A few months before my wedding in April, I got pregnant.
It was earlier than we’d planned, so we were nervous about having two littles so close in age. But we were beyond excited.
I would hit 13 weeks the day before our wedding. So we decided to share our news with family and friends in person at the wedding.
We thought about putting the announcement in our own wedding vows. We talked about having a wall of family photos at the wedding and adding the 8-week ultrasound photos to the mix to see if people noticed.
But we settled on a special wedding cake topper. We’d have small figurines on top of the cake. One for each family member – Ty, me, 6-year-old Abby, toddler Bailey, and the new baby.
That’s how we were going to announce the happy news on top of an already happy day.
And then ten days before the wedding, I started spotting.
I’d spotted all through the first trimester with Bailey, so at first I wasn’t super worried.
But it got stronger as the day went on. More than spotting. I called the doctor and made an appointment for the next day.
At the Doctor
While the ultrasound tech got everything situated, we held our breath. Hoped.
“Please please please,” I whispered to myself. I squeezed Ty’s hand, and he squeezed back.
And then the screen came to life.
I saw the baby. I watched for that small flicker around the heart.
The tech was quiet.
She drew a line to take a measurement.
The screen split to show the heartbeat at the bottom.
The line stayed flat. She switched the screen away quickly.
I heard a tear drop to the crinkly paper on the table.
“There was no heartbeat?” I asked.
She turned to look at me, and her eyes softened. “Is that what you expected?”
I nodded. Ty squeezed my hand harder.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
The baby had stopped growing. Sometime between the 8-week appointment – when we saw it dancing all around and we heard that beautiful heartbeat – and this appointment nearly 4 weeks later, it just…stopped living.
We hadn’t told many people about the baby at that point. Just two of my closest friends.
After the appointment, I was in a daze. I called one of my friends to tell her what happened. I could barely form a sentence. She just listened to me break down on the phone.
My body took a little while to let go.
It finally happened in the middle of the night, in the bathroom, while Ty was asleep.
I said, “Bye bye, baby.” And then I just sat there and cried and cried until I was empty in every way.
This may sound gross, but I wondered if I should get it out of the toilet. I felt bad letting the baby leave the world in that way. But then I decided I didn’t need any more visuals to add to the pain.
I started the shower and climbed in.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor of the shower, and Ty was looking in, panic in his eyes.
“Kelly. Kelly.” His words filtered to my ears, slowly. “Can you get out?”
“I’m not sure.”
He held out two strong hands and pulled me up and out, wrapped me in a towel. He led me to the bedroom, and as I turned I saw my face in the mirror. And I understood the look on Ty’s face.
Whether it was from grief or blood loss or both, my face was so pale it looked almost…translucent. Like I wasn’t fully there.
Ty tucked me into bed, and I slept and slept.
What’s Left After Miscarriage
My body had done its job, and now we had to move on. We were getting married in just one week. At our house. And we were doing all the cooking ourselves.
“What should we do with the cake?” I would ask Ty, every day or two.
“I don’t know,” he’d say. His voice tight with pain.
I knew we couldn’t leave it empty. But to have figurines for each person in our family except the baby who didn’t make it – I knew that would be painful too.
I searched for wedding cake toppers and scrolled through pages and pages of search results. Love birds kissing. “Mr. and Mrs.” Our initials with an ampersand. “Happily Ever After.”
Nothing felt right.
“It’s just a cake topper,” I said to Ty one night. “I don’t know why I’m obsessing over it.”
“Because if it’s empty, we’ll be sad. That’s why.”
Finally, it was too late to order something.
I do not have an ounce of craftiness in my bones. But DIY was my last option.
The day before the wedding, I went to the local craft store and bought a bunch of random things. No idea what I was doing.
At 10:00 pm the night before, I sat down with a pile of paper straws, twine, washi tape, scrapbook paper, and letter stickers. I wanted to spell something, although I wasn’t sure what. Our initials would be easy, but boring. “Happily Ever After” stuck in my head from my cake topper searches. I was out of time, and I couldn’t think of anything else.
And so I began. I cut out small pieces of scrapbook paper and added the dainty letter stickers. “Happily Ever After” made me think of the baby we would have met in October.
The tears streamed down my face as I put the “y” on “Happily.”
Since we hadn’t told many people about the pregnancy, we didn’t hear “You can try again” or “At least you weren’t very far along” or “Everything happens for a reason.” All the things people say after a miscarriage, trying to make you feel better.
I started on “Ever.” I didn’t have to hear those things from other people, but my own brain kept repeating them in the hardest moments.
It didn’t help to hear them, even coming from me. It didn’t matter that I was “just” in the first trimester. It didn’t matter that we could try again. That was my baby, and one day it was just gone. It didn’t matter that miscarriage is common, and it didn’t matter that my body was just ending a life that would have never survived. My baby.
I had to do the hard work of sitting with my grief.
As I got ready to start on “After,” I paused. “After” is for later. “After” is “You can try again.”
So this is what I did instead:
We are happy now. Even when it’s hard, even when we’re in pain. Now.
I carried the finished cake topper into the kitchen to show Ty.
He smiled. And nodded.
On the big day, I thought of the baby. But I didn’t cry.
We chose happiness.
That was in April.
This summer, we got the green light from my doctor.
We could try again.
And last month, we had a wonderful gift. An 8-week appointment.
The lab tech taking my blood asked, “Which one is this for you?”
“This will be number three.” The same thing I’d told her in March.
She smiled, then tilted her head. “I remember you. Weren’t you here—”
I looked down at my lap. “I was here in March, but I lost the baby.”
She put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Oh, it was just preparing you for something great.”
I looked into her face and smiled.
And then we went to the ultrasound room.
We saw our baby dance around. We heard the heartbeat.
But we’d been there before, so we held our breath. For four more weeks.
This Tuesday, we had our 12-week appointment.
The ultrasound tech pressed the wand to my belly. Ty squeezed my hand.
Dancing. A heartbeat.
I let go of the breath I’d been holding. And smiled.
The smile forced a tear over the edge, and it warmed my face on the way down.
I know loss can happen at any time. At 16 weeks, 30 weeks, at birth. After the baby is born.
I can’t control what happens.
But I can choose happiness.
Happily ever now.
How to Find Happiness in the Chaos of Parenting
I wrote this story the year I got married, and we welcomed our third little one into the mix that next year. We became a family of five with a second-grader, a toddler, and a newborn. Even though I could have used more sleep and way more coffee, we were happy. Then my husband’s paternity leave ended, and I was at home with the kids all day. As time wore on, my patience became razor thin. And one day, I just broke.
The shame burns my cheeks just thinking of that day, even now. After the experience I’d had the week before my wedding, how could I feel anything but 100% gratitude? How could I lose my temper? But thanks to that experience, I realized I had to make a change. I threw myself into researching how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. Something beyond “make time for you” and “exercise more.” Because when you’re overwhelmed and at your breaking point, you don’t need the “experts” telling you more stuff to do on top of everything else.
That’s how I discovered the secrets: 10 secrets every parent should know about being happy. After hearing from hundreds of parents in the same boat as me, I knew I needed to share what I discovered. And so I wrote a book: Happy You, Happy Family.
Click here to download a free excerpt and start your journey towards finding more happiness as a parent.
Because the truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, or from winning the lottery, or from your kids all learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.
True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to put the right habits in place.
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If you feel comfortable, please share your story in a comment below. Your story may provide someone else the support they need in coping with miscarriage.
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.