Tonight I snuggled and nursed my sweet son to sleep as my husband tucked my daughter into bed. There was a time I didn’t know if we would ever have a night like this.
Our First Pregnancy
The first time I became pregnant we were thrilled, of course. I literally jumped up and down with excitement. We had only been trying to conceive for two months. Everything progressed normally until September of 2006 when I experienced some mild spotting at around 8 weeks. The midwife scheduled us for an ultrasound, and we saw our beautiful baby for the first time. Everything looked great, and we were able to hear the heartbeat.
About a month later, I had more spotting and cramping. The midwife suggested a couple things I could try to stop the cramping but they didn’t work so she scheduled another ultrasound. We weren’t all that concerned and figured it would be nice to see our baby again.
October 12, 2006 is a date forever etched in my memory. As we watched the screen that day, we saw that our baby had only grown a couple days past the last time we had seen him. The doctor could not find a heartbeat, and our baby was not moving.
Days went by in a blur. I struggled to believe my baby was really dead.
With a missed miscarriage, the mother can go weeks and months with no sign that anything is wrong. In my case my baby had died 4 weeks before we had any idea. I wanted to wait to miscarry naturally. The midwife instructed me that it could take a while for my body to miscarry naturally and could be similar to giving birth in that I would have contractions to expel the baby.
October 15th we participated in Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month with other families in our area via a candle lighting ceremony. Early the morning of October 16, starting around 12:30am, the contractions began. The pain was immense. I was in agony until six in the morning when they finally abated. They were long (a minute at least), they came quickly, on top of each other (sometimes 15-20 seconds apart). There was no letting up at some points. Five and a half hours of me begging my husband to somehow make them stop. Five and a half hours of unrelenting pain and the heart weariness of knowing my child was dead and there was no happy ending.
After an hour or so of sleep, my alarm went off. My mind said “need to go to work”, and so I did. It seems insane now, but I needed something that made sense because my world was falling apart. My dead baby was still with me even after that night, and I still was only barely spotting. My boss called me into his office that morning and gave me a week off bereavement leave. I was so thankful.
That evening I had another three hours of contractions with no progress.
On October 17, I decided to go to the gynecologist’s office. I wanted the miscarriage to happen. I wanted to know I was making some progress with the contractions. I expected the Dr. to be reassuring. I was very wrong about that. Instead of being reassured, I was bullied and made to feel incompetent. The Dr. kept calling my contractions “cramps” and said there was no way I could handle a natural miscarriage or a medically induced one. He said it was irresponsible of me to let this go on and that I needed to schedule a D&C right away.
I was humiliated, broken and defeated. I sobbed all the way home wishing I could just die. The very thought of having my child ripped from my body was the ultimate horror. But the Dr. had said my cervix was hard, thick and closed. I made the decision to have the D&C even though it was the last thing I wanted. I felt stuck and confused and scared.
As I lay in the hospital bed the next morning waiting for the procedure to take place, I couldn’t help but think this was the exact opposite of what I had wanted. I had planned a natural birth center birth free of medical intervention, hospital gowns and needles. Yet there I was, laying in that cold room wearing a hospital gown intended for women that were giving birth to a living child. Its cruel holes for nursing mothers mocked me and the experience I was having instead. There would be no living baby for me to nurse that day. I could hear the women and families around me, new life being welcomed. They had put me in the same area as the mother’s who had just given birth. My husband even ran into a work contact and awkwardly congratulated the new father and mumbled our alternate reason for being there.
I felt relief when it was over. I thought we could begin to heal. We wanted to bury our baby and were originally told we were not allowed to take our baby home. We were relived to discover the Dr. performing the surgery would allow us to after all. It seemed we could move on from this dark place but our journey ended up taking a different turn.
On October 22nd, we were given a bit of a miracle. The worst part of the D&C procedure to me was the way it was performed. I’ll spare you the details but the results are a baby that is not whole. Because of this, we never looked at the container of our baby but simply buried it. That Sunday afternoon, however, we were in for a shock. I began to bleed and cramp more than what was standard for post surgery. I went to lay down with a heating pad and felt something significant pass. I went to check and saw something that was not merely blood clots. I called in my husband who discovered our baby, whole and intact. We could not believe it. We gazed in wonder at tiny eyes, feet and hands.
The next day the Dr. confirmed we were indeed seeing our baby or “fetus, products of conception” as she coldly identified our baby. After a very painful exam and ultrasound, the Dr. discovered a good deal of tissue still remained even though I’d had the surgery. I had two options: wait to see if it would pass on its own or take Cytotec (a controversial drug that the first Dr. I saw said was an extremely painful option). I was scheduled for another ultrasound three days later to see if anything had passed. It turns out our journey was going to be longer than we had expected.
Weeks of ultrasound checks and Dr’s visits. More Rhogham shots. Weeks of passing blood clots while at work, sometimes bleeding so heavily I had to go home. At my seventh ultrasound, the Dr. gave me the grim news that I still had a lot of tissue and he was recommending another D&C. I was numb by this point. I didn’t have anything left. No tears this time, just a weariness, a tiredness, emotionally spent.
We agreed to try the Cytotec, anything to avoid the possible complications of a repeat D&C. It turns out a controversial drug like Cytotec is hard to find since most pharmacies won’t even carry it. We finally tracked one down that had it but as it turns out, it didn’t work anyway. And I ended up taking too much pain killer (even though I took less than the recommended dose) and started hallucinating the next day. I spent the next day in a drug-induced haze.
More Bad News
Another trip to the Dr. to confirm I still needed another D&C. When I called to schedule it, the scheduler commented that she had never in her ten years of scheduling had someone have to have a repeat D&C. November 9th I went once again to the same hospital for the same procedure. I once again was beside women basking in the joy of their new beginnings. I was shaking so badly, the anesthesiologist sought to calm me by putting something in my IV. That something completed knocked me out. I had the strange sensation of feeling outside of my body, watching my legs stop shaking as if they were someone else’s legs, then nothing but blackness. Later I discovered I had no memory of the procedure and was mixing the two experiences together into one. It was disorienting and confusing. They had a hard time reviving me this time around. I did not feel a wave of relief this time, just a lot of pain.
Numb, we drove home. Once home, I passed several huge blood clots. Scared that once again the procedure had been unsuccessful, we called the Dr’s office. My husband spoke to the gruff Dr. I saw the very first time I came in who rudely explained that without seeing it, he could never confirm or deny it was only blood clots. My husband had to drive the 30 minutes back to the hospital in rush hour traffic to have the operating Dr. confirm it was only blood clots. He also told my husband they had had trouble removing all the tissue, that it was stuck but he had felt confident it was all out.
Weeks later I had another “episode”. I wanted to be done so much. Back to the Dr, and he performed what would finally be my last ultrasound. The Dr. assured me that my uterus was clear and kindly showed me the images. By November 29, over a month later, the bleeding had finally abated. We could began to heal.
We have gone on to have two healthy pregnancies and babies which we are immensely thankful for. We never forget our baby in heaven, who we named Shannon and celebrate his due date every April beneath the tree we planted in his memory and where we buried him. If you would like to read more of our story, as well as the perspective of my husband and my mother, you can find them in the miscarriage awareness section of my blog. There are also many other stories of loss shared from fellow mothers of miscarriage.