I’ve been debating a whole lot about how personal I want to get with this blog. I recently went through something hard and terrifying. I am usually a pretty private person. I share with my family and close friends to meet my need for support, but don’t like all of my not-so-close friends and acquaintances to know all about my life. This is the thing: If I share about a personal loss on, say, Facebook, I may have people I know approach me and offer condolences in my day-to-day life, and sometimes I don’t want these sympathies, especially if I am having a happy moment with the loss nowhere in mind. I don’t always want to focus on loss, and I don’t want to suddenly break down in tears at work, or at the grocery store, in front of someone I don’t know and trust deeply.
However, I have not yet shared this blog on Facebook. I haven’t sent mass emails announcing its existence. And, my intentions are to heal myself and help others to heal along the way, and I am realizing that writing is a very healing catharsis for me, and reading others’ writing about painful things they have undergone is also something that is very healing for me. So, if I want to heal and help others to heal as well, it only makes sense for me to share. And, if I someday decide to share this blog with a huge audience of all of my acquaintances, I can decide then whether or not to delete the very personal posts.
So here it is: I am recovering from a miscarriage with complications. It was my second miscarriage this year.
I have a healthy 3-year-old. He was my first attempt at pregnancy and childbirth, and the attempt was absolutely successful. I conceived easily, had no complications during pregnancy, and had what my midwife announced “a perfect birth,” in the privacy of my own home, with amazing support. The moment I birthed my son was unequivocally the happiest moment of my life. The next morning, I decided I wanted to do it again. We waited awhile, though, because my partner is completely night blind, meaning he is unable to be very involved with the bedtime routine or do much nighttime parenting. We waited for our son to be sleeping well at night.
I finally got my IUD removed last October. Again, I conceived easily. I tested positive for pregnancy right around the New Year. February 28th, I went in for my first ultrasound, and there was no heartbeat. Needless to say, I was completely devastated. I went in for a D&C the same day, and recovered quickly physically. I am still recovering emotionally.
After this loss, we waited a few months. We had a busy, social spring and summer. We completely appreciated our son. He had his 3rd birthday in July. We tried again for another baby, and again, I conceived easily. In mid-August, I tested positive. This time, I was happy, yes, but in a cautious way. I didn’t tell anyone about the pregnancy this time, because one of the hardest parts about miscarriage last time was giving everyone the bad news.
This time, I made sure to get an earlier ultrasound. I made a doctor’s appointment for eight weeks, and sloughed through the next weeks, sick and tired, exhausted and constantly nauseous. My partner, D, stepped up in parenting and cooking, working and running this household like a madman. I just worked as I was able, ate as I was able, did not cook, as I was not able to, and parented the best I could. I really missed mornings with my son.
Finally, September 10 rolled around, and it was time to see the doctor. I expected to just get a pelvic exam and a Pap, along with a chat with the doctor, and then to schedule an ultrasound for later in the week. So, D went to work as usual, but promised to be there for the ultrasound. I went in, did the pee test, and talked with the doctor as expected. She did a pelvic exam, and told me that my uterus definitely felt pregnant. Then, to my surprise, she pulled out a little hand-held Ultrasound machine, and asked if I wanted to “take a peek.” Of course, I said yes. How could I not? This machine was for trans-abdominal ultrasounds, which aren’t necessarily accurate so early in pregnancy. The doctor placed it on my belly, and showed me the little screen. I watched as she located a sac, but it was small, and there was nothing visible inside. She told me that it looked like a five-week sac, so my dates may be off, or (with my prompting) maybe it stopped developing at five weeks. She also said that the machine might not be accurate. She advised me to blood test that day and two days later, so they could see if my hormone levels were rising, and she scheduled me for a trans-vaginal ultrasound three days later.
I called D as soon as I left the office, and sat in my car on the phone and bawled. I was there just six months ago, in my car sobbing, and it was happening all over again. I told D that I knew for sure that my dates were not off, so there was no other explanation except that the embryo just didn’t develop, exactly like last time.
I went home and researched. I saw a lot of people talking about retroverted uteruses (which I have). Apparently, it is really hard to get an accurate trans-abdominal ultrasound before 12 weeks when your uterus tilts back. This did give me a little bit of hope, but at this point I was really afraid to hope. So was D. We passed through the next three days like zombies. On the day of my ultrasound appointment, I told D that I felt like an animal going in for slaughter.
