First ultrasound

This morning I had my very first ultrasound. The midwife immediately commented on the strong spine, and soon after we were listening to a description of the four chambers of the heart—perfectly formed. All the things that first-time parents long to hear.

There was only one problem – that perfectly-formed heart was not moving. Our baby likely died around two weeks ago (the doctor we were sent to suggested there is no way to place a timeline on things, as the baby could have just been progressing slowly, but our hearts tell us otherwise).

We spent much of the afternoon/evening alternating between tears and numbness. As Allyn keeps saying, “it comes in waves.”

Given that we discovered the death before my body registered any signs, we decided to try medication to begin the process of passing. My midwife assured us that I should not be alone when the miscarriage begins and given that our work schedules don’t always match up, it seemed best to begin this process earlier than either of us want – during a weekend when both of us are off work.

I’ve had conflicting emotions – the desire to hold on, even though I know logically that the baby is dead. There is a part of me that believes as long as it remains in the womb, it will be safe and protected. The other part of me doesn’t know what to do with the knowledge that death resides inside me – that the tiny, well-formed being that rests within my uterus is gone.

It reminds me of a chapter in Trauma and Grace (which, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find today—but, thankfully, portions are on google books). This book by Serene Jones features a chapter on reproductive loss and seeks an appropriate theological image. After spending time writing of grief and our lack of meaningful images and help for women who have experienced reproductive loss (in this chapter she deals with infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth), she tells a tale of the Triune God. Apparently theologians like Moltmann and Luther have suggested that when Christ died, the death was taken into the Godhead. It was considered a limit and a contradiction that the Triune God could take death into itself and yet live. Jones suggests this may have been a limitation of the male theologians that discussed the idea – for women who miscarry do just that. We carry death inside of us, and yet (sometimes despite our desires at the time), we live. She compares the Triune God to a miscarrying woman, and I love that. It means even during this time when so few people know, I am not alone in this tangle of death and life. God, the Creator and Giver of life, has felt death within God’s womb.

It is a strange image—and one I recognize could be offensive to some—but it rings true for me. I have passed on this image to other women grieving after miscarriage, and I find that in some quiet way, it comforts me.

I took the pills, knowing it was my best option. And now I wait. Four hours after pills, there is still no blood or spotting to indicate that anything is happening.

I imagine some are wondering if I regret telling people that we were pregnant before hitting the so-called “safe” point. I don’t. We had originally planned to wait, but I began wondering why there was such a stigma around telling. Obviously I understand why some wish to wait and don’t want to grieve publicly if something happens. But it seems many of us begin to make that decision simply because we are supposed to. And I began to fear that the reason was shame. That the system is built around the idea that if something goes wrong, it must mean something is wrong with me. And to be honest, it is hard not to feel that guilt now.

The very first thing said to me by the doctor, technician, and midwife was “this was not because of something you did or did not do.” And I get that. We were planning for this pregnancy. During the waiting period, I was already following pregnancy guidelines. And I followed every guideline I found to the very letter of the law. Limited caffeine? I’ll avoid it all. No hot tubs? I’ll even turn down the temperature of the water on my showers. Lunch meat should be heated? I’ll avoid it altogether. I’ve avoided all medications. And certainly no alcohol, cigarettes, or illegal drugs.

But what if the “wrong” thing was my very body? What if it acted against my will to destroy the life inside of me? And that is certainly a possibility. But even if it is so, I’m not responsible for that.

Telling people will be hard. But it would be just as hard and just as awkward if this child died a year after birth. There will always be awkward moments of people not knowing and asking the wrong question or saying the wrong thing.

And today has taught me that I desperately need people. Neither of us ate much today. We ate sandwiches for lunch because we were supposed to. We tried to drink water, because the ultrasound technician made us promise to do so, fearing dehydration and sickness in addition to the pain we already felt. We talked about how we knew we needed dinner, but neither of us was in a state to do anything about it. Enter my family. My parents and sister loaded the car with more food that any 5 people can eat and sat with us. It was the first time that we were able to laugh a little and talk about something other than loss. And we needed that. We will need friends and colleagues in the coming days. Our excitement and joy and hope was not a mistake. And neither is our grief now.

