How is it that somewhere between 20 and 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and yet no one really talks about it?
I am of childbearing age, have been for some time. I relish in honesty and have had numerous conversations with multitudes of people about sex and marriage and motherhood, about fights and affairs and heartbreaks and divorce, about disease and sickness and death. And yet I have only heard about/know of a small handful of people that have had a miscarriage. How is that possible when 20-50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and I am constantly surrounded by honest women?
Why don't we talk about it?
I have to say, I'm disappointed. I think we should talk about it. I think we need to talk about it. We need to talk with our girlfriends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and cousins about the heartbreak of losing a baby... that way, when one of us miscarries we don't feel so alone sitting slathered in ultrasound gel on a cold padded chair in a hospital wondering what the hell we did wrong when there is no heartbeat detected on the monitor. And then you don't have to sit there sobbing and thinking that there must be something wrong with you because no one else in your family has ever had a miscarriage -- that you know of.
I don't want you to sit there and blindly try to wrap your head around what is about to happen to your body, because when you think of miscarriage you have no personal stories to reach from and you think that the baby might just slip silently into the night -- and then you'll find out that the worst is yet to come. You have to abort the "products of pregnancy" through medical procedure or let them "pass naturally" at home. And you thought you felt alone before.
I can tell you from experience, I felt cheated. I felt unprepared, and dumb. And later, I felt angry that I was allowed to feel that alone when somewhere near half of the women I know must have had miscarriages. So I started talking about it. And women started coming out of the word work with their own stories of miscarriage. Women I had known most of my life. Most of the women I talked to about it. MOST.
Ladies, we need to talk about miscarriage. So, I'll start with my experience.
This is the extended version, and you are not obligated to read on.
On Dec 9th 2011 I found out I was pregnant via home pregnancy test, after months of trying. Elated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt as I paced the floor waiting for my husband to get home so that I could tell someone as invested in the process as I was that we had succeeded. Finally.
It was so hard to contain the news, because I really wanted to tell anyone and everyone who would listen -- but knowing the risk of miscarriage is pretty high until you are through the first trimester, we decided to keep a lid on it for the most part and only told close friends and family as we saw fit. We figured that these were the same people who we would tell if we miscarried, so it felt right. (And here I am now, feeling compelled to tell everyone who will listen that I miscarried -- ironic, no?)
I spent hours thinking about the day when we could finally tell everyone who had been hounding us for years about expanding our family that we were finally doing it after countless denials or any plans to do so.
On Wednesday Jan 11th, one week before my first midwife appointment, I started having some cramping and spotting and heavy discharge. I faintly remembered this happening the first time around too, and I tried not to be concerned. On Friday the spotting had gotten progressively worse and I didn't want to go into the weekend worried -- so I called my midwife and told her my symptoms. She sent me to the hospital for an emergency fetal diagnostic screening. Clint came home immediately and we tried to reassure ourselves that this was just precautionary.
The ultrasound showed that there hadn't been fetal growth in a week, and there was no heartbeat. We were given the heartbreaking news and left alone in silence to figure out how to proceed. Needless to say I didn't take that news well. She said all the right things in just the right tone -- she was so well versed and reassuring. She was gentle and kind and sorrowful. She was everything I needed her to be -- except for wrong, I really needed her to be wrong.
We set an appointment for a D&C for the following week and were sent home. I hadn't eaten in hours and I was far from hungry. I didn't know what to do next, but I had to do something. I wanted to be shaken awake, I wanted to be slapped or pinched or to have water thrown at my face. I needed to be startled so that I could stand up and walk out of the office. Instead I was handled with so much love and care and led carefully out by my stoic husband who was keeping it together, for me. My head went from numb to racing. I needed to tell everyone who new about the pregnancy that I had miscarried, and I wanted to tell them right that second so that I could begin moving on.
I'm not sure how someone is supposed to react, and maybe my reaction was rash and immature -- but this is how I spent the remainder of the evening:
I texted everyone who knew, and told them about our loss and that I didn't want to be contacted right then. I couldn't bare calling and having the same conversation time and again, so I had to spread sad news via text -- something I never thought I would do. I emailed my closest colleague (and mentor) and unloaded on him, so that he could go to bat with me to my boss -- both of which handled the news famously.
