Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Humanizing the Headset has developed a theme for the month of October: Dispatcher Health Awareness. We are going to be discussing physical and mental health issues that affect us and the communities we serve. Our goal is to enhance the awareness of these issues so that we are better equipped to handle them in both our personal and professional lives.
One of the many monthly observances for October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15th is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This next story comes to you from former dispatcher, Chelsea Scaife. She'll be sharing the emotional story of her miscarriage and how it affected her as a dispatcher. Please leave comments on your thoughts and personal experiences, and share with your friends to get them involved in the conversation as well.
I was just shy of two years on the job when I had a miscarriage. I honestly didn’t think it could happen to me I suppose that's a common thought for most miscarriages, especially considering I already had a healthy baby boy at home. I really didn’t think twice about it. I’m fortunate to have “only” had one. I’ve since spoken to so many women who have had several, and can only imagine the pain they went through every time.
My pregnancy progressed normally, though the nausea was quite intense. I’m usually terrible with dates, but I won’t ever forget Saturday September 3rd. I had an OB appointment scheduled in the morning. I’d finally made it to 12 weeks and we were so excited to announce the news to our friends and family!
I remember giving my husband and son a quick kiss before running out the door. We had plans that day to go do something as a family - though I can’t remember what it was. It should have been a quick checkup with the usual asking how I was feeling and checking the baby’s heart rate. The practice I went to rotated doctors, and the one I saw that day was new to me. After asking how I was feeling, she pulled out the fetal Doppler to try to find the heartbeat. She pushed on and prodded my abdomen as I lay there anxiously, waiting to hear the rapid thump of my baby’s heart- that I had last heard just four weeks prior.
After a full 30 minutes she suggested that “perhaps the baby is just hiding” and that an ultrasound would better help to check on things. So I went down the hall to wait another 30 minutes to be seen, all the while expecting the worst. The ultrasound confirmed my fears... that my baby no longer had a heart beat. Not only that, but growth had stopped nearly three weeks ago. I’d had a silent miscarriage, but still continued to exhibit signs of a normal pregnancy. I had to stay at the hospital to have a second “official” ultrasound done an hour or two later, so in that time I sat outside and made a few very tearful phone calls. After the second ultrasound, I spoke again with the doctor about my options - I decided to wait two weeks to let nature take its course before opting to take medication to intervene.
The next day, Sunday, was to be the start of another work week for me. I think I called in. I honestly don’t remember. What I DO remember, are the hugs I got from my coworkers in the parking lot the day I went back. I just cried. I cried for the baby I lost, and I cried because I was relieved to know I had people there who cared about me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it all if not for the support of my work family. Here I was, some days still feeling like the new kid, and I was welcomed, quite literally, with open arms.
I struggled answering the phone that day and in the days that followed. I still did it, of course, but every call gave me anxiety. What if it was a woman of childbearing age who was bleeding? What if it was a woman in labor? What if it was a sick child? Granted, my agency transferred out medical calls, but I would still have to gather some information. I truly do not remember those few days after my appointment - I was on autopilot just trying to keep myself together. It was only a couple days later that I contacted my doctor to intervene. I realized I didn’t want to be at work when I physically miscarried, so I opted to use what little time off I had to stay home.
To spare you the more unpleasant details, I officially miscarried on September 7th, but continued to bleed heavily and was seen in the ER in the overnight hours on the 10th. I think I was off work for roughly two to three weeks total.
I had the same call anxiety when I finally went back. To combat that, I took it literally one call at a time. I remember taking one call in which a woman was actively miscarrying, and had to excuse myself from the room to regain my composure. Never did I feel judged - and I cannot express how grateful I am to have been in such a supportive environment.
Work slowly became a reprieve from my own thoughts. Like many women, I blamed myself. I wondered what I could have done differently to have prevented it. The chaos of a busy day with nonstop calls was a welcome break from those nagging thoughts. It was when the calls slowed down and my mind wandered that I’d struggle.
As the days and weeks passed, things went back to normal in both my home and work life. I felt like the room went back to normal and my coworkers weren’t walking on eggshells around me anymore. It felt good. I was getting better, crying less, and my call anxiety had nearly gone away.
Like many of my coworkers, I would often grab my mail from the mailbox on my way in to work. One slow afternoon, I was opening what I expected to be another medical bill, only to be greeted with the test results we’d requested. They were unable to determine the cause of my miscarriage, though they were able to tell me it was a girl. It was like ripping the band-aid off a fresh wound. I wasn’t expecting to get those results via mail, much less while at work. The rest of that shift was tough, but I can’t say enough about the support I had from my coworkers. I know I’m lucky, as many women don’t have that.
We decided to name our lost little girl Isabelle. Her sister was born one year later on September 29th, and that pregnancy was fraught with worry and paranoia due to Isabelle’s loss, however I’m happy to say she arrived with few complications. Our little family is complete, even if one of the pieces is in heaven.
If you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage, talk to that person - and I mean that in regards to not only the woman who lost the baby but everyone who is affected by the loss. Ask how they’re doing, and mean it. You may get a short answer, or you may get the whole story. Personally, it helped to talk about her. In the time that’s passed I don’t often dwell on everything I just wrote about. Instead I look at the two beautiful children I have here and hug them a little tighter when I think about their sister.
This is just MY story; I acknowledge that everyone’s is different. In no way am I trying to be a voice for those who have miscarried, I’ve just shared what it was like for me. I’ve since left my position as a dispatcher due to my husband’s job, and I miss it terribly. To some it’s just a gold line, but to others it’s a family crest.