Miscarriage: Pregnancy Loss During World Cup Qualifiers and the Conversation in the World of Sports
The Story of Dallas Kingston:
After the 2021 Gold Cup celebrations concluded and life resumed back home in Boston, Matt and I found out we were pregnant. We were so excited. What a high on so many levels. We were about 6 weeks when we had already figured out a name for this baby. Dallas Kingston - a name that was after a large part of this baby's journey into this world. But only a few short weeks later, Matt was away with the USMNT and I started bleeding.
The Moment it Fell Apart:
I was cramping and I knew something wasn't right. I remember the exact moment. I was in the middle of an interview at Big Night Fitness, finalizing plans on running my fitness program at an exclusive club in Boston. I was in the middle of the conversation and felt bleeding. I had never been pregnant before, but I knew something was off. I tried to be composed and keep it together (first experience in learning how mother's put on a front to pretend everything is alright). I was in the middle of this office, a room mostly composed of men, trying to wrap up this interview so I could get myself to my doctors. It came to the point where I had to say I had another meeting. I rushed out, on the verge of tears but also trying to stay positive and tell myself it was all normal.
No one knew I was pregnant with the exception of Matt. I was trying to update him on what was happening, but he was on the road for World Cup Qualifiers. I started driving to an emergency ultrasound appointment I got after calling my OBGYN.
The Moment You Realize You Have to Do this on Your Own:
"Do you have anyone with you or anyone you can call?" asked the nurses after I arrived. No. I could FaceTime Matt but he was in training, preparing for games that would ensure the US's chances to qualify for the World Cup. No one else knew I was pregnant. I was in complete shock. Meanwhile, pregnant women with big smiles and ultrasound print outs were walking in and out of the office. I was trying to hold back tears.
The ultrasound technician walked me into my room and started to run some tests. She told me she had to get the doctor. Five minutes later, which felt like an eternity in a sterile empty room, came the doctor. She looked at the screen and looked back at me. "I'm so sorry."
I then entered the phase of denial. Surely this couldn't be right. "Are you sure you're not missing something???" Tears fell and I was gripping my nails into the side of the table. "We are going to have you get dressed and have you speak to your doctor upstairs. We are also going to send you for some blood work."
Walking out, I passed the seating room filled with the happy, almost full term pregnant women. I thought to myself, 'what is wrong with me? why couldn't my body protect this baby?' so many thoughts cluttered and fogged my mind. I took the stairs so I could cry alone without being in an elevator with other pregnant women. I made my way up to my doctors office and she walked me through the findings.
"We can't see the pregnancy so we think it's ectopic. We are going to run bloodwork and see how things go over the next couple days. If your HcG levels don't go down we'll need to start you on a pill that acts similarly to chemo. This is a lot to process. Do you have someone here or who you can call?" Matt texted a few seconds later and I told her I wanted to FaceTime him in so he could hear all of this and I wouldn't have to relay all this information.
There From Afar:
Matt facetimed in after his training. Worried, conflicted and in shock, he spoke to the doctor and we understood the next steps. He wanted to come home or call someone to be there with me. But I wanted to be alone. I wanted him to focus on his USA game and I wanted to just crawl in a ball and cry all night. He was worried and didn't know what to do. But he / we had been in this journey for him getting to the World Cup that I knew where I wanted him. I needed him to focus on something positive - for us to have something to continue to work on together and I felt like I could do that by being strong at that moment.
I drove home for what felt like the longest drive of my life. 30 minutes to get back across Boston, full of hysterical crying and limited tissues. I was in shambles. I went home and crawled into bed. Matt had food delivered to the house but I didn't want to eat, didn't want to do anything.
The Hardest Moment that No One Prepares You For:
I remember trying to look up pictures of how much bleeding was normal, when you knew everything passed, etc. I had so many questions that no one I had ever known spoke about. I thought about how common this was (based on what I was told) and how women felt going through it - so isolating.
