Thankfully, for many people going to their sonogram is exciting. They get to hear the heartbeat and see the little baby wave their hand and kick their feet, they might even find out the gender of their bundle of joy. Doctor smiles, mom and dad smile, everyone rejoices. It’s easy to forget that the sonogram is a very important medical tool looking to see if there are complications in baby’s growth, development and overall health. In my years of trying to have a family I think I’ve experienced a large range of sonograms. I’ve had them confirm that my baby no longer has a heartbeat, I’ve heard that beautiful sound fill the room as they say “everything looks great,” I’ve had the technician leave the room to grab a doctor who comes in with a serious face to change my life forever and I’ve had a scare that turned out to be nothing of importance. You have also had one or many of these, or will one day and I thought we should have a cup of warm tea together and break them down.
My greatest hope is that this is all you’ve ever experienced and all you will experience. These are the fun ones, the ones that make you realize “holy smokes it’s not just pizza, look at the baby in there!” The technician feels the delight as you and your partner excitedly look in wonder at the baby(ies) that’s about to change your world. The doctor is with you only a brief moment to tell you everything looks great, smile and ask if you have any questions before you proudly leave with pictures of your peanut to show off. Rejoice and be grateful, to you this may be ordinary but trust me when I tell you that SO many walk out of their appointments with heads low and hearts heavy. Don’t take it for granted and let this bring you SO much gratitude, love and comfort. Share your baby’s photos proudly with loved ones and keep it in the back of your mind if someone isn’t as excited for you as you’d hoped, it probably has nothing to do with you but with their own experience that didn’t go as well. Let these moments feel your heart to the brim and not lose sight of how blessed you’ve been. Life is always going to present hardships but right now, life is oh so sweet!
THE BAD PART 1
My dear sweet friend, if this is you, if this is ever you, hear me first. YOU are LOVED, YOU are NOT cursed, YOU are a mother and YOU are strong. It’s hard for me to type this without tears coming to my eyes or memories forcing their way back to my mind. There are 2 most common “bad” sonograms and were going to discuss them both. One of them is typically in the first trimester when the room goes silent as the technician or Dr searches for a heartbeat. A heaviness fills the air as you hopefully have a hand to squeeze and you feel your throat tighten when you hear that unfortunately, there is no heartbeat. The Dr. will share condolences and talk to you about where to go from here. This is not the moment where you have to “pull it together” do not be afraid to let the tears fall, you have just experienced a great loss and you can’t push through that kind of pain. It’s OK to be sad, mad and or any range of emotion you feel.
TIPS TOWARDS HEALING
- Discuss with your doctor your next steps
- Discuss if there is currently any reason to believe that there could be a genetic or infertility reason for the loss (if this is your first loss, most likely not!)
- 1 in 4 couples will experience a miscarriage and though this is NOT a comforting statistic it does mean there are so many people, groups, etc out there who can help you in your journey of healing and fight the feeling of loneliness
- Decide who if anyone to talk to right away – maybe you’re really close to your parents, a sibling or a good friend and you know they will bring you comfort in this moment, CALL! Or maybe you know that a loved one is going to say the wrong thing and you can’t handle that right now, it’s OK to screen phone calls and take your time in sharing (if ever) YOUR news!
- Social Media Break – Look we all know there are pros and cons to social media and we also know that for the most part it is a “highlight” of people’s life and not often where people share the hardships they go through. So for you, when you go online you are going to feel as if EVERY ONE you know is having babies or sharing photos of their perfect families and you’re going to think “Why not me, why not my baby?” It’s TOTALLY normal but also not the best thing for you mentally right now, take a break from social media until you feel strong enough to come back.
THE BAD PART 2
The other “bad” sonogram typically occurs at the “20 week ultrasound.” This is the one most parents go into blissfully excited to find out the gender of their baby and want a peek at what no longer looks like a strange shape but an actual little baby on screen. This however, is a vital appointment that let’s the Dr. see in much more detail how your baby is developing and what is or isn’t present. Seeing as how at this point you are half-way through your pregnancy you often think you are in the “clear” and the news that something might be wrong can shake you to your very core.
