If you’re new to my blog, this post picks up from the first blog post I wrote about my miscarriage (here).
I kind of view our life now as “Before Madelyn” and “After Madelyn”. Before Madelyn, we were naive and my biggest stressor was our downstairs neighbor who played his video games too loud. I didn’t know how lucky I was to not know true heartache. Sometimes I look at photos of us from our wedding or from vacations prior to this, and feel bad for the smiling couple in those photos. They have no clue what kind of pain is waiting for them. At the same time, I also know that I’m not the same person I was before. I’m stronger and I’m more empathetic, and I have a gratitude for life that I didn’t have before. A few days after we lost Madelyn, I wrote a letter to her that I still have. Something I wrote still sticks out to me, and I always think about it when I’m feeling down or defeated…
“You’ve given us a perspective on life that most people don’t have. We wish we didn’t have to learn it like this, but I promise to live my life in a way that makes you proud to be my daughter.”
Whenever I feel myself getting upset or anxious over something that’s really not important, I think back to that sentence and it brings me back down to reality. Life gets a lot more simple when you realize that there are very few things worth really getting upset over.
This post is about our life after we got home from the hospital and goes up until I went back to work.
LIFE AFTER MADELYN
When we got back to our apartment from the hospital, there was a small package waiting outside for us. I knew exactly what it was… it was the invitations for Madelyn’s baby shower that I had ordered. I couldn’t open them- I put them right into the trash. What a punch to the gut that was. Over the next couple weeks, little reminders like that kept happening… emails from my pregnancy app telling me how big our daughter was that week, nursery inspiration showing up on my Pinterest feed, a gift in the mail for signing up for the registry that I forgot about. I felt like everywhere I turned, I saw another reminder of how happy I was supposed to be.
When we first got home, I was scared to go upstairs in our apartment because I had already made a lot of progress on Madelyn’s nursery. I didn’t want to see the books that I’d never get to read her or the stuffed animals she’d never get to play with. I’m so thankful to my husband for quickly packing everything up. I know it wasn’t easy for him, but he knew that seeing all of it would have devastated me. Luke and I leaned on each other every day during this time. When I was feeling weak and didn’t know how I was going to get through the day, he would be strong for me and I would do the same for him. When I needed to just cry, he would hold me and bring me tissues. And when I needed to vent without him trying to say “the right thing” to make me feel better, he would simply listen. It’s like we both developed a sense for exactly what the other needed in the moment, it made us even better friends. I could easily see how something like this might tear a couple apart. Luckily for us though, it brought us closer together.
Once we were settled back into our apartment, we had to begin the impossibly difficult task of reaching out to our family and friends to let them know what happened. My parents and sister took care of letting my family members know, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ll never forget how each time I had to write a text to someone to tell them, it felt like it was happening all over again. It was SO hard. When I had to call my boss, I almost couldn’t get the words out. Then I had to call and file a short term disability claim… and still couldn’t get the words out without sobbing. It’s almost like saying the words out loud made it feel so much more real, and I wasn’t ready to accept it.
Flowers and cards started coming in the mail from friends and family. Those meant the world to me. It made me feel like people were really acknowledging our loss. I was worried that because I had a miscarriage, people wouldn’t think about it like losing a child. But I was wrong, and I truly appreciate each and every card, bouquet, text, email, and voicemail we received.
I wanted SO badly to find any way possible to memorialize our daughter. I don’t know if it was my motherly instinct or what, but I knew I had to find ways to make sure her spirit lived on. One of the first things I did was order a necklace with her monogram engraved on it. I wore it every single day, it almost became like a security blanket for me. If I felt myself starting to get sad, I would reach for it around my neck and try to remember my promise to Madelyn. Another thing that helped me was a little memory box that the hospital gave us. In the box they put several cards with her footprints on them along with some other mementos. When we got home, I put my own little things inside of it that made me think of her. I go through this box every so often, and I plan to show it to Nathan when he’s older.
During this time, I also remember feeling so empty - physically and emotionally. When I was pregnant, I would subconsciously rest my hand on my stomach… but now there was nothing in there. I felt a strong urge to be pregnant again… I needed that empty feeling to go away.
