I Never Expected 2020 to Start Off Like This

We all talk about the new year, especially a new decade, as one for positivity and growth, one for new beginnings, a clean slate. We don’t often expect loss. No one ever really expects loss.  During a time when everyone is in the phase of sharing their good vibes and intentions, it has the potential to magnify a loss on someone else’s end. The loss of a loved one. The loss of a relationship. The loss of a public figure you felt that you knew.

For me, for my family, it was the loss of our second baby.

I don’t even know how to begin this post. This is something I never envisioned happening to us, yet it is all too common.

Even typing that it still doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel real, doesn’t feel possible, the range of emotions we felt in such a short period of time. While it doesn’t feel real, at the same time, it feels like its something thats been a part of our lives for so long. I have sat down trying to write this post way too many times because it felt like it happened so long ago, but then I realize its only been a month. 30 days. 30 days since we were told we will not be having a second baby due a week after Ryleigh’s second birthday, something that scared the shit out of me when we found out, yet now seems so trivial.

December 13, 2019

Will woke up before me, at 5:15am, to hop on the Peloton. I woke up and realized that I was five days late, but since it was only my third period since I stopped breastfeeding, I thought my body was still adjusting. I’ve never been one who was good at waiting, so I dragged my very tired self to the linen closet to see if we had any pregnancy tests left over from two years ago. I found one in the very back of a basket and took it with me downstairs. I peed then went about feeding the cats, making coffee and honestly forgot about it. Twenty minutes later I remembered and leisurely walked back in the bathroom.

Positive.

Wait…what?! No. I literally sat on the floor and couldn’t catch my breath. We weren’t trying (we also weren’t preventing, but we weren’t trying!), we weren’t ready for this. All these thoughts flooded my head. Not because we didn’t want another baby close in age, but because it took me by complete surprise and was a little scary. We got pregnant with Ryleigh literally the first or second time we tried and I thought there was no way it could happen that fast again. I ran into the room where we have the Peloton; Will was drenched in sweat, wearing AirPods and grinding hard with Jess King. He looked confused because I NEVER come in during workouts, all I could do was put the test in his face…the confusion escalated. We both sat on the floor, in shock, running through when the due date would be (August 16, 2020), what room would be the nursery, how I ended up a pregnant bridesmaid for yet another friend’s bachelorette and wedding etc etc. And then Ryleigh woke up, we told her she was going to be a big sister and while we were in shock, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. no matter how hard we tried.

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Will went to work and I went on about my day. Randomly enough, the week before, I actually ordered Ryleigh a ‘big sister’ shirt just to have on hand IN CASE some date in the distant future, we would get pregnant. It was set to arrive that day and we were seeing my parents and Will’s entire family that next day, so we figured, what the heck, lets just have her wear the shirt when we see everyone and tell them early. We told people early when we were pregnant with Ryleigh and we always said if anything didn’t go as planned, we’d want a support group. It felt like Kismet. Like it was supposed to happen this way.

Everything felt like it was supposed to happen this way. It felt easy. Scary, but easy.

Since we saw a ton of friends and family over the holidays, all paying close attention when I wasn’t drinking, we ended up sharing and celebrating a lot. We knew a lot of our friends were already pregnant and we found out even more of them were newly pregnant, so that called for double celebrating! We kept telling ourselves at every event, ‘this is our last Christmas with just one baby’ ‘this time next year we’ll have TWO babies!’ etc . It was such an exciting way to close out 2019 and ring in 2020!

January 6, 2020

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Our first OB appointment, eight weeks pregnant. Going into this one we felt like pros, we’d been there before, we knew everything to expect and didn’t have any questions (a complete 180 from the last time around). We go to a practice that has several doctors and this was one we hadn’t seen before. I’m up on the table, the lights go off and the ultrasound machine goes on. Since I wasn’t familiar with this doctor, when his face went a little wonky, I didn’t know if that was just..his face? He turned the screen towards us, I saw the flutter, I saw the heartbeat, ‘great, must just be his face,’ I thought. But then the words came out like a fast moving train, all I really remember hearing was ‘while there is a heart beat, it’s slow and it is measuring behind, there is a 90% chance this will result in a miscarriage.’ What? I just remember I kept nodding and saying okay, I didn’t know what else to do, I couldn’t process what he was saying. How was I looking at our baby’s heart beating, yet being told we would miscarry. I didn’t understand, yet I couldn’t bring myself to ask a single question. The appointment ended and he told us to come back on Friday (four days later) to do another check. Will and I just stood there (probably longer than you should take in an exam room after an appointment) holding each other, confused and crying.

I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do, but will always likely do anyway, in a medical situation, I turned to google. I kept coming across articles in which women had  experienced the the same thing early on, but ended up with a beautiful healthy baby.  We  told some friends and family about the situation. I felt bad for the ones who knew we had our appointment that morning, who sent us texts excitedly asking how it went, who weren’t expecting the response I came back with. I know it puts people in ‘I don’t know what to say’ mode; unfortunately, I’ve been there. They were likely just as caught off guard, but honestly, it was comforting having people ask versus having to text out of the blue what was going on. But all of them had such positive hopeful things to say, so it made things less scary.