You already know what happened when I got there, on September 13. The ultrasound technician located the pregnancy in my uterus. This time, the embryo measured in as 7 weeks, 3 days. There was a yolk sac, and there was no heartbeat. She gently informed me that my pregnancy stopped developing a week earlier. I asked if there was any way she couldn’t see the heartbeat because my uterus is tilted. She answered that with this kind of ultrasound, she had a very good view of the pregnancy, and that the heartbeat would be very obvious. a lack of heartbeat on an embryo this size means the pregnancy will not continue. She also told us that people don’t realize that this happens in a third of all pregnancies.
Next we spoke with the doctor, who told us that most miscarriages she sees are related to age. I am 36 now, and D is 48. Our doctor told us that she didn’t marry until age 36, and she suffered five miscarriages before birthing two children. Later, I read that, after age 35, chances of miscarriage go up to 25%, and if your partner is 40 or older and you are over 35, this actually doubles the risk of miscarriage. So ladies, take my advice, don’t wait. You will never feel like you are ready. There is no perfect time to get pregnant. Seriously. Take it from someone who waited too long.
The doctor then gave us our options, which included waiting for a natural miscarriage or scheduling a D&C. Having gone through the D&C last time, I really wanted to let it happen naturally this time. This was partly because I read that D&C’s can increase the risk of further miscarriages due to scarring, and partly because I tend to like to do things the natural way, when and if possible. I asked the doctor if there was something I could take to make it happen sooner, though, because my last pregnancy stopped developing at seven weeks, and I did not know or have any signs of miscarriage until the ultrasound I got at 12 weeks. My hormone levels were still actually high at this time, and I did not want to go through another month of feeling sick for nothing. The doctor talked to me about RU-486, but told me I would have to schedule a consultation with another doctor to get it.
That was Thursday. The following Tuesday, I went back in for the consultation. The doctor gave me RU-486, which blocks the hormones that are needed to sustain the pregnancy from entering the placenta. Normally, two days later, women take misoprostol to induce contractions. I told the doctor I did not want to take misoprostol, as I took it in my twenties (to end an unwanted pregnancy), and got horribly sick, with vomiting and diarrhea and labor-like cramps that I had to simply endure as I vomited any painkillers I tried to ingest. The doctor listened to my story, and basically told me that following RU-486 with misoprostol is the normal protocol and her recommendation, but I could do what I wanted in the privacy of my own home. She gave me the RU-486 in her office, and I swallowed them, and she wrote me a prescription for misoprostol, which I did not pick up.
Over the next few days, I had some mild cramps and spotting, as well as stronger nausea. I didn’t work much at all, as I felt too ill. Friday, I got acupuncture to reduce nausea and induce bleeding. I slept a lot, and tried to tell my body what it needed to do. I prayed for it all to go smoothly, and for it to happen soon, so that I could just feel normal again.
I sometimes had thoughts that I may be headed for a nightmarish adventure because of the risk I was taking to do this at home, but mostly I just tried to ignore those thoughts.
By Saturday, I was feeling a little better, and we decided to go for a hike in the woods, as I figured moving and walking may help to bring on the bleeding. However, on the drive to the hiking trail, I suddenly felt a small cramp followed by a gush of blood. I put my hand between my legs, and it was immediately covered in blood. This was at 1:15 in the afternoon. I told D I was bleeding, and that I needed to go home. I sat on his sweatshirt as more gushes of blood came on. Luckily, I got through most of the 10-minute car ride with no more bleeding. As we pulled up to our house though, I felt more gushes, which drenched the sweatshirt I was sitting on. D went inside and grabbed me a towel, and I went straight for the toilet. I told him to take our son out for a while, so I could get situated. Mainly, I was just really happy that it was all going to be over soon.
A half an hour later, I started to worry. The gushes of blood were coming quickly and heavily. I had made it to the upstairs bathroom, but didn’t know if I could make it to my bed, or even if I could lie in my bed without soaking through the entire mattress. I thought back to friends’ stories of miscarriage. I remembered one close friend telling me about miscarrying on an airplane. I didn’t see how that was possible to be anywhere but on the toilet with the amount of blood I was losing. I wondered what was normal. I convinced myself this was normal, because I didn’t want to think of the alternative, which meant heading the to ER. I got dizzy, then. I lay on the bathroom floor on top of a towel until the feeling that I was going to pass out went away. I called D and told him to come home, now. I called the on-call doctor, and explained all of my symptoms. She told me I shouldn’t soak more than two pads for more than two hours, and said other stuff about getting dizzy, which was confusing. Something about how I may feel dizzy, but if I was getting dizzy from sitting up, I should head to the ER. I had that dizzy spell, but it wasn’t because I sat up. It just happened. She recommended I take the misoprostol, and said it may help my body efficiently expel the pregnancy. I didn’t have it, though, because I never picked it up because I had no intention of taking it.
