What It’s Like To Have A Miscarriage
Three weeks before our wedding, I found out we were pregnant. It was a complete surprise.
Two weeks before our wedding, we had a miscarriage.
I was 7–8 weeks when we miscarried and I had no idea what I was up against. I felt like I could never get a straight answer about what this experience was going to be like, or why it happened. Not even from my doctor who had just scheduled me for a D&C with no other information.
Going through such a physically traumatic experience, with no information, was hard to say the least.
For the record, miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy. While the rate is 10–20% for women who know they’re pregnant, the rate is probably more around 30–50% as many women miscarry before they even know they’re pregnant.
As for why? A miscarriage happens (mostly) because of chromosomal abnormalities that wouldn’t have allowed the baby to survive outside the womb. To be honest, pregnancy in itself is a miracle of things happening perfectly all at once. It makes sense that it’s a bit harder to make something perfect than we’d like to think. It is important to know that it is no one’s fault. It’s just how nature works.
In an effort to share so that some may feel prepared and others can feel less isolated, here is my story. And please note that you should stop reading now if hearing about loss of blood is something that is hard for you to handle.
It started out like most pregnancy stories: I was tired, feeling nauseous, and then it dawned on me I had missed my previous period and it still hadn’t come. But there was “no way” I was pregnant. I grabbed a pregnancy test box just to be sure, and took two tests in the bathroom at work.
Welp, I was pregnant. And two words came to mind:
“Fuck.” My partner and I agreed we’d have a baby, but in the following year. So, like, wth.
And a relief-driven “Oh.” After so many years of trying to not get pregnant, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to, so “surprise!”
I texted my mom first (my partner wasn’t super forgiving about that one). And then texted my partner and asked if he could meet earlier than we had planned (I wanted to tell him in person). Then I called the gynecologist and made an appointment.
That was on a Friday.
All weekend, I slept like crazy, feeling the overwhelming sense of the first trimester. I had also walked to the bookstore, bought “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and literally read the entire thing by Sunday night. My partner and I also brainstormed baby names, and I texted/called everyone I was close with to share the news.
On Monday, because I’m a sharer and a planner, I told my boss, General Manager and Office Manager.
And on Tuesday, I told the entire dentist office, since I had an appointment that day and why not (and also, because radiation).
But that night, everything changed.
I made a pasta dinner, and afterward, felt weird, but figured it was part of the pregnancy. I actually got excited because I felt like my pouch was showing, and it felt hard. I had this intense feeling like, “Look! It’s happening, and you can even see it!”
Of course, throughout these few days, the idea of miscarriage was always in the back of my mind. I even half joked about it with people when I told them… like “Hey, I’m pregnant! But, of course, you never know, anything could still happen!” And with that anxiety I would look down and double check every time I visited the toilet, just in case.
And then it actually happened. Blood. Just a little, but enough to freak me out. I told my partner, and immediately got on the internet. “Phew, okay,” I thought, “blood can be normal.” But then the cramping started, and the real bleeding came like I was having a heavy period.
I was a little broken at that point, but trying to stay positive, and called the on-call nurse. She said it sounded like I was having a miscarriage, but should still come into the doctor’s the next day to be sure (the next day was supposed to be my “confirmation of pregnancy” appointment).
So the next day, wearing pads, still bleeding, and knowing I miscarried, I went into the city and visited the doctor. All of the sympathetic looks at the front desk almost caused me to break down, but I kept it together. The doctor did an ultrasound just to be sure. And there was the baby — but there was also no heartbeat. She printed a photo for me to keep (not sure that’s ever a good idea), and said she couldn’t fit me in for a D&C that day, but to come back tomorrow. The only other advice I got was to get some rest.
I’m a pretty positive person, and super rational. I knew this wasn’t my fault, and I knew that this was probably better for me and my partner. It gave us more time, and allowed us to enjoy our wedding. And, as my grandfather said “Well, the fun part is trying!” (pervy, but true). I also knew there was nothing I could do to change what had happened. Nothing I could have done to make it different.
But OMG the hormones. The hormones don’t give a shit about your rationality. Your rationality can still even be there, on the sidelines, knocking on the door, seeing the shit going down and trying to intervene, and it DOES NOT MATTER. Your hormones will make you break down. You will cry, sob, whimper, say you’re sorry to the baby over and over, and even think/write/say some really dark stuff.
Eventually, I calmed down. My partner and I made a date to go to out to dinner that night to relax and to enjoy the glass or two of red wine I thought I was going to miss out on for the next 9 months (glass half full!). He came home and I got dressed, ready to go out. And then, I passed the baby. I think I may have screamed. My partner came in and I made him look I was so horrified. It was so small, and so see-through. I literally couldn’t look at it. It was so surreal.