Those four days felt like a lifetime. I didn’t leave the house one time. I didn’t know how to feel. I knew I felt sad and confused and scared and hopeful, but also had to be strong for my family. Ryleigh wanted nothing less than my normal happy effervescent bubbly self, complete with all the pretend play and dancing around the house; I needed to give that to her, and honestly, I needed it too. She was a welcome distraction. It wasn’t until she went to bed, when the noises got quieter, that Will and I began processing and over thinking, trying our hardest to make sense of what was going on. Eventually, we’d just turn on a show, zone in and hold each other.

January 10, 2020

This time we walked into that office a little slower and a lot more nervous. How you can be at the same place four days later with such drastically different emotions is jarring. The wait in the waiting room was unbearable, I smiled for every single pregnant belly that walked by and then quickly felt a surge of sickness to my stomach. We saw a different doctor this time. Same result as four days prior, ‘slow heart beat and measuring 2-3 weeks behind.’ This doctor seemed to have a lot more hope and said she was utterly shocked the previous doctor would give a 90% miscarriage diagnosis. She fought for the idea that timing was just off, meaning I didn’t know the exact days of my period and/or ovulation and it was too early to see much on the ultrasound, she wanted us to come back in 10 days. I loved her positive attitude, she even gave us our sonograph photo, something the previous doctor felt was irrelevant.

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But deep down I knew my dates were absolutely correct and there wasn’t a chance we were two to three weeks off.

I thought four days felt like forever. How would I make it through ten more days of unknown. Those days of limbo were some of the hardest of my life. I was technically still pregnant, so my body was responding as if I was pregnant, I was bloated and the hormonal acne was ravaging my skin. Obviously, I was no longer telling people I was pregnant, yet I wasn’t telling them I miscarried either, because we didn’t know. I didn’t yet ‘report a loss’ on the pregnancy apps, so I was still getting daily updates, but couldn’t open them. The unknown was excruciating. I felt like a walking zombie, like I was living on the outside of my body, just waiting for an answer, not only to what was happening to me, but what was happening to our family.

January 12, 2020

Two days into the ten, nine weeks pregnant. We had just wrapped up a full weekend of seeing friends and family for a surprise birthday we threw for my mom, feeling sort of normal. I was home unpacking, getting ready to make dinner, when I started bleeding. Nothing substantial, but I knew it was coming.

January 13, 2020

It got heavier. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect next, they didn’t prepare me for anything since they thought they’d see me in ten days. I called the doctor to let them know what was happening and they made an appointment for me to come in the next day.

January 14, 2020

The following may be graphic or triggering for some readers. Please continue at your discretion. 

Will went with me to every appointment up until this point, but he literally started a new job the day before (perfect timing right) and he just couldn’t take off. So there I was bleeding, alone and on my way to the doctor for the third time in a little over a week. I felt sick to my stomach driving there, going up every level of the parking garage, riding the elevator, signing in. When I got there, the waiting room was full, they brought me back right away, which they’d never done before. Maybe it was in my head, but part of me thought maybe they knew what I was going through and didn’t want me to have to see anymore pregnant bellies at the moment I was losing my own. The doctor came in, set up the ultrasound, weirdly I felt prepared for what she was about to say. She went on to tell me it was still measuring six weeks (even though the baby should’ve been 9w+2) and then, there it was, ‘there is no longer a heart beat.’

I remember thinking ‘I just want to breakdown and cry’, but I needed to ask questions this time, I needed to know what the next steps were. She gave me the three options : 1. let it pass naturally; 2. take a medicine to speed up the process (essentially an induction) and 3. the d&c (dilation and curettage) – a procedure to remove the remaining tissue from inside the uterus – which they could schedule as early as the next day. I’m a classic over thinker, so I attempted to run every scenario through my head in about ten seconds. With Will at his new job, I didn’t know how I would get a surgery, who would watch Ryleigh? who would drive me there? But if I took the medicine, what if I didn’t pass everything and had to get a d&c anyway? And how long would that even take? I didn’t want to drag this out. Finally, I just looked at her and said ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I didn’t want to have to make a decision, I didn’t want to have to think, I wanted to be told what to do. Obviously doctors can’t do that. But she said she’d call in the prescription and once I was able to talk to Will, we could call and set up a d&c if that’s what we wanted. So I said okay and she left the room. I wanted a hug, I wanted someone to hold me. Instead, I walked to my car, sat there and cried for ten minutes.

