This is a topic I literally never thought I’d ever write about, but then again, who would ever think they would? I debated whether I would write about it but the more I thought about it the more I felt like I had to, for me and for the next me who has to go through this gut wrenching and life changing experience. I never knew what happens when you have a miscarriage and I want others to know so that their feelings are validated when they go through it. I also want those who are supporting people through a miscarriage to know how to deal with it and what NOT to say/do.
Stop the Shame Cycle
It’s funny, I’m in the health care world so you would think that there is not much that seems too personal. Miscarriages seem to be more personal than anything I’ve experienced before. Bowel movements? Bring them on! Menstrual cycles? Let’s discuss. Heart burn? That’s cool. Miscarriage? Hold on, what? Let’s not talk about it.
It seems like such a taboo topic, one that gets swept under the rug and one that makes everyone uncomfortable. Well, guess what? It IS uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or bypassed. Women should not have to hide their experience nor feel alone in the process, and believe me that’s exactly how you feel when you go through it, that you have to hide it and that you are alone.
If you are going through this or have gone through it, know that you are not alone. Up to 1 in 4 women may experience miscarriage which is an absolutely INSANE statistic.
I always thought it was silly when people said they knew they were pregnant. That person became me. I felt different, took a pregnancy test & confirmed it February 20th.
Emotional Roller Coaster Ride
Let’s back up so I can share my story. We found out in February that we were pregnant. We had started to try the end of 2019 so we were overjoyed. Now, let me tell you, you cannot forget the look on your partner’s face when you tell them that you are pregnant. While it’s not something I ever want to forget, it also hurts to think about.
JJ has wanted kids since I can remember, and we’ve been together for almost 14 years. He’s been patient with me and allowed me to pursue my career and dreams and so to say he was excited is an understatement. The thing is, the partner may not physically go through the miscarriage but they go through it mentally and emotionally and they need love and support through it all too.
We found out we were due in late October, so we started planning. We knew we had weddings coming up and friends who also were due late summer, early fall so we thought about how they would have friends, how we would have a baby to share with family at the weddings and the list goes on. You start making plans, and it all starts to feel real.
Then you start thinking about the what ifs. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about miscarriage and other complications from the get-go. The clinical part of my brain knows it’s common but the emotional side of me said “not me”. I don’t have any family history of miscarriage or chromosomal issues that we know of and I think I take pretty good care of my body as does JJ, so we brushed it off and moved forward with our plans.
WTF IS THIS?!
That was until I started spotting. If you are grossed out by the human body, just scroll on, but if you want to know what truly happens when you miscarry, let me share my story with you. I can guarantee it’s not like any movie you’ve ever seen.
I started spotting around week 7. Spotting is normal, actually far more normal than pregnancy sites and blogs will have you believe. But then I went for a run and squatted (lighter than normal) and was rewarded with a giant clot when I went to the bathroom. Scared and confused I called my OBGYN office. They said to just wait it out and that as long as it didn’t get worse to just wait until my appointment the following week.
I waited an entire week while I continued to spot, now we are on week8 8. I felt like I was holding my breath all week long.I went to my OB appointment, scared and alone, because with COVID, JJ wasn’t allowed in with me (so he sat in the car). The midwife calmed my nerves and said spotting is normal and that we would just have to run some bloodwork and see what was going on inside.
“Don’t worry”, she said. But I continued to worry because it felt like everything was completely out of my control. And it was.
I had to go get bloodwork that day (Monday) and again on Wednesday. They want to check that your beta HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin levels are increasing (usually they want to see it double at this stage of pregnancy). Having to venture out when you should be at home during a pandemic isn’t fun, even more so when you are scared at what the bloodwork might say.
The bloodwork came back on Friday and I got a phone call telling me it wasn’t great news. Your beta HCG is supposed to double every 2 days in your first trimester (one of the reasons for feeling like crap) but mine had only increased by a few points (not even 1%). That’s not a good sign. They scheduled me for an ultrasound the following Monday.
