It's crazy how quickly things can change. On Thursday, March 15th, we saw and heard our baby's strong heartbeat.
The following Monday, we discovered it had stopped beating. For reasons we will never know, our precious little one had died.
We shared the news with broken hearts and received an outpouring of love from friends and family. What surprised me was hearing from so many of my friends who had experienced the same tragedy. I'd heard that miscarriages were common but I never thought it would happen to me. 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in four. There are so many of us. Too many. I never knew how common it was because no one ever talks about it. Why not?? I wanted to write about my experience to 1) help you understand if you've never gone through it and 2) to comfort those who may be in the middle of it. If you are, I am so so sorry.
I started spotting when I was around 7 weeks along. I wasn't too worried because that is pretty common and I'd experienced that with both of my other children. After a few days, I went in anyway, just to be sure. They did an ultrasound and the baby looked great. The doctor told me I had a subchorionic hemorrhage but that it was pretty common and not a big deal. Basically the placenta had unattached from the wall of the uterus a little bit and it was causing some bleeding. Normally these things resolve themselves. I believed her because I'd had the same diagnosis with Ander and he turned out perfectly. She told me to just keep an eye on the bleeding (whatever that meant). I went home reassured (and with drugs for nausea, hallelujah).
I still felt pretty sick while taking zofran and phenergan but at least I'd stopped puking. Monday morning I woke up and felt much better than I had in weeks. I told Brandon, "I feel pretty good. Kinda makes me nervous..." but I thought maybe the drugs were finally working. Around 4pm I started feeling mild pain in my pelvic area. It wasn't comfortable to be up and moving around. I hoped my uterus was just expanding, like google said might be the case. I tried to make dinner through the discomfort but I was relieved when Brandon got home and took over for me. I laid on the couch, worrying.
I had a 6:00 appointment scheduled that evening at my home to interview a midwife (I was planning to go the home birth route this time) that I'd heard great things about. However, around 5:45 I went to the bathroom and passed a big clot of blood. My pad was also soaked through. I called the midwife who was on her way to my home and asked her what I should do. She said she had an ultrasound machine at her home that I was welcome to use. I wanted to try that before going to the ER because I was worried about the cost. I drove to her house and she did the ultrasound but it wasn't a very good machine and she could see the baby but wasn't sure about the heartbeat because she couldn't zoom in. I bled a lot more in her bathroom after the ultrasound. She gave me something called Shepherd's Purse, an herb that is supposed to help with internal bleeding. She said to take it every half hour until the bleeding stopped. I left with a fake smile on my face.
I got in my car and cried. I was pretty sure I was miscarrying. I called Brandon and told him I was going to the ER. There was just too much blood and I was scared. It was so scary walking into the ER by myself. I was cramping pretty badly and blood was seeping through my jeans. Just as they were leading me to my room, I felt another gush of blood and rushed to the bathroom. Afterwards, the bathroom looked like a murder scene. I had blood on my hands, every piece of clothing, the floor, the sink, etc. They asked me to do a urine sample while I was in there but the cup just filled with blood so they told me to throw it away. They took me to room 13 and had me change into a hospital gown and mesh undies with a huge pad inside.
I sat on the bed while various people came in to tell me their names and what they would be doing for me. I got my vitals taken and an IV put in pretty quickly. Then I just waited. And bled.
I let my mom know what was going on and she wanted to come right away. I told her I might be gone by the time she got there since she was 30+ minutes away. Little did I know.
Brandon put our boys to bed, got our neighbor to come over, and rushed to the hospital. He got there right before they took me to another room for the ultrasound. I was so glad he was there. The U/S tech got started and I was trying hard to read his face. He had a really good poker face. He said he couldn't see well enough so he needed to do it vaginally. He stayed there for a while, looking at different angles and taking various measurements on his computer. Finally I asked, "Well, is there a heartbeat?!" He said he wasn't allowed to say. I looked over at Brandon who could see the screen and he just shook his head. I knew then we'd lost her.
