*Disclaimer: This is an honest – at times graphic – account of my recent miscarriage. If this bothers you, stop reading now. Writing this down is helping me get through everything, and I hope that this might help someone else who might be going through the same thing.
Suddenly unpregnant. Empty. Scraped clean of all vestiges of life. Raw. Broken. Sore. Hurting. Sad. Disbelieving. How is this happening? This can’t be happening. This is all a bad dream. I never thought something like this would happen to me. How will I ever go back to “normal”?
We had just told the family our good news: we were expecting baby number four. And around Adeline’s birthday, at that. I had had some spotting, but this wasn’t particularly worrying to me, as that had happened before in my pregnancies. And past the 12-week mark, I was confident that I was in the clear.
I hadn’t gained much weight, which was unusual for me, given my propensity to easily put on weight… especially when pregnant. I figured it was due to my good eating habits, having gone through a sugar detox recently and trying to retain some of those eating choices despite morning sickness and food aversion. My pants finally started getting tight, however, and I had just broken out my bin of maternity pants. What a cruel irony – I got to wear them for one day.
Early on Thursday, August 20th, I woke up feeling crampy and went to the bathroom. I was shocked to see blood gush into the toilet. A wave of panic swept over me, and I called Phil and told him I thought I was having a miscarriage. Just saying it – “miscarriage” – it sounded so foreign. I texted some friends, told them I might be losing the baby (how could I be writing those words?), and tried to go back to sleep. Bad idea. I ended up immediately back in the bathroom, but when I realized how much was coming out of me, how I was afraid of flushing away something important, I moved to the tub.
I squatted there for at least an hour, waiting for Phil to come home. I thought I could just rinse away the dark red blood that pooled there in the tub, but found out it was thick tissue, and I had to scoop it up so it wouldn’t clog the drain. My legs hurt from holding myself up. I tried to get cleaned up and dressed, went downstairs to choke down some breakfast so I didn’t feel sick with low blood-sugar. I started bleeding through my clothes. I grabbed the insert for Addy’s little potty, put a stool in the tub, and plopped down to collect the life as it left me.
The kids were expecting a play day at their Meme’s house. Daddy told them Mommy was losing the baby. Addy, in her helpful, innocent way, remarked that she would find it. He quickly fed them and brought them to his mom’s house, filled her in on the situation, and came back home.
Meanwhile, I called my midwife – how was this happening? – told her in tears what was going on, how upset I was, she crooned, “I’m sorry honey, that doesn’t sound good.” No, nothing good or hopeful about the situation. She told me to come into the office so they could have a look, find out what was happening. How could I leave the tub – the house? – with blood gushing out of me? With every cramp came another gush of blood, huge pieces of tissue, I didn’t want to think what might be in there. I was getting dizzy and light-headed, tried to call Phil, realized practically that I didn’t have pads big enough to contain the situation, as it were. He didn’t pick up his phone. Rested my head on the side of the tub as the container filled with my insides.
When he finally came back and checked on me, saw the amount of blood, said we should call the rescue. No! It’s not an emergency. I just want to see my midwife so she can tell me what to do. I’m only a little dizzy… I’ll be fine… I don’t know what’s come out of me… I don’t know how I’ll get cleaned up… look at the mess! Don’t worry about the mess, he assures me.
We filled my underwear with pads and gauze. I wiped up the streaks of blood continuing down my legs. Phil layered towels in the car for me to sit on. I can’t believe this is happening. The drive to the doctor’s seemed to take forever. The receptionist asked why we were there and I tried to be as matter-of-fact as possible when I told her we were having a miscarriage. She told us to have a seat. I stared around the room, couldn‘t believe I had just been there a couple weeks ago for a routine prenatal visit – newborn pamphlets, pregnancy magazines, such mundane things seemed so stupid and mocking. So much can change in an instant.
The nurse announces my name wrong, I kindly correct her – does it matter? – and we’re ushered into the exam room. Phil and I wait in silence, disbelieving. I want him to say something, just talk about something normal, but I can’t ask. We wait. We hear my name in the hallway, then my midwife comes in, assesses the situation. I’m afraid of bleeding all over the table and floor, but she tells me not to worry. She examines me, has to scrape away tissue so she can see what’s going on – I almost pass out. My cervix is open, obviously not containing the pregnancy. There’s so much tissue stuck she recommends a D&C. No, not that. Why? Everyone wants to call a rescue because my skin matches the sheets, but it’s not an emergency – Phil can drive me. I trust her judgement and realize a D&C is the best course – fine, I’ll go to the hospital, but not in an ambulance.
I try to get cleaned up as best as I can. How much time has passed? An eternity? I never thought I would wake up to this. Phil helps me get dressed, and I have to sit down, I almost pass out. My vision is going white and I hear buzzing in my ears. I’m vaguely aware of movement around me, the rescue being called, getting help back to the table so I can lay down. This can’t be happening.
The nurse who met with me a month ago and congratulated me on my pregnancy – and who just a few days prior spoke to me about my spotting and said to keep an eye on it – came in and asked how I was doing. I shook my head as the tears began to fall.
Help arrived. The EMT guys spoke to Phil, spoke to my midwife, tried to get me to laugh. How could I be joking around at a time like this? They were very kind, asked all sorts of questions, almost made it seem possible that this could end well. This is your fourth pregnancy? Wow! Four kids. How do I manage, and homeschooling, at that? How will I manage?
