Survivor Series: After My Miscarriage I Told My Husband I’d Understand If He Had A Baby With Someone Else
The month of October is dedicated to raising awareness for several causes. While many of us know that October is Breast Cancer awareness month, and also domestic violence awareness month, few of us realize October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Today, event planner and business owner, Karen Belle shares the journey of fertility issues and the lingering effects of miscarriage. See more tales from our Survivor Series here.
As told to Veronica Wells
We got married in 2008. That year, before we got married, we started trying because I’m a little bit older and I do know that it’s harder for older women to get pregnant. We got married in October so we started trying the end of August. We had been trying actively for a year and nothing happened. So, I started seeing the top fertility specialist here in Georgia. And also, my husband’s best friend, his sister is a very high-ranked gynecologist in New York. So while we were going through the process, I gave the doctor permission to talk to her, so she could explain it to us in laymen’s terms.
It became very overwhelming, just trying. They did tests and everything and they realized that I have a blocked fallopian tube so that makes it hard for you to conceive. And what I didn’t know–you just automatically think that you have sex, you get pregnant, that’s it. But it’s not that simple. When you ovulate you don’t always produce every month– I didn’t know that– and when you do produce, it’s on either side, not both. And because you’re older, you ovulate but you don’t produce as many eggs as a younger woman would.
And I just got tired. It was depressing. I was tired. I got to the point where they said that we could try rounds of in-vitro and I just didn’t want to do that. I could not justify spending $7,000 and not guarantee that I have a baby. So we stopped. And I worked a very stressful job. I worked for Air Tran Airways. The department that I worked in was called irregular operations and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You’re on a flight you have a cancellation, lighting strikes, bird strike, all kinds of stuff. We dealt with distressed passengers. That in itself is stressful. I left that job in 2012. January 2013, I found out that I’m pregnant.
It was four years ago, so I was 39. I had been married five years already and my husband and I had just come from the Bahamas. I was on the phone with my mom, one morning and I was getting ready for work and I said, ‘Oh my God! I’m late.’ So my mom was like ‘Hurry up because you don’t want to be late. And I said, “No mom, laaaate.” And she said, ‘Oh!’
The day that I went to the doctor’s office, my husband knew I was going but I kind of kept him at bay. I didn’t want to tell him. I wanted to see his face when I told him.
And I was shocked. I just thought that I was going through the beginning stages of menopause. You know, having the hot flashes. I was like, ‘I’m going to walk in this office, she’s going to tell me I’m perimenopausal. She’s going to give me a prescription and that’s what it is.’
So she came back in and she was like, ‘Well Ms. Belle, you’re pregnant.’ And I slapped my leg and I was like, ‘Shut the front door! How did that happen?’ And she was like, ‘Now Ms. Belle. I think we both know how that happened.’ I was like, ‘No, I mean…’ I just started crying. She was like, ‘I’m so happy for you guys’ because she’d met my husband as well. So, of course, it was a happy moment.
I didn’t talk to my husband the whole time that day. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I drove home. I had a hair appointment and typically, I would go straight to my appointment, I wouldn’t go home. But I made it my business to go home that day. And I pulled in the driveway and he was outside, getting some stuff out of his car. And I had this look on my face. He was like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s up?’ I said, ‘Get in the car.’ So when I moved my bag, the test was there. He looked down at the test and then he looked at me and said, ‘Oh sh*t!’ He was jumping up and down like, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe it! Oh, my God. Thank you! Thank you!’
And it just went downhill from there.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was 8-12 weeks. Since I was considered high risk, because of my age, they started testing me. They said they had to send me for a sonogram to make sure everything was ok. They found out I was borderline diabetic at the time. My blood levels were low so the doctor was really concerned about that. And she was like, ‘Let’s do the sonogram, we’re not going to worry about it.’ And we had been talking to Dr. Greenidge which is our friend. And she said, ‘Don’t worry about it, yet.’ But this is a family friend, she’s like my big sister so I could hear the concern in her voice. But I was like, ‘I’m not going to worry about it. Whatever, whatever.’
At 12 weeks, you’re considered in your safe zone so we started telling people. We hadn’t really posted it on any social media but we told our family. And we both come from a huge family. My mother is one of 7, his mother is one of 10 and we told our immediate aunts and uncles. And that, in and of itself, is a party, right?
They did the blood levels, it was low. They said, ‘We’re going to have you come back the following week and if it’s still not where we want it to be, then we’re going to send you for the sonogram.’ The levels raised a little but not where they wanted it to be so they sent me to the sonogram.
And that’s when the technician was looking. They did a vaginal sonogram. She kept poking and poking, she just looked concerned. I asked her, ‘Is everything ok?’ And she’s like, ‘Umm…yeah. Hold on. Let me go get the doctor.’ When she said that, I looked at my husband and I said, ‘Babe, something’s wrong. Something’s not right. Something’s wrong with the baby.’