*Note: Obviously we never knew the gender. But I had an inkling. So I will refer to the baby as "her" from now on.
I started to cry, gently at first, because I was in denial. I had to hear the doctor say it. The tech finally finished and said, "I'm not allowed to tell you the results but you can probably tell from all this bleeding..." I started to cry for real then. He wheeled me back to room 13 and my parents were there waiting. I broke down in their arms, just sobbing. I needed my momma there. She understood more than anyone else.
When I was done crying, we talked for a little while. They tried to cheer me up with embarrassing stories. I pretended like it was working. Eventually the doctor came in and confirmed the death. I cried some more. He said that during the ultrasound the baby had moved even lower down so it was close to passing. He wanted me to wait there a little while longer and then he'd do a vaginal exam to help pull any remaining "tissue" out so I would stop bleeding.
Finally they moved me to another room for the "procedure". The doctor spread me open with a speculum and started pulling clots out using really long white q-tip swabs. I couldn't see what he was doing but it seemed like he was pulling out a lot. Eventually he was pretty sure he'd gotten everything so he put his tools away. He did another ultrasound to make sure it was clear but she was still there. He gave me two options: schedule a D&C (which costs as much as a live birth) or take a drug the next day to help the baby come on her own. I chose option two. We had a moment with the doctor where he started to cry and said his wife had miscarried the week before. The pain was still raw. He said he was sorry for acting like a jerk. We cried together.
I signed my name on some lines and then we got to go home- stocked with pads for my bed/couch, mesh undies, and giant pads. On the way home, I said to Brandon, "We just lost a child. We have three kids and one is in heaven". It was kind of surreal. I think I was in shock. We got home at 11:30pm and I gratefully took some ibuprofen (the cramping was still pretty bad).
Brandon had to drive his mom home (she had come to take over for our neighbor) and so I just laid on the couch for a while, telling my closest friends, and googling all my questions. Eventually I slowly got up (I was really dizzy from the blood loss), went upstairs, brushed my teeth in a daze, and got into bed. It seemed strange to be home, doing every day things, after what had just happened. I read my book for a little while without really reading it. Brandon got home and got in bed with me, scratching my back while I cried some more. We talked for a little while and then Brandon fell asleep. I tried so hard to sleep. I counted sheep. I switched positions a million times. I tried to turn my mind off. Eventually (I've used that word a lot.. apparently everything was taking a long time in my mind) I dozed off around 2am. I woke up at 3am to use the bathroom and I hardly slept after that. I was relieved when the sun came up and I could get out of bed.
I sent Brandon off pretty early to get my prescription so I could get it over with. I inserted the Cytotec at 10:30am and then took a nap because I was exhausted. I woke up, had lunch and watched a movie. During the movie I started cramping and passed some more blood clots. But then the cramping went away. I was frustrated because the doctor had said it should work within 1-36 hours. I wanted it to be one. I didn't cramp or bleed any more that day.
I saw Brandon getting ready for work the next day and it made me mad. I asked him, "How can you go to work? I'm totally out of it! I can hardly function!" I was nauseous, light headed, out of breath, etc and I didn't want to be alone when I passed the baby. What if it was scary? What if it was painful? But still, I wanted it to happen. I wanted it to be over. He said he could work from home. All day I just laid there on the couch, waiting. I was nauseous because my body was still 100% sure I was pregnant. I threw up my lunch and was really depressed to still be sick even though my baby was dead. I was pretty sure I'd have to get a D&C that we couldn't afford because NOTHING was happening. I had a follow up appointment scheduled for Friday morning and if the baby still hadn't passed, we'd have to schedule a D&C. I read that raspberry leaf tea was supposed to help so I drank a few mugs of that. I wasn't that hopeful.
That night I wrote down all the questions swirling around in my head.
Should I look at the baby when she comes?
Will I be able to tell when she has?
Should I bury her if I can?
