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Caught between grief and worry, all the pain went away when my daughter was born.

Dominique and her husband waiting for Leena-Deen. Photo credit: Jason Wilson

Trigger warning: Miscarriage and traumatic delivery experiences

Miscarriages happen more frequently than we know—according to a paper published in 2018, most human pregnancies end in miscarriage, because miscarriages can occur before someone even knows they’re pregnant. And, according to WebMD, 15-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages.

In order to normalize this very common experience, we’ll be sharing more stories and resources to help destigmatize miscarriages and support the people who have lived through them and have gone on to create the families they’ve always wanted.

Women like Dominique Clayton, an arts manager and writer based in Los Angeles. Last week, Dominique shared her experience miscarrying her first pregnancy. Today she shares her story of trying to get pregnant again after a miscarrage, and the birth of daughter Leena-Deen.

Complicated Feelings…

The miscarriage happened in August 2010. The recovery from the miscarriage was the same as the recovery from giving birth. (They called it a “spontaneous abortion,” which I thought sounded crazy.)

I had bleeding, cramps, pain, and soreness in my lower body. After 3-4 weeks, I felt a little normal. They tell you not to have sex for six weeks, but after the following month, we tried again and I got pregnant.

I was excited that my body still worked after all I’d gone through. But still there’s a feeling of, Is this one going to last? How far along am I? When am I going to be safe?

When you’re pregnant after a miscarriage, you question everything you do…

This time around, I didn’t tell anyone anything; I was really cautious in everything I did. I wore loose clothes… I just didn’t want to have that conversation again. I didn’t want to have to explain.

I had a little bit of anxiety. I tried to distract myself with work and just go to the appointments. At every appointment, right before the doctor would come in, I would have almost this mild panic attack like, Are they going to come back and say something to me?

I was definitely living in fear. When you’re pregnant after a miscarriage, you question everything you do, everything you eat, who you’re around, and what your lifestyle is. Maybe this is why it didn’t work, maybe this is why… Especially if you’re somebody who has ever been a drinker or a smoker or done drugs… I don’t think a lot of women talk about that.

I reached each milestone. Once I was past the 15-week mark, which is when I had the first miscarriage, I was like, Phew, I got through that. What’s next? 

I chose not to do any tests for Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders because one of them involve inserting a large needle in my stomach, which could potentially cause a miscarriage. So no, I didn’t want to do that test.

Letting It All Hang Out…

It wasn’t as sweet and memorable as I think a lot of women view their first pregnancy because I was so stressed. I wasn’t really walking around with the cute baby bump and the outfits. I was going to work and doing my thing. I kept a low profile. 

But as soon as I got to the third trimester, I was out and about with it. It was summer in New York, just this lively mood. I was 8 months pregnant and I decided, Ok, I’m going to let it all hang out. 

We found out it was a girl. “You have to have a baby shower!” my friends insisted, and so I did that late into the pregnancy. I enjoyed the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy because I felt like, now it’s happening, nothing else could go wrong.

Dominique and her husband waiting for Leena-Deen. Photo credit: Jason Wilson

I had an emotional detachment from the baby. I didn’t even think about it. And that’s probably why I didn’t think seriously about the birth plan, I didn’t think seriously about the environment I wanted to have while giving birth or what I needed around me. I didn’t really think about anything. 

I downloaded a form off the internet and I filled that out like a job application. None of the things I had on that list happened. As soon as I got there, they gave me an IV I didn’t want, and then they told me I needed pitocin because the contractions weren’t consistent. 

The doctor wasn’t there yet, so I got the late-night nursing staff that didn’t want to be there. Instead of letting me labor, they were trying to put me to bed by giving me an epidural so that by the time I woke up in the morning the doctor would be there. If I labored, then they would have to be attentive to me throughout the night. 

I said, “No, I’m in labor. Let me do what I have to do.” 

But within 30 minutes, they said, “We’re going to give you this thing to get the contractions going again.”

I was already on alert. “Pitocin? No, I don’t want that!”

“It’s going to be a long night!” they said.