And she said, ‘Okay Ms. Belle, you can get dressed now. The doctor’s going to see you in her office.’ And when we walked in, that’s when she told us, ‘The amniotic sack is there but the baby is not there. They’re not seeing the fetus.’
I was like, ‘How does that–’ I was stunned. ‘How does that happen?’ To this day, I don’t remember what she said, I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t know. I started crying and my husband’s trying to be strong and he’s crying. She’s like, ‘We have to send you to the hospital, right now to do a dilation and curettage (D&C.)’
So she leaves us in the room. And as we’re in the room, we can hear someone getting their sonogram done in the next office. We can hear the heartbeat. So, of course, you know that rocked me to the core.
That was February, keep in mind I just started this new job. In June, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to have a mastectomy. We just lost our baby in February. I had been out of work because I had been going back and forth to get tested. July 19, I got fired. July 20th was the date that we had scheduled for our baby shower. So, I get fired the day before my baby shower was supposed to be. And then, my grandfather gets sick and I go to Barbados. This is still 2013.
Between 2013 and mid-2016, was really rough. I couldn’t find work. I lost my grandfather. And that sent me into a mini-depression. It was just a lot. And I remember I was a little–not a little–I was angry with my husband because we lost the baby, he never talked about it. I would cry all the time. We would get invited to baby showers, I wouldn’t go. I couldn’t embrace my family. I was happy for them but I just couldn’t be around. We would have people who would see us and be like, ‘Well how long y’all been together? Why y’all don’t have any kids yet?’ ‘Sean, you don’t have any kids do you?’ So we had to deal with that.
I remember one day I was just looking on Facebook and I was like, ‘Facebook has everything. Facebook has to have a group for me.’ I don’t remember the name of the group right now but it has to deal with infant loss. And I started reading the stories. I was like, ‘Oh my God, she is me.’ It became so addictive but in a therapeutic way. I set up an alert so that when somebody posted, I would see it, just to see somebody else who’d gone through what I went through.
It almost feels like when you have a miscarriage or when you have an ectopic pregnancy, or anything when the result is not bringing home a baby, it’s not talked about. It’s like part of a secret society. Nobody ever shares their story, no one ever talks about it. They sweep it under the rug. People act like it’s really not something that happened. I have heard, ‘Oh you were only x amount of weeks.’ But you create a bond, you know?
So 2015, I was talking to a friend of mine. My mother-in-law is a year in recovery from breast cancer and we were just talking about crafting. And my friend said, ‘You’re playing around with your talent.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘You do this stuff and you don’t even realize how good you are. People would actually pay for this.’ So I started making pumpkins. I painted some pumpkins pink, made them for breast cancer awareness and gifted some people that. Well, I didn’t know how much that meant to people, like my aunt’s friend. She was in her recovery stage. I just told her I wanted her address, I wanted to send her something. She said, ‘You don’t know how much this meant.’ I made that and I sent a Christmas ornament. And from that and me posting it, people started asking me, ‘How much are you selling those pumpkins for? How much are you selling those Christmas ornaments for?’ So it gave me something else to look at.
Fast forward to 2016, my baby sister had a loss. She miscarried at 20 weeks. I know how she feels. I know exactly how she feels. I laid in the same bed she was in. I felt the same way, the same emptiness. So now, I have to console her. Last year, my cousin went through the same thing.
Every year, I always post about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month but I don’t post about it as actively as I’ve been doing this year. This year, I read an associate’s story and she just suffered a loss. And when she posted, I said, ‘I need to start posting again. And since this is the month, I need to post all month, just like I dedicate to breast cancer. I don’t have breast cancer but I have a breast cancer survivor. I am an infant loss survivor, I need to post about this. And then look, I shared my story, you reached out to me. I shared my story, four other women who I’m very close with, I had no idea that they went through that, nor did they know that I went through that.
Did your husband ever come around to talking or being more expressive?
It took a long time. It took a long time. While it made us stronger in some parts, it separated us in some parts because I kept saying, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t feel this way. He’s acting like everything’s ok. And we actually talked about it after a really, really nasty argument. He was like, ‘I couldn’t grieve because you were grieving and I had to be strong for you.’ So, I kept certain things in. But it bothered me to see how it affected you and it was affecting me. But I knew I had to be strong. And I was like, ‘But you didn’t have to because it affected you too.’
When I told him that I was going to have the conversation with you, he said, ‘I’m proud of you. I can tell that you’re healing.’ I said, ‘I am.’ And he said, ‘You know what’s strange is, when I talk about it at work to some of my coworkers and I realize they’ve gone through the same thing, it helps me.’ So even though he didn’t talk directly to me about it, he is talking about it.
