A girlfriend who is currently living in Asia with her husband sent me an email last week. (She just gave birth to her first son today! (Congratulations!) He's pretty darn cute.) She's a member of an ex-pat listserv and someone had posed a question about miscarriage. My friend, knowing I had miscarried about a year before Hamburglar was conceived, forwarded the message to me and asked for my thoughts. So, I thought I would write a post about miscarriage. Because it's so very common but no one really talks about it so you feel so very alone.
Before Hamburglar was born, Mr. Adventure and I weren't trying to have a baby. I was teaching adjunct at the local University (just 3 chemistry labs) and Mr. Adventure was in school full time. I was applying to grad school, we only had one dog and we were living in the tiniest apartment in the world. I hadn't even noticed that I'd missed a period yet and I can't remember why I went to the University Health Center. All I really remember is the nurse practitioner having me pee in a cup, then coming back with the news that I was pregnant. I was only about 4-6 weeks along, I think. She recommended an OB to me, I called and scheduled an appointment because I had had a tubal pregnancy when I was 17 and I was really worried. I was on my way home from the University Health Center when my mother called me to tell me my grandmother had died. I was still reeling from my pregnancy news and I wasn't sure hoe Mr. Adventure was going to react.
When I told Mr. Adventure I was pregnant, he was surprised, then he said, "Do you know how much shit we need to do?" And he started listing all the things we would need to prepare for the baby. His excitement and reaction helped me become excited about the news. Then, when I told my mother I was pregnant, her first words were, "You're probably going to miscarry anyway." Now, I'm not saying she's a witch, but she likely practices witchcraft.
Anyway, we went to the doctor, saw the heartbeat, we were around 6 weeks, I think? I don't remember. We went back a month later and the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler thing. So we had an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. My body didn't know I wasn't pregnant anymore, so the placenta kept growing, but "the fetus wasn't viable." We were devastated. I had started knitting a blanket (that I still haven't finished), we had been working on a name list, I'd told everyone I was pregnant. I didn't want to go through and tell everyone I had miscarried, so I had some awkward conversations with people about 6-9 months later, when I went to visit friends and families out west. That was awkward.
The doctor, we will call him Doctor Liar, said we could wait for my body to expel the pregnancy naturally or we could do a D&C. I decided to wait. Liar told me that it would be like normal period cramps. During this time, I had interviewed with and accepted my current position with the government and started my Master's program. I had no idea how long it would take for my body to realize I wasn't pregnant. I have a midwife friend in Oregon who suggested I try self-talk, so I was telling myself things like, "It's okay to let go. You're not pregnant anymore. Let go."
I started my government job on a Wednesday. On Friday, I started having really bad pains. It was obvious I needed to leave. I told my boss I had a really bad migraine and needed to go to the doctor, I apologised and told her I would be back Monday with a doctor's note and I left.
It hurt so bad. And I was driving myself. I had to stop every few minutes because the pain was so bad. I went to the doctor's office and the nurse came into the waiting room and told me to go home and take Ibuprofen. I have still never experienced pain so intense in my life. (I think part of the reason it took me so long to realize I was in labor for realz is because I was waiting for the pain to get as intense as it did when I miscarried and it never did). The nurse made me feel like such an inconvenience that I left. It took me so long to get home because I was still having intense, painful contractions. Mr. Adventure thought I was going to die. I was in bed for two days in so much pain. If it wasn't for my midwife friend, I don't know what I would have done. She had recently miscarried as well and was very comforting.
Now for the gross part. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU DO NOT WANT GRAPHIC DETAILS:
So, clearly, this was not like normal period cramps. Mr. Adventure was at school and I didn't want to worry him. I let him know that I was at home and okay, but encouraged him to stay at school, because I figured it would be worse if he were there, watching me. I was just hanging out on the toilet, in pain, having contractions, and something started coming out of me. It was this weird, squishy sack thing and it scared the shit out of me. I didn't know what to do, so I popped it, but I had no idea what it was and I was freaking out, but calmly freaking out, if that makes sense. It was horrible. So, so horrible.
IT IS NOW SAFE TO RESUME READING
I was so unprepared for this to happen. I called the on-call doctor for Dr. Liar's office and she was lovely. I don't remember what she said, but she waylaid my fears and basically said, "If you soak a pad an hour for more than two hours, go to the hospital." And I was okay. I survived, even though I was so sick. And poor Mr. Adventure was taking care of me and had no one to lay the burden of his own grief on. He didn't tell me about his own grief until much, much later.
Needless to say, I decided to switch doctor's. I ordered a copy of my medical records and when I went to pick them up, I asked the receptionist to deliver a message to the nurse for me. And I said, loud enough for everyone in the waiting to hear, "Please let her know that the only thing more painful than feeling the placenta from my unborn child detach from my uterine wall is how painfully bad she is at her job." And I left.
Miscarriage is very common, but a lot of people don't talk about it or hear about it until it happens to them. It's like you suddenly become a member of a secret society and you discover that many of the strong and amazing and beautiful women in your life are members of this sad club of invisible loss.
I found comfort in statistics. I read there was less than a 3% chance that I would miscarry twice in a row, so when we decided to actually try to have a baby, that was good to know. I was worried throughout my pregnancy and I had to keep telling myself over and over, "There is no reason this will not be a normal, healthy, pregnancy." It was my mantra. Every time I felt the irrational crazies/anxiety coming on, I would just say to myself, "There's no reason this won't be a normal, healthy, pregnancy."
Sometimes, I had to say it a lot and I still didn't believe it, especially early on. Then there was the 12 week appointment with my midwife when I was pregnant with Hamburglar. She couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler thing, and Mr. Adventure and I looked at each other, because this had happened before. So she brought us to the Ultrasound tech. My heart was beating about a million beats per second, and we saw tiny little Hamburglar, jumping around like a little bean and doing little flips and whatnot. That was the first time in my life I cried tears of relief.
So, for my sisters out there in the secret society of sad, you are not alone. There are many of us out here that have been where you are. And it isn't your fault. And it's okay. And it's not okay. And it's okay that it's not okay. And if I could reach through the internet and hug you, I would. And just remember, if and when you choose to get pregnant again, there is no reason you will not have a normal, healthy pregnancy.