I have three very healthy children, whom I am very grateful for.
But before they were born, I lost my first pregnancy to a miscarriage.
The whole situation was traumatic and made more so by the fact that I had no idea how prevalent miscarriage is and was never taught anywhere about this. In a healthy woman of child-bearing age, the statistics range in different references that I could find from about 15-25% chance of miscarrying during any given pregnancy. That’s as high as one in four and that is a lot!
Why is this not part of sexual education for both sexes? Why is this not talked about more openly between women? It would seem there is some cloud of shame that we couldn’t do this pregnancy thing right so it is kept quiet.
It is also devastating when you happen to be the one that has a miscarriage—At least it was for me. And I think that part of that devastation has to do with the fact that I never knew anyone else who had had this happen to them. So, I kept quiet about this terribly traumatic event.
In hopes of letting other women (and couples) who have experienced a loss know they are not alone, I have decided to share about my own experience in hopes that others might not feel alone or like they have somehow failed, which is exactly how I felt at the time.
I was about 27 years old when my husband and I decided that we wanted to start a family. And we were in luck after trying for only one month. I was so excited to see the two little pink lines show up on the pregnancy test that I took. We were giddy, we celebrated, and a list of baby names started instantly running through my head. I made a doctor’s appointment to confirm the home test with a blood test, and it came back just as I suspected—Positive!
This is when I learned the only thing about miscarriage that I was really ever told: that I might want to wait until the third month to let people know.
This information was not given with the statistic that I had a one in four chance of loosing the baby. No. It was more of a little add on sentence to all the congratulations that were going on.
I followed the advice loosely, thinking that the caution must be something like a rare side effect to a given medication, just in case you are the one who goes into anaphylactic shock out of millions of people. And as the third month approached I was feeling pretty confident with my increasing bust line and all day nausea. But then I started bleeding.
It was just a little spotting on the first day and I ignored it. But the next day I had a little more bleeding and I wasn’t very nauseous anymore, so I went to the doctor. She confirmed with an ultrasound my worst fear. There was no heart-beat. In fact, there was no baby. Only a yolk sack and an amniotic sack could be found.
My body had played a cruel trick on me and although I felt like there was a baby growing inside of me. I had what was called a blighted ovum and the worst part was that my body had not expelled the pregnancy-gone-wrong on its own.
I was now left with two choices. I could wait for my body to pass the ‘products of conception’ or I could have a D & C (the same procedure used in an early abortion).
I don’t know why, as I usually let nature take its course, but I wanted the D & C and I wanted it immediately. Unfortunately, that is not how the system worked and I had to mentally suffer in this condition through a weekend and into the next week before the procedure.
I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the time and had to go into a center in Boston for the day of the procedure. I was not at all prepared for what was to come—This was where both abortions and miscarriages that didn’t pass on there own were taken care of, but mainly the former procedure was done there from the looks of it.
My husband and I had to walk through a metal detector and be patted down and have our bags searched for weapons and then on the inside there was an armed guard and a thick bullet-proof window to pass my paperwork though. I was now feeling like a criminal in addition to a failure. As I sat in that waiting room I became more and more anxious as my adrenaline kicked in and my husband looked white, as all color had drained from his face.
I was sitting in a room with women who wanted to abort their healthy babies all around me, and don’t get me wrong as I believe in this personal choice, but at the time it was almost too much for my fragile mind to comprehend and I sat there stunned and afraid with the realization that we were all going to be going through the same process of having our wombs emptied, whether we wanted the baby or not.
The procedure was standard—supposedly. I was supposed to sleep through it, or at least be unaware of all that went on. Again my body failed me with my adrenaline running so heavily by that point that it overrode any drugs to dull my senses. I asked questions about what my doctor was doing while I cried hot, silent tears the whole way through, as suctioning devices emptied my womb clean and a bright butterfly mobile spun above my head.
The doctor kept apologizing and saying she had never had a patient who was so aware. They gave me more sedative drugs through my IV but they had no effect. I guess there’s always a first time.
At one point my husband, who had been by my side, had to lay down and be given orange juice, due to shock, on a bed that was supposed to be reserved for a girl or woman who had gone through a procedure. I heard a nurse complain about this sharply and my doctor shot her a death stare that meant business and my husband was allowed to recover. This was no fun for either of us.
After the procedure I cramped and bled as was expected and I had no idea what to tell my family about the baby that had never existed—Awkward.
And then I completely freaked myself out.
I started reading on the internet about how some people had been told early on that there was no fetal heartbeat that was detectable during an ultrasound and had waited for nature to take its course and then ended up with a baby.
My blood ran cold, and my panic overrode my deep embarrassment enough so that I finally called and requested a pathology report.
I ended up receiving it in the mail and with shaking hands I opened the envelope—No fetal matter had been detected. It did little to shake the feeling that I had rushed things at the time. The mental anguish over the miscarriage and the following procedure were far worse than any physical pain that I had gone through.
I had to go to a six week check up and when I walked into the obstetrician’s office, I nearly died. All of these glowing pregnant women and no additional waiting room for the people who had been through a pregnancy loss. I actually looked for one.
And then there was the matter of the loud woman at the front desk. She asked in a high-pitched, cheery voice what I was there for and I felt a piece of what was left of my battered heart, shrivel and die. I pointed for a piece of paper on which I scrawled a shaky and misspelled word ‘miscarriage’, which I slid back to her on the pink post-it-note that she had provided. I couldn’t make eye-contact. I took a seat and closed my eyes and tried not to let any tears leak out.
After having to wait one menstrual cycle I was able to try to get pregnant again. I got pregnant on the first try again and although my nerves during the first three months were fairly frayed, I soon was able to move past the fearful feelings once I saw a heartbeat.
Nine months later my beautiful and healthy son was born.
But, to this day, I still think back to that first baby that became real in my mind, even if it had not developed. I had loved that child and poured my hopes and dreams into it. And the silence afterwards was so hard to bear.
I hope through my story, others who have had a miscarriage or who might have one will remember that they are not alone and I hope that more women will open up and support one another when going through this painful process that affects so many.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Wikimedia Commons