You might notice that the technician is taking a particularly long time on one area, or that the technician left and the Dr came in and says they want to take another look at something. Then they begin to talk using medical jargon and you feel like the walls are coming in on you. Again, this is not the moment to be strong you just got news that the baby you carry, love and feel may have health issues that will effect their quality of life. Here are my suggestions from experience in this moment, your heart rate is going to be instantly raised, tears will be filling your eyes and your brain is going to become foggy, the Dr’s speech may be hard to focus on.
If you or your partner have the wherewithal to do so, RECORD the conversation because trust me when I tell you details will become hard to remember and you and your partner may recall things differently. It’s OK to repeat yourself several times to make sure you TRULY understand the answer. Ask for printed documents so that you may later read over things. Do not feel rushed to chose your next steps now, often this is huge news and you need time to process. This type of appointment usually leads to many more appointments, specialists, and long conversations with doctors. It may or may not mean that your child will face certain challenges in their life or that you are even looking at the loss of your child. There is nothing I can say here to make ANY of that OK. NOTHING. So, I only wish to share what I learned from during this time.
- Please know ALL the tips from above also apply to you!
- Join “liked experienced” groups – as we went through this process we were put in contact with groups for families whose child had similar struggles. Often one of the scariest parts of this experience is the fear of the unknown and the loneliness that comes with that but meeting families who were able to share tips, tricks, highs and lows can be extremely comforting and necessary (especially when you meet families who made it out of the initial shock you are in).
- Become an advocate for you and your child, most doctors are VERY helpful and incredible but this is NOT their child, feel free to get a second, third, or 50th opinion on your options.
- SEEK COUNSELING- This is honestly, the biggest advice I can give. When we first received my sons diagnosis my husband had the incredible foresight to realize we needed to discuss our feelings to a professional. And when my son’s heart stopped at 6 months pregnant he dragged me off the couch to continue my counseling. To this day the memories of this make my throat constrict but I can promise you this, had I not agreed to counseling I would not be able to share my experiences now and it worries me to think where I would be today.
- At all times remember you and your baby ARE LOVED and there is support out there, but you have to agree to seek it, and though right now it is impossible to see through the fog, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The picture you once had for your family has changed but don’t give up on it, there is beauty still to be found.
These sonograms start out like the bad part 2 sonograms. The doctor informs you that something they see gives them pause for concern. You will experience all the same panicked and worried feelings as above when they describe the possibilities and where they want to go from here. Usually, after something in the sonogram gives them a reason to worry the next steps will involve one or a combination of genetic testing, amniocentesis, Echo-cardiogram etc etc specific to what they see. Remember all the tips from above in these moments, don’t be afraid to show emotion and ask as many questions as you need, as well as taking sometime to decide which steps you want to take. With many of these you will have to wait for results, results that will forever change your future. Waiting is EXCRUCIATING!
For days or weeks you will await to hear the status of your child’s health. It !****** SUCKS, i’m not going to sugar coat it. My advice is to stay busy, stay distracted and for the love of all things good avoid the internet! The fact that I’m telling you this makes my husband roar with laughter because I am completely guilty of googling possibilities and allowing it to send me in a downward spiral. So do as I say not as I do, please! Let’s be honest, what you are hoping to find is your babies exact scenario with multiple sources promising it was nothing to worry about! That’s NOT what your going to find. Have you ever googled your symptoms thinking it would just be a cold and suddenly you think you’re dying of a rare disease, it’s like that, DON’T do it! Worrying about the future will not change the results, it will not soften the blow in fact it only makes it worse.
To quote my favorite Hufflepuff, “Worrying means you suffer twice.” Yes, your scenario is just as likely to end up as the above ones but when you got the phone call telling you the results of further test, it turns out that in this case the sonogram was picking up on something that either doesn’t exist (remember sonograms like all things are not perfect) or something that does not appear to play a vital role in your child’s health. If there is ever a time to fall to your knees with gratitude, it’s now! Let this moment be a constant reminder for when things get hard in the future, when you are exhausted and covered in baby puke and can’t remember the last time you showered, recall that your baby is healthy and these struggles you face now, though hard, in the BIG picture are small potatoes. Exhale the weight you’ve been feeling for days and rejoice in the good news, just don’t forget the power of this moment!