A few weeks ago, an Internet friend reached out about a guest post. It was a story she had already written, and she wanted it to live somewhere outside her hard drive, outside her heart.
For weeks, I’ve struggled with how to frame this story. How to present it. How to care for the incredibly important and fragile thing I was entrusted with.
I’ve struggled long enough to realize that there’s no need for me to attempt any of those things. Instead, I’ll continue to do the only thing to do I ever set out to do with this blog: to share a story. Only this time, I’ll pause my own to offer up another voice and another narrative. Sometimes, passing the mic is the single most significant thing we can do.
Hers is a story that will be far too relatable for many of us. Which makes it all the more important to share.
Below is a story, that I wrote the day after a sleepless night from pain and discomfort. I had to find an outlet for the grief and confusion and this is what happened. It is raw and real, and there isn’t really a happy ending, and for that I’m sorry. But it does get better over time. The pain lessens, and seeds of hope begin to sprout anew.
But this is so common, and yet so unknown. So many women suffer in silence. Because they don’t know what to tell others, because they fear how others will react, because of religious reasons, because they don’t want the fact that they are trying to conceive made public yet… for whatever reason, miscarriages are hardly ever mentioned and when they are it is in hushed tones with a tinge of pity and the fear that it could be you.
So I just wanted to share my story, in the hopes that someone else reading it and going through the same thing might feel less scared and less alone. You will survive it. You will never forget it. But you will be able to move on with your life.
Let me know if you’d like anything further.
[A Friend Who I Wish Didn’t Have to Be So Strong]
Trigger warning: This is a true story of what it is like to experience a miscarriage, also medically termed a “spontaneous abortion”. There will be some gory details, but an estimated 25% of all pregnancies end this way, so buckle up.
It started out as a little spotting. Just some light rusty red/brown blood. A quick internet search assured me it was nothing to worry about.
The next day, there were some small, bright red clots. This spiked my anxiety a little. Again, the internet said “it’s fine”, and so did a close friend who is a PA. Surely I was fine.
The next day was hardly anything at all, looks like I really am fine.
But then the day after that, at work, I feel a rush of blood. Any girl who’s ever had a period knows the feeling. I had been wearing a panty liner daily now, and thank god because I was wearing khakis.
I go to the bathroom and sure enough there was a bucket of bright red blood now, and a clot the size of a ping pong ball. Now my anxiety was full force and I was in panic mode.
I call my CNM (certified nurse midwife) and explain what’s going on.
She was very calm and supportive, and maybe I was imagining it in my own high strung state, but I swear I could hear fear and maybe pity in her voice as she told me “if it continues like this for an hour or more, please go straight to the emergency room”.
There was no hope of an appointment same day as it was already quite late, but she somehow found me an early one the next morning.
After hanging up, I promptly found the first abandoned room I could and sat down on the floor and sobbed. A horrid sense of grief and foreboding washed over me. This was not well planned as I had no tissues or anything whatsoever to blow my nose… my apologies to the carpet.
I called my husband and explained through tears what was happening and what the nurse told me. He very sweetly tried to calm me, to assure me it could be okay, and to wait until tomorrow to see for sure.
Of course, my focus was completely shot for the day.
I was about 7 weeks 5 days pregnant at that point.
I struggled to fall asleep, all the worst fears running through my mind. I kept focusing on the hope, that maybe it would be ok, tons of women experience vaginal bleeding in the first trimester and go on to have healthy babies.
I was wide awake at 5 a.m. and just gave up and got up. I made coffee for hubs, decaf for me, because I still held hope that I needed decaf.
We got to the appointment a half hour early, because I was so tense I could not focus or think of anything else or sit still until I KNEW THE TRUTH. Either way. I just cannot stand not knowing.
The longest 15 minutes of my life, in that waiting room.
The ultrasound tech called us back to the room, confirmed my name and birth date.
Date of birth.
How lucky we all are to have one of those.
She noticed I had just been there the week before. I confirmed that yes, I had just been in not 8 days ago, and that scan had showed a little embryo sac and a yolk, but no definitive fetus or heartbeat.
She had also noted that it was measuring smaller than it should have given my LMP (last menstrual period) date, but I have an irregular cycle so we figured it had all just happened a week or two later than I originally thought. All had seemed well.
“What pregnancy is this for you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, this is not the best experience the first time around.”
She’s just trying to be kind.
As she’s talking I feel another rush of blood. I’m wearing a cloth pad I sewed myself (yes, I’m that kind of crazy crunchy), one of the extra absorbent ones.
I go to the bathroom to get undressed for the exam, and sure enough the pad is totally soaked through. Thank god I wore black pants because the underwear are stained too, and I have to go straight to work after.
Luckily the nurse has an extra plastic biohazard bag, and a fresh pad.
I lay down, feet in those horrid stirrups. She apologizes for how cold the gel is about to be, and she’s not wrong.
I watch on the screen as she finds, measures, and photographs my left ovary, right ovary, cervix, while chatting about nothing. Does a transverse and a lateral scan of my uterus. Hubby is just silently holding my hand, keeping me calm, and I love him so much in this moment.
She then starts fishing around, photographing and measuring things in the screen, not talking. Her silence is scary.
“You aren’t talking anymore, is that bad?”
A few moments of silence, the wand stops.
“We aren’t really supposed to diagnose or tell patients anything, the doctor will be in after me and I just want to make sure I get all the information for her.”