Clint and I went to Target and Whole Foods, and I bought everything a pregnant person would have no business buying or consuming -- hair dye, steaks (to be cooked rare), unpasteurized blue cheese, bold roast coffee beans, red bull, toxic nail polish, wine + wine + wine, albacore tuna, and overnight sized pads.
Because I (we) had spent weeks in pregnancy mode it was really hard to start in on the use of those products, but somehow I felt I needed to do them all right now. So we cracked bottle after bottle of wine, dyed my hair (to be redyed later because Clint -- bless his heart -- left streaks), played Wii for hours with Isaiah, (barely) cooked steaks and tossed a blue cheese riddled salad, pounded Red Bulls, watched movies ... and I sobbed through about half of it.
The next night was more of the same, with heavy bleeding and heavy cramping. It became increasingly obvious that I wasn't going to make it to my D&C procedure -- and that I would miscarry at home, naturally. I drank more, took pain medication (which you should probably never do together, but I was closely monitored) and became married to the couch and the heating pad. I started having regular contractions, dulled by the wine and the pills, and started truly miscarrying. Sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning I sat screaming, crying, shivering and sweating while Clint rocked me and tried so hard to help me manage the pain as the worst of it was happening. It was just like birth, without the happy ending to look forward to. I was scared and hurt and pissed as hell that this was happening to me, right in the middle of an ordinary life.
I finally fell asleep, and Clint hovered over me not sleeping a wink. When I woke up to a husband with worry lines and bloodshot eyes I mourned for everyone who has ever went through this alone. I simply couldn't imagine it. And somehow, in that moment, I felt fortunate. I thanked him profusely for helping me through the worst night of my life.
If you've ever had a baby vaginally you know that you bleed for weeks after delivery as your uterus contracts and rids itself of all the products of pregnancy. It is the same with miscarriage. Three days later, as I was beginning to feel better, I bled through a pad in 5 minutes, and called my Dr immediately. I was sent in for blood work for the next few days and given another follow-up at the hospital with ultrasound as well as a tentative D&C appointment following the check-up.
On the day of the follow-up appointment (over a week after the worst night) I was finally feeling back to normal. I was less bloated, I could eat regularly, I felt rested and perky and I felt less emotionally damaged -- things were looking up. That was until the ultrasound showed irregularities and tissue still in my uterus. The D&C (MVA) was no longer tentative. This threw me for a loop and I had a panic attack -- I had come in so certain I was going to receive good news, and be cleared for sex, exercise, and baths. I was given anti-anxiety medication and a phone call. Clint was by my side in 30 minutes, some how.
Even though I had originally scheduled a D&C when I found out about the miscarriage, once I had naturally passed the products I became very thankful that I wouldn't be needing that procedure -- as I had done the research and read about the pain and discomfort associated with it. If you know me you know I don't handle anything medical or blood related with ease. I get sick and pale and panic at even the topic. I was not mentally equipped to handle a MVA, and I had to be restrained. Second worst experience of my life.
I go back for a follow up (again) in another week. And I hope that there isn't another complication, because honestly I'm not sure how much more I can take.
I have learned so much from this experience, but the one thing that I cannot get out of my head is this:
What if I had miscarried Isaiah? No one has ever changed my life like he has. He single handedly changed the entire course of my life -- his tiny perfect unplanned self. And I am beyond thankful.
Now, all I can do is move forward -- and try again. Unfortunately it takes weeks before you are "allowed" to try again. I think this time frame is sort of imperfectly perfect because it demands time to grieve my loss. I feel cheated, and I need to deal with that pain.
Thank you for listening and helping me deal with my pain.
I needed to get this out there -- even if no one reads it. I hope that I can reach one woman who feels lost and alone and runs to Google like I did, searching for answers. Even though there is little real comfort in numbers -- because the loss is so raw -- the unity dulled the pain for me, once I found it.
If you've had a miscarriage, I encourage you to share your story with the women in your life. I am not asking you to share on a public forum such as a blog, but please know how much your story could help someone during a time like that.
Words are powerful beyond measure, as long as you speak them.