Having a miscarriage is the club no one wants to join. Often it happens before we know it is a miscarriage and not a late period. Just as often, it is a slow, painful end to a happy time period. 1 My first pregnancy ended in the 6th week, barely a week after I was overjoyed with the news I was pregnant. It is an everlasting hurt and is never forgotten. Some women remember their loss on their projected due date. Some (as I do) give time for it on the day of the loss, as well as on National Miscarriage Day. 1 in 4 women have a miscarriage at some point. The grief is often ignored and dealt with privately, most only realizing how many people have suffered after they have opened up with the news. Every woman copes with the grief of miscarriage in her own way; some put all their attention into getting pregnant again as soon as possible others take months or longer before they are ready to try again. Part of my grieving process was to write.
I penned the following post while I was miscarrying. To be more specific, I miscarried on Friday into Saturday and I wrote the post Monday night. I realized only after writing and doing more research that I was lucky in many ways. I did not have to go to the ER for confirmation; I was able to do that in a Radiology clinic with an ultrasound. I did a complete miscarriage, in that everything came out on its own and therefore I did not require a D&C (Dilation and curettage) to remove any remaining tissue. Nor did I have to take medication to get the rest out, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and intense cramping. And while I did call out of work that weekend, I was able to go back mid-week and keep it together most of the time. So while I learned the following 5 lessons over that horrible weekend, I found I learned a whole lot more in the years that followed. Like the fact I have to write that I’ve had a miscarriage on every health form I fill out. (Forms that deal with the female parts or body at least… I didn’t have to tell my dentist my insurance was the same, I floss less than I should, and I’ve lost a pregnancy). That almost 5 years have passed and I still cry about it. That for several months following, ironically, almost a full nine, I wasn’t mentally comfortable with sex (obviously the idea being sex leads to pregnancy, leads to another miscarriage, which I knew I couldn’t handle at that time). There are books of information to be learned and shared on miscarriage, but the following was what I felt was most important at the height of my grief. And it doesn’t get much more real than that.
5 Things I Learned After Having A Miscarriage
I never imagined I would have the chance to write a post like this, but I guess that’s how life is sometimes. This past weekend was truly life changing and not in a good way. I was looking forward to being able to blog my good news in a few weeks, but it seems you will have to read this instead. I had announced a few posts ago my husband and I were trying to get pregnant and wouldn’t you know it, we succeeded on our 2nd try. Husband’s swimmers were definitely in shape. 😀 We were bursting to tell, but I didn’t want to say anything until we at least had our first appointment to hear the heartbeat. Turns out that would be the right move as almost exactly one week later, this weekend, I started to cramp and bleed. I was miscarrying. Yeah, this might be a TMI, but guess what? That’s fucking life and you wouldn’t believe the range of information out there that got my head turned around in knots in my moments of panic and fear. Most of what I read was so general (you’ll experience cramping… okay, is it annoying cramping or stabbing cramping?) I got sucked into having false hope. So here is my experience: blood, cramps, tears, tests and all.
I knew spotting was expected, but my bleeding wasn’t nearly a heavy as a period (which is what they say a miscarriage would be about). Friday I went to work as usual, with slight cramping and bleeding. Again, I had read a ton of info saying it was a normal part of pregnancy, so I wasn’t worrying. My back pain slowly increased, but it was still manageable. As a person who almost daily has back or neck pains from working, it wasn’t anything unexpected. Of course, I didn’t want to over think the pain. But as the pain increased and the bleeding continued, I allowed the possibility of a miscarriage to enter my mind. I had calculated I was about 5 weeks and 5 days along. Something I hadn’t known before getting pregnant was your first pre-natal appointment isn’t usually until at least week 8, and more likely around week 10. So we didn’t even have a midwife or OB-GYN I could call. I also knew 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage, so if I was having one, I certainly wasn’t unique. So I went to bed, turning on the DVR to enjoy the newest Supernatural episode (best show ever IMHO) and just hoped it would be better in the morning.<
It wasn’t. I was taking a shower and that’s when I saw it. *TMI alert* Anyone who has taken the time to look at their menstrual period (come on ladies, who hasn’t studied it to find out what exactly we’re bleeding out?) knows what uterine lining looks like and that’s what was exiting my body, just a whole lot more than usual. I called out to my husband and he literally came running (like a champ). I actually said “well, I guess that’s it”. How very scripted of me. Except then the tears started. And they didn’t stop; all the way thru finishing the shower, getting dressed, and brushing my hair. I was actually trying to get ready for work. I got as far as putting make-up on, but when the tears kept smearing my eyeliner I knew I couldn’t go. How the hell was I going to keep myself together during a massage session where I had nothing but 50 minutes of thinking time when I should be focus on the client? Yeah, not going to happen. So I called out (illness… not ready to tell the truth yet) and crashed back into bed. The rest of the day was cramping, bleeding, exhaustion, crying, staring into the horizon… I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to true depression before. I also noticed my pregnancy side-effects were slowly disappearing… my swollen hands, my breast tenderness. Never before had I wished my breasts would hurt. Very weird realization.
