I met Brittany a few years ago at one of our Gather workshops and right away, I was drawn to her loving spirit. We had emailed for months before meeting and I knew before even shaking her hand that she was special. She has a way of making you feel genuinely celebrated and also happens to be incredibly gifted and worth celebrating herself. After becoming instant friends that weekend and connecting over our teacher-to-artist journeys, we stayed in touch and I had the pleasure of bringing her business brand to life this year. I am so proud of Brittany’s creativity and drive but even more proud of the person she is and that I get to call her friend. She is continually encouraging other mothers and entrepreneurs and is brave enough to share her journey to motherhood with us today.
Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in southern California, raised in New Mexico & I have been living in Oklahoma City for the past 5+ years. Until August 2016 I had been working in the world of education reform, specifically in early childhood education. This past fall, I transitioned to making my illustration side-hustle a full-time gig, while also being a stay-at-home-mom as we prepared for our baby. He entered the world on December 3rd, 2016. More than anything, I love moments with my husband & baby boy, Buddy. I am also obsessed with animals – we currently have 4 of our own rescue babies + one sweet foster pup and last summer before our baby was born we had an entire litter of foster kittens!
When did you first experience a miscarriage?
In September of 2015 my husband and I had been married a little over a year and decided that we were ready to try to have a baby. It was the second week of October when I decided to take a pregnancy test. I don’t know why I decided to do that. I remember taking the test & it immediately showed one line, the indication of “negative”. I set the test down and went back to what I was doing. A few minutes later I went into the bathroom for something and when my eyes landed upon the pregnancy test it had two bold lines (I guess I didn’t understand how pregnancy tests worked because I just assumed that the first reading of the one line was the verdict). When I saw the two lines my whole body started shaking, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t expect to become pregnant and I anticipated the process to take much longer than it did. I remember that I was eating some roasted green chiles as a snack (the kind of thing you do after being raised in New Mexico) and the first thing I did was Google “effects of spicy food on pregnancy” (I learned that baby was a-okay with spicy food). The second thing I did was made an appointment with my OB/GYN – which I learned wouldn’t happen until my 8th week of pregnancy, a month away from the day I took my test. My husband was still at work and I was dying with excitement to tell him the news. I wrote him a card that said, “You’re going to be a dad” and waited for the right moment to hand it over to him when he got home. It was such a crazy and exciting day, but I remember every single second of it.
That month until the first appointment with our doctor felt like FOREVER. I ordered at least a dozen books about pregnancy. I took my prenatal vitamins and ate a ton of kale salads in an effort to “nourish” the baby. I searched for all signs that confirmed my pregnancy (like nausea, frequent urination and tender breasts). I went to bed early due to exhaustion. I talked to my belly when I was alone in my car. I listened to pregnancy podcasts. I spent hours on online forums where moms-to-be came together to commiserate and converse. I tracked the rate of miscarriage by the day on a chart and celebrated every day that passed where I didn’t experience any form of cramping or bleeding. I purchased a pregnancy journal and began documenting my experiences. I stocked up on maternity clothes including a bra without underwire for my sore breasts. I concealed my secret by ordering “virgin” Bloody Marys when we were out with friends. I experienced all of the emotions; I mean I cried at the end of Pitch Perfect even though I’d seen it a dozen times before. I skipped out on my favorite seasonal treat, pumpkin beer. I started pinning nursery ideas to my new “Baby Viklund” Pinterest board. I ordered a sandwich without mayo to avoid the raw eggs. I made a “morning sickness blend” of essential oils that I sniffed when nausea set in. My husband and I shared the exciting news with our parents by texting them images of their favorite sports teams on onesies. I spent every day of that month imagining my life as a mother and beginning the motherhood journey.
Finally, it was time for our first appointment. My doctor said everything looked good and my blood tests indicated high levels of the pregnancy hormone, hCG. We scheduled our ultrasound for a few days later.
I had the worst migraine and nausea the morning of our ultrasound. I felt absolutely miserable and reminded myself that this was part of pregnancy. At the beginning of our ultrasound the technician told me, “If I see a heartbeat I’ll turn on the screen for you to see.” A few seconds went by and I thought, “This is totally fine”. Then a few minutes went by and I still thought “It just takes a moment…”. My husband and I were holding hands and I knew I couldn’t look at him or I would lose it. More time passed as I lay on the bed in the cold, dark room (though I was burning up). My eyes filled with tears. It felt like I was laying there for an eternity.
The screen never turned on.