Fighting For Leena-Deen

It was the same energy I got from that first doctor who said I was going to miscarry; this whole hospital staff treated me like I was an inconvenience. I have a very nice insurance plan, I have a doctor, this is what I would like to do, and yet I’m having to ask them to make space for me to just come into the room—that I’m going to be paying for!—and chill out in there and labor in my own time. 

My husband was on edge because he had watched The Business of Being Born with me. And he’s just naturally a hype person, he’s ready for any kind of show down. So in that case it was very beneficial for me: He’s not going to let them screw me over, I thought.

Luckily there was a Black nurse there… I just looked at her squarefaced and said, ‘I want to get on my hands and knees, I want to push.’

Somehow I lost sight, and they gave me the pitocin. Then the contractions got ridiculous. I felt like my insides were being clawed out. 

My mom was there, saying, “You should’ve just taken the epidural. Let them do what they need to do, baby, I don’t want to see you in pain.”

I was like, “Mom! Thanks, but I don’t want that.”

“You’re in too much pain now,” she said. “You have to do something for that.”

I tried to hold down for as long as I could, but this stimulant was causing these dragon contractions inside of me. I just couldn’t. I was in tears.

Then they said, “We’ll give you a little bit of the epidural just to relax you and to slow it down.” And as soon as that happened, I lost all control of the situation.

Like they wanted, I was on a drip for the whole night. 

By the time the morning came, the epidural had worn off and I was ready to get the show on the road. But then they said, “Well now we can’t get a good read. We might have to do a C-section because it’s been too long with no progress.”

It hadn’t even been 24 hours. 

That was their agenda. They wanted it to be done before noon, and they were trying to sell me on that.

“You can be done!” they said. “You could have your baby in your arms and you could be relaxing in the other room for the rest of the day.” 

Luckily there was a Black nurse there. Her name was Jackie. I just looked at her squarefaced and said, “I want to get on my hands and knees, I want to push.”

My legs were all wobbly because of this epidural I’d been on all night, but there was a part of me just in my core that felt like I could really get some progress going if I could only get on my hands and knees without the lights on.

Jackie turned the lights off and said, “I’m on my shift for this much longer, I’ll make sure no one else comes in here to bother you.”

She and my husband lifted me up so I could get on my hands and knees.

She left the room and in that 10 minutes, I don’t know what I was doing because I hadn’t practiced anything before, but I just felt my body wanted to bear down. I literally felt my daughter descend into the canal. All I needed to do was get into that position and breathe through it.

Jackie came back to check and said, “Oh wow, yup, she’s ready to go!”

Then the whole crew came flying in, lights went up, and there’s 10 people who came in ready to catch the baby and pin me down. Everyone’s like push! It’s the whole show.

I wasn’t listening to anything they were saying. I kept pushing extra hard, which caused these huge tears that had to be stitched up afterwards.

When I first saw my daughter’s body…, it was the opposite of what I felt when I had the miscarriage.

I pushed and the baby came out. They took her over to the table and the clean-up crew came in. After that the doctor or a nurse came up and said, “Oh, I’m glad you stuck through it.” 

I was like, “Yeah, no thanks to you! You guys were the ones telling me I can’t do this, and now you’re hyping me up? I don’t want to talk to any of you! I just want to talk to Nurse Jackie and the rest of you can be dismissed.”

When Nurse Jackie came back, I said “Thank you.” My mom thanked her; she kept in touch with her after that and sent her a gift. My husband was thankful to her because he saw it happen—all the bad things we had seen, that were talked about in the movie, they happened. 

But when I first saw my daughter’s body and they pulled her on and up to my chest, it was the opposite of what I felt when I had the miscarriage. Any kind of accident or pain or scar on your body, that first cut, it burns deeply—it stings. With this, I saw her, she’s alive, she’s crying, she’s clawing and searching for my breast, it literally felt like being covered in clouds and glitter, warm, magical. This is all mine! It’s like if you were a kid and you stumbled upon a basket full of candy. It was just like, where did this come from? This gift fell right into my lap.

It took all of that pain away.

Getting to Leena-Deen…

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Have you experienced miscarriages? You are not alone. Visit Sisters In Loss for support and resources. If you’d like to share your miscarriage story, email info@matermea.com.

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Tomi Akitunde is the founder of mater mea.

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