Registered Nurse, Labor & Delivery
I have loved birth, and known I wanted to help women deliver their babies, for as long as I can remember. As a child, I watched ‘A Baby Story’ instead of cartoons, played OB-GYN and patient with my little sister and assisted with a thousand “births” as my baby dolls were pulled out from under shirts. I always thought of pregnancy and birth as healthy and happy experiences. It wasn’t until I experienced my trauma that I realized the sad, painful part of making new life – but also just how important empathy and support are during those times.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, the October of my sophomore year of college, I had a miscarriage. I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was on the pill and had been very consistent about taking it. No missed period, no morning sickness – no signs of pregnancy. What I thought was just an especially painful period and menstrual cramps turned into the worst pain of my life in a few short hours. I called my closest friend who had a car, sobbing, asking her to drive me to the emergency room. I told her I was bleeding a lot and didn’t know why. She showed up 5 minutes later with a huge stack of towels, a hot water bottle and sped me to the ER.
I don’t remember much before the doctor came in to talk to me. The pain was so intense I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I peed in a cup and dozed (thanks to the strong pain medication they gave me) while the nurse drew my blood. Someone put clean pads underneath me and cleared away the bloody ones. I still did not know what was happening. My friend held my hand in silence the entire time.
A young doctor came in and stood just inside the curtain. He didn’t sit down, he didn’t come close to me or show any emotion. He gave me his scripted speech he had obviously rehearsed & said many times before to other women. He told me I was having a miscarriage and that we needed to be sure “all of the products of conception” came out or I could develop a life-threatening infection. He breezed over the miscarriage part, even though for me it was the most important part. He dove straight into treatment and the risks of not doing anything. I was stunned, foggy from the pain medication and intense discomfort I was still feeling. I left the ER with a little bottle with a few pills in it – something to make me “fully miscarry.” My friend drove me back to her house in silence as I stared at the bottle. She made up her couch and tucked me into bed while I cried, from pain, from shock, from loss of the baby I didn’t even know I had growing inside me. I cried because of how insensitive the doctor had been. I cried because I had not even known I was pregnant. It was double the shock of growing and then immediately losing a little person. I cried because of what might have been (a baby), as scary as an unplanned pregnancy at twenty years old is.
I survived the next few days after taking the pills thanks to this friend, and my mama, who dropped everything to drive the 3 hours to stay with me that weekend. It wasn’t until my own miscarriage that my mom told me about hers. It was like I became a member of a club no one wants to join – but one that has deep connection and understanding. My mom told me about the babies she had lost, all the pregnancies ended exactly like mine. It wasn’t until these conversations that I truly processed what had happened, what I had endured and lost. She validated my experience by truly understanding it.
It was the support of these two women, my dear friend and my mama, that got me through my miscarriage a decade ago. It was having someone hold my hand, or gently touch my ankle so I knew she was right there with me – all the while saying nothing. Just being there.
A lot has happened in my life over the last ten years. I fulfilled my life-long goal of “delivering babies” by becoming a labor and delivery nurse. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. It is truly my calling – not just because of my lifelong love of the happy and exciting parts of pregnancy and birth, but also thanks to my own painful experience with miscarriage. I learned a fundamental lesson that night in the ER: losing a baby, regardless of the situation, is always traumatic. And the most important thing is feeling supported on a personal level, and to have your feelings validated (even if you “think” they should be different”).
For a long time in modern medicine, a lot of stock has been put in stifling emotions – especially when giving patients bad news. Doctors are expected to tell a woman her baby has no heartbeat, but not cry with them. But we are learning (actually re-learning) that psychological health is inextricably linked with physical health. We have to support someone’s mental health just as much as their healing body and soul. That in fact we should cry with our patients, if that’s what feels right to do so. And I know this is a fact, thanks to both my personal and professional experience. I know that I was able to heal from my miscarriage experience mostly thanks to the nurturing, unconditional support and validation I received from my friend and mother. I know that my patients who are experiencing perinatal loss (miscarriage, stillbirth, etc) need these things just as much as I did.
It is my privilege and passion to help these women in all the ways I needed during my loss.
Do you love birth? Heck yeah you do!
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