Dad of three, no more

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A little less than two months ago, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our third child. It was surprising and not surprising at the same time. We had always wanted a third child and we were trying, but at the time we had found out that my wife was pregnant, we had decided to wait because my brother-in-law’s wedding was coming up at the end of the year in Korea.

We were happy because it was another child we could welcome into our family but a little torn since we couldn’t make the trip to my brother-in-law’s wedding. So we broke the news to our family first. Letting my in-laws know that we were expecting and that we couldn’t make it to the wedding. They of course understood and were happy for us. My parents were ecstatic as well and instructing me to help my wife out as much as possible.

When it came to sharing the news with our friends, my thoughts were always going by the book, wait until after the first trimester to make sure we’re in the clear before sharing the news with others. We didn’t, which now, I’m so thankful we didn’t. My wife didn’t care to wait and openly shared it with her closest friends. I of course cautioned her, but what if something would go wrong? She reassured me, well we’ve had two healthy pregnancies, what could go wrong? Plus if something does go wrong, at least we’ll have a group of friends and family to support us.

Of the three times my wife was pregnant, this was by far the most taxing on her and the family. Her symptoms were more severe than when she was pregnant with our first two kids. Her strength was zapped, so I’d often come downstairs because our two little ones had got into an argument while my wife lay exhausted and asleep on the couch. Like her other pregnancies, it was hard for her to cook so I had to do all the cooking — which was quite stressful while having to work and tend to the kids.

As far as her cravings went, she was craving spicy foods. Which was funny because she can’t really handle spicy foods when not pregnant. This was great for me because I love a little heat in my food. So I cooked a lot of spicy Korean stews.

It was a fun dynamic thinking about how our family of four was going to grow into a family of five. My firstborn, our son, had prayed for a new sister, because his current sister was getting too “old” (his words). The kids were patient when mommy was tired. We joked about logistically not knowing how to do trips out if we’ve got three kids because the outside world is geared to two kid families. Like the grocery carts.

I think our kids, as young as they are perceived a lot about the changing family dynamics. My son especially. He would make sure we always prayed for our new baby as we said our prayers throughout the day. He would be thoughtful on mentioning things in threes which told us he was definitely aware that he would become a brother to another baby. He would also ask how big the baby was and my wife would try to help him visualize by comparing the size to objects that he would recognize like a peanut or an olive. Our younger one, not so much. We were more worried for her since she’s been the baby and now another one would be competing for our attention. Because of this I secretly wanted another boy so that she could at least be my baby girl although she’d be a middle child.

At the two month mark, we went in for the first ultrasound. Leading up to it, like our previous two pregnancies, I’d joke about having twins, while my wife reassuring me she’d be uber mad if she was carrying two. We went in and the technician ensured us that there was only one. Although this wasn’t our first time there’s something amazing, when you see that little jelly bean shaped baby on the screen with a little heartbeat and little blobs forming into shapes that would become their arms and legs.

The ultrasound is when as a dad it always started to feel real to me. I suppose seeing is believing for dads.

As the weeks went by, my wife’s symptoms were still rough. On top of the spicy foods, the only thing she could drink was La Croix sparkling water. And not just any flavor, it was the one that had no flavor. Just carbonated water. We made many trips to Target to stock up. My wife’s nightstand was littered with little blue cans of the stuff. Like clockwork she also always got hungry at 11PM at night. So we would eat sandwiches, chips and big bowls of cereal. It was great.

For her first checkup after the ultrasound, she texted me something that hadn’t happened in our prior pregnancies. When they had checked for the baby’s heartbeat, they mentioned that they couldn’t find one. The midwife reassured us that it isn’t uncommon since it is still early in the pregnancy and I mean we had just seen a heartbeat a couple of weeks back during the ultrasound. We took the midwife’s word and scheduled another checkup the following week. They had suggested it since we weren’t able to find a heartbeat and they just wanted to check again sooner.

Of course, this did raise some red flags in our minds but we felt pretty confident everything was ok since we already had two healthy kids. In the back of my mind I did wonder but what if but tried to not let my mind wander too much so that I could be strong for my wife just in case. I’d say a short prayer and ask for health.

The following week, my wife went in again and again they couldn’t hear a heartbeat. The midwife said if we wanted to, we could schedule an ultrasound to get a visual on the baby, but it was still early so we could just check again the following week. But if they weren’t able to hear a heartbeat for the third time we’d then have to go in for an ultrasound to see if everything was ok. We decided to wait.

The day before the third checkup, my wife and the kids went over to a friend’s house for a playdate. I treated myself to a bacon, egg, tomato and avocado sandwich for lunch, to which my wife points out I only make the good stuff when the family isn’t around. I made another one so that she could enjoy it when she came back. When they came back, it was like any other play date, we talked about how the kids played together and if they enjoyed their time. My wife mentioned that she was experiencing some cramping, which in pregnancy isn’t something uncommon so I told her to take it easy.