I know, I know. I can practically hear you screaming “WHY DIDN’T YOU GO TO THE ER?!” Because if I did, they would only tell me what I was already 90% sure of… that I lost the baby. And it would cost less to go to an OB-GYN on Monday. That’s a whole different can of worms I had with this experience. If you get sick or something happens over the weekend, you either wait until Monday or go to the ER. I was too early to have been a patient with any OB-GYN or Midwifery, so maybe if I had been with a group, they would have taken me in, but as it was… I felt very much alone. Almost as if they were saying “well, you were too early to ‘really’ be pregnant, so sorry!” I know that’s not true, but it definitely felt like it.
Sunday was definitely better… if better can be measured in millimeters. Less tears, more depression, continued bleeding. I called out of work again, but I stayed more distracted throughout the day. Husband stayed home with me (normally he would be working his butt off, but he put his work aside, allowing it to start piling up and I deeply appreciate it) and we did a bit of dog shopping. We had been planning to get our dog this week (quite the timing, right?!), so we had be prepared and figured we might as well go shopping together. So we did a bit of shopping therapy. Unfortunately, I had gotten a lot of sleep the night before due to exhaustion, so Sunday night it was hard to fall asleep and it ended up being 4am before I slipped off the edge of consciousness, only to wake up 5 hours later on Monday morning (I’m an 8+ hour sleeper). Luckily, there’s a local OB-GYN/Midwifery (my oldest sister used them for her birthing experience 3 weeks ago and highly recommended them) that was able to take a look at me within the hour. Husband came home and off we went.
After a manual exam, ultrasound, slight discomfort, and lots of holding the tears back, it was finally confirmed. I had a complete miscarriage, also called a “spontaneous abortion” due to it occurring naturally. The only good news that came from the tests was the knowledge that I had no traces left in me. It’s possible to have an incomplete miscarriage where the embryo or parts of the uterine lining don’t exit the body, which can lead to infection (and possible infertility or death). When that happens, you have to have surgery known as D&C (dilation and curettage), The cervix is opened (dilation) and the contents of the uterus are removed (curettage) either by scrapping the uterine wall or by suction via vacuum. So at least I didn’t have to go thru that.
This past weekend has definitely been one of the low points in my short life. But as with any experience, I try to walk away with a little extra perspective and knowledge. And in retrospect, I’ve learned quite a bit and would like to share some of that with you. So here are 5 things I’ve learned about having a miscarriage.
1. Even if you are Pro-Choice, your thoughts will sound Pro-Life.
I am very pro-choice… which does not mean pro-abortion. I believe the option of abortion should always be available to women, as should adoption or keeping the child. It is about having the choices available to you and letting you make the choice based on your situation/experiences; not being forced to do what some fat, white congressman thinks you should do based on HIS morals. Okay, putting away my soap box now. As I was saying, I am very pro-choice, but as the past few days have pass me by, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every thought I was having seemed very pro-life. Even at 6 weeks, I was thinking of the embryo as my baby. It didn’t even have a heartbeat yet, but to me it was alive. Even if it didn’t mean anything, because I obviously couldn’t make a cross-roads deal with a demon, I thought to myself more than once “I would do anything to keep this baby”. I even had a few “there’s no reason why my baby should have to die” thoughts. Yeah, not exactly a Pro-Choice way of thinking.
2. You can’t know until you get tested.
I think this one seems like a “NO DUH!!!!”, but bear with me for a second. Our society is very hooked on the self-diagnosing fad. In one sense we do it to save money. Why go to a doctor, pay a huge co-pay, and wait for 2 hours just to be told you have a cold and to drink tea and rest … or this awesome prescription medicine will knock your sickness right out of you, (for another $30 of course) which will allow you to go back to work ASAP? Yeeeaaahhhhhh… no thanks. We are also very connected via the wonderful world of the internet. We have millions of chat room dedicated to illnesses and injuries. We have pictures of every imaginable rash to look over and share. And my goodness, are people sharing. They are sharing to the point where that line of what are real and what is coincidence is getting mighty blurry. The basic idea of miscarriage symptoms are cramping and bleeding. Very easy, very simple. Except bring in the hundreds of posts from women who say they bled and cramped for the first 14 weeks of their pregnancy and now have a healthy, bouncing baby. Or the dozens of women who bled heavily, went to the OB sure they miscarried, and were told the baby was fine. Or the women who had zero spotting, no cramps, go in for a normal checkup and find their baby died some time ago. That line starts to fuzz out. So even as the symptoms attacked my body, my mind held onto the slight possibility that everything was okay. That I would still have my baby. And the fact I wouldn’t find out for another 2 days probably only made it worse. Even as I had my ultrasound, I glanced at the technician, silently hoping for a widened glance, a puzzled squint, anything that would signify an unexpected bundle of joy sticking it out, metaphorically giving the odds the middle finger. I’ll leave it at this… false hope hurts.