Author’s note: This is the first in a series on pregnancy loss/miscarriage. Most of this post was written the evening of the ultrasound (Friday, May 24), so if thoughts seem disconnected, etc., you will note there is good reason. 



Filed under miscarriage

52 responses to “First ultrasound

  1. I’ve always wondered about that stigma about “not telling” until the safe point. And I wonder if it is out of fear of having to deal with the pain we see, not in our own eyes, but in others. How can we bear, when we’re dealing with our own grief, to see all that pity and pain in others? Best just keep it secret until we know…

    I am SO sorry to hear of this loss… but because you told us that you were pregnant, now we are in a better place to walk with you in your loss. If you didn’t tell us you were pregnant, why would you tell us you miscarried? If if you didn’t tell us that, how could community gather around you?

    You did the right thing, I think… as much as my opinion matters at this time. All I can offer, really, is the distant community of the blogosphere and our prayers and condolences.

    • Thanks, Robert. I do believe it was the best thing for us. Allyn and I both tend to be extroverts (although I am the quiet type of extrovert), so having others around helps us process. And knowing the silence around such loss, I’m determined to write as much as I can. A book sharing the stories of others has been one of the most helpful things for me thus far, so hoping my story can add to some of the comfort for others. Your prayers, condolences, and community are deeply appreciated.

  2. My heart is hurting for you. Thank you for sharing your experience, and so beautifully. May you receive everything you need to grieve and heal.

  3. Again, I’m sorry for your loss. I echo Robert’s sentiment. Sending love your way.

  4. Brenda Booth

    Jennifer and Allyn, my prayers go with you in the coming days and weeks. I can only imagine the pain and loss you must feel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such an eloquent way and know that you are surrounded by those who love you!

  5. Penny

    First, my thoughts are with you and my heart aches.
    Myself, I did not wait to tell anyone. For the boys, I was so sick that it was the only thing I could do so people wouldn’t worry about me. With Roo, my “family” needed to know so that they could support me properly if things did not go well.
    Please know, and I think you do, that you did absolutely nothing wrong. Be well.

  6. My thoughts and prayers are with you… there are really no other words, except I am so sorry. I wish I could bring you food and sit a while with you all.

  7. Leroy and I were so happy when we heard your news.This is a big disappointment for you, and we send our love and prayers. As you wrote, God knows the feeling of loss with what Jesus experienced, and knows how to best bring you comfort.

  8. Vicki Swyers

    Oh, Jennifer. I have no words, and I’m so grateful that you do, because they are true and offer healing and hope. I am praying for you all.

  9. Lynn Pate

    Allan and Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. It was a true joy to discover that you two were expecting your first child, and I am happy that you chose to share that hews with your friends, just as I am glad that you are brave enough to share your loss now. The days ahead will be difficult. Please know that you both are in our hearts and prayers. May the love of God, family and friends help you through this time of disappointment and grief and provide some measure of comfort. We love you and will be supporting you in prayer daily.

  10. I’m very sorry to read of your loss and pray for God’s comfort and peace to surround and sustain you. May you rest in the deep compassion of Christ.

  11. Dear Jennifer,

    This is beautiful. Know that I cried with you today while I read it. You and Allan will continue to be held in my prayers. I so love all the ways you have shared with us all throughout everything. You are changing the rules. They need to be changed.
    Hugs, peace, comfort as you continue to grieve your loss.

    Kathy Pickett

  12. PattyLA

    It helped in some ways in my years of infertility to know that while my pain was very personal I was far from the only person to experience it. Something about knowing that others had lived through these times helped me to live through them too.
    Your pain with losing your daughter is very personal and very real and deep. The rest of us did not experience her and so for us she was far more theoretical than she was and is for you. Thank you for sharing all that you have experienced with this. I too shared my pregnancies early because I knew that if they ended I would need the support of my community and I also am terrible at keeping a secret.
    My prayers continue to be with you both at this time of waiting. I pray that it will be over soon for you.

