***Note: If you potentially get squeamish with TMI details, it’s probably better to skip this post.***
On this one-year anniversary of my miscarriage, I want to chronicle the events of that week last year because even though it was a time that caused great pain, I don’t want to forget what happened. It has helped shape the person I am today, and I cannot deny that.
I had my first prenatal appointment on Monday, November 7 at exactly 8 weeks. I was weighed and had my blood pressure taken, met with the doctor, had a pap test and pelvic exam, gave urine and blood samples, and was sent on my way. I was warned that I might have some spotting from the pap because the cervix can be sensitive during pregnancy. So, when I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, November 8 with some spotting, I wasn’t too concerned at first since I thought it was the spotting that the doctor has warned me about. I didn’t feel the need to call the doctor quite yet.
The spotting continued throughout that Tuesday, though it was pretty light…light enough for just a pantyliner. It got a little heavier as the day went on, but still nothing that I was overly alarmed about–not even close to what a period would have been like. I decided if it wasn’t better by Wednesday, I would call the doctor. I knew there was nothing they could do if it was a miscarriage, so I didn’t feel the urgency to call immediately. (Incidentally, I’m glad I didn’t call on that Tuesday. I likely would have been brought in for an ultrasound, where we would have seen that the baby had died, and I would have been faced with the decision of having a D&C or letting it happen naturally. I had no idea it would happen the next day–it can often take weeks to pass–so I’m glad I didn’t have to make that decision.)
Things started getting a little worse on Tuesday night. Though the bleeding still wasn’t what I would consider heavy (it never was the entire time, which is unusual from stories I’ve read), I started getting light period-like cramps in my lower back around 9 p.m. and also had a mild fever (around 100 degrees, I think) for a couple of hours. The cramps weren’t strong, but I knew something was up then. I went to bed around 11 p.m. and ended up going out around midnight to the local gas station to get some pads–I only had tampons and pantyliners–in case it got much worse overnight. I switched to pads, though I still didn’t have that much bleeding.
After one of my least restful nights full of worst-case and best-case scenario dreams, I got up at 7 a.m. to get ready. I already planned to call the doctor’s office when they opened that morning because I knew from checking overnight that the bleeding still hadn’t stopped. However, when I used the bathroom before taking my shower, I wiped…and I passed the tissue sac. I knew what this meant, of course, but I still, somehow, held out hope. I put it in a small plastic bag, took my shower, called sick into work, then waited impatiently until my doctor’s office opened at 10 a.m.
Finally talking to the nurses was when I cried hard for the first time. I knew what was happening, but somehow saying it out loud made it all the more real. I had to repeat myself several times because they couldn’t understand me through my sobbing. They told me to come in immediately and they would fit me in. The Husband asked if I wanted him to come with me, I said yes, and he also called into work, then we headed to the doctor’s office. Before we left, I had to find something to put the bag with the sac into to take with us…but nothing seemed appropriate. Something you could see through? Definitely tacky. A cheery birthday gift bag? Just doesn’t cut it. The closest we found was a plain brown paper gift bag (that I felt I needed to cut the handles off of and tape shut).
There was a lot of waiting involved since they had to fit us in, and of course every blissfully pregnant woman was within a 20-foot radius of me. The nurse took us back, and I had to tell her what happened, and I started crying then, too. We were taken to the exam room, and the doctor finally came in (and of course with a student observer, at one of my lowest moments). He asked me to tell him what happened, from the beginning, and he listened quietly as I recounted the events of the past 24 hours. He told me that he’d heard people with my story who did miscarry, but he’d also heard people with my story that went on to have a healthy baby. He sent me for an ultrasound to see what we were facing. The logical part of me knew that the jig was up, but the hopeful part of me was thinking maybe it was originally twins, and I’d just lost one of the twins. But realistically, passing the sac had really been the indication that this did not look good.
After more waiting to be called back for the ultrasound, we were taken back and I changed clothes and sat on the table. There was a monitor right above the table, presumably for all the people with more fortunate pregnancies than mine. I’ve always had trouble seeing what I should be seeing on ultrasound images–they’re like those awful Magic Eye things that I could never, ever see–yet I knew exactly what I was looking at on the screen: nothing. No sac, no baby, no heartbeat–just an empty uterus where a baby once was. The tech wasn’t allowed to say anything, but she didn’t have to. I already knew.