I was in and out of the bathroom all night. There was one moment in particular that I knew the pregnancy was completely over. I had passed the baby and I knew it. I had to take a picture and send it to my doctor to confirm. She had said, " not that there is any good news, but you had a spontaneous miscarriage and it's not ectopic. You won't need to take a pill. This is a silver lining." But nothing sounded like a silver lining. Hindsight, I understand what she was saying. But it was so hard to have just seen and experienced all that. For weeks to come, that image would just haunt me every time I went to the bathroom.
I didn't want to see babies and pregnant women anywhere but suddenly they felt like they were everywhere. So many emotions but none that could quite articulate what I needed from Matt or anyone to be there for me. I was grieving my baby. I went into my pregnancy tracking app and changed it from "pregnant" to "tracking periods." Little things like this you don't think about when you find out your pregnant for the first time - you get to be in this little bliss, until something like this happens.
I muted everyone who I knew had babies or were expecting on social media. I garnered up the energy to send a text to my mom. Matt wanted someone to be there for me and she was the only one I could fathom managing my heartbreak. Matt was about to leave the USMNT group to come home when he found out he was going to be starting for the upcoming USA game. There was no chance I was letting him miss this.
Life Has to Go On:
I fell asleep that night crying. My mom was going to come down the next day....after I had two photoshoots booked with two different companies. Next day came and I woke up to my neighbor texting me saying my car was about to get towed because it was Boston's street cleaning. I had already gotten the ticket (I did fight and told them why and the city deemed it an unreasonable reason and still needed to pay), but I had to run out to move my car from the street. Thank God my car was still there. I started to make my way over to the lab. Interestingly enough, a week prior I was getting my blood work done and I was excited and telling the phlebotomist that I was expecting my first child. This week I had the same phlebotomist and I was clearly in tears. We both sat there in silence. She knew. She clearly has seen this before. My heart ached knowing that.
Then I headed to the photoshoots. My eyes were puffy, my skin dry from the tears, but I put on a smile. I pretended like everything was okay. I thought to myself how women all over have to go on with their day because life doesn't stop even though it feels like it did. In some ways it did... You are grieving a life lost and you have these feelings of failure because you couldn't protect your baby. You start to get lost in negative thoughts and start to blame yourself. On the inside I was in agony but on the outside, I smiled. It was the last photoshoot that I finally broke down. The last shoot was actually for my spin studio that I taught at. Teaching fitness and working out had always been the ways I let out stress and worked through challenges in my life. I also help others work through difficult moments on the bike and in my classes - so here I am trying to smile and I'm in the very dark room I tell people they have to go through darkness in order to see the light. The photographer was telling me to be fierce and I just lost it. I finally broke down and that is when Jess (the Rev'd photographer and just overall rockstar) told me about how others she knew had gone through similar things. She told me what a rainbow baby was and that someday I would have the most special rainbow baby.
Learning to Trust in God's Timing and Plans:
It's interesting how God works. I kept pushing myself to go to everything I had going on that day, despite wanting to cancel and stay in my room all day and cry. But being with Jess in that moment, was the exact moment I needed. A moment to hold on to and garner hope for my future. She sparked a flame, and that flame grew stronger and helped me see that light. I look at the pictures from those shoots and I think to myself, "this captures a time I was strong. A moment I chose to see push through and continue to trust in God's plan."
After the shoots, I got the test results back. The HcG levels continued to drop and I was officially cleared from needing medication and or any procedure. I was allowed to fly and I was allowed to start "trying" again the following month if I wanted. This meant that I could go see Matt and that is truly all I wanted at this moment.
Matt was heading to Nashville with the USMNT to play against Canada. After learning that I was okay to fly, I had kept my original flight to Nashville to watch him play. He was about to start for USA (I was so proud of him and he had been working so hard for this moment) and I was looking forward to being able to just see him after the loss of our baby. I needed to just hug him.