She excused herself to the bathroom and when she came out, she was panicky because she had seen some blood. Unsure what to think of it, we called the doctor’s office. They asked us to come in within a few hours. We were able to put the kids down for their afternoon nap and our friend was able to come over to watch them while we made the doctor’s visit.

The car ride over was a silent one. Thoughts were firing through my mind as I’m sure the same was happening to my wife. All I could do was comfort my wife. I tried to fight back my fears and fill them with prayers for health for both my wife and my child.

When we got to the office, the wait was pretty short. The technician that had performed the ultrasound for our second child and the first ultrasound for our third greeted us. We walked to the ultrasound room and like our other visits, followed the routine procedures. When it came to the ultrasound, it was silent. The technician was making some sort of measurements while occasionally passing by the baby each time I couldn’t recognize a heartbeat that was so obvious during the first ultrasound. After a few minutes, the technician had said to my wife that she was sorry but there was no heartbeat. We had miscarried.

Immediately I stood up to be by my wife’s side while I could see the technician’s face become saddened as if there was a knot in her throat as she began to tell us that we could take as long as we needed to get ready, before seeing a doctor. Streams of tears swept down my wife’s face as all I could do is embrace her. My fears that I had been fighting back for so long were true. We had lost our baby. My curiosity of why the symptoms were persisting but my wife’s stomach didn’t show signs of growth had just been confirmed.

My wife was weeping, silent. While all I could do is stroke her hair and reassure her that it wasn’t her fault. Because the last thing I wanted was for her to think it was something that she did to cause the outcome. The technician walked us over to another room where we waited for the doctor.

I kept stroking her hair, passing tissues to dry her tears and staring into her eyes to tell her it wasn’t her fault. To which her response was stop saying that. I just kept hugging and kissing her. Later she told me she wasn’t at the point in the process of thinking it could’ve been her fault so she got annoyed that I kept saying that it was’t her fault.

The doctor finally came and we sat in his office as he began to talk us through what had happened and what was going to happen. He shared with us some statistics, kept calling the baby “tissue” (both of which I felt like was to normalize the situation) and told us it looked like the tissue (just call it a baby, dude) didn’t measure much bigger than when we had our first ultrasound at 8 weeks, so we lost it soon after. It just took my wife’s body some time for it to understand that it has miscarried and the bleeding was a sign of the baby leaving my wife’s body.

I remember his voice being calm, quietly soothing, but I remember watching his left hand, twirling a small paperclip as he kept talking to us. Thinking he must’ve done this before, I’m sure it isn’t easy for him either.

He then shared with us three scenarios. Scenario one, the “tissue” will pass naturally and there wouldn’t have to be any intervention but the process could take a little while or it could be quick. Scenario two, my wife could speed things up with medication that would cause her to contract and the tissue would pass overnight, hopefully a more controlled experience. Scenario three, intervention where the doctor would remove the tissue themselves, otherwise, surgery.

My wife of course, refused the surgery. So the doctor walked us through scenarios one and two again. We obviously wanted scenario one but the doctor still prescribed the meds for scenario two just in case we decided we wanted to speed up the process a little quicker.

The next conversation was a little weird. He then shared with us that we could bring the tissue in to examine. The details of the examination was beyond me or I just didn’t care. But I remember thinking what are our options once the baby is out? Do we give it a little funeral and bury it or what’s standard procedure because we had no idea what standard procedure was, we didn’t get the manual of what to do in life if you lose a child during pregnancy.

I choked back a tear and tried to inquire the doctor but I don’t think he understood what I was getting at or he knew and was strategically diverting me away and trying to approach it from a medical point of view.

After our talk, we were sent back to the room again to wait for something to take home if we decided to bring in the baby for examination. The nurse walked in, handed me a brown paper bag for which I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the bag. Curious, my wife asked if it was possible to know the gender of our child, the doctor assured us it was too early. We then we made our way out of the office and into the car.

I opened the door for my wife and then got in myself. I leaned over to hug and kiss her and then I ugly cried for the second time in our marriage (the first was on our wedding day as we walked down the aisle). All I could do was whisper to her that I’m sorry. She asked why, and in my mind I thought about all those times I wasn’t patient during this pregnancy. Being stressed out with work, cooking and cleaning and caring for the kids. If only I had shut up and tried harder, perhaps I could’ve helped prevent this. I couldn’t coherently share these thoughts with her because I was a mess. After the ugly crying subsided, I said a short prayer. That God is still faithful, still loving and omniscient and that his hand has, is and will continue to guide us through this experience.

I then started driving home while trying to fight back residual ugly cries, and make sure we arrive home safely. One of the things I shared with my wife was that we shouldn’t mention what had happened to our kids. I wanted time to just pass by and hopefully their memories of this pregnancy will be forgotten. Although I’m sure my son could understand the weight of the situation (he learned about death a few months earlier when his guppy, Hudson Hornet went to be with the Lord), I didn’t want to burden him with such an experience.

In the car we broke the news to both our parents. The mood was somber and the focus now was my wife’s health.

We then picked up the medication. The pharmacist, looked at me a little weird as he rang me up. I thought perhaps he could see it in our faces that we were distraught, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He asked if we had any questions and he shared the basics of how to take the medication and that the instructions were on the bag.