  13. No Longer Normal

    This was beautifully written.

  14. I am glad you addressed this Jennifer, and shared your story with many who need it. I wanted to share all of my pregnancies early and felt like it was wrong to do so because others didn’t. Yet, I always knew that if I miscarried, I wouldn’t be any good at hiding that. I would need others to understand so they could have grace for me. I hope you do feel cushioned in this community of grace. None of us can take away the pain, but we can acknowledge Avelyn and recognize and honor her with you, and maybe that eases something.

    • I’ve been very thankful for the way you share your own life. I have been very touched by the responses from friends, family, and even strangers. Thanks for being willing to walk this road with me.

  15. So sorry for your loss. Miscarriages and perinatal loss are among the hardest things anyone could ever face and often get overlooked by others. I appreciate your theological viewpoints even in a time of grief and tragedy. Know that my prayers are with you and your family.

  16. hey Jennifer,

    thank you so much for sharing – i can only being to imagine weakly anything close to what it must be like – i REALLY enjoyed your reasons for telling people early and before the safe time because that really has become a thing we do because we do it and it does keep people “safe” from the questions but also the comfort and genuine support needed when something does go wrong so thank you for speaking into that…

    i have a series on my blog that is ongoing called ‘Taboo Topics’ and the very first one i did was on ‘losing a baby’ and had some powerful shares from friends of mine [] so i’m not sure if reading some of those might be encouraging and many of them are open to connecting if you want some people who have walked a similar journey to be able to hear and share with you…

    so thank you once again – really appreciate it – i would love to be able to share this story particularly from the perspective i mentioned above so if you feel like that is something you would be open to, please drop me a line at – i feel that is a strong truth that could free so many other people up…

    may the people around you provide much love and strength and support and may you truly know God’s Presence at this time
    love brett fish

    • Thanks, Brett. I’m unsure of what you mean by share this story. Are you wanting to repost it?

      • i would either love to be able to repost it with a link back to your site to send some traffic your way or to have you write a piece specifically for my blog on that topic [i think you have written three but i have only read the first one so must check the others out] – generally people have shared their stories but if you were up to writing a blog post centering on the ‘sharing the news early’ point that would be a good one to have as well – just trying to create a space that has a bunch of different stories that will encourage people going through a similiar thing and maybe remaining silent on it in a variety of different ways… any of those sound good to you?

      • At this point I’m probably not interested in writing something new. While I appreciate the offer, I’m currently doing all I can simply to document where I am at the moment. I’d be glad for you to repost this with a link back. Perhaps as time passes, I’d be able to do more.

      • hey Jennifer, thank you so much, i just read the other two and realised this is pretty much live as it’s happening so really sorry for the loss you are going through at the moment – i do believe that by writing it down it down you are encouraging others who are walking the same tough road and really appreciate you being willing to share… much strength in Him, love brett fish [when you feel up to it you may want to read some of the stories on my blog as they are super encouraging]

  17. Holding you close in prayer.

  18. Pingback: Taboo Topics: Losing a baby – meet Jennifer and Allyn Harris Dault | Irresistibly Fish

  19. Jennifer I am so sorry for your loss. I wish their was something I could say to help you but my words feel in adequate for this situation. I appreciate you allowing me into your life. If you need anything please let me know what I can do. *HUGS*

  20. Barbara

    I am walking with you even though we do not know each other. 32 years ago I walked the road you are on. Know that God has walked the path of losing a child and feels your pain. I love they thought of God holding death in his womb. He also said there is nothing of mans experinace that he has not also experanced. You will never forget this child but some day the thought of her will bring joy instead of pain. My God go with you.

  21. Pingback: Miscarriage and Silent Suffering | Intellectual Hospitality

  22. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I just wanted to say how beautiful it was that you shared, “She compares the Triune God to a miscarrying woman, and I love that. It means even during this time when so few people know, I am not alone in this tangle of death and life. God, the Creator and Giver of life, has felt death within God’s womb.”
    That is a beautiful way to look at it and spot on how I believe as well. May our Ultimate Healer, Comforter and Living God be with you during this time. You are already taking a sad time in your life and using it for His Glory to help build His kingdom. It is not an easy thing and as a sister in Christ, I wanted to just say. . . Blessings to you and your family always. May you feel the tight love of Jesus around you Always!