I cried every single day. Sometimes all day. I even woke up sobbing a couple of times- I literally couldn’t escape the pain when I slept. But for some reason, I cried the most in the shower. I don’t know if it’s because I thought Luke couldn’t hear me (he could), or because there is nothing else in the shower to distract me from my thoughts… but every single shower I took was my time to let it all out.
In an attempt to try and get myself back into some sort of routine, I decided to start forcing myself out of the house at least once a day. I tasked myself with making over our guest bedroom – the room where Madelyn’s nursery was supposed to be. One day I went to a home decor store and the first thing I saw walking in was one of those wall decor signs with a quote on it. The quote was “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem ”. I knew it was a sign from my baby. The next day I went to another store and they had different wood initials out on a shelf. They were all mostly arranged alphabetically except for on one shelf there was an “M” and an “H” next to each other. Madelyn Hope. Another sign from my baby. Seeing these small signs gave me more motivation to get out and back into the real world. If I never left our apartment, I would be missing all of these signs from her… and I definitely didn’t want that.
Being out was hard though, you never notice how many pregnant women there are until it’s something you so desperately want for yourself. I felt mad at these women and jealous… but at the same time I knew that I didn’t know their stories and what they had to go through for their pregnancies. I tried to always keep that in the back of my head: you never know what someone else has gone through or is currently going through. And my current situation was proof of that. No one that looked at me while I was out could tell that I had just lost my baby the week before. It’s not like having to use crutches when you sprain your ankle, or a cast when you break your arm. No one could see my pain… and if I was going through this invisible heartache, I knew that other people must be too.
The days went on and after two weeks of being home, I returned back to work. I was terrified of my first day back. I didn’t want to see anyone and I didn’t want to talk about what happened with anyone. I knew that I couldn’t talk about it without crying, and I didn’t want to cry at work. I walked into my office and saw the first person from my department. It happened to be my director and he immediately gave me a hug. He told me that him and his wife suffered a miscarriage before having their twins and that he knew I would be OK. His words probably didn’t seem like a big deal to him, but they really comforted me, and made me feel like I could get through my first day back.
Being back at work was – for the most part – alright. But there were a few times when I almost completely broke down. One of those times being when my team and I were working with a consultant from another company on a project. We were in a conference room waiting on someone and the consultant tried making small talk. He asked me if I had any children. The question made me freeze. I was caught so off guard by this very normal question. I managed to get out a “no, not yet” before excusing myself. Luckily my teammates were in the room, and I was closer to them than anyone else. They knew right away how that question hit me and why I needed to get up.
Scenarios like this didn’t happen often, but they did happen. And each time, I felt more prepared to handle it. This was so crucial in my healing, because whether you want it to or not- life goes on. People stop looking at you like you’re someone going through a hard time, and stop thinking twice about what they’re going to say around you. And that’s OK- that’s how it should be. Sometimes people might accidentally say something that offends you or even just stirs up some dark thoughts. These are the moments when you learn what your triggers are. Once you know what they are, you can figure out how best to respond when it happens again. I didn’t realize it back then, but these small moments that felt like they were breaking me… they were actually putting me back together. And they helped shape me into the strong person I am today.
I wanted to end this post with some comments I heard too often from (very well meaning) people, and explain how they made me feel. I’m doing this because it’s impossible to understand this type of pain until you experience it (I definitely didn’t); but you don’t have to feel awkward or feel like you need to try and find the perfect thing to say to someone going through this…
I’m not saying this to make you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around someone who has had a miscarriage. I just want to share that you don’t need to try and think of the “perfect” thing to say (because that doesn’t exist). I promise you that all they want to hear is “I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m here if you need me”.
Thank you again for reading my story. If it can reach at least one person who feels alone, then sharing it is beyond worth it for me. My next post will start off from when we found out we were expecting Nathan. That time was a roller coaster of emotions. You might think that once a woman becomes pregnant again all of the pain from her miscarriage disappears, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’re experiencing the pain of a miscarriage, please know you’re not alone. I found comfort in connecting with other women who understood my pain. I frequently visited a couple of different forums on the What to Expect app: Grief & Loss + Miscarriage Support
And you can, of course, always reach out to me.