The ride is bumpy. And eternal. I get an IV, patches all over my body to monitor my vitals. I’m vaguely aware that they lift the bottom of my shirt and my flabby belly is hanging out; what does it matter now? I answer questions and manage some conversation, trying to be “normal.” I hear the sirens, disbelieving that they are for me. But I see through the windows – we’re weaving through traffic, going to the hospital. For me. They ask if I’m cold. No, I lie – I’m “fine.”
We get there. Phil’s already there and he helps the EMT guys bring the stretcher inside. I get stationed, and wait, answering more questions. It occurs to me how routine this must be for all of them. Yet life-changing for me. Someone else comes in, I answer more questions. Each step of the way is an eternity. My phone keeps ringing – another text, someone asking how I’m doing, hoping the baby is safe. I cringe – I know this won’t end well. How can someone be so hopeful in a hopeless situation?
I get wheeled to the ultrasound room. The tech gives me a towel, tells me to tuck it into my underwear so she doesn’t get gel all over it; I laugh and tell her not to worry, it’s covered with blood by now anyway. She pushes down on my belly with the wand, trying to figure out what’s still inside me. I can’t see the screen, so I just lay there, staring at the ceiling. This is not how ultrasounds are supposed to go… I’m supposed to see my fuzzy baby jumping around on the screen, see its heart beating a mile a minute, marvel at how much it’s grown in a few weeks, wondering how long it will be before I will feel those kicks… but all is quiet and I wonder why it hurts so much.
A doctor comes in, someone I have never met before. He calmly tells me I’ll be going into the operating room for the D&C, explains what will happen, tells me there are minor risks. We nod, no questions for him. We know why we’re there. When the time comes, I hug Phil, tell him I’ll see him on the other side. I can’t believe this is happening.
I get wheeled to the prep area. It feels like it’s in the remotest part of the hospital, through a million sets of doors, past people whose days aren’t falling apart like mine. Nurses, the doctor, an anesthesiologist – all ask me more questions, have me sign forms. They pump some meds into my IV, have me drink something they warn me tastes awful. I’m calmly informed that I’ll have a tube put down my throat in case I throw up during the operation, to help me breathe. Oh God, I think of all those movies where I’ve seen them put tubes down people’s throat and my head starts to swim. One of the nurses explains I’ll start to feel dizzy, but it will be a good dizzy, since I’ll be falling asleep. They continue to talk, then everything starts to fade, but I’m still here, waiting for the inevitable.
* * * * *
I try to open my eyes. One at a time. It takes too much effort so I close them again. I can’t move my arms. Where am I? My eyes open again. Everything is blurry. Sounds swim to my ears and I’m confused. What’s going on? My throat hurts… I try to clear my throat and it hurts… something is on my face… then I remember. The tube down my throat. Hot tears spring to my eyes as I realize it’s over. I’m not pregnant anymore. Everything has been scraped away and I’m empty inside. One of the nurses wipes the tears from my eyes, asks me if I want ice chips. I manage a fuzzy reply and she removes the oxygen mask.
I’m in the recovery room. My arms are still heavy, but I manage to feel my legs… feel the gauze-y underwear that covers me. I briefly wonder how many people had to lift my butt to get those on, those ugly, stretchy undies that you wear when you give birth to a baby. A living baby you get to hold in your arms, and you don’t care about the underwear or the pain or the blood still coming out of you because you’re holding this tiny new miracle that you’ve nurtured for almost ten months in that big belly that isn’t getting smaller any time soon. Except I’m not holding anything – just a tangible emptiness, and I still feel the pain and the blood.
When I’m awake enough to the nurses’ satisfaction, I get wheeled to another room, waiting till I feel well enough to go home. Phil meets me there, and I’m so glad to see him. Is this really happening? What a way to spend a day together. I feel so groggy, and I think it ironic that when I had my babies in the hospital, they wouldn’t let me go home – wanted to push vaccines and nursing schedules on me, wanted me to stay to so they could test the baby and get their cut of the insurance. This time, they want me to go… and I can’t stand up yet. My eyes dart back and forth, feel like they’re swimming. The nurse insists I try to use the bathroom, which feels impossible, but I manage it anyway. I note that I’m not bleeding as much, but the red is a cruel reminder of what I’ve lost.
I wonder what I’m going to wear. My clothes got bloody, and as much as I don’t care about anything right now, I don’t feel like wearing a hospital gown when I go home. Luckily, I get some scrubs to wear, and slowly pull them on. More waiting. I get wheelchaired to the car, and we drive away from the hospital. The hospital I had planned to visit to check out their birthing rooms, where I had hoped to deliver my own baby in early Spring. But we drive away, and it occurred to me that I still didn’t even know where I had been.
We stop for lunch, even though I don’t have much of an appetite. Phil gets something to-go, and we drive home. The emptiness feels tangible; I can’t believe the world is still turning. The house is empty, we eat our lunch. I choke down the food, which hurts my throat. The tube was down my throat. I was in the hospital, having my insides scraped away. I will never stop crying again.
I have started to write more about the days that have followed, but will leave this for now. Here are a few things that I have found helpful:
Jason Gray’s “Not Right Now”
Ed Sheeran’s “Small Bump”
15 Lessons Learned from Miscarriage
Honey Thorns on Etsy