Walking Without: My Story of Miscarriage, Heartbreak, and Hope | Sarah Klongerbo
Sarah Klongerbo at the Palisades in South Dakota

Walking Without: My Story of Miscarriage, Heartbreak, and Hope

This is not the announcement I wanted to share.

I wanted to post a picture of pride. One of me and Troy, heads bent together, eyes emanating joy. Or one of a grainy ultrasound, surrounded by a white onesie, some petals, and other pure, pretty things. Maybe one of our dog boasting some sort of “big sister” paraphernalia.

Instead, I’ve got a tearful selfie, and a photo of me in a hospital gown at 5:30am.

This is the story of my miscarriage — my heartbreak, my hope, and the little baby heaven gained in June 2021.

Our Pregnancy Journey

Disclaimer: I wanted to document our pregnancy journey — all of it — both for my own sake (as writing helps me process, and I think I’ll want these words one day) and in case it helps anyone else feel a little more seen. If the following story is too long, graphic, or triggering for you, I in no way expect you to continue reading.

January 1: We Start “Trying” (Or Rather, Stop “Not Trying”)

Troy and I had a five-year pact: We’d enjoy our marriage, just the two of us, for five full years. Then, we’d discuss when we wanted to start having children.

On our five-year anniversary trip in November 2020, we sat in a cozy cabin in the Wisconsin wilderness, exchanging gifts. Troy opened mine: a bottle of Japanese whiskey, and a baby journal.

“I think I’m ready,” I told him, knowing I wasn’t, exactly — neither of us was — but also knowing that ready is really a lie.

It took a few months for both of us to fully accept the idea of finally starting (or rather, growing) our family. We loved our independence, the ease of traveling, dining out, staying late at the office.

That, and most of the parents we knew would tell us, a touch cynically, to “enjoy your freedom while it lasts.” Well, okay, then.

But in the same breath, they would talk about how much happiness their children brought them. We would watch their faces light up — and watch our own nieces and nephew light up around us — and wonder if we were missing something, after all.

We didn’t want to be old parents, either. And the more we talked, the more we realized we’d be pretty darn good ones… if only we’d sacrifice our selfishness and open ourselves up to those highs, lows, and mundane middles of parenthood.

So, around the start of 2021, I stopped taking birth control pills.

Neither of us put pressure on getting pregnant; we didn’t pay attention to my ovulation, and I only took a couple of at-home tests. (Turns out my cycle was simply taking its sweet time to get back on track after going off the pill.)

We went on living life — content with its normalcy, but wondering, in the backs of our minds, when everything would change.

May 14: I Discover I’m Pregnant

It was an early Friday morning when the little blue plus sign appeared in that fateful white box.

I’d bought the test at Walgreens the night before, stashing it in my purse so Troy wouldn’t see; I wanted to surprise him. I’d had a sense that this was it — I’d been uncommonly emotional for days, and my body just felt different.

Knowing you’re supposed to use your first urine of the day, I decided to wait until morning to take the test. Sleep was scarce that night.

Sure enough, I’d barely peed on the stick when the plus mark surfaced. I didn’t even have time to pray before I saw it. My eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with praise. I took a photo of myself in the mirror, messy hair and underwear and all.

Our time had come.

I planned to tell Troy over dinner that night, but I hadn’t realized he’d already made plans, and by the time he got home, it was late.

So the next morning, right before we drove to the greenhouse to buy our plants for the summer, I placed a gift bag on his seat in the truck: tiny brown baby shoes, which I’d bought for $3.49 at Old Navy the day before.

As he unwrapped the shoes, I said the same words my mom had told my dad when she’d found out she was pregnant for the first time, 34 years ago, and gave him the same gift (albeit pink): “I’m not sure if they’re the right color.”

Just as I imagine my dad did, Troy stared at the shoes, then me, in disbelief. His eyes welled up. “Are you serious?”

We embraced, smiled, cried, and immediately began to dream. As we picked out our plants, brought them home, and nestled them into our garden beds — what a fitting activity for two brand-new parents — we wondered: Would it be a boy or a girl? Did we even want to know? What would he or she look like, act like, become?

Already, our lives were forever transformed.