So when I talked to Dr. Greenidge, she said, ‘Where are you with [trying to have a baby]?’ I said, ‘Those two years had me on the brink of almost a nervous breakdown. I cannot put myself through that again. And if that is selfish of me, I’m sorry. But I can’t.’ It got to the point where I was like, ‘Sean, if you want to go and have a baby with someone else, I completely understand.’ Because I didn’t want to deny him of having children.
You hear the success stories like ‘I’m healed. I’m completely transformed.’ It’s still a day to day. Sean’s older brother was going through fertility issues as well and they just had a baby. And it’s hard. I haven’t even seen the baby yet. I’ve Facetimed them but I haven’t gone to physically see the baby yet. I can’t. It’s hard.
Not to get churchy but you know sometimes you’re asking God, ‘Why me?’ I have a son who’s 21 years old and I thought ‘God I had a baby with somebody who treated me like the scum of the earth but here it is, I have a man that will kiss the ground that I walk on and I can’t do it for him.’ So it’s a process.
[What helps me is] reading the stories on the Facebook group, crafting, I actually did seek counseling and just talking to other women who are like me, they just have a different face. But they’re just like me.
So you said you don’t want to continue trying?
I’m 43 years old. And at this stage in the game, if it happens, it happens. But I think I am at peace if it doesn’t happen and my husband is on the same page.
You guys didn’t consider adopting?
We discussed it and my husband said, if the baby wasn’t from me or him, then he didn’t want to do it. That took a while for me to understand, also. Because I was like, ‘Isn’t the point to have a baby?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t want to just have a baby. I want to have a baby with you. So if you can’t have this child and I can’t have this child, then I don’t want to do it.’
The thing is with this is, let’s say you and I became close. I could tell you how I feel but unless you experience it, you never really understand. When I went to therapy, my therapist said, ‘You have got to mourn the loss of this pregnancy just like you mourn the loss of a loved one.’ Someone close to you may die and it’s going to hurt you to your core, the day you find out, maybe the day after, maybe the day after that. Then it’s going to get a little bit better until you go to the wake. Then you get that feeling all stirred up all over again. And then you’re going to go home and you may not be able to sleep and you’re going to go to the burial and that’s going to rock you. Then it’s going to get a little bit better. But then you may hear a song come on and you think about them and you’re devastated or you may watch a movie or hear something that they say or go somewhere that you went with them. So for me, as a survivor, it comes in waves. I know that I’m healing because I can talk to you and I’m not crying, like that ugly, snot-coming-out-your-nose crying. So I know that I’m getting ok but I don’t think that you’re ever fully healed. Because that feeling gets a little bit easier to deal with but it never goes away. My due date was September 20th and that day is always a blur for me.
What did you say to your sister and cousin?
The only thing I can tell her is ‘I know that this is painful. I know exactly how you feel, unfortunately, but in a little bit of time, it’s going to get better. If you want to cry, cry. If you feel like you want to scream, scream. I understand. I know exactly how you feel. But in a little bit of time, it’s going to get better. If you want to talk, if you want to cry with me on the phone, I get it.’
In the Facebook group, someone said it’s hard to share with people because people don’t look at a miscarriage as a loss. In my hashtag, I wrote I am a mom of two because, at the end of the day, I am a mom of two. But someone won’t look at it like that.
I think for women, it’s kind of a shame. We’re born to have children, to get married, to be successful, to be the backbone of the family. So you’re born, you get married, you don’t have any children, you’re still the backbone of the family but you feel incomplete. So a lot of women don’t talk about it because they feel less of a woman. I had that feeling and I had a child.
And people are very insensitive. Let’s say you’re in a relationship with someone, you’re not married. But people are prodding and pushing you. ‘When are you going to get married?’ ‘When are you going to have children?’ I posted something about that, ‘Stop asking me when I’m going to have children. Stop asking me when I’m going to buy a house?’ It’s just a constant question. And it kind of taught me a lesson to not ask people who are together, ‘Well when are you gonna…?’
Our family would see us and ask, ‘When are you going to give my nephew a baby?’ And it’s like ‘Oh Jesus, do they not know?’ And we were at his uncle’s funeral and his mom was talking about his brother’s wife having a baby and how excited she was and it felt like somebody was stabbing me. And I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable about talking to me about it but it hurts.
I turn to my crafting. That’s how my business was born. And ironically, I do things for babies. So I make name signs for babies and that helps, as crazy as it sounds. It does help.
If you could say something to women who’ve experienced a loss like yours, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that they need to find like support. Social media is a gift and a curse but because you are grieving, you don’t have to grieve alone. I would definitely tell you to reach out to people who have gone through it. So again, you don’t have to go through it alone. So the more we talk to each other, it encourages us to speak out. Because you’ll be surprised. That favorite aunt of yours may have had four miscarriages.
And I would go a little step further. I’m willing to, if women want someone to reach out to, who is judgment-free, don’t know them but still went through the same thing they went through, and they want to talk, I’m willing for them to reach out to me.
You can contact Karen through her Instagram page kaybelledesigns