Now 3 weeks after I started spotting, I headed into my OB once again. They started the ultrasound, I squeezed my own hands (because once again JJ wasn’t allowed in) and I also simultaneously squeezed my eyes shut. Something in me made me open my eyes, and when I did I saw a baby (embryo) on the monitor. I wish I had never opened my eyes, I will never get to unsee this. The ultrasound tech looked at me and said “are you sure you had your last period date correct?!” (me to myself: F&*K this isn’t good).
I told her I knew for sure, because I track that info (hello major RD nerd) and she said “I’m sorry to tell you this, but your baby is measuring small and there’s no heartbeat.”
I’m pretty sure I now know what it feels like to be stabbed in the heart while simultaneously punched in the gut. They immediately had me tell JJ to come into the office (he was waiting in the car) for support. They snuck him in the back way and I’m so thankful for their love and support to not let me deal with this alone.
What Happens When You Have a Miscarriage
The next hour of my life is pretty much a blur. JJ came running in, thank goodness, and we tried to absorb the news. Luckily he didn’t have to see the ultrasound, I’m not sure I want anyone to ever have to see what I saw.
I had a missed miscarriage. Yes, that’s a thing. I miscarried (which is a horrendous word by the way) but my body had yet to figure it out. So here I am 3 weeks after my body started alerting me something wasn’t right, with a baby inside of me with no heartbeat, a husband who is heartbroken and a numbness I’m not sure I can explain.
My midwife came in to discuss our options. When you have a missed miscarriage you have three options:
- Wait for it to happen naturally
- Take medication to help speed up the process
- Have surgery (known as a D&C) to take care of it immediately
With the pandemic going on, I opted for #2 based on my midwife’s suggestion. However, it is only I think 75% effective so you may need to take a 2nd round of the medication and even then there is a chance that you need surgery. While #1 is the most natural, it also could increase your risk of infection if you wait too long and #3 messes with your uterine lining and I wasn’t ready to commit to that unless it was absolutely necessary. I also didn’t want to have to go to the hospital if I didn’t have to right now.
I hadn’t stopped spotting and come to find out my spotting was my body preparing for miscarriage. Your body is pretty smart and it knows when there is not a viable pregnancy. It doesn’t make you feel better to know that your body is doing the right thing. So while, yes, that’s the truth, it doesn’t help to know it, or hear it.
The Beat (doesn’t) Go On
You take 1 pill at the doctor’s office (Mifepristone) and sign a bunch of paperwork to say you acknowledge the risk (aka aborting the baby–talk about a low point). You are then given a prescription for Misoprostol which you are to administer vaginally all at once within 48 hours of taking Mifepristone. The midwife also gave me prescription for pain medications but to be honest, I don’t normally take anything and I told her I wanted to feel the pain, I wanted my body to do it’s thing and I didn’t want to be numb to it.
So, I took the meds Monday night on the week that we should have been 10 weeks along. I woke up around 1 am with the worst cramping of my life. Imagine someone squeezing your intestines and punching you simultaneously, yup that’s how it felt. I tried to take some Tylenol because I realized it was going to be a long night only to throw that up 1 second later.
“Welp guess this is going to be a long night”- me to my poor worried onlooking husband
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
The following days were physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. You end up bleeding heavy for 2-3 days (worse than a menstrual cycle) and then the spotting continues. I am an emotional person but not this kind of emotional. I sobbed for days and even the smallest things would set me off.
We realized we had to start telling people because while it seems like you just want to hide and move on, it’s really hard to move forward without acknowledging it. Not to mention if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic, I would’ve seen all my friends and family and no way I’d be able to hide my pain and sadness. So we told our families and some close friends, I cried every single time having to relive it and having to admit it.
I am not an angry, bitter or jealous person. But this pushes you to your limit. In this day and age you are faced with pregnancy announcements, gender reveals and birth photos right and left. To say that I am not triggered would be false. I cry every time I see someone celebrating one of those momentous life events knowing that we won’t experience it this time around. I’m not afraid to see these moments but I wish that more women knew how hard it was for some of us to witness it.
