I’m going to veer into some different waters today. Typically I try to keep things lighthearted here but some recent discussions with other women have got me thinking about the subject and I felt a calling to write this post.
This is a warning to all male readers – you may want to close out of this post as we’re going to talk some nitty gritty, graphic details today.
The topic I want to cover is miscarriages. Everything that goes along with losing a pregnancy. Those messy emotions, the physical discomfort, nothing is off limits today.
Mike and I chose to wait until Michael was five before trying to have another baby. No reason other than we were young and wanted to be more settled before having another baby (Michael was a “surprise”). Getting pregnant was easy and the pregnancy progressed normally until about 12 weeks.
About the 12th week I started to feel “not pregnant”. I was horribly sick with Michael and had only experienced mild nausea with that pregnancy. One day of light spotting (sort of like a brown discharge just once or twice throughout the day) which the doctor said was normal. Later that week (it was a Friday) I felt some twinges of cramps. Once again I called the doctor to be told that it was probably nothing but to call them on Monday and let them know how I was doing.
Monday came and I just didn’t feel right. The “not pregnant” feeling was pretty strong and I just knew something was wrong. At that point my doctor asked me to come in for an ultrasound to verify that the pregnancy was progressing normally.
Lying on the table as the technician found the baby I knew immediately there was a problem. I asked her where the heart beat was and why I wasn’t seeing it on the screen. That probably has to be the crummiest part of her job, an emotional woman knowing that something isn’t right with her baby. Very gently she handed me some tissues and said “Obviously you know there is a problem. I’m going to get the doctor to talk to you.”
I have to hand it to my doctor, even though he had an office full of pregnant women he was in that room immediately to let me know what was going on. While I tried not to sob uncontrollably, he explained that the baby had died about two weeks before and the pregnancy was in the middle of termination. He offered me the option of a D&C (which I turned down) and then proceeded to explain what to expect with the miscarriage.
One word of advice, if you think something is wrong with your pregnancy take someone to the doctor with you. Mike couldn’t leave work (yeah – I know I shouldn’t have given him a choice) and I didn’t want to “bother” my mother. I was alone while learning of one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever gone through. Fortunately the doctor’s office was only a couple blocks from house, somehow I made it home while sobbing the entire way.
After the “diagnosis” it took about two days for me to fully miscarriage. My appointment was on Monday and I didn’t complete the miscarriage until Wednesday. Unfortunately Thursday (the day after the miscarriage) was Thanksgiving. While we did tell our parents what was going on, we waited until after Thanksgiving to tell Michael since we didn’t want to spoil the day for him.
The Emotional Toll
Every woman who has had a miscarriage deals with it differently. I can only talk to the emotions I experienced but in talking to other women who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy I believe these feelings are pretty common.
For me, the initial reaction to losing the pregnancy was tremendous grief. As a woman I think most of us fall in the love with the baby as soon as we know he/she is there. I would say that the grief wasn’t as horrible as if I lost one of my living children (I can’t even begin to comprehend how awful that is ) but it’s still a very, very real grief. We ‘re mourning all the hopes and dreams of the child we didn’t get to meet.
Unfortunately, this grief can be a little lonely. I believe most men don’t really understand it. I’m not saying men don’t experience grief, but when we don’t have a belly showing or they can’t feel or see the baby kicking it’s not necessarily real to them. Mike was disappointed but he didn’t experience the emotions that I did. Women who haven’t gone through it don’t know what to say. Miscarriages in general seem to make people uncomfortable
Shortly after the grief, anger may set it. I was shocked at the amount of anger I felt and how long it lasted. Quite honestly I think I was a little bit of a b**** for a while. I was pregnant with Belle relatively quickly but even then the excitement of that pregnancy was overshadowed by the anger I felt over the lost pregnancy. I was just going through morning sickness instead of preparing the nursery. A co-worker’s wife delivered on my due date, let me tell you it was difficult to show happiness for them.
Once my due date passed it was like the black cloud lifted. I remember taking a business trip right after the original due date and being terribly sick. I was far, far away from Mike and Michael, feeling horrible and homesick. While lying in that hotel room, barely able to function, I took a lot of comfort from little Belle being with me. That was the real turning point for me. I was able to put side my grief and anger and celebrate my pregnancy with Belle.
It’s important to remember that we all grieve differently, no one can tell you what your timetable should be.
Dealing with Dumb People
Wow – do people say dumb things! ”At least you know you can get pregnant.” “If something was wrong with the baby it’s probably a good thing you lost it.” ”That’s to bad you lost your baby, did you hear so and so is pregnant too?” My personal favorite from someone who didn’t know I was pregnant “When are you and Mike going to have another baby? You’re not getting any younger you know.”
I like to think that people aren’t trying to be insensitive but just don’t really know what to say. Their discomfort with the situation leads them to say stupid stuff. Unless it’s continuous and truly needs to be addressed, my advice is to let it go. I took it as a learning opportunity and now NEVER ask people if and when they’re going to have children (it’s none of my business). When I learn of someone else going through a loss I just let them know how sorry I am and tell them I’m there to listen if they want to talk.
Dealing with the Physical Stuff
No one really prepared me for the actual miscarriage. Once I turned down a D&C , the doctor told me I’d have terrible cramps and “bleed like a stuck pig” He also told me that I’d have to let him know “what came out” but that was about it. Yeah – that didn’t quite cover it. It’s different for everyone. I would believe that early in the pregnancy it’s probably similar to a really, really heavy period. At about twelve weeks it was similar to labor and delivery.
By early Wednesday afternoon the cramping got pretty bad and turned into contractions that were pretty regular. I would say that I had a few hours of “hard labor” before I delivered. I honestly didn’t know what to expect (and certainly was NOT prepared for the amount of pain I was in) but what came out was the placenta, umbilical cord and the sac containing the baby (which afterward the doctor confirmed was good since it meant I completely miscarried and didn’t need any further medical intervention). Freaked out is probably an understatement of what I was experiencing at that point. After it was over I cleaned up and pretty much passed out. I vaguely remember Mike flying in the house (my mother-in-law had called during the middle of it and realizing something was going on called Mike to get home) and telling him to leave me alone before I was out for the night.
If you are going through a miscarriage (or know someone who is), I would highly encourage you not to do it alone. If I had any idea exactly what was involved I probably would have gone to the hospital so that I could at least have gotten some pain medication and had some medical support during the birth.
While I mourned the pregnancy and was angry for quite a while, I wouldn’t really change anything about it. Belle was born almost exactly one year later (only a couple of days before the miscarriage anniversary) and made it all worthwhile. I believe that things happen for a reason and for some reason that pregnancy wasn’t viable and we were suppose to get Belle instead. Her birth was quite the joyous occasion.
I wouldn’t say that I still mourn the loss of that child but I do get emotional sometimes when I talk about it. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few tears shed during the writing of this post. I think most women (at least those I’ve talked to) who have experienced the miscarriage feel the same way.
While I’m not sure why I felt so moved to write this, I hope that in some small way it helps someone who is going through something similar. Know you aren’t alone and there are others out there that share your grief.