Sarah Klongerbo with her positive pregnancy test
Troy and Sarah Klongerbo the day they learned they were pregnant

The following weeks were surreal. I floated through each day, trying to work but totally distracted — by pregnancy research, doctor’s phone calls, the What to Expect app I’d downloaded the second I discovered we were expecting (Our baby’s the size of an orange seed! Now it’s a sweet pea!) — and my own changing body. I felt sick thinking about eating anything but carbs, and my breasts were full and sore, but I didn’t mind these symptoms. They meant our baby was growing.

I’d sacrifice being healthy if it meant our child could be.

Our first ultrasound was May 27, 2021. We marveled at the little gray blob that was our baby, its heartbeat a quick flutter on the screen, and learned our due date: January 19, 2022. Kind of a boring month to be born, we agreed. “But we can take him or her on some fun vacations,” I reasoned, already dreaming of an 18th birthday in the Caribbean. I was six weeks along.

Our second ultrasound was just a week later, after an intense digestive episode (which does happen to me occasionally) caused some concern. But everything looked just fine. I even got a 3D look at our child, still blob-like but slightly less so, the pale orange embryo clinging to my uterus like a hug. I sent the photos to Troy immediately. “Now, don’t go faking issues every week, just so you can see the baby again,” he teased.

I left that appointment feeling confident in my pregnancy, if not the rest of my health (as those digestive issues persisted). The midwife I’d met with had encouraged me: “With a heartbeat as strong as this child’s, the chances of miscarriage go from about 20 percent down to about three.” I was seven weeks along.

June 23: “There Is No Heartbeat”

With the reassurance from that appointment, we felt better about telling a few people about our pregnancy, even though we hadn’t yet cleared the first-trimester hurdle. We knew we wanted to make each announcement meaningful, so we told two friends over dinner before they moved across the country, and two others on a couple’s trip we’d already planned.

In each scenario, our friends’ glee was as real as our own. “We know it’s early,” we said, “but we’d want you to know even if something happened. We want you to walk through this entire journey, whatever that looks like, with us.”

And we were aware that “something” could happen. Well before we even started thinking about having our own children, we discussed the very real possibility that we’d one day experience miscarriage, complications, or worse. We’d watched a few people go through such heartache, and we knew we weren’t immune.

But after two positive ultrasounds, and that promising three-percent “statistic” from the midwife… our concerns about our own heartache began to fade.

On Father’s Day, we even planned a whole party to tell my family the news. We’d pitched it as a celebration for Troy’s birthday, which was the following day; yet when we brought out the cake, it read “Happy Father’s Day, Troy!” I’ll never forget my stepmom’s screams of joy, my dad’s crushing bear hug, or my entire family’s elation for us, for our child. I was 10 weeks along.

But not really.

Sarah Klongerbo with a fortune cookie fortune
Troy and Sarah Klongerbo with a "Happy Father's Day" DQ cake

Three days later, I drove to the doctor, alone, for my 10-week appointment. I’d told Troy, who had been asked to play in a golf scramble in a nearby town that afternoon, that he probably didn’t need to come. I walked inside with dignity.

The first half of the appointment passed with ease. I told my doctor I’d been feeling great lately, aside from a little lingering nausea and constipation. Then she began the ultrasound, using her handheld device.

“I didn’t realize you had to go to the bathroom so badly,” she half-joked. “I can’t get a good look at the baby with your full bladder. Do you mind if I send you upstairs to the Ultrasound Diagnostic Center?”

I shrugged, still unconcerned. “Sure, no problem.”

A half hour later, I was lying in a different room, chatting leisurely with the young technician as she clicked around her machine. I wasn’t even looking at the screen.

Finally, she stopped clicking. Still staring at the monitor, she said, rather neutrally, “I’m going to have your doctor take a look at this in case she’d like to see you again today.”

I began to sit up, adjusting my clothes. “But did everything look okay, from your perspective?”

A slight pause. “I’m just going to have her take a look.”

And that was when the first ounce of doubt dripped into my mind.

By the time she’d left the room, and I’d moved to the chair to wait, that drip of doubt had become a flood. Of course something’s wrong. They don’t get the doctor unless something’s wrong. Something is wrong. What is wrong?

