I had a miscarriage at almost fifteen weeks.
My boyfriend Luke and I were together for about four and a half years when we decided we wanted to make a big life change and move out of the country, to Nicaragua. We also wanted to start a family. We were ready for it. But at the same time, I was suddenly experiencing a boom in my new career as a makeup artist in Los Angeles, so it felt like the wrong time to make a change.
To be completely honest, my work relationship was going much better than my relationship with Luke. We were in an okay part of our relationship, but I still wanted to make it work. I kept telling myself that I loved him, but then I would ask myself, What am I doing? Why am I choosing my personal life and my future family over my career? I look back now and realize it wasn’t the right time for Luke and me—by any means.
Three years ago, on Superbowl Sunday, I found out I was pregnant. I knew instantly what it was, and I came home from work to take three pregnancy tests. I knew it, and I knew they’d be positive. And I broke down, flipped out, started crying and didn’t know what to do. My first thought was, I’m not married. What is everyone going to think of me? My stepdad is going to be so disappointed. That’s the first thing I thought. I was more concerned with what everyone else was going to think.
I went through a wave of emotions for about a week, and then I finally told my mom, my aunt, and some other important women in my life. I had never been pregnant before and I didn’t know how to process what I was feeling. As I began to understand my emotions and how my body was changing, I started to realize...I’m with this man who I love, we’re creating this life, and we’re going to do this. This is what we had talked about and at the time, this is what I thought I wanted.
After about two weeks sitting with some heavy, heavy emotions we decided that we were going to keep the baby. I proceeded to go to the doctor to figure out next steps. I have endometriosis, and the doctor confirmed that while I wasn’t a high-risk pregnancy, I was definitely under some stress and my cortisol levels were super high. I needed to immediately change my diet and daily routine. I’m not a heavy drinker but I definitely love a glass of wine, and I’ve been smoking cannabis pretty much every day since my early twenties. I stopped drinking and smoking, but Luke, who also uses cannabis, wasn’t ready to — I’d come home and find him smoking in the living room (even though I asked him to smoke in the back).
Going into the pregnancy I was completely uneducated, and I was definitely scared. At almost fifteen weeks, when I started bleeding really badly, I knew something was wrong. I called my doctor and she said, “Spotting is normal, but if it continues tomorrow, come in.” So I did.
The doctor told me that I needed an ultrasound... I started to feel really, really sick, and I went home first and completely passed out. It was unfortunate timing because I didn’t have health insurance since I had just changed jobs (without a COBRA plan in place). The ultrasound office my doctor recommended required insurance, so being the stubborn girl that I am, I decided I was okay to go home and go to Planned Parenthood in the morning. In the middle of the night, I woke up with the most unbearable pain you could ever imagine, along with some heavy, heavy bleeding. I was crouched over in pain, a level of which I had never experienced. The nurse told me the type of pain I was going through was equivalent to labor pain. And then she told me I was experiencing a miscarriage.
I had to have a D&C, which is where they extract the fetus from inside of you — I was that far along. It was pretty horrible. And I was in the hospital for about twenty-four hours until they sent me home and told me to rest and relax. That afternoon, my neighbor and friend, Lily, called to check on me, and I started feeling dizzy and very sick. I asked her to take me back to the doctor. Before she arrived, I fainted — I completely passed out — and thankfully Lily found me a few minutes later. When I got back to the hospital, I had to have a second D&C. I was told there was still heavy clotting and a blockage inside of me.
A day later, I was home and starting to feel a little better, but I had an immense amount of blood loss, and it was really heavy, emotionally. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around any of it at the time. It was also really interesting to see how Luke was acting through it all. He was really scared and didn’t quite know what to do, he had never been through anything like this either. I centered into myself and thought, you know what, there is a reason for everything. There is a reason why I’m going through this, and I’m going to be okay.
I spent the next week recovering, and was beginning to feel okay, and that’s when the real heavy emotions started to sink in. I began to ask myself if it was my stress that caused this. Was it my endometriosis? Endometriosis may lead to higher rates of miscarriage, but we don’t know for sure. Was it my past drinking? Was it my smoking? Was it my diet? Or was it just the universe and my higher power saying, it’s not your time? I was trying to figure it all out.
I didn’t realize this until going through some heavy therapy, but I was experiencing postpartum and the loss of a life. My hormone shifts were completely off the charts, Luke and I were fighting, everything was pissing me off, I wasn’t talking to some of my friends, I wasn’t following up on important things I needed to — my brain was just elsewhere. And that went on for about six months… wondering what was happening, and if we were still going to move to Nicaragua and try to save our relationship.
I was lost. I was so confused. Though Luke was compassionate through the miscarriage and was kind and loving, he didn’t understand — and I didn’t understand — the emotions, the hormones, and how much my body was impacted by the whole ordeal. I’d go off on him at the drop of a hat, and I didn’t realize, even after six months, that I was still affected.
We didn’t go to Nicaragua, and we ended up separating. I moved out of our home and moved home with my parents just to reset and clear my head. The intention of the separation was to reassess our relationship and step away from each other to take some time to figure it out.
During this time alone, I realized I had put myself on the backburner for years: I threw everything into Luke’s basket. We had grown up together our whole lives...we even went to the same preschool. When people found out we were dating, they said, “Oh wow, Helen and Luke are perfect.” The "Malibu Times Magazine" did a four-page spread on our relationship and our families. People kept telling us we were so wonderful together. And I believed them. Through all of that, I stopped surfing, which is my life. And in the entirety of our five years together, I wasn’t painting, traveling or doing anything that makes me, me.
We officially broke up, after six months of really trying — we tried everything: dating each other, therapy and it just didn’t work. Luke and I stayed friends through it all though, and now I can look back and say how blessed and lucky we were. I couldn’t imagine what our lives would be like if we had had a child.
After the miscarriage and the breakup, I was going to see a psychologist and get on Xanax, but I didn’t want to. My therapist recommended three things: hypnotism, therapeutic imagery and CBD. Once I started getting my period again, my endometriosis exacerbated the pain and cramps to the point where I would lose a whole day before my period, hunched over in the bathroom. At that point in my life I couldn’t afford to do more therapy, so I started taking started taking CBD on a daily basis. I can’t say it cured everything, but it helped my cramps, I was no longer cranky, and I started to feel like me.
When I look back at it all now, the miscarriage was a huge wake-up call.
It was the catalyst for the end of my relationship to a man I’ve known since we were kids, who I thought I was going to marry and have children with. It was also a catalyst for me putting myself first.
Helen Grace is an artist, makeup artist, surfer and California native living in Malibu, California.