When There’s No Heartbeat

My perspective on pregnancy loss is a little different…

My name is Jetta and I am a Home Birth Midwife. I have the distinct honor of walking through a pregnancy week by week with my clients. It’s then my privilege to witness the extraordinary moment when that family welcomes their brand new baby.

The excitement of this journey starts with the home pregnancy test, which is often followed by an early ultrasound for confirmation. With or without the ultrasound, a woman always comes to my office around 10-12 weeks anxious and excited to hear her baby’s heartbeat. The joy and relief in the room are tangible when the doppler picks up that adorable galloping sound. We almost always have the silly conversation about what heart rate means a girl and what heart rate means a boy.

But sometimes, no matter how long I look…no matter how much I want to find it…sometimes there is no heartbeat.

As a care provider, I could probably offer lame anecdotes that are supported by odds and science and numbers. I could also tell my client that she can try again and “at least we know you can get pregnant.”

But I don’t.

Instead, I sit silently with her processing the meaning of the silence. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes, I just hold her hand or hold her. I do this because I remember.  I do this because I wish someone had done it for me. I wish the discovery of no heartbeat had been greeted with respect and regard; like a treasure that has been lost rather than a number or statistic. It’s been years, but I remember each one of my losses.

I have been asked what advice I have for moms experiencing loss. I have spent a couple of weeks trying to come up with a list that would demonstrate how intelligent I am and how much knowledge I have about a woman’s body and pregnancy while also showing a little bit of my compassion.

I don’t have a list like that. My advice doesn’t come from medical books but rather from the heartbreaking experiences of 9 pregnancy losses. Its been almost 2 decades since my first miscarriage and 9 years since my last. All the emotions of those experiences lead me to two pieces of advice:

1. Love BIG. Go all in for your baby no matter how long they get to stay with you. You will regret doing it any other way and every tiny human deserves that kind of love for all of their existence.

2. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t be surprised if you have to be gentle with yourself for much longer than you expected. The sting of the loss of a baby can last for years and can come out of nowhere. Give yourself grace.

Writing this blog post has brought back so many memories and emotions. In so many ways, I have moved on from the losses that seemed to define the early years of my marriage. In the later part of those years, I spent some time blogging. I found that to be so healing. If you would like to know a little more of my story, here is a blog post I wrote years ago. Thank you for inviting me to share about this important topic.

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