Last month, I published a blog post about how Jeff and I found out we were pregnant, then lost our baby’s heartbeat. When I wrote that post I wasn’t ready to talk about all of the feelings and physical parts of our miscarriage because I hadn’t really had a chance to sort through my feelings. Now that I have, I’m ready to talk about them.
We found out on January 3 that we had lost our baby’s heartbeat. Immediately, we were faced with decisions to make. My doctor gave us three choices which Jeff left completely up to me (although I did make sure he was OK with my choice). Choice one: see if my body will miscarry on its own. My doctor let me know that for some women it can take months for this to happen and some women don’t ever miscarry naturally. Choice two: they can put pills inside of me to trigger my body to start my response to losing the baby. Choice three: have a d&c procedure, which means they put you under and the doctor goes in to clean everything out. I chose to start the medication because I was worried about going under. I also knew that carrying the baby who had passed already wasn’t the right choice for me. Knowing what I know now, I may have opted for a d&c but the pills seemed like the right choice at that moment. To be honest, there isn’t really a “choice” that feels OK. They all really suck. As one of my best friends said to me when we were going through this, “it’s an impossible situation.”
I made the choice to take the pills. The office wrote me a prescription and Jeff ran downstairs to the hospital pharmacy to have it filled. He brought the pills back up and when the doctor came back to put them in, I think I broke her heart a little bit. I didn’t realize until I stood up later that I had mascara all over my face from crying. I am NOT a girl who thought she would totally lose it in a doctor’s office, but there I was and the tears were uncontrollable. The pills they give you aren’t oral, they put them inside you. It was basically like getting a pap, only I laid there for 20 minutes or so after to let the pills do what they needed to do. I texted the friends I had previously told about my pregnancy and let them know about our news as I cried a river of tears, lying half-naked by myself. I told Jeff he could go (honestly gyno appointments with my husband made me feel so beyond awkward) and that I needed a few minutes to myself. I really did need that half hour to sit there and ugly cry alone. My doctor’s right hand came in to tell me I could leave and she too had tears in her eyes. She said to me, “I have been exactly where you are right now and I’m so sorry.” Cue the tears… again.
I left feeling shaky and scared. I was still pregnancy tired (that ish is real – all you want to do is nap during the first few weeks of pregnancy) so I felt like I was in a haze. My eyes were swollen and puffy and I wanted to rush home and put on pajamas as quickly as humanly possible. Jeff called my parents to let them know. I was prescribed hydrocodone and told that I would feel like I had a heavy period. I was also told that I needed to rest. I’ve never had heavy periods so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went by CVS on the way home to stock up on pads and felt just as awkward buying pads at 32 as I did at 13 years old. There was an error with CVS so I never got pain meds that night.
The next day I woke up an absolute hysterical mess. Someone (who was not meaning to be rude) asked me a question about some things I may or may not have done while I was unknowingly pregnant, and I lost it. I was consumed with guilt and convinced I had killed our baby. At one point, I looked at my husband and said, “how could you ever love the person who killed your child?” That was, in this whole process, my darkest moment. GOD BLESS MY HUSBAND. He sat there over and over coming up with ways to convince me it wasn’t my fault. At one point he said, “Callie, people make horrible decisions for 9 months and still deliver babies. This was not you.” That was the comment that snapped me back to reality. Very true, it wasn’t me.
Thankfully, it was the weekend for me so I didn’t have to take off work. I simply spent the weekend in bed and focused on getting better. By Monday I still felt like total shit but the bleeding had stopped and I was breathing a sigh of relief. However, I would be fine for a few hours, then burst into tears without notice. I left my contacts out for those three days so I wouldn’t ever have to see what was coming out of me. I didn’t want to. When we first got home I googled the name of the drug to see what I could expect. My advice to you: DO NOT GOOGLE. What I saw has scarred me for life. I was FLOODED with horrible pictures and an over-kill of information as well as judgement (which I wasn’t looking for) about ending pregnancy. There is literally nothing I saw in my google searches that made me feel anything but completely shitty. I wish I could un-see the photos that popped up when I was searching for drug info, but I can’t. Seriously - DON’T DO IT. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, there’s no one that wants to see that when they’re going through this. I was terrified of what might come out of me and what I saw and read only made me more scared.
I went to the doctor the following Monday afternoon for an ultrasound so they could see if my miscarriage was over. I was hopeful because the bleeding had stopped. Then, I was told by my doctor that the ultrasound showed things had started to progress but that I was not cleared. They again gave me the choice of pills or a d&c. I chose the pills again. I wasn’t as emotional this time around about physically getting the pills. To be honest, at that point I was searching for the end of the tunnel so we could move on and get pregnant again. My doctor warned me that this time if the pills worked, I would be in more pain. She asked that I take the next day off from work and fill the prescription for pain meds. I felt the second round of pills almost immediately and the pain was more intense. I ended up taking two days off of work. This time, when I made my way home and to my couch, I could barely get up. This time, I needed and took the pain meds. I also texted our dog walker and set up walks when Jeff was at work. Again, I left my contacts out so I wouldn’t see what was happening.
