I very recently had a conversation with someone about my miscarriages, and it felt really good to talk about. This post was incredibly difficult for me to write, however. Not because of the shame often associated with miscarriage, but because of the pain brought on by what happened. Miscarriage is so common, something like 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, but it’s so rarely talked about. Some feel shame that their bodies betrayed them so deeply and others just don’t know what to say. Generally, it’s a taboo subject. But I’m writing about it for more selfish reasons: I need to talk about what happened and I want the world to know that these children of mine existed.
We found out we were pregnant with our second around my husband’s birthday. My son was nearly two years old, it was an absolute joy for us and we were looking forward to adding to our family. And all seemed to be going quite well; I was battling morning sickness and all of the other symptoms that assure us that pregnancy is progressing normally. When we went to our first obstetrician appointment at around 8 weeks, there was no reason to believe that we would see anything other than a little heartbeat. But there was nothing there. Just a very large, empty gestational sac. Although they ran a few blood tests to be sure, I knew there was no hope. My entire world shattered as I lay there completely vulnerable on the cold table.
The doctor continued as if everything were normal, which made me feel worse. It was called a “blighted ovum” (a terrible name, by the way), and was basically a pregnancy that had stopped developing very early, but my body continued to act as if it were pregnant and grow the gestational sac and placenta. Technically, there was no fetus. Because my body had not recognized the failure, she suggested a D&C, a surgical procedure to remove the pregnancy. The idea felt too cold and terrifyingly medical to me, although I would never, ever judge someone that chose to go through with it. For me personally, waiting for it to occur naturally was what felt right, so I let my doctor know. It was the day before my son’s second birthday. I will never forget trying so hard to stay numb as I took him to the aquarium and kept up with the birthday festivities. I will never forget all of the desperate attempts to just keep it together.
As is typical with blighted ovums, I had to wait awhile for the actual miscarriage to occur. It was such an odd situation, feeling pregnant and yet knowing that it had failed. I was pregnant, but wasn’t really. When it finally began, I was 13 weeks gestation. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. There are so many detailed explanations about childbirth, but miscarriage is so vague in the pregnancy books. My doctor told me to expect lots of bleeding and some pain, but to just rest and take some ibuprofen. What I didn’t know was that the pain was comparable to the intensity of labor. Ibuprofen was laughably ineffective against the body-splitting contractions that tore through me. And the blood just kept coming. My poor husband spent a few hours on the phone with my doctor, begging for them to call in some pain medication for me, only to be met with this answer, “We need to see her in person before we prescribe anything.” Of course, there was no moving me or driving anywhere when the pain was that intense. But finally, after hours of this, I passed the sac and placenta and the pain subsided.
Another key fact about miscarriage had been left out of what I should expect: what do I do with the remains of my pregnancy? It broke my heart that my pregnancy, my child, was so forgotten. We chose to bury everything in a potted plant in a our yard, and it helped to create some closure. But there was an open wound on my heart that refused to heal. After I had miscarried, I had to go back to the doctor’s office so they could check that my body had passed everything. The panic started as I sat in the waiting room, surrounded by heavily pregnant women. By the time I was in the little examination room full of pictures of babies, it was a full blown panic attack. The trauma of my miscarriage was too fresh to be surrounded by such triggering images.
When we got pregnant again soon afterwards, we thought that this time, everything would be fine. After all, because I had already had one miscarriage, statistics were on our side that we would have a successful pregnancy. My morning sickness was stronger and I held on to my hope for dear life. Then it came time for a first obstetrician appointment, at around 9 weeks. My body shook with fear as I waited for the ultrasound and I silently prayed for a heartbeat. This time, there was a tiny baby on the screen. But no heartbeat.
The reaction of the doctors was the same. It was no big deal to them, it happens all the time. And it does happen all the time. But this was my baby, and it was a big deal. The doctor explained what had happened and to expect a miscarriage, but I just kept repeated the words, “it’s happening again?” The pain of another loss so soon was unbearable. I spent that night crying in my husband’s arms on the bathroom floor.
The second time around, I begged for pain medication before leaving the office. And I’m glad I did because this miscarriage had ended differently, I didn’t have to wait long for it to start. Being under the influence of stronger pain meds definitely helped, and it wasn’t nearly as traumatizing. I suppose it also helped knowing exactly what to expect. But the blood loss was more severe the second time, and it left me feeling woozy and sick for weeks.
Insurance and doctor policy prevents anyone from looking into the reason behind miscarriages unless you have had three in a row. I guess that I logically understand this, after all, miscarriage is so common. But I couldn’t help but feel outraged that I was being left to fend for myself and given a slightly higher possibility of loosing another one. I asked my doctor about testing and investigating, but she assured me that nothing could and would be done. She sent me home with the instructions to try again and hope for the best.
And so here we are. Well into a year that I have spent the majority of being pregnant with nothing to show for it. I watch friend after friend announce pregnancy and give birth while I silently mourn my losses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon happy for my friends. But there’s always the sting of, “why me?” We didn’t tell anybody what we were going through. I didn’t want to talk to or see anybody, and I definitely did not want anybody to know. How could I face the pain and sympathy in somebody else’s eyes when I could barely handle my own emotions?
What surprised me the most was the anger that I felt. I was furious with the universe for the cruelty behind it. I was angry with everyone for going on as if everything was totally fine. Colors were too bright, smiles too wide, and everything too normal. I was angry that I would never know these children. I was angry that we have to struggle for a second child. Mostly, I was just angry.
I’m not sure what the future will hold, and I’m still not okay. We are doing our best to focus on getting our minds and bodies as healthy as possible (aside from copious amounts of wine to dull the heartache), but for now we are living day to day. But I think that as we heal, it’s time to share our story. It’s time that other’s know about our lost babies and perhaps it’s also time to start leaning on others for support. Hopefully, our story will help others going through the same thing.