Our friend who was watching our kids told us to go on a little coffee date, so we did. It wasn’t on our minds but I thought it was thoughtful to give us some time to just talk amongst ourselves. Life with two kiddos rarely allows us anytime for just the two of us and if there was ever a time I needed to talk with my wife and make sure she was ok and understand what was on her mind and heart, it was this time.

My wife got her usual drink, while I got an coconut milk cold brew (it was gross). We sat outside and talked through what had just happened. It was weird because I wasn’t sure if we should talk so openly about it while others could easily ease drop, but it didn’t matter since I wanted to focus on her.

Then we slowly started to break the news to our friends who knew about the pregnancy. I thought the experience would be dreadful, but as I mentioned above, it was actually a blessing. We all of a sudden had an outpouring of support and prayers as friends both celebrated the life of the baby we had just lost as well as grieve with us as we were grieving.

When we got home, we were greeted by our smiley, cheesing little kids with cards that said they loved mom and dad. Our thoughtful friend, not only watched our kids and did crafts with them, but also cleaned our entire first floor while we were away. Including vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen! Have I mentioned we have the bestest of friends?

Being late, we shared a meal with her all while being comforted for our loss.

After dinner, the kids wanted to go on a walk to blow bubbles. I hate bubbles because it’s messy and there are a million mosquitoes outside but how could I refuse their request? We had just found out we lost a child and before me are my two healthy, happy children who just want to spend time with me doing what makes them happy which is to blow bubbles.

From that point on in the day, only one thing crossed my mind. For my wife’s health and for the baby to pass naturally and without any complications. I thought the hardest I had ever prayed was when my wife was in labor with our two kids, but it was definitely this time. Even as we went to bed, as I was falling asleep, I was asking the Lord for my wife’s health and for no complications. Even in the moments when I woke up in the middle of the night to check on her as she slept or went to the bathroom, my mind was entranced with prayers for my wife as I knew she was scared and in pain.

At 5AM in the morning our prayers were answered. Per my wife’s request, we had collected the remains and we got back into bed.

I told my wife to sleep, but I laid their wide awake. At 6, my kids awoke. I fed them and then got them ready to go to the grocery store. Something new to my knowledge, in Korean culture, when a miscarriage occurs, Koreans treat it the same way as a birth. The tradition being, we eat seaweed soup also known as birthday soup. A soup I grew up eating for every birthday and one we feed our kids on their birthdays.

So the kids and I went to the store to grab fresh mussels and other ingredients for the soup.

On our way to the grocery store, I dropped by the doctor’s office to drop off the remains. It was a weird experience. The kids kept asking what was in the brown bag that was going with us. I kept telling them that it was something that the doctor needed. When I arrived the receptionist asked what I was there for, and I shared with them because I was doing what the doctor has asked me. When the doctor’s nurse came out to collect the brown bag that she had given me less than 24 hours ago, she saw my kids and could only smile and compliment how beautiful they were and that her hope is that we can focus on them and not our loss. I thanked her and then we went back to our car.

While loading the kids in, a woman parked her car next to ours and my kids were able to see their first convertible’s roof being closed. Random I know, but this experience will forever be engrained into my memory.

The rest of the day was a day to celebrate our family. No request was absurd, we wanted to love on our kids, we hung out, drank Kung-Fu tea and relaxed.

We received meals, prayers, gifts and shared stories with friends whom for the first time were sharing their own stories of children lost through miscarriages. This was a community for whom I was so thankful for and am glad my wife decided to share about the pregnancy early on.

That night after the kids went to bed, I instructed my wife to rest, while I went downstairs to make birthday soup. It was a surreal moment. We had just lost our child and here I was making soup that’s traditionally served to celebrate a person’s birthday. I didn’t ugly cry but that was the hardest meal I have ever prepared in my life. At 11PM the soup was done. My wife was ready to head off to bed, but I insisted that we eat a bowl of the soup. Since it’s believed the seaweed soup has cleansing and health benefits of eating after a birth and we were to treat the loss as a birth.

I share the loss of our child, first for myself and my family. As a way to cope and record my thoughts and feelings throughout this 24 hour period that happened a couple of weeks ago. My hope is also that it will help others who may experience the same loss that we have experienced. According to talks with health professionals and with friends, the stats on miscarriages in the first trimester is quite common. The number is anywhere between 1/3 to 1/4 pregnancies has this outcome. While I pray and hope that this would never happen to anyone else’s family, if my account can help with the processing and healing process, I’m glad to share this experience. As it happened to us, we felt so lost but it was because of our community we were able to grieve and heal as they loved on us and guided us through the process.

Today is both our wedding anniversary as well as father’s day. So I thought it fitting to take some time to celebrate my union with my wife, my family with kids and experience of our third child.

Today we are thankful for our family, for health, for a God who has loved our family through community during this experience. Today I am thankful for being a husband and a father.

:wave: Hey hey, I'm Michael Lee! I really appreciate you taking the time to read this article.

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