While I felt emotionally drained, I actually felt physically better after. I was like, “Okay, that part is done and now my body will start healing.” We went to dinner, had a great time together, as usual, and walked back hand-in-hand. When I arrived home I realized that I had bled through the pad I was wearing, but figured that was normal.
I got ready to go to sleep, but 15 minutes after hitting the pillow, I was up again in the bathroom. I had bled through another pad.
This happened every 15 minutes for 4 hours. I bled through more pads than I think I had ever even used in a lifetime. At 4 hours, I finally called for my partner and told him I thought I needed to go to the ER. I was completely dehydrated, faint and felt like I was going to vomit. And the bathroom just felt like it was full of blood. It wouldn’t stop coming. My body was cleaning out all that it had created.
He got me water and some watermelon slices, and we called the on-call nurse. After consulting my doctor, she said that I should take the pills that I had been prescribed that day. The only problem was that I didn’t have them, because I was picking them up before the procedure the following day, as that’s what I was told they were for. I had no idea that what I was going through was even a thing that could happen. She consulted the doctor again and said if I took three Advil I would be fine. Only we don’t really ever use pain meds, so in the middle of the night, my partner rushed out to find them.
Once I was able to take the Advil, the bleeding and the cramping stopped. I went to bed, finally, exhausted and drained.
The next day I called the doctor’s office and said there was obviously no point in me coming in for the D&C as I was sure my body had rid itself of the entire placenta and every last bit of tissue it could give up on its own. But they insisted I still come just in case.
I’m not even sure how I made it there, I was so tired. But after a quick ultrasound, we found there was one bit of tissue left that would be better to clean out to ensure there would be no future infection. So we did a quick D&C, and then my partner drove me home.
You have to wait a month before you can have sex again, to allow yourself to heal and to ensure you don’t get an infection.
We had our wedding — and it was wonderful. I was so focused on all of the preparations and all of the love of having our favorite people near, that we didn’t have time to think much about the experience. Even with the sad moments in life, there is still so much to live for and to celebrate mixed in. And being completely present with our friends and family, and with my partner, was one of them.
The next time we could have sex, we did — and got pregnant again on the first try. It was a complete surprise all over again. And after such a traumatic experience the first time, I was elated. But that didn’t stop me from having PTSD, and holding my breath while checking the toilet every.single.time. I went to the restroom. It was an exhausting mind-fuck. But it eventually faded. And I am grateful that at every OB appointment I am told that I have a “really strong” baby. And I know I’m lucky. Mainly because I know how different it could be.
Just to re-cap here’s what I learned:
- IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. And, you are not alone. Keep that knowledge even when your hormones are taking over and making you feel otherwise. You’ll keep a little of your sanity throughout if you do.
- If you have a miscarriage, know that there is a potential for you to end up passing everything on your own before a D&C can happen, and be prepared with the proper medications.
- I know everyone says not to share “the news” until after 12 weeks — and I completely get why. However, even though having told people made me feel vulnerable after the fact, I was glad I did. It made me confront my grief head-on and not hold it inside. It made me talk about it, and share, and be comforted by others. I appreciated that, a lot. And with my second, I still told most of the same people before 12 weeks, as I probably would have needed people moreso if it had happened again. There is no reason to face these things alone when there are people in your life that want to support you.
- Know that if you do get pregnant soon after, you will probably have PTSD. I’m sure this happens even if you wait. You’re not crazy, you’re just healing, and you’re scared — and that’s okay.
- By the way, I also bled in my first trimester with my second pregnancy (which is totally at a healthy 37 weeks) — and it wasn’t a miscarriage. It was a friable cervix. So not all bleeding is a miscarriage. If you’re not cramping, you’re probably okay, but still get checked for peace of mind.
- Share your stories. We no longer live in tribes and learn from being with each other during these times. We live very individual, and somewhat isolated lives. Share your stories with those around you so we can all learn from each other. You’ll get through it either way — but knowing makes it easier.
During the month between the miscarriage and new pregnancy, I shared my story with almost everyone I came into contact with. I cannot say thank you enough to everyone’s responses. They were so full of love, and promise and so many stories of their own. My friend had told me his mom (who is a mother of an amazing family of 5 that I look up to) had three miscarriages before she had him (the eldest), and that she would tell all of the kids that “It made me a stronger mother.” Another friend, who is one of my favorite humans, said his mother had a miscarriage before him… “And if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” I almost cried at the beauty of that. And then people shared stories about their own pregnancy stories. Scares, necessary abortions, infertility, stillborn experiences… and I didn’t feel sad, I felt like I was a part of something. A larger community of women who are all trying to create life in their own ways, and who overcame it in their own ways too. I wish I had that then, but I’m thankful to at least have it now. Please definitely feel free to leave comments if you want to share your own story — I love the perfect ones, too.