Matt informed me that the USMNT were going to escalate the protocols because COVID was beginning to rise again. The only way I could see him was in the lobby of the hotel he was staying at with a mask on and keeping a distance. I told him that if I came I would rather not see him than see him in the lobby with a mask on without being able to hug him, for the first time seeing him since everything happened. I told him that he needed to talk to his medical team and tell them the situation. Matt got clearance to see me in private. That's all I needed. I can't begin to tell you how worked up I was getting when I thought that I was going to have to see him in the lobby with a mask on keeping a 6 ft. spacial distance.
When I flew out - I didn't realize how much I was trying to put myself out there and didn't feel ready. I arrived and didn't want to see anyone except Matt. I didn't want to leave my hotel room at all to see family and friends. Matt grew concerned and expressed it and that he wanted me to be surrounded by love. I told him I would try if it made him focus more on his game and less on worrying about me. He was right - I spent time with his family too and slowly I began to feel a little bit alive again. Seeing him and being around family and friends, as daunting as it was at first, was exactly what I needed. And I'm not saying it will be or should be like that for anyone else - but for me - it did help.
The Healing Begins:
Before every game I write Matt a letter. A letter that is wishing him good luck and sentiments surrounding the game and his focus. The World Cup Qualifier game was quickly approaching and I started writing. This letter was going to be a little different than the others. Matt and I had just gone through something that him and I still never really had the chance to talk about one on one. So I started the conversation in this letter. I let Matt know he had a new little angel looking over him. So many things we had been through and it's so easy to get lost in it all, but I wanted him to re-center and know that as isolating as it can be for the both of us - we had our little Dallas Kingston looking over us. Matt went on to continue to start the next few World Cup Qualifying games and performed so well and it made my heart so happy. He trusted in God's plan and his little angel above.
A Little Glimpse of a Rainbow on the Other Side:
It also gave him an opportunity to speak to other individuals on the team and learned that miscarriages were far too common amongst the group. He wasn't alone either. At first he didn't know how to handle being on the road when this happened. People don't often talk about it, especially within the world of professional athletes - but Matt wanted it to be something we are open to discussing because of how common it is. Again for Matt and me it is important to find strength in being vulnerable. There were women there for me, willing to open up and answer questions, partners of teammates and friends and co-workers of mine in the fitness industry. Matt and I hope to be that for others. It's crucial to progress and healing. It also provides a glimpse of hope.
It was the darkest moment of my life - and I had some pretty dark moments. Same goes for Matt - but we overcame and focused on the peace from our little Blueberry above and our rainbow baby to come.
A couple months later, Matt and I found out we were expecting our rainbow baby (baby after miscarriage). What I will say is that when you miscarry before you ever have a baby - your first full term pregnancy is an entirely different experience...A story for another time, but there is always a rainbow after the storm.
I've had a lot of time to reflect since then. It's been well over a year since this experience and I have only yet been able to really start to write down the words that make what happened a reality. Of course Matt and I have spoken about it - transparency is part of our progress. But to actually take a moment and write it in my own words - it hits different.
To all the women out there who are in the middle of a work day, perhaps even in a board meeting and "it" happens - to the women who are on a family vacation and pretend everything is okay for their kids - to the women who are alone, both physically and emotionally - to the women who have had this happen 10x before - to all the women who have ever been unfortunate to join this "club" - I hear you, I see you, I feel for you. But to the men too, who haven't quite figured out what to say, or how to feel - who to turn to and how to be there for your partner. It's undeniably scary and includes no manual on how to navigate. You are not alone and brighter days will come.
At times there may feel like societal pressures to pretend it's all okay. But take a moment to be. Take a moment to feel. Take a moment to realize you are not alone. There is strength that comes in being vulnerable. Progress that comes from strength and miracles too. Take your own time to heal. People will try their best to be there for you and there is no right way to respond to it. If you're not ready to talk, don't. If you're ready - don't feel like you have to hold back. Try to be unapologetically you. Try to understand that this situation is all too unfortunately common. You did not do anything to cause this. This is not your fault. Say those words out aloud.
Matt and I feel beyond blessed for what God has given us, but it hasn't come without some hills and valleys. But trust. Trust and it will all work out one way or another.
Dallas Kingston, thank you for watching over us and being our first little love that taught us so much. You are forever in our hearts.