My mom was home with Ryleigh so when I got home, I got the hug I needed. She then went out and picked up the prescription to hurry this miscarriage along – the same type of medicine that was used to push our healthy baby along at 41w+3d; that felt so heavy to me. I was about five minutes away from taking the medicine, but then I had some really terrible cramps, so I decided to hold off. An hour or so later of laying in the fetal position in bed, I went to the bathroom and my body required me to push something out. I just stared. I sat on the floor and stared. I saw things. I saw slightly developed parts of our baby. I didn’t know what to do (the theme of this entire experience). No one prepares you for this. No one prepares you for what to do when you push out the baby you’ve lost and you look down staring at it in the bowl of a toilet. That was our baby. Am I supposed to flush? Why does no one tell you what to do in this situation? Why am I in this situation? Why have so many women been in this situation (or their own version of)?

Yes, this is graphic. But honestly, this is what I wish I had read before going through this with no warning. 

I immediately went to hug my mom and then I just held Ryleigh. She put her head on my shoulder as if she just understood. I put myself to work because that’s what I needed to do. I got in the kitchen, I made dinner, I did dishes, I kept moving. I knew I needed to keep moving.

The next morning, I spent four hours purging and cleaning our pantry. Purging and cleaning felt like I was cleansing myself. It felt like I had control over something for the first time in weeks. It felt good. It felt necessary.

January 17, 2020

The doctor wanted me to come in for a follow up so they could ensure everything (meaning our baby) had left my body. I’ll never forget when we got into that exam room, the ultrasound machine was up, showing the healthy growing baby of the couple who had previously been in the room. That knife was sharp and it dug deep. ‘Everything passed, except some extra lining that should pass over the next few days.’ It sounded so clinical, for obvious reasons, but damn. They kept referring to the baby as ‘it’ or ‘everything’ which I can’t blame doctors for doing, but it just felt so detached, while I was still very much attached to what we lost. The baby was only ours for ten short weeks, but for some reason I kept referring to her as a ‘she,’ I felt it, I knew ‘it’d’ be a girl.

Once the unknown was known, we were able to get some closure, which allowed for the grieving to begin. After a week or so the bleeding subsided and the all day everyday reminder faded away. Of course, there were, and always will be, the little things. I had to reach out to the calligrapher who was going to write ‘big sister’ on a denim jacket for Ryleigh and tell her to hold off. I had to message our photographer to cancel our announcement photo shoot for early February. Sushi and rosé, two of my favorite things, even made me feel numb when I first realized I was able to ‘enjoy’ them post-miscarriage. And then of course, instead of sharing the news of our pregnancy to more family and friends, its slowly sharing our loss to those we’ve told and to those we didn’t. The little things.

But then there’s the big things. A month later, I still am holding on to weight because my body still thinks I’m pregnant and I gain very quick in the first trimester. The hormonal acne is taking a toll on my face and body because its trying to adjust to what’s happening inside. Feeling like I look twelve weeks pregnant, when I’m in fact not pregnant at all. Its hard. Its hard to look in the mirror and see my body, yet know I am no longer growing our baby, but that my body just doesn’t fully get it yet. The heightened anxiety that will now come with any future pregnancy. I can’t imagine the fear going into pregnancy following a loss. The fear I’ll have driving back to that OB office, the exam room, waiting to see the doctor’s face etc.

The one thing that made this experience less hard was knowing we were not alone. Unfortunately, one in four women go through a miscarriage. That’s a staggering statistic. As I started to slowly tell people, more often than not, I would get responses like ‘I’ve had one too’ or ‘you aren’t alone’ or ‘me too’ and while my heart aches for those women, there is nothing like being able to talk to someone who has also gone through this extremely painful experience, who truly gets it. And even those women I don’t know personally, who I found through their blog/social posts, I felt instantly connected to and seen just by reading their unfortunately similar devastating experience.

I appreciate every single woman who is brave enough to openly discuss their miscarriage story. The call to action that requires a woman to be at the most vulnerable she’s likely ever been, to relive an extremely painful experience for the sake of helping other women feel less alone. That is true courage. That is true strength. That is a true example of women supporting women. And I applaud you all.

If you are still reading this, you are likely going through a similar experience or know someone who is and by sharing this story, I hope I’ve at least helped you (or them) feel less alone and make this experience a little less painful.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to get these words out of my head and onto paper.

And to those of you losing a pregnancy or who have lost, remember this, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I am wrapping you in the biggest hug you can imagine. I see you and I am with you. Every feeling you are feeling is one hundred percent warranted and please don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise. You will get through this. We will get through this. Together.

Xo,

Ash

::this is written in memory of Baby Clayton #2 due August 16, 2020. until we meet again::

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1 Comment

  1. Georgette Lynch
    February 19, 2020 / 9:11 pm

    Dear Ashley and Will,
    We send love and sympathy to you both, As I am reading your story the tears are streamming down my face for your loss and the loss of my great, great niece.
    Tammy had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, it is tough for the couple who have the loss and for those that love them.
    Love,
    Aunt Georgette
    PS. Come to Disney in the future and stay with us.

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