Time passed, and I kept bleeding. I had two more dizzy spells. I wasn’t sure how many pads I was soaking, because I was often on the toilet. For sure, though, one or two of those gushes was soaking way through a pad, as well as my underwear. D put our son down for a nap, which he didn’t like, because I am usually the one to do it. As I sat through another dizzy spell on the toilet, I heard him yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!” and crying, and I felt like I was getting further and further into a haze, and he was yelling for me to come back to this plane, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.
I prayed and prayed. I made it to my bed and lay down. It did seem like the gushes were coming less often, so that gave me hope. I kept passing blood clots and tissue, so I figured my body was successfully passing the pregnancy. D sat next to me throughout, distracting me by reading the news from his IPad. We called my sister to come and help with our son. She made me some raspberry leaf tea, and played with my son when he woke up. We decided to call our midwife, to see if and when we should head into the ER. She said that people are often surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of blood involved in miscarriages, and that it was viable for me to do this at home, as long as I don’t pass out or soak more than two pads in a half hour. I told her that it seemed to be slowing down, but that I had soaked that much earlier on. She said it was okay to bleed that much during the peak of a miscarriage, but that it should slow down after. I told her that I had felt like I was going to pass out a couple of times, but didn’t, and she said she knew that I had a history of anemia, and it was okay to get dizzy, but not to pass out. I had another dizzy spell while I was talking to her, so I passed the phone to D. She told him to get some nourishment into me quickly, and to call her back in an hour.
I stayed lying on my side, and D went to the grocery store. I felt some bleeding, but not like before. I felt exhausted, but not like I was going to pass out. It seemed to be coming to an end. D came home and made me a banana smoothie. I drank it and felt better. I got up to check my pad right before it was time to call our midwife again. It was soaked through, as were my underwear. I sat on the toilet, and a big clump of tissue passed. I lay back down, and still felt like it was about over. We called our midwife, and she said I sounded a lot stronger. We decided that tissue I just passed was probably the end of it, as the bleeding was slowing, and I felt like it had shifted. She told me I needed to go into the hospital if I kept bleeding heavily, but if I kept slowing down, it was okay to stay home. I stayed lying down and sipped my smoothie.
A little while later, maybe another half hour or so, I felt another dizzy spell come on, and felt nauseous. I had already vomited once early on, and thought I might be about to again. I coughed out a kind of stomach heave, and felt myself pass a bunch of blood right then. Then another bunch of blood passed immediately after. I told D I needed to go to the hospital, as this was not okay, and that I could not walk to the car and may fill the car with blood if I did. He called the midwife once more and she confirmed we needed to call 911 at this point. We told my sister we were calling, and she hightailed it out of there with my son, so he wouldn’t have to see me being carried out on a stretcher.
The ambulance arrived almost immediately, and before I knew it, five young men in uniform filled my bedroom, while I lay there, clad in a camisole and underwear soaked through in blood. Awkward, anyone?
I blinked and said, “There are a lot of you.” They asked me all the normal questions and debated how to get me down out narrow steep stairway and into the ambulance. When I told them my name (which is Leilani), one of them remarked excitedly that this is what he is going to name his daughter, who will be born in one month. “Sweet!” I said, really happy for him, to be a parent, even as I was losing my second pregnancy.
Ultimately, they gave me some padding to put between my legs, and had me scoot onto a tarp-like spread with handles so that could carry me down the stairs. I sat up with my knees pulled into my chest. It was really hard for me to sit up because I was so weak at this point, and as they carried me down the stairs, I felt blood gushing out of me and soaking my feet. As they carried me out the front door and into the street and I continued to answer their questions, I looked up and saw a group of guys gawking. See, we live at the border of a residential and business districts. Right across the street from our house is a parking lot adjacent to a popular taqueria, and it was dinnertime. Luckily, I was soon ensconced in the ambulance. D rode up front, so he was thankfully next to me every step of the way.
“Have you ever been in an ambulance?” asked one of the EMTs.
“No,” I answered. “This is an adventure, for sure.”
He laughed. “Welcome to our office.”
They then got an IV into my arm, which was not easy, because all of my normally “really good veins (as I have always been told by doctors)” had gone into hibernation. They checked my blood pressure, which was low, and my pulse, which was high. I had another dizzy spell, but made it through, and we arrived at the hospital. I kept gushing blood throughout.