The physical part of this is truly what has been the hardest part for me. Not even the pain. It’s the visual. It’s a physical reminder of a horrible loss. You’re watching the loss of your pregnancy unfold and it is more emotionally painful than anyone could have prepared me for. If I had read this blog post before I’d been through it, I would have called myself dramatic. Trust me, it’s dramatic, more like traumatic, in my head. I told my therapist I felt silly for being so upset about losing a baby after 8-10 weeks of pregnancy. There are people who have it SO much worse. I don’t even have memories with the baby I’m grieving. She told me that the mourning wasn’t over memories but of the future I had been planning with Jeff and the future that really I had been planning my whole life. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but what I’d been dreaming of, our first shot at the life I wanted with Jeff, was gone. It was appropriate and totally healthy to grieve.
Experiencing grief and loss WHILE your hormones are raging out of control is really unlike anything I’ve experienced. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and this is a completely different ballgame. It’s really not something you can fully understand until you’ve been through it. I’ve wiped blood off the floor of our bathroom from standing up slowly and washed countless pairs of underwear. Every single time I saw blood, it brought on a new wave of grief for me. I avoided looking down for a week so I didn’t have to see anything that resembled the photos I saw. My doctor asked me a few times what I was seeing to get a feel for how the process was unfolding and each time I replied with “I don’t know.”
Two days after my second round of pills, I went back for another transvaginal ultrasound and I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life. The bleeding hadn’t lightened up and the thought of bringing a stranger into the mix to do a pretty invasive ultrasound while I was miscarrying made me sick to my stomach. When you get a transvaginal ultrasound they make you pee right before you have it done. When I went to the bathroom I saw what I assumed was our baby come out. It was the first time I had actively seen any part of my miscarriage other than blood and my heart shattered. The truth is, I didn’t look closely. It resembled a peach pit but I didn’t want to look closely enough to know anything more than that. I just couldn’t. It could have been anything. It could have been tissue… I’m not sure. Whatever it was, to me it was the last part of our pregnancy miscarrying and I felt sick. I felt upset. The worst moment of my life was walking out of that bathroom and leaving our baby behind.
I was terrified and almost embarrassed of bleeding in front of the tech, even though logically I know she sees it all the time and she’s a professional. She was amazing and guided me through the most awkward and upsetting moment of my life. My doctor confirmed that day that I had finished passing the baby. There would still be tissue passing for weeks (6 weeks for me). I still struggle with what I saw during our last ultrasound appointment, but it is getting better. In my first therapy appointment after that day I told my therapist how terrible I felt about leaving my baby behind. It may have not been the actual baby at all but that’s how I felt. I was having a hard time discerning between what I had experienced in my miscarriage and the women who give birth then abandon their babies in bathrooms. I didn’t feel like there was a difference. How am I different from those people? I still to some degree (although not that extreme) have a hard time with feeling like I left my baby behind and an overwhelming sadness that I couldn’t protect my child.
My therapist said something that helped me get on the right track with feeling unsettled about what I saw and about leaving that behind (whatever it was). She told me that in life when we lose loved ones, there’s a process in place (more or less) for death. When a person dies, through our grief, we plan funerals and have services and there are traditions that are in place. You go to a funeral home, you make arrangements, you say goodbye and you have a service (or some combo of those things) and that helps you through grief. When you miscarry, there’s no set way of doing things. There’s no obvious next step. I’ve heard stories this month from Instagram friends of their experiences. One woman miscarried at a grocery store. Someone else told me that they had something come out of them during their ultrasound and they watched it leave their body and be thrown away. Everyone is different and there are no rules. That part of this has been the hardest for me. I don’t wish I had done something differently but I just really more than anything want to hug that child. It is against every natural fiber in my body to walk away and leave our baby (or whatever was left of him or her) behind. I want to say, “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.” Even thinking about that makes me cry as I type this.
I’ve had women tell me they had burials after their miscarriages. That didn’t feel right for me either. The whole thing feels like an impossible series of unsettling decisions that offer no peace. I guess that is part of being a parent.
The pre-miscarriage Callie says “oh my gosh move on already” and the post-miscarriage Callie sees the world differently and says “this is just part of it.” There is no right process. Comparison to anyone else’s experiences or grief as a measure of how you feel will do NOTHING but cause you confusion. There will always be someone who has it easier than you do and there will always be someone who has it harder. You cannot judge your feelings based on other people’s experiences. When it comes to grief, you do you.
Things are looking up for me emotionally. My hormones are at a near normal level, the bleeding has finally stopped and I’m taking mild anxiety meds. I was prescribed the meds at the beginning of my pregnancy but never got around to taking them.
I remember lying in bed days after we lost our baby wondering if I would ever laugh in the same way again, wondering if I’d ever want to go out with my friends again, and wondering if I would ever not feel sad again. The answer to all of those things is: yes, you will, but it takes time. I didn’t leave my house for anything but work for weeks. I didn’t want to and I’m glad I didn’t force myself to do things I wasn’t ready for. Now, I finally feel back to being me again.
The reason I want to share all of this is because the women who have shared their stories with me have been a LIFE RAFT, keeping me afloat throughout this difficult time. A friend of mine who I haven’t talked to in a number of years reached out to me about her own miscarriage and freely discussing our experiences was so comforting to me. I want you to know if you’re going through a similar experience, you’re not alone.