So, have some grace and give some space.
What Do You Say to Someone Who’s Had a Miscarriage?!
Here’s the thing, if you ever have anyone in your life go through this, be gentle with your words. I know it can be hard and you want to fix it, but you can’t fix it, you can only support them. Here are a few examples that I found helpful for me:
- Instead of saying “at least you got pregnant”, say “I’m sorry for your loss”
- Instead of saying “you can try again”, say “I’m sorry for all you’ve had to go through”
- Instead of saying “it’s very common”, say “if you want to talk, I’m here”
- Instead of saying “at least it will make you more empathetic to others who have gone through this”, say “I’m here to support you if you need it”
I’m not blaming anyone for saying what they said. I get it, it’s hard to know what to say. Just know that the feelings and emotions are RAW and personal and it all hurts, physically, emotionally and mentally. What we need is love, support and space. What we don’t need is a reminder that we failed or that “there’s always next time.” We know there’s a next time, but the here and now, that’s what we need support for.
The best thing to do is to reach out and let them know you are there for them. It will be hard on you but remember it’s far harder for the woman on the other end. She just wants to know you’re there for her, you love her and that you have her back. So don’t ignore it and don’t run from it. Women who have miscarried are not broken, they are just hurt and grieving.
You Are Not a Failure
I felt (and still to some point feel) like a failure. My friend asked how my body felt and this is what I texted her:
“Not sure how to describe it but it feels like I lost my body and trust in my body and have nothing to show for it. “
For someone who has always used her body for sport and has trusted the hell out of it to tell her what it needs, it was scary to not be able to trust it. I felt like an utter failure and had no way to fix it, change it, or move on from it. I wouldn’t wish this now month long process on my worst enemy.
A miscarriage is not something to brush past. It’s not a quick one and done process and it leaves the women (and their partner) confused, hurt, and incredibly sad. I’m so glad I had Brene Brown’s podcast to get me through this incredibly hard season of my life and as her guest Glennon Doyle said on it, “we can do hard things.” and I know that I can do hard things but I never knew I could do THIS hard thing. This has now become my mantra:
“We can do hard things.”
I will be okay, we will be okay and we will try again for our family. If you have or are going through this, know that I’m here for you and it’s okay that you’re not okay right now, just know you are not broken.
If you are still reading along, I thank you for being kind in advanced and for reading along on my journey. No two pregnancies and/or miscarriages are the same so if you are going through this know that it’s okay if what we experienced was different.
Know that I’ll be okay and you’ll be okay, I’m just not right now and it’s okay if you aren’t either.
One Month Later …
I figured I’d come back here and add an update for those that are interested, or for those that find this later and are wondering what the next steps are. It’s been one month since I miscarried although it seems somehow like it was yesterday.
I finally got my last bloodwork done last week and my beta HCG was below 10 which means the miscarriage is complete and no further action is needed. As much as you want that to be a relief, it is anything but. I thought I’d hear the call from the midwife and get relief and be able to move on. Turns out it just opened new floodgates, emotions and anger. Of course I want my body to heal and be okay, but the emotional side of me wanted this all to be a bad nightmare I could wake up from.
During the last month, I’ve spent a lot of time telling those I love my story and also trying to bury myself in work to forget it happened. Well, avoiding it doesn’t make it go away, and I realize that, but I feel like I woke up from one nightmare (the miscarriage) into another (the pandemic).
I’m taking it one day at a time. Physically, I feel mostly back to normal, mentally I feel frustrated and mad at myself almost daily and emotionally it just depends on the day, some days are fine, other days I’m a pile of tears, bitterness and confusion.
That all being said, I’m thankful for all that have shared their stories because it has given me hope that one day we really will have our family we’ve dreamed of. Until then, I’ll continue to lean on my support system and take it one day at a time.