3. It doesn’t matter what people say to you, it still sucks.
When any tragedy hits, ranging from a death in the family to cancer diagnosis to just bad news in general, an amazing thing happens. People come together and offer support. Even people you may not necessarily like or want to talk to will offer you condolences. It can even get a little funny because of the obvious awkwardness of not knowing what to say. So let me break it down. No matter what you say, it will not make a big difference to how I feel. Some situations you can work your way around (“they were in pain, she was ready to go, etc.”) and it does make it better. But honestly… there is nothing that can be said to make a miscarriage better. Saying things like “you can get pregnant again” or “there must have been something wrong” or “at least it was early” honestly only belittles the pain. Yes, I can get pregnant again, but I wanted THAT pregnancy! Something must have been wrong, yes the chromosomes had to be out of whack to spontaneously abort, but babies with problems are born every day! Yes, it was early, but I was already thinking about taking my baby girl to the playground or watching my little boy sleep in the crib. To me, I had a baby I was just starting to get to know. And that child was ripped from my future. Those things people say are just said to fill the silence or because they don’t know what else to say. Or worse, they think they are expected to say it. So just don’t. Don’t give a cliché response. Just say “I’m so sorry. What do you need?”
4. Being busy/distracted really does work… until you slow down.
I have two versions of dealing with any given bad situation. I sit and cry about it (sometimes for hours) or I throw myself into work so I don’t think about it. Over the weekend, I did a bit of both. Saturday was spent sitting crying. It really hits you in waves. One minute I would be sitting with just one or two tears drizzling down my cheek, the next minute my sobs were shaking the windows. And I honestly wouldn’t know what brought it on. As soon as I thought I was done crying for the hour, it would start up again. Luckily, my dear husband was there to be my shoulder to cry upon, my constant support, doing everything he could. Thanks to my marathon cry-fest, I was exhausted and slept for 16 hours overnight. Which was great because that meant I had less time on Sunday to be awake and think. Sunday was slightly better with the distractions. I watched TV, I had a YouTube click spiral for hours, somehow ending up watching Koko and All Ball videos (except the tears started up again after finding a video of Koko watching a movie she liked, but turned away and signed “frown, bad, cry, mother, trouble” when a sad goodbye scene came up… hello crazy hormones and all the feels.). I would feel an echo of emptiness in my heart whenever I’d see a baby commercial, but for the most part I would shed a few tears every hour or so. But as soon as I decided it was time to go to bed, I had nothing to distract me as I laid there. And that sucked. So use those distractions to the fullest. They might bring you a little healing. My little sister had made an appearance toward the end of the night, bringing cupcake goodness. While it started a whole new sob-fest, she definitely supplied the distractions, especially by smelling like burnt toast and having a great foot-in-mouth moment of saying “you are going to sleep like a baby tonight”. At least we could laugh about it together. Which bring me to the next point.
5. Please make me laugh… but don’t be surprised if I lash out and tell you to fuck off.
My poor husband probably though I was playing favorites or that I had a sudden affliction of bipolar-ism by my ability to shoot down his every attempt at humor, but I was able to laughingly tell my little sister she smelled like burnt toast (which was burnt chicken by the way). Husband did his best to make me at least smile, as a laugh was asking a bit much. He really can be a great big dork, in the way boyish men can be, and I love him all the more for it. But for goodness sake, I did not want him to make me laugh. We were going through a tragedy together and I think I needed just one person who would just let me cry with him without worrying about what he was going to say to try to make me feel better. But laughter cab be the best medicine. And I’m usually the one who throws out the funny comments to turn those tears into laughter. So in the end, it’s a crap shoot. If you can make someone laugh while in a hardship, it’s gold. But there’s no guarantee it will happen. So take the chance and try to make me laugh… if it doesn’t work, don’t take it personally. If it does, you will be helping with the healing. At the least, give a hug and offer to be a shoulder to cry on.
I must say, I’m quite surprised how healing writing this post has been. I expected to not make it through the re-telling of my weekend, but I’m doing a little better. And miscarriage is definitely something people don’t like to talk about… especially with someone who is experiencing one. It’s awkward and you literally don’t know what to say because anything can be the wrong thing. So I’m tossing my experience out there. With any luck, someone will read this and make it the tiniest bit easier to talk about miscarriage, or how to deal with someone having one.
I hope you learned a little something from this post. I’m not asking for sympathy from this experience and I know the healing could take a while. It’ll be at least two months before we can try to conceive again (gotta give the body some time to get back on menstrual schedule) and that’s only the physical side. Emotionally, I don’t know how long it will be. But this is only the beginning. The next few months should be interesting. One hour at a time, one day at a time is my new mantra.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↵||When I speak of miscarriages, I will often be speaking of the wanted pregnancy. I understand not all pregnancies are wanted and sometimes a miscarriage is seen as a happy solution. While both deserve to be acknowledged, it can be more difficult to deal with wanting the lost life potentials.|