I had to wait for the report and images to be printed to take back to my doctor. Other people there that day got the photos of their healthy babies, but there was a different plan for me that day. We were given the report and looked at it before going back to the doctor’s office. Right at the top, in all capital letters: NO FETUS FOUND. Even though I knew it to be true, it made my heart sink. We returned to the office, waited yet again, then waited in an exam room for the doctor to come back and go over the report with us.
He told me what I knew to be true, that nothing was there and it looked like I had miscarried. He assured us that this would not be likely to affect our chances of conceiving the next time, and told us to wait at least two cycles before trying again. He ordered blood work to be done until my hCG levels returned to zero (which took 12 days after I miscarried), which I had before we left the hospital, then sent us on our way.
I remember driving through the local university campus on our way back home. The students were between classes, so all the youngsters were shuffling to and from the classroom buildings in order to make it to class on time. I couldn’t help but think how significant they all probably thought their life problems were–yet how truly insignificant their issues felt to me at the time. I had just lost my first child. Getting a C on a test? Doesn’t so much matter in comparison. If only they knew how cruel life could really be.
We stopped first at a discount store so I could get more pads. I still never had that much bleeding, but I needed to be prepared just in case, and in any case, I wasn’t allowed to wear tampons for fear of infection. Then we stopped at my work (which was on the way home) because I felt like I needed to talk to my supervisor in person–in a way, I needed her to see how distraught I was so she wouldn’t question why I needed to take the rest of the week off. I know she wouldn’t have questioned it even if I’d just called, but it was what I needed to do at the time. She sent me home and told me not to worry about a thing. And I really didn’t think about work again until I returned that Sunday.
We went home to the eerily quiet house, and I had to make the phone call I was dreading, to tell my mom what had happened. We hadn’t told many people that I was pregnant, just my immediate family and a few of my closest friends. So, there weren’t many people to “untell,” but I dreaded it all the same. I called and told her, “I can’t really talk about it right now, but I called to tell you that I had a miscarriage this morning.” Naturally and understandably, she started asking questions, but I wasn’t up for talking about it without crying, so I told her what I could but couldn’t go into great depth. I left it to her to spread the word to the rest of my family.
I had to tell my friends next, but again couldn’t get up the strength to say it out loud, so I chickened out by sending a very brief e-mail with the news. My best friend L called as soon as she got the e-mail, and I could hear she was crying for me before I even said hello. She insisted on coming over that night with dinner for us and to make herself available for whatever we needed. I don’t remember much about that afternoon other than laying around, alternately crying and pouting. By the time L came over with a casserole, salad, and brownies, I was a little more composed, though definitely still distraught. We talked about what had happened, giving the not-so-great recap, and I was able to get through it without crying. After that, we talked about her recent trip abroad and looked at her pictures; it was nice to have a distraction like that to end such a crappy day.
I don’t remember much about Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. I think I was in a general fog. Each day, for the most part, got a little easier, but it was still a tough time. I returned to work on Sunday, which was both the most difficult thing and the best thing for me at the same time. I was glad I had a few days to retreat within myself, but getting back to the routines of the real world reminded me that life doesn’t stop just because my baby’s life did.
I don’t remember a specific time when I suddenly felt better; I guess it happened gradually. Getting my period for the first time helped, since that was an indication to me that my body was getting back on track and geared up to try again. That second period helped, as well, since that was when we could try again. Again, it felt like life was finally getting back on track. Getting my long-awaited golden retriever puppy in December certainly helped, as well. And obviously it doesn’t hurt that I’m just over 27 weeks now with what seems to be a healthy pregnancy so far. I won’t lie; that helps cushion the blow significantly.
I don’t think about the miscarriage and the baby I lost every day now, but it does enter my mind at various times, sometimes catching me off-guard because it sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I think there’s a part of me that will always wonder, to a degree, what could have been. But then there’s the part of me that knows I have to keep plodding along, pushing forward. It’s the only thing I can do. It’s helped shape who I am, and I cannot change that–nor do I want to.