In the ER, they moved me onto another table, continued to check my vitals, gave me more fluid, and ordered blood transfusions. This chunk of time is the haziest in my memory. I just know the nurse said that I was fine as long as my blood pressure stayed in the 90s. Various people kept poking me, to put in another IV and draw blood to test my blood count. I managed to crack a joke at one point. One nurse asked me my pain level on a scale of 1 to 10 right as another nurse poked me with a needle, and I said, “Well, with that needle she’s poking into me…” and they all laughed. I even managed some conversation with the EMT intern, asking him about his program.
Then, D and I were left alone in the room for a few minutes. The blood pressure machine was running automatically every few minutes, and while we were alone, it showed my blood pressure had dropped in the 50’s, something like 59 over 37. The machine started beeping and didn’t stop. D told me to press the call button. I was having another dizzy spell. I pressed the button as he ran into the hallway for help. I felt weaker than ever. The EMT intern ran in and started messing with cords and shook my shoulder. I was not passed out, but felt like I was fading. I made it though the dizzy spell and the nurse came back in. My BP had gone up a little bit. The doctor came in and started looking at my eyes. I asked if I was going to be okay, and they told me I was weak from losing a lot of blood, and my pulse had slowed down (which they called bradycardia), but I was now stable, and that I would be feeling better shortly.
Soon after, the blood arrived. They pumped it into me at a rate of six minutes per unit, which made me really cold, as my veins were filled with someone else’s cold, refrigerated blood. Any other time, I may have been worried about contamination from transfusions, but at this point, I just wanted to feel better and accepted it without hesitation. Another doctor came in then to do a pelvic exam, and my legs shook as he performed it, and my teeth chattered due to the cold blood. As he pushed on my abdomen, I felt more blood gushing out. He had been talking about an ultrasound, but it was decided at this point I would go straight in for a D&C to stop the bleeding.
The OB-GYN then came in and introduced herself. She reserved me a room in the postpartum area, and soon after I was wheeled in for surgery. D stayed next to me until then, when they directed him to the waiting area. I met the anesthesiologist, who was the same one who treated me in February for my last D&C. I told him I remembered him, and everyone laughed, before telling me it wasn’t fair that I had to go through two of these in the same year. I agreed. They decided not to put me under, as I did not have an empty stomach (I think it was about 9PM by then). He told me he’d give me local anesthesia and I would be conscious, but probably would not remember anything. He then told me he was putting some Valium into my IV to relax me, and the next thing I remember is being told it was over.
The OB-GYN told me that there had actually been about 80% of the pregnancy tissue inside of me despite all of that bleeding; my body had not wanted to let it go. So much for doing it naturally, in the privacy of my own home, huh?
Everything went smoothly from then on. I spent the night in the hospital so they could continue to observe me. The bed was uncomfortable and I did not sleep well. Despite everything that had happened, I did not experience much pain, so did not take any painkillers throughout except the local anesthetic for the D&C, so I was pretty clear-headed. In the morning, I still felt very weak, and my blood count was still down at 23. The doctor told me I could go home, but would be very weak for 4-6 weeks, or I could receive more blood transfusions, which would help me feel stronger faster. I decided to go for the blood, as I felt very weak, and I spent a very boring and confining day in the hospital, handcuffed to the IV. The blood came into my body much more slowly this time, at a rate of one unit per 2 hours.
They eventually released me at 7PM, with a blood count of 27. I could stand up and walk around without feeling incredibly dizzy by then. My sister picked us up, and I was joyfully reunited with my little boy, who had spent a fun weekend with his Auntie Hanna, whom he loves. This is the first time I was away from him for that long, and now I am determined to go away for a fun weekend with D.
That was last night, and today we had a nice, slow day of recovery. I’ve been tired, but a superfood smoothie and a chai infused with espresso helped a bit. D stayed home from work for most of the day, so I slept in nice and late. My little boy just woke up from his nap, and we are cuddled in bed watching Elmo.
I’ve been crying intermittently throughout the day, and D has shared with me how stricken he was when my BP dropped so low. He was so afraid they were going to lose me. I am so thankful for modern medicine; I would have most likely died without it.
Pregnancy is scary business. The gates of life and the gates of death are one and the same.
At this point, I don’t know if I want to try again. I am seriously considering adoption. I felt so relieved when considering this option the other day; the idea of having another baby without having to go through pregnancy again is very enticing. But, there’s that other stubborn part of me that wants to try one more time, to make another one of my own flesh and blood. I just don’t know right now.
I am also so, so thankful for my life and my health and my man and my beautiful, amazing son, and the miracle that I did successfully conceive and birth before all of this disappointing heartbreak. Life is such a gift, every moment of it, and I am very painfully aware of that right now.