And in that moment, I know.
I know the truth.
That last shred of hope, I let it go.
One tear falls, I look away from the monitor and just stare at the wall until she’s finally done and I can get up and get dressed again.
She leaves without a word.
I’m pacing the room like a caged tiger, hubs trying so hard to distract me and get me to smile. I just feel numb, but I can feel a hurricane of emotion heading towards me, like storm clouds in the distance.
The doctor comes in, sits down, gets right to the point.
“I looked at your photos from last week and today, and they look different because there is no longer a yolk sac, no embryo. You meet the diagnostic criteria for a miscarriage.”
She says things like “it’s no one’s fault” and “we don’t know why this happens” and “it’s nature’s way of taking care of something that wasn’t developing properly”.
She never says I’m sorry.
Never offers comfort or compassion.
Never asks how I’m feeling.
At least she made eye contact.
She says 70% of women will pass the tissue on their own. The bleeding might get intense. Recommends an appointment with my provider once ‘it’s all over’ to make sure there’s no remaining tissue to get infected.
Never mentions the option of a D&C, or the fact that we don’t know my blood type, so if I’m Rh negative and the baby was Rh positive this could cause problems. I have my doubts about using the same place for the next one.
But all these thoughts come later. Right now I’m just in shock.
“Take all the time you need in this room before you check out”, she leaves without a backward glance.
And then I’m in my husband’s arms, sobbing into his shirt. He just holds me and rubs my back. Says nice things like it will all be okay, we can try again someday, this is super common.
We go for a walk. I don’t want to go back to work, but I kind of do because at least it will keep my mind occupied. He heads home, and to work I go. The blood is fairly heavy on and off all day. It’s even worse the next, and the cramping starts too.
It is very difficult to focus on anything or anyone when all you can think every minute you’re awake is “I am currently in the process of miscarrying. Right now.”
This was sort of a surprise to begin with. We hadn’t told anyone in our family or at work yet, precisely because of this fear. I thought this was ridiculous and wanted to tell the world, felt that surely I was young and healthy and this would all be fine. I was wrong. This fear is well founded.
My husband is my rock these dark days, he is so wonderful and supportive. He lets me feel whatever I’m feeling, pours me wine, holds me. He put away all the baby things we had started to accumulate so that I don’t have to see them anymore.
I had only told my very closest girlfriends, because you only tell people you’d be okay telling about a miscarriage. So I have to tell them what happened when they ask for updates.
They are very understanding, supportive, and sympathetic. They all tell me dozens of stories of their own, their sister, their mom, their friends. Why does no one talk about this until it happens to someone you know?
One even bakes me cookies, on her graduation day.
That’s true friendship right there.
Bright sides: I can now have all the alcohol, pain killers, and real coffee I want again. I take advantage of all these things.
Over the weekend, about 4 days later at a pizza place, I feel a rush of blood and something come away. The pad is soaked, underwear are ruined, thankfully I learned my lesson and carry extras now.
There’s a clump of tissue about the size of a deck of cards, and I think it must surely be over now.
The blood is very heavy, all day, and into the night. I’m awake at 3am with the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced.
Painkillers, sleep aids, and a heating pad do nothing. More large clumps pass, and eventually the cramping eases.
I’ve cried all the tears I have, and I just want it to be done now. A miscarriage looks like your worst and longest period of your entire life, times a hundred.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is I can eat sushi until I’m sick again. Big plans tonight.
I know time heals all wounds.
I know we will try again.
I know this happens to many women, up to 25% of known pregnancies (the number is likely even higher but many happen before the woman even knows she’s pregnant, and it seems like just a few days late period).
Logic can’t touch emotion.
Logic can’t take away the fact that I’ll never even know if it was a little boy or girl.
What color her eyes would’ve been.
If he would have had my nose or my husband’s.
What her laugh would’ve sounded like.
What he would dream of becoming when he grew up.
All the plans, and dreams, and the fact that I already was envisioning our families’ faces when we broke the news, that’s what I am mourning.
If there’s any good that came of this, at least we now know we want this for sure. I’d been either in camp No Kids or on the fence my whole life. I was barely getting on board for trying.
Now, now that I had had seven weeks of knowing a little life was growing inside me, I know this is a thing I do actually want.
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Hubby doesn’t want to tell anyone about this, especially not if or when we get another one going and make it past the first trimester.
I am torn.
It is hard, dark, sad, and not a great dinner party conversation topic.
But it happened. It should not be taboo, a thing to hide.
I don’t want to push aside our angel baby and forget it ever happened. Maybe I will just quietly incorporate rainbows into the next one. It doesn’t have to be too in your face.
I toyed with the idea of a tattoo, but I’m way too much of a scaredy cat for that.
For now, I will just keep trying to heal, wait for the blood to stop, and take it one day at a time.
I was the one in four.
I had a miscarriage.
And it sucks.
This is one of those moments where I am reminded of how strong humans are and of how strong women in particular are. We have to be. Layered in her story–beyond the emotional pain and the physical pain–are so many layers of obligation, of duty, of expectation. Women have to carry on no matter what we are tasked with, professionally, personally, and otherwise.
I admire the strength of this writer. I admire her courage to tell this story to anyone and to find the strength to share it publicly. I admire her ability to carry on with her life and with her work while she endures such terrible pain.
And as much as I admire her strength, I wish I didn’t have to.