How do I remember her? I have nothing to remember this child by. No onesie I bought when I found out. No little shoes or socks, not even a good ultrasound photo.
Why am I so sad? She was only 8.5 weeks along. Is it because I wasted 8.5 weeks of pregnancy feeling absolutely horrible the whole time and then the 3+ months it will take my body to recover before we can try again? Is it because it's costing so much money that we don't have on a dead child I'll never get to hold?
I don't know. But it sucks. It really sucks.
Thursday morning I called my doctor to see if I could do another round of Cytotec. They gave me a double dose of what I'd tried on Tuesday. I inserted it at 11:30a.
I read for a few hours, just hoping that I'd start cramping. Two hours passed, three, four, five. I was pretty sure it hadn't worked. I went for a walk around the neighborhood at 5pm. I came home and read some more. Then at 6:30 I went to the bathroom and out she came. It was obviously my baby in the gestational sac, placenta and all. I could feel her head, body, and tiny limbs. I put her in a cup on the windowsill and went to eat dinner. I didn't have much of an appetite. I was feeling grateful that I was able to pass her in a peaceful way with no cramping and little bleeding. I'd read stories that were a lot worse. I was so relieved that I wouldn't have to do a D&C.
That night after we put the kids to bed, I put the baby in a bag and wrapped her in fabric with a little bow. I put her in a little box with flowers on top that had been given to us by so many friends. Brandon and I wrote her little notes and put them inside. I cried some more. Brandon said he was sorry- he knew that I had felt this deeper than him. I can understand that. When I see that line appear on the pregnancy test, the baby is already so real to me. The constant nausea is a good reminder too. I had already sacrificed so much and loved this child so deeply. It's harder for him to understand my feeling of loss. I can forgive that- although it does make this trial more lonely.
The next day was sunny and beautiful. I had my follow up appointment in the morning and an U/S confirmed I was empty. While the boys were napping, we buried her in the yard.
This experience has changed me. I am more compassionate. I am more understanding of the myriad of women, even just in my life, who have gone through this. I snuggle my babies longer. The other day, Leo was having a hard time napping so I jumped in and we had a picnic in his crib instead.
I was asking some of my good friends about miscarriages and wondering if those babies get another chance to come to Earth. One friend shared this thought with me:
"I feel like sometimes, Heavenly Father sends these spirits to us to only receive a body, because it’s part of His plan, and these choice spirits are too immaculate for this world we live in. So they return with him and wait to greet us on the other side.
But I also know our bodies were made with divinity, and were so specially engineered by Heavenly Father to let our body know when a pregnancy wouldn’t make it to term, or maybe wouldn’t be complete, and naturally let go, so that next chance it had, it would be perfect. And when that happens I feel like the spirit that would have entered that body waits for the next chance! Right now, we lean on inspiration and the spirit."
Brandon and I have been so loved through this experience. Our kitchen has turned into a menagerie. We have felt the prayers of so many on our behalf, helping to lift us up and make this trial a little easier to bear. Thank you, thank you.
My nausea is getting a little better every day. My bleeding has lessened. It's hard to think about going back to life before this pregnancy. I've been so sick that I have't exercised in over a month. Nor have I left the house much. I still feel light headed and out of breath but I'm hopeful that will go away soon. Once I start exercising again, I'll start to feel more like myself. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know we have hard days ahead but I also know that wonderful things are on their way.
The HCG stayed in my system for 6 weeks after my miscarriage. I was sick that whole time. I went in to get blood drawn every Monday morning and each time I prayed it would be my last. They couldn't tell me why it was taking so long. My body was just holding on hard to that pregnancy. I was also anemic which caused me to be very weak and tired. Going up the stairs was a challenge. An iron supplement really helped with that. Then I went to New Zealand at the end of April and amazingly, was no longer sick. When I got home I did my last blood test which confirmed the HCG had zeroed out. Hallelujah! I've been doing really well and feeling like myself again since then. :)