I needed to pray, but I didn’t know how. The baby was either alive or not. And I’d already spent the last six weeks praying for its health. What would a hail Mary do now?

So instead, the chorus in my mind was simply, I need you, Lord. I need you.

After what felt like forever, the technician returned. Of course, my doctor wanted to meet with me; of course, she didn’t disclose why.

I walked numbly back to her office, where I waited some more, feeling like everyone around me knew, like I was the last idiot to find out.

I didn’t allow myself to cry until my doctor walked in, brisk as a Band-Aid, and said the words no mother ever wants to hear:

There is no heartbeat. This is not a viable pregnancy.

She patted my hand as I wept through my mask. Explained that the baby had measured eight weeks and three days. That there was nothing I’d done wrong; most miscarriages happen because of random chromosomal abnormalities. That losing a child is actually so common — statistics say one in four women has lost one, but she swears it’s closer to half. Said she was sorry I was alone today.

I nodded, as though I were okay, as though it were all okay. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, that if I said anything, I’d start bawling, and never stop. All I could manage to ask was, “Was it too soon to tell if it was a boy or a girl?”

It was.

She left me alone in the room, said to take all the time I needed, to call when I was ready to discuss my options.

I sat there for half a minute, allowing myself a few short sobs and one raw picture of myself for posterity. Then, I gathered my courage and walked out, brushing past the sympathetic eyes, used tissues a ball in my fist.

I broke down in my car. Texted Troy, who’d asked how the appointment had gone: “I’ll tell you about it when you get back.” Cried the whole way home.

Sarah Klongerbo moments after learning about her miscarriage
Sarah Klongerbo crying after miscarriage

By the time Troy walked in the front door, hours later (I’d told him not to come home early), I had spent all day crying in bed, but apparently I had not depleted my tear supply. Troy, who almost never cries, and couldn’t now, told me I was releasing the emotion he felt.

He asked me how I was feeling, specifically: Purely sad? Angry? Disappointed? As though I were responsible?

“Empty,” I said at last.

It was true that I didn’t feel at fault. For this, I credit the many conversations Troy and I had engaged in before and after getting pregnant — and the grace of God.

Plus, I knew I had taken care of my body well, and I’d prayed daily over both it and our baby. The rest was out of my hands.

Still, that knowledge didn’t soothe the sting.

That night, after attempting a neighborhood walk and forcing down some food, I texted my family, who just three days ago had helped us celebrate the life of our little one. “Guess we brought out the Father’s Day cake a little early.”

The responses flowed in immediately. Expressions of love and anguish. Bible verses of comfort and faith. Offers to come, now or later, to help however they could — though we all knew there was nothing, really, they could say or do. Except be there.

The next few days blurred by. My sister brought a homemade meal, Troy’s and my favorite candies, and some of the most genuine tears we’ve ever shared; my pain was hers. My brother and sister-in-law brought Blizzards, which we ate together on the dirty kitchen counter (“please don’t apologize,” they said). My dad stopped over four times in two days. When Troy and I were at the hospital, the day after getting the news, to learn more about our options, we returned to a note left in the door:

Hi Precious. Gracie [his dog] and I stopped by to tell you how much we love you. We are alongside. Love you so much Sarah Lynn.

– Dad

The note is still on our fridge.

July 28: We Say Goodbye

The following Monday, at 5:30am, we parked at the Surgical Tower.

We’d been given a few options:

  1. Wait to see if the miscarriage would progress naturally. Since the baby had been hanging out in my womb for two weeks already, with no apparent signs of leaving, this didn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. The longer we waited, the greater the risk of infection — and the more I knew I would grow anxious.
  2. Take medication to induce the miscarriage. I was initially inclined to go this route, as I knew it would be cheaper than surgery… but the more we learned about it, the less we liked it. The doctor we met with (mine was out) assured us that medication was fine for many couples, but she did warn us that it would be painful, possibly long, and probably frightening, especially for a first-time mother. When she said, “You can always call and come in if you get scared” — and mentioned that there was a 10% chance it wouldn’t work, anyway — we decided against the way of medication.
  3. Have a dilation and curettage (D+C) procedure. Yes, it would be more expensive. But it would also be quick, certain, and relatively painless. I would undergo general anesthesia, wake up in an hour, and be pretty much “back to normal” (ha). After confirming with a few trusted moms that this was the preferred route, we opted for the D+C.