Finally, the technician told me I could get dressed and she’d meet us in the hallway. That was it. I can’t even really explain how I felt; it was such a mix of emotions. Confused. Scared. Angry. Sad. Curious. Frustrated. Empty. It was nothing like I expected that day to go. In the hallway they told me to make another appointment for 2 weeks out. This was all new to us so part of me thought this was just normal, but my eyes were full of tears. They said my doctor would be reaching out soon. My husband and I drove home trying to rationalize and understand what was going on. That day at work I couldn’t focus on anything. I was Googling like a mad woman to try to make sense of it all, but I just made myself more confused.
Later that day my doctor finally called – my heart stopped when my phone rang. He explained to me that I had two sacs (twins). One had a little more progress than the other but neither had visible heartbeats. He told me that it could still be too early so they wanted me to have another ultrasound in two weeks to determine if the babies were growing. I thought the month before our first appointment felt long, but the next two weeks felt like a lifetime. Again, I Googled relentlessly every day. I sought advice from strangers on pregnancy boards asking if anyone else had experienced this, if this was normal. I tried to do as much of my own research as I could. I was in the most unusual space. I wanted to cling to hope – and I think for the most part I did – but I also wanted to prepare my heart for what would likely be the reality of the situation.
On the day of our second ultrasound we went through the same routine. Yet again I laid on the exam bed with a blank screen in front of me. I was still maintaining hope. I explained to the ultrasound technician that I had a “tilted uterus” and that it “might be hard to find the heartbeats”. She was gentle with me but her face was an open book. At one point she said, “I’m sorry” and that was it. I had an appointment with my doctor immediately following the second ultrasound. My doctor informed us that neither of the two “sacs”, our babies, showed any progress of growth or a heartbeat. Because I didn’t experience any type of bleeding or cramping, I had what is known as a missed miscarriage. Since my body had not naturally terminated the pregnancy, I weighed my options and ultimately scheduled a Dilation & Curettage surgery (D&C) to clear out the lining of my uterus, and ultimately, the pregnancy. It would be another 10 days until that procedure. Those 10 days were so strange. Knowing what my body was doing – hosting two lifeless “sacs”.
Can you describe how you felt in those first days and weeks?
The pregnancy and miscarriage took a total of nearly 12 weeks, the equivalent of a first trimester. My only knowledge of a miscarriage was how I had seen it played out on TV so I had no idea it could be as drawn out or confusing as it was. The night before my surgery we had a kickball game and I remember feeling the least like myself that I had ever felt. I was just angry. I was deflecting my anger at any and everyone – trying to find a source for my anger, an anger that had no source. I cried myself to sleep that night.
After the procedure and some recovery time, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor (now 14 weeks into the process). I got into my car after the appointment and opened up Facebook on my phone. The first thing on my newsfeed was a friend announcing their pregnancy. I had been somewhat numb following the surgery and I think that was when it all hit me the most. I cried the rest of the day. I didn’t tell anyone about that moment because I believed there was no one who could understand.
Through the entire process and the weeks and months that followed, I felt completely responsible. I ran through every action that I might have done to cause miscarriage to happen. “Did I reach too high for something on a shelf?” “Did I use too much of an essential oil one night?” “Did I not sleep on my left side enough?” I also felt completely ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know because I was afraid people would look at me differently, feel sorry for me, or feel uncomfortable. I was also afraid that if I was lucky enough to get pregnant again, people would treat me differently, with sadness rather than joy. I didn’t want my next baby to start off in that haze.
I also remember how disgusting I felt whenever I experienced jealousy … but also how awkward and fake it felt for me to smile and congratulate others when I found out they were pregnant during the months that followed. It was so weird because I knew that I wasn’t angry at them. I was truly happy for the people in my life who were moving forward with successful pregnancies. I’m typically the type of person who finds happiness in others’ joy, but during this season I just couldn’t find that. I felt like a completely different person. I hated myself for it. I was just angry, scared, and jealous as I was making sense of my situation and grieving my loss.
The added dagger was anytime someone asked, “When are you going to have a baby?” or when family would say things like, “We’re ready for you to have a baby!” It killed me inside to hear those things even though I know they were coming from a good place. To this day I refrain from asking people those types of personal questions because you never know what someone is dealing with behind their smile.
What/who was your “saving grace” in that dark season?
My husband and family were physically there for me but I still felt isolated and completely responsible. My husband was grieving in his own way and I felt bad that I couldn’t be there for him the way I would have liked to have been. We just held each other a lot. He’s the most empathetic person I know so just his physical presence alone gave me comfort. Oddly enough, my art was a huge and unexpected saving grace. I had registered to do my first makers market for the holidays, so I spent any second that I wasn’t working at my full time job creating something. Not just custom pieces, but also new things, my own ideas and feelings. I would just camp out in my office, with my art supplies, and let my brain wander. It was very therapeutic for me. It kept my mind occupied and gave me a new source for my energy instead of the self – deprecating and angry thoughts I’d sometimes slip into.
Were you able to carry on with daily responsibilities?