  23. Janice Johnson

    A friend of mine shared this post with me. My heart goes out to you. I miscarried twins three years ago, and though those scars on my heart have healed, they will always be there. You are not alone. Thank you for such a beautiful post. It takes courage to speak out on miscarriage. I applaud you for “not waiting” to tell of your pregnancy. What most people don’t realize is that if you don’t tell of the pregnancy early, you will not have all of the support you need if something does go wrong. That happened to me. Only a few people knew. I told a few more people when I learned of the possibility of miscarriage, but most people in my life didn’t know at all, until recently. This, I will tell you from my experience. Your wounds will heal. You will not take your children for granted. You will love your children deeper. It will take time. It will bring you closer to God. It will change your life.

  24. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. I think you have been very brave to write so openly and honestly about your journey. I can’t even begin to understand the pain and heartbreak you and your husband must be feeling. I will be praying for you both.

  25. I cannot imagine what it feels like to miscarriage, I have never even felt the love and excitement of pregnancy. I appreciate that you have shared your personal experience, I know it has helped someone, somewhere. My deepest sympathies!

  26. hi ……i’m neeraja………
    and hatts off to u for writing this……….i don’t understand but i can definately say that it is very tough to write………..n u r strong enough to take the decision………. see u soon

  27. I’m so sorry that I just saw this. I feel like crap that I didn’t know. You are in my prayers!

  28. Millicent

    Hi, my friend Hannah, told me about your blog because I’m going through something similar. I just had a D&C Friday (at 10 weeks) after there was no fetal heartbeat in two ultrasounds. I’m so sorry for your loss. This whole experience feels so different than other kinds of loss. Kind of isolating because so few people knew. May I ask how it feels now? I saw that this was written in May, and I just feel like I’m in this deep well. Maybe you’re later posts will address this. I’m going to read them now. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hi Millicent, I am so sorry for your loss. Most days now feel fairly “normal” (granted, a new sort of normal). There are moments when I’ll see something or hear something or think of something that makes tears come again. I imagine the time around what would have been Avelyn’s due date will be incredibly difficult all over again. Blessings to you. If you need someone to talk with, I’m happy to give you my contact info.

      • Millicent

        I’m glad to hear about the new normal anyway. I can’t imagine things being how they were before. And I wouldn’t want them to be either, because even though I’m so deeply sad, I wouldn’t change anything but the outcome. My son, Tempest, changed our lives for the better. My partner keeps telling me that it will get better, but I really needed to hear it from someone like you I think. So thank you. I thought about you and Avelyn, and Allyn all day after reading your story. All my best, Millicent

      • I believe the same about Avelyn. I am certainly better because of her. I continued to think of you, too. I found some tangible ways of remembering — one of those was ordering a necklace with a stamped impression of a bird (one of the meanings of Avelyn is “little bird”) and a December birthstone (when she was due). I wear it most days and fiddle with it often. Books also helped me grieve — reading that I was not alone in the feelings I faced (and continue to face) and feeling like I was weeping with others. I posted some of my favorites on the miscarriage/reproductive loss page.

      • Millicent

        What a coincidence, my partner started making me a necklace last week. It’s got a little tea cup on it, which is my nickname and how we ended up calling him Tempest (the pregnancy was making me so sick). I can’t wait to wear it. I miss the physical closeness I felt with him during pregnancy, and I think a tangible reminder will feel good.

        I was worried about reading other people’s stories before I read yours actually. I had been staying away from the internet forums. I had these strange fears that I would begin to regret my decision to choose the D&C. Like I was afraid there was some “right” way to do this or something. Now I realize how silly that idea was. My reasons for choosing my path didn’t change when I read your very different reasons. So many of the feelings you discussed so beautifully resonated with me. I’m going to check out the books you mentioned, thanks.

      • What a beautiful gift from your partner!

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