So, five days after I left the hospital heartbroken, we walked back into it, the sky still indigo with sleep, hearts heavy with the weight of what was about to happen.

I knew our baby was no longer here on earth. But that didn’t mean I was ready to say goodbye.

As we sat waiting in the pre-op room, me in my billowy purple gown, IVs poking unnaturally into my hand, Troy said what we were both thinking: “This probably won’t be the last time we’re in a hospital room together.”

No, it won’t be.

And then, a small wonder happened. Someone knocked on the door, and who opened it but Cindy De Groot — the mother of one of my childhood friends, who also happened to be the mother of one of Troy’s college friends.

“Sarah,” she said, her voice so soft and sad. “I’m the circulator on your surgery team today. Is that all right with you?”

I hadn’t cried all morning, but seeing Cindy brought tears to my eyes. She was the woman who’d tried to teach me to ski at her daughter’s fifth-grade birthday party, who brought me in for a hot chocolate when I couldn’t figure it out. She’d watched me lose my mom in seventh grade, and ever since, she has shown me such kindness whenever our paths have crossed. Today was no different.

Cindy was an emblem of motherhood, in a moment where I desperately needed a mom — when I desperately needed to be a mom.

So as I said goodbye to Troy, and she led me, gently, to the operative room, I tried not to think about what (who) I was about to lose, but instead about what (who) I might one day be able to gain.

Sarah Klongerbo in a hospital gown before her D+C surgery
Sarah and Troy Klongerbo holding hands after their miscarriage

I woke up an hour later. Just like that, it was all over.

I wish I could say I had some sort of epiphany, or at least an emotional experience, after the surgery, but all I had was buttered toast and apple juice. The nurse gave us an “infant loss” gift box, which we filtered through after she left, but all it did was make us laugh. To be fair, it was really cheesy.

The emotions came later, once Troy had settled me in bed with Netflix, magazines, and a Jimmy John’s sandwich (since I could have deli meat now — one small perk).

With my husband gone, the house quiet, and my body completely still, I realized that, aside from my dog at my feet, I was officially alone.

The Aftermath of My Miscarriage

It’s been two and a half weeks since the D+C.

While my body is getting “back to normal,” my heart is taking its time.

Troy and I continue to be uplifted by our community of friends and family. In the days after the D+C, we were given thoughtful gifts and cards. Hugged and prayed for. Told our baby would never be forgotten.

On July 1 — what would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday — we arrived at Troy’s parents’ house in Minnesota and delivered the news, which we’d been waiting to share in person. As I remembered the mom, and the baby, I’ve lost, I embraced one of the mothers I’ve won in the process.

The Lord has a beautiful way of weaving lives together.

Over the next several days in Minnesota, we mourned our loss — because it is our entire family’s loss, not just Troy’s and mine — together.

Yet we were also able to have some fun on the lake, because that’s life, isn’t it: the good and the bad, tossed together like a salad you aren’t quite sure about. But one you eat anyway, because it’s been put in front of you, and you’re pretty sure it’s supposed to be healthy, right?

In the midst of all this, my nephew Noah was born.

We met him when we returned to South Dakota, a little six-pound peanut who feels impossibly small in your arms. Impossibly real. How could a miracle like Noah ever happen? How does any child make it through?

Sarah Klongerbo holding her new nephew, Miles
Sarah Klongerbo holding her new nephew, Miles

My sister-in-law, who had experienced two miscarriages prior to Noah — her fourth living child — and who has checked in on me regularly since she learned of my own loss, asked me how I felt being near a newborn, with my wounds so fresh. “You can be honest,” she said, and I knew I could.

Truthfully, I’d been thinking only of how happy I was for her and my brother. Their family of six, which mirrors so closely our own immediate family growing up. What a blessing to be born into such love: that’s what I was considering.

