My Missed Miscarriage
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and I’ll be sharing a series of posts related to the topic.
It was late August 2016, I had just started a new job and was honestly not thinking much about having a baby, but there I was staring at the positive sign on a pregnancy test absolutely horrified and absolutely delighted at the same time. I knew I wanted a baby, but it was still such a shock that we were pregnant this quickly; I thought it would take months! Fast forward to 6 weeks into the pregnancy and I started to bleed, at work no less, so in a panic I excused myself for an early lunch and called my doctor. My doctor was amazing she and the nurse talked me through everything and we ended up deciding I should visit the hospital’s Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit to have everything checked out. I was only minorly spotting, which I was told was likely implantation bleeding, but we wanted to be sure. So, there we were, heading off to the EPAU two days later. Once there I was brought into an examination room and was told I was far too early to have a regular ultrasound and I would have to have an internal exam (definitely wasn’t expecting that!). But there they were, our tiny poppy seed heart beating away (thank god!); the doctor showed us the tiny heart pumping, printed us a picture and then said that yes it was likely implantation bleeding. Phew!
As the weeks progressed I had this awful feeling in my gut. I remember telling my dad I just knew I was going to miscarry and him telling me there was no reason to feel that way. But something just didn’t sit right. It was so hard for me to shake off the initial complications and I was constantly worried. I told my doctor, but she said there was no more signs of trouble and the best thing was to just wait and see. So that’s what we did, waited until we were 12.5 weeks.
Then once again at work, during an extremely busy event that I was running, I started to bleed, and this time a lot. Completely panicked I called my colleagues and had someone come in to cover me and I rushed to the hospital, calling Eric along the way. The ER was so cold and clinical, and while waiting my bleeding completely stopped. Finally, we saw a doctor. I was so panicked it was all such a blur, but Eric told me that he wasn’t even sure if the doctor saw the baby on the ultrasound he looked so quickly. All I remember the doctor saying was “you might be miscarrying, you might not be, but you are on the miscarriage watch list”. It wasn’t until later that I realized what he said. What was this miscarriage watch list? And why was I on it? No one said I needed to be watched. Still to this day I don’t know what the heck that could be, but I only assume it was because I had already been seen by the EPAU. He did book me an appointment to go back to the EPAU so that they could assess what was really going on. Of course this all happened on a Friday and we had to wait until Tuesday for our appointment.
Finally, it was appointment day, we hustled into a cab and headed down to the hospital. I was so ready for the bad news. We walked down those cold dark halls and at the end I handed a receptionist my health card and she said, “Oh your appointment isn’t until tomorrow”, “What?!”, I exclaimed. “Yes, the technician you need to see doesn’t work Tuesdays, your appointment is tomorrow”, “But the doctor gave me this card with this date on it”, “I’m sorry but they made a mistake”. What’s one more night of waiting, right? Fast forward to the right day, right time, sitting in the room waiting to see the doctor. I’m surrounded by three resident students and the head of OB (I’m all for teaching hospitals, but this was one moment I could have done without it). The first resident looks at the ultrasound and I see her gulp. She turns to the OB and whispers “I don’t think I see a heartbeat”. Then the OB starts going through some training talk with the residents and I just sit there with the words “no heartbeat” repeating over and over again. Finally, the doctor turns to me and in the bluntest way says, “I’m sorry but your baby has no heartbeat you’ve had a missed miscarriage”. A what? What’s a missed miscarriage? I had never heard of this before. “You said you’re about 12 weeks, correct? Well your baby is measuring about 6 weeks 3 days, so your body hasn’t realized it isn’t a viable pregnancy”. Six weeks three days. Six weeks three days. So, my baby died moments after I saw their heart beating. Moments after I made this unbelievable connection with them. I saw them alive. ALIVE.
The doctor quickly explained that I’d need to take a drug called “Misoprostol” since my body wasn’t doing the job itself, or I’d have to get a D&C which could leave scarring on my uterus. In the moment I felt so pressured to take the drugs, I just wanted time to figure it all out, and wasn’t the bleeding a sign that my body was trying? In the end I decided to take the drugs, but not before googling it and sending myself into a complete meltdown. If you’ve ended up reading this because you’re about to take Misoprostol and you’re hoping to hear it isn’t so bad I just want to tell you that I got through it. I’m on the other side now and it’s something I look back on. You will also get through it but do everything possible to have as many comfort measures by your side. Hot water bottle, bath tub, pain killers, a supportive partner/friend, because this drug really is no joke.
It took a few hours to really kick in but once it did it was like no other pain I have ever experienced. The doctor prescribed me with Tylenol 3 but apparently they just make me feel weird and take no pain away. The only thing, besides having Eric to hold my hand, that helped me through it was the bath tub. I think I lived in a hot bath for about 24 hours. Inside the tub the pain was somewhat manageable, but outside I couldn’t even see straight. If you’ve had a child I liken the pain to your worst contraction, but constant, there was no in-between time just a constant contraction for at least eight hours straight. I finally felt a moment of relief and decided I needed to try and sleep, but moments later the pain came rushing back. I think I maybe got an hour of sleep that night. The next day the pain was more manageable and came in waves. Randomly, I jumped up from the couch and said to Eric “I’m going outside and digging a garden”, “You’re what?!”, “I’m going to turn that patch of grass at the front into a garden. I’ve wanted to for a while now and now’s the right time”. There we were ripping up the grass in our front yard to build a garden. Was I crazy? Absolutely! But was it helpful? Definitely! I was able to channel my physical pain and grief into something positive and it made me feel so much better.
Now I have this gorgeous garden that I still love to work on. I add and take away different plants as the season goes on. I tend to the weeds, add the mulch, and deadhead the flowers. It makes me think of my tiny poppy seed and the moment I saw that beautiful heartbeat. I know a garden might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think finding something you can channel your grief into is very helpful. Maybe that’s found in cooking, being active and going for a run, writing a blog post, being crafty. I also found sharing my experience to be the most cathartic. Finding other loss moms on social media and connecting with them, sharing with my friends and realizing just how many others have stories similar to mine. I wish you all the best during this time of grief, don’t be scared of it, lean into the grief the best you can.