The amazing Dr. Jessica Zucker, mother to a son (7) and a daughter (2,) as well as, a baby lost to miscarriage at 16 weeks (October 2012)
Getting pregnant with Jessica's son was simple and her pregnancy itself was very smooth and relaxed. She was already specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health as a psychologist so she had been collecting tons of traumatic and intense stories but she wasn't afraid herself; everything went beautifully.
Jessica had mixed feelings about having a second child. Her husband travels a lot for his work and she loves her career so much that she felt maybe they should just leave things as they were. However, her husband is a twin and was especially drawn to having a sibling for their child. Jessica had to do a lot of thinking about their life, work, and mothering and ultimately decided to go for it.
In her second pregnancy, Jessica felt very sick throughout but she was having a girl and assumed that was likely why. Everything was perfect and going well until a Tuesday in October when she started spotting. She called her OBGYN and ended up going into her office soon after. Everything looked great and she was sent home. The next day, Jessica was feeling a bit better and decided to go to work. On the drive home, she started to have what she now knows were contractions. That evening, her contractions worsened and a friend who is a midwife came over. Her friend checked the baby's heart rate which was fine and advised her to have a sip of wine and take a bath. She didn't really sleep that night due to the pain she was in but didn't realize the extent in the moment. First thing in the morning, she got back in the bath and just knew that something horrible was about to happen. Her son went off to school and her husband went to work while Jessica stayed home. She reached out to her perinatologist and attempted to get herself dressed to go in to his office. She began to feel flush and dizzy and wondered if she was having a panic attack for the first time but later realized she was in transition and her body was preparing to give birth.
Jessica sat down to use the bathroom and calm down and the baby came out. She screamed at the top of her lungs and texted her husband, family and friends that she'd had a miscarriage. She was acutely aware of the fact that she'd just experienced the death of her baby and that it was possible she was also in danger. Her doctor walked her through what to do next, so she cut the umbilical cord herself and then started to hemorrhage. Her doctor advised her to bring the baby into the office with her so they could test and determine what had happened. Jessica's husband rushed home and Jessica dressed and wrapped herself in towels so they could go into the doctor - she had been hemorrhaging so badly she hadn't been able to leave the toilet. Her husband had to get a bag to put the baby in and she recalls, it was all just horrible.
When they arrived at the OBGYN's office, Jessica passed a large blood clot that burst on the floor. She was then faced with the choice to have an unmedicated D&C immediately or wait for the anesthesiologist which could have taken hours and then have a blood transfusion because her blood loss was so extensive. She didn't feel like she could be in more trauma or pain than in that moment so decided to just have the D&C without medication. She can still hear the machine and feel the pulling of her placenta when she recounts those moments. Jessica was supported by her husband and nurse and her midwife friend arrived to take pictures of her baby for her. Jessica kept losing consciousness so there were rounds of smelling salts as they tried to keep her awake. Eventually, they sent her home and Jessica says she sobbed more intensely than she ever had. She had been there so many times pregnant and now she was leaving in a wheelchair without her baby. Jessica's midwife friend came home with her and she recalls it took 40 minutes to get up the stairs into her house because she just had no life left in her. She bled for weeks and had to take medication to slow the bleeding and prevent infection.
They waited about 4 months before she got pregnant again and this pregnancy experience could not have been more different than her first. She was still traumatized from her loss and struggled to settle into things. She was nervous the entire time and her work with women who had experienced difficult pregnancies and postpartum caused her to further realize that something could go wrong at any stage. Jessica was dedicated to having an unmedicated birth with her daughter after having the emergency unmedicated D&C with her loss. It meant so much to her because in one situation death lay on the other side, and in the other, life. She says, "It felt important to me to feel the dance of our bodies as I gave birth to my now 2 year old daughter." Even now, looking back at her first year, even though she was connected and bonding she wasn't the same her that she was before. "Clearly, trauma changes who we are."
Soon after Jessica's loss she started writing about the pain and politics of loss from a psychologists perspective. She had been trying to play it safe by not getting too personal and didn't want to negatively affect anyone who was previously or may ultimately be her patient by scaring them with her experience. Research shows that women feel guilt, shame and self blame after a loss and her identification with this ultimately culminated and gave birth to her #ihadamiscarraige campaign. There felt no better way for a psychologist who had worked with women who had lost and then went through it herself to help say that we don't have to go through this alone just because our society doesn't want to talk about it. Her campaign launched in October 2014 via a piece in the New York Times and she's continued to share her story through her writing ever since. In October 2015, Jessica launched a line of pregnancy loss cards that have been warmly received across the globe. Her goal was to fill this gaping hole that exists surrounding what to say to someone who has lost while resonating and validating women's experiences.
"We need to change this conversation, or lack of it in our society, because without it women who are already traumatized end up feeling isolated. It doesn't make any sense."