Yes and no. I loved my job and for the most part I was able to be very focused when working. The same goes for my art: it kept my mind busy and gave me a productive outlet. The hard part was when I would get requests for pregnancy announcements or baby bump illustrations. The worst times were the in-between moments, where I wouldn’t have something to keep me busy. My mind would run down the self-blame path over and over again.
What was the season like physically for you?
Physically my body had been through a roller coaster. I had had twins in my body. I had a surge of hormones and then suddenly that dropped after the surgery. My face broke out like never before, I almost couldn’t recognize myself. The recovery from the surgery also took months; I bled for a long time. My whole body had changed – forever. A lot of women will speak about how their bodies aren’t the same after they have been pregnant and had a baby. The same was true for me after a miscarriage.
What was the most helpful or powerful encouragement you received?
To be completely honest, nothing anyone could tell me would pull me up entirely, and not because their words weren’t worthy but because I was stuck in my own head. My doctor was encouraging through the whole process and he regularly assured me that it was not my fault – even though it took me a long time to finally believe and accept that. My husband’s mother had also lost a baby, a premature baby girl delivered at 22 weeks. I talked to her a lot through the process.
Any particular resources you found helpful during this storm?
I have since learned how common miscarriages are. I mean I knew they occurred frequently (30% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage), but I still felt incredibly alone. This is just my story but there are tons of other stories of loss. I felt so alone but I didn’t have to. In fact, the more I talk about it now, the more I realize that most women I know have experienced a miscarriage or know someone who has. I also thought that because it was my first pregnancy, that I was the only one in that situation which is also not true. There are countless women who have experienced something very similar.
I found that reading other women’s stories was the best medicine. Mattie, your openness and honesty about your own infertility journey was particularly helpful to me. There truly is comfort in community, especially in our darkest moments. This is why I chose to finally share my story, because I know how helpful it has been (even still to this day!) to know that I am not alone in my experiences.
What is your health like today?
My doctor told us to wait at least 3-4 months to try for a baby again. I was so terrified that I wouldn’t be able to have anything other than another miscarriage that by the 3rd month I was ready to try. I used an ovulation predictor test to help me feel more “in control” of my fate. With the most grateful hearts, we found ourselves pregnant again. Those first few weeks played out much differently than my first pregnancy. I stayed off the pregnancy forums this time. I kept myself busy by writing gratitude lists and journaling happy moments from my days. I resolved that my body was doing what it needed to. I definitely experienced some PTSD at our 8-week ultrasound, but without pause, that screen turned on for us and it was one of the most sobering moments for my husband and I. We got to see our baby’s heartbeat! Some 7-months of a healthy pregnancy and delivery later, we gave birth to our baby boy on December 3rd, 2016. He came into the world at the same hospital where I had had my D&C just over a year to the date.
Are there struggles you still carry from this season?
I think the biggest struggle has been moving forward from my frustrations with myself. I am still so disappointed in the anger I projected onto others and myself. It does help to acknowledge it and talk about it openly.
What do you wish now, a bit down the road, that you had known?
I think I “understood” what it meant when people said, “things happen for a reason”, but now with my 6-month-old son wrapped up against my body as I type this, I deeply understand that. Having Buddy taught me that we were destined to be his parents and all that had happened previously led to that. I wish I had the foresight to know this back then. Since he entered the world, we couldn’t imagine our lives without him. And while the loss of our first pregnancy was the worst heartache I had ever experienced, our Buddy wouldn’t exist without it. I find a lot of strength in that. I know that season served a purpose and from it we gained our lovable baby boy and a deeper perspective on how precious and vulnerable life is.
What would you say to a woman in this same storm?
Cry. Cry by yourself or with someone you love. Cry as much or as little as you need. And if you can’t cry, or don’t cry, that’s okay too. There were moments of numbness and moments of uncontrollable emotion – each significant to healing in their own ways. I would say that you are enough and that it is not your fault but that I know how hard that is to believe. I would encourage you to find an outlet for yourself – something that will help you move forward and give your mind and heart space to think about something else for a moment. You are not alone and you shouldn’t have to grieve alone. Talk to people when you feel ready. Read other women’s stories. There is comfort in community and as lonely as this season may feel, you are not alone. Call me up, I’ll cry with you.
Any additional thoughts or experiences that feel pertinent or important for you to share!
If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant I encourage you to enjoy your pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I sat with so much worry even before I had a reason to. I think of that quote about worrying being twice the torture. I worried about having a miscarriage (like I said, I was charting my miscarriage chances by the date) and it just extended the whole thing. Enjoy your pregnancy for as little or long as you have it. Have faith that what is meant to happen will and that no matter what, you will be a stronger woman and mother for it in the end.
Friends, if you’d like to encourage and celebrate Brittany, please do so below!