miscarriage.” I was pretty open on Facebook about the trauma that I experienced, and I was touched by the amount of messages that I received from friends and acquaintances all over the world who had similar experiences. I wanted to write this story to let people, not just women, know that miscarriage is okay to talk about. There is no reason to be ashamed, and it’s okay to be devastated.
Guilt. Even though everyone told me, “It’s not your fault,” or “There is nothing that you could have done,” I couldn’t help but hold myself responsible. Maybe I shouldn’t have danced so hard. Maybe I shouldn’t have flown across the world. Maybe I had too much caffeine… The guilt was incredible. We will never know why I had a miscarriage. My mom went through the same thing with her second pregnancy; maybe it’s hereditary. Who knows.
Desperation. After the miscarriage, I was desperate to get pregnant again. I wanted so badly to get back on track, and I knew that it would take a couple of months for my body to get back to normal. I wasn’t fitting in my pre-pregnancy clothes, and I wasn’t losing the weight fast enough. If I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t want to look pregnant. I was insecure, and I wanted to hide from the world.
Loneliness. Even though I was surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family, I felt incredibly alone. After the initial weeks passed, friends assumed I was fine; I put on a happy face, but I was an emotional wreck. I avoided going to dances because I didn’t want people to mention the miscarriage or ask about my pregnancy. For weeks, people would talk to me about my pregnancy, and I would have to tell them the news. At night, Shesha would fall asleep next to me, and I would lay there alone and cry myself to sleep. I. Was. A. Mess.
Depression. This really was the only time in my life that I was truly depressed. I was always on the verge of tears. I was planning and hosting a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and I had to avoid her. I didn’t want to see her growing belly. I didn’t want to see ultrasound pictures of her twins. Also, several of my friends became pregnant around this time, and I pretended I was happy for them; but I wasn’t. I was jealous that I was no longer in the club. Grief is a process, and I had to feel all of these things to move forward.
People would often tell me that I would feel better when I became pregnant again. I couldn’t expect them to understand how that comment hurt. To us, Ellington was a real baby that we were planning on holding, loving, and raising. She was to be a little sister to Anjali. We didn’t want to replace her with another baby, we wanted her.
Finally, just before Christmas, I found out that I was pregnant again! I took a test on a whim and was surprised to see the positive result. When I brought the test to Shesha, I wasn’t sure if I was happy or terrified. I felt so broken that I didn’t want to go through it all again. I was comforted by the fact that all of these friends and family members came forward to tell me that they also had miscarriages and had gone on to raise beautiful families. We announced our pregnancy on Christmas day to my family.
This time, I was careful not to dance too hard, I avoided caffeine, and I didn’t carry my daughter. When I reached 12 weeks, I took a leap of faith and announced to the world that we were expecting again. For the first time in a long time, I was happy. The day that I turned 13 weeks pregnant I woke up to spotting. Immediately, my world started to spin again. How could this happen again at the exact same time? Luckily, we were able to see our midwife within a couple hours. She did a pelvic exam, and all was well. Next was the ultrasound, and I held my breath. There on the screen, was our little peanut doing somersaults. I was nervous for every ultrasound throughout the pregnancy.
March 21st 2012, Ellington’s due date came and went; and even though I shed a tear for my lost baby, I could confidently look to the future. I know that some people feel that miscarriage shouldn’t be discussed, but as I said before, that baby was real to me, as real as my other two kids. I wanted to share this story partly for myself, but mostly because I’m not ashamed of what I went through. In fact, I refuse to be.
If I had not lost Ellington I wouldn’t have my baby boy Arjuna, and I can’t imagine my world without him.
A few resources on miscarriage and support that I found helpful:
Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th