But later, when Troy came to sit behind me as I held Noah on the couch, and we gazed together into his peaceful, sleeping face, I couldn’t help but think about how it would feel to admire our own child. To guess which facial features were whose, to sigh into each other’s bodies, knowing we’d done it — the work was just beginning, but we’d done it; this baby was ours, forever.

We haven’t done it. Yet.

I pray that we will. I pray for a thriving family of our own. My heart yearns to see those freckled, curly-haired kids who are half him, half me — more than I ever thought it would.

That’s one silver lining of this miscarriage: that I know now, without a doubt, that I do want children; I want to raise them right, and sooner rather than later.

But God has given us no guarantees.

Yes, we now know that we can get pregnant naturally (something I used to fear, possibly irrationally, wouldn’t happen). And we are still fairly young. At 31 and 29, we should be able to get pregnant again.

And we have faith. We trust that the God who knows every inch of our hearts wants to grant us the desires he’s placed there, so that we can glorify Him with the gifts he’s given us.

But, as I read in the Word a few days after the D+C:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways.”

– Isaiah 55:8

I cannot begin to comprehend His plans, even though I know they’re meant to prosper me and give me a future. Sometimes His idea of prosperity looks a lot different from mine.

And if His plans are to use our story to encourage other hopeful parents — even just one — then that will be enough. I have to trust that will be enough.

So, as in the beginning of our pregnancy journey, I am choosing not to put pressure on our “progress,” or lack thereof, going forward. Especially since we don’t know when, exactly, we will be able to start “trying again” (I hate that phrase).

Even if we were given the go-ahead tomorrow, I don’t think I’d be ready.

No matter what, I’m trusting in the words of the psalmist, shared with me by my brother and sister-in-law, who know intimately the heartbreak of miscarriage, and the hope that follows:

“Those who sow in tears
will reap with shouts of joy.”

– Psalm 126:5

We Walk Without, But Not Alone

I keep thinking back to that word I shared with Troy the day we learned of our miscarriage:

Empty.

I had never felt empty before.

Yet from the moment I learned I was pregnant, I felt more “full” than ever.

Fuller physically, sure, a little — there were the swollen breasts and tighter pants and all that — but more so emotionally. I walked around with this secret knowledge that there were two of us here. That I was, in a way, holding his or her hand as we walked together through, and toward, life.

Now, I’m walking without. It’s just me in this body.

But I’m not walking alone.

Troy Klongerbo and his dog Pali at the Palisades in South Dakota
Troy and Sarah Klongerbo at the Palisades in SD

My husband is beside me, holding my hand. We are a team.

Our friends and family are behind us, ready to pick us up if we fall. They are our cheerleaders.

And Jesus is just ahead, beckoning us forward. Not just our “coach,” but our guiding light, our God. His was the first face our baby saw — not mine, not Troy’s. What a beautiful thought.

As my brother told his wife while they walked through their miscarriages, and now told me and Troy as we walk through ours: “What a lucky baby, to avoid all the pain in this world and go straight to Jesus.”

And as Troy told me, holding me on the couch that day we learned our baby was gone, my eyes and words too weak to work: “Maybe God wanted to give your mom a few grandbabies on her side of heaven.” I cracked a smile.

Our story is so young. Our miscarriage (I hate that word, too) — our loss is so fresh. Our future is unknown, our family not fully formed.

It’s a vulnerable place to be. Like that ultrasound room, when I rocked back and forth, praying without words, not knowing our fate, but knowing God did (and always has).

Yet no path is straight and clear. The most rewarding journeys are those with unexpected turns, challenging hills, breathtaking views, and a friend at your side.

We may walk without, but we never walk alone.


Postscript: Have you, or has a loved one close to you, experienced a miscarriage? If so, would you please let me know in the comments below, or via an Instagram DM?

I know miscarriage is incredibly common, yet so few women actually share their stories. I would love to know just how many of us are part of this army. It would help me, and others, know we aren’t alone. 🤍

Walking Without: My Story of Miscarriage, Heartbreak, and Hope

  1. Heather Fischer vanotterloo says:

    Sarah and Troy I ache for your loss. Still 13 years later I long for the daughter I never got to know. I pray for peace and healing in your journey ahead. God will guide you through❤️

  2. Deb Cota says:

    Many thoughts and prayers to you both.
    It will come for you….all in God’s perfect plans.
    Jeremiah 29:11

    Take care. God Bless you both.
    Deb Cota

  3. Amy Anderson says:

    Sarah,
    Thank you for your vulnerability to share your story and how you’ve clung to God through this trial. Praying for you, your husband, and your baby in heaven.

  4. Chelsea Russell(kowitz) says:

    Sarah- I come here as a long ago aquaintance of Troy, and a mom of 4 littles. I cried reading your story, but I know you know you arent alone. And you’re right.. looking at a newborn that has made it here.. is an incredible miracle. I hope you guys get your curly haired, bright eyed baby soon. But im glad you have each other in the meantime. My husband and I had one early miscarriage at 6 weeks and I always felt like I shouldnt be THAT sad because no one had even known yet. But it was still devestating. Hugs to you both.

  5. Laura Williams says:

    Hi Sarah and Troy,
    I’m so, so sorry to hear of your loss.
    Miscarriage just plain sucks. It hurts in so many different ways.
    This post is so beautifully written, and I’m glad you documented it so thoroughly. My heart is hurting with yours, especially in how perfectly you described your feelings and thoughts.
    Our first 2 pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The second was very similar to yours, in that there had been a heartbeat, and then at the next appointment my OB sent me to Maternal-Fetal Med for a better scan, where miscarriage was determined.
    I don’t have any comforting words, but I hope it is a comfort (in a way) to hear of others who have walked this path also.
    Soon after our second loss, I discovered the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. That became my theme song, and when I was pregnant with Ericka I sang it in the car on the way to every OB appointment.
    It’s okay to grieve. It’s good to grieve. You’re grieving the life you planned on having, and all the dreams that came with it. I’m glad you have so much support.
    And when you’re both ready, I pray you’ll cling to hope, and that you’ll find peace in knowing that, no matter what happens, God is in control.
    You’re not alone. ❤️

    • Laura, thank you so much for these words. I’m so sorry you’ve walked through this twice. You’re right, though, that there’s a certain comfort in knowing we aren’t alone. I listened to “Blessings” — what a beautiful message and theme song for your story (and all of ours). Thank you for the encouragement.

  6. Elissa Juhnke says:

    Sarah,

    Even though Ben and I have been so fortunate to have had Linden this past year, I know we are lucky, that the odds of a full term pregnancy are not at all what most perceive them to be. I enjoyed reading you describe those glorious happy moments I remember so well, carrying around that little secret and feeling your body start to change. And I cried reading about your pain and loss. You’re right – life is just like that good and bad ‘tossed salad’ you described. Know that you have an absolutely wonderful family who is by your side to help you through. Thinking about you and wishing all the best for you and Troy.

    Hugs,
    Elissa

    • Elissa, this is so encouraging. A full-term pregnancy truly is a miracle — what a blessing to have your beautiful Linden. I do know that Troy and I are also blessed with an incredible family. Thanks for being part of it. 🤍

  7. Lissa Murawski says:

    Prayers for you and Troy as you mourn your loss. I miscarried at 14 weeks during my 3rd pregnancy. Your story sounds very familiar to mine and the news of no heartbeat was a shock. God has given me peace that passes all understanding and my prayer is you will experience that in time as well. I look forward to the day that we get to meet our little one in heaven!

    • Thank you, Lissa. I’m so sorry you lost your third. That moment of shock is one we will probably never forget… but I’m encouraged that God has given you peace. He has already given me a good glimmer of that, too. 🤍 And yes — what a day that reunion will be!

  8. Sarah Engbers says:

    Sarah-your words are so raw, real, beautiful & heartbreaking. My heart breaks with you. I am in tears reading this. You have such a gift of writing. We experienced a loss a few months ago and while I think it has to be so much harder to lose your first, I know a glimmer of your pain in my own heart. I love reading about the ways your family and friends have surrounded you. Ours did too and that for me felt like a little glimpse of heaven on earth.

    • “A little glimpse of heaven on earth”… so well said, Sarah. Having the support of family and friends has been everything — truly experiencing the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you for sharing your words and your story. I’m so sorry you lost a child, and so recently too. It’s not easy. 💞

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