I am posting my story about miscarrying because I knew so little about miscarriage before I had one. There are some eloquent stories people have posted online but too few. It seems that it is only after you have one that you learn that many of your friends have also had one or more.
Now that its happened to me I cannot believe that I did not know more about it and want to do what I can to shed light on it. Please be aware that parts of my story are graphic. It is a profoundly complex and difficult (physically and emotionally) experience. It is common (20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage) and yet no one talks about it. I am writing as a woman who had a baby before having a miscarriage, which I can only imagine is way easier than miscarrying before completing a healthy pregnancy.
I wrote much of this soon after the miscarriage but it has taken me months to complete it. I have been surprised at how hard it has been to get over this loss. I thought I wasn’t attached to this baby. I was. Family and friends soon forgot about the loss and I have felt very sad and alone and isolated. My husband’s response has been different that mine and it has been hard on our relationship. Talking with other women who have miscarried has been helpful.
At 14 weeks my husband and I learned that our pregnancy was “not healthy”. We were surprise because at that point because we had made it to the 2nd trimester and I had been feeling so nauseous and tired we thought we were in the clear. We went for a routine ultrasound Friday morning and there was no baby visible. The doctor said I could get a D&C or go home and wait to miscarry naturally. She said if I “bled like a hose for more than an hour” I should go to the ER.
Somehow I thought that most miscarriages were like heavy periods (some are) that the body quasi-dissolved all the tissue and you just bled a lot. I started spotting later that day. Saturday night I began reading online about miscarriage and was surprised to find many stories of miscarriages around 14 weeks that talked about it as birth. Sunday morning around 5am I started having waves of intense cramps which were contractions.
My thoughts and feelings were all over the place shock and numbness. What was I doing when my fetus was passing out of its short life? How could I have been so detached from my fetus? When I was pregnant I was very worried about how I was going to manage caring for two young ones. The challenge and vulnerability of having two children seemed so much larger that having one. I felt guilty about having felt that way. I didn’t feel relieved at all. I dearly wished I was still pregnant. Wished I knew even one detail about who this person might have been. In the last weeks I had started imagining this baby more and being very pregnant in the summer and thinking about names and bought some maternity clothes. I thought about how given our advanced ages this may have been our last chance.
Thinking it would be good for my husband Joe to have as much rest as possible I waited until the contractions got really painful and I was afraid to be alone to wake him. They were very similar to the ones I had with my daughter Maeve I even made the same sounds. The pain was very intense for a while. Once my cervix was dilated the pain decreased substantially and blood and tissue began to flow out of me at a surprising rate – I remember thinking it was like lava – against gravity even though I was lying on my side. Joe and our daughter sat on the bathroom floor next to me. After I’d been bleeding and discharging pieces of jello like tissue for awhile I decided to sit up part way at which point I was surprised to feel a large ball of tissue which was the amniotic sac and other very dark tissue move through my vagina and emerge.
After I passed the amniotic sack I got into the shower to rinse off and continued to bleed and pass large chunks of tissue. Shortly thereafter I went into shock, I became very cold and was trembling so we filled up the tub. My face felt very cold. I had been drinking a lot of liquid too quickly and vomited all of it back up. Then I passed out. As scary as the shock and fainting they seemed easy in comparison to the contractions.
After a while I got out of the tub and into bed where I continued to seep blood and tissue and was in a great deal of pain. I was surprised by the volume of stuff that came out. I think the whole thing was about 3 or 4 hours but like in birth my sense of time was not normal (it felt both shorter and longer than usual, I couldn’t remember what day it was.)
In the days immediately after the miscarriage Joe and I stayed close. He took several days off and we arranged for Maeve to be with other people so we could rest.
I was in shock/broken hearted that the pregnancy wasn’t viable then had to go through this intense, painful, scary physical ordeal. As I mentioned, I miscarried on a Sunday. The Tuesday after the miscarriage I had zero energy and was barely able to get up to eat. I had less energy than Monday and felt like was wearing a lead suit. I was short of breath and almost fainted. Wednesday still no energy and I was waking up in the night and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Thursday was the first time I went outside the house to take the garbage out and I tired very easily.
Friday maybe a bit more energy but still exhausted. I looked at amniotic sac and some other tissue that we had saved in fridge.
It was hard after the ordeal to have such fatigue and shortness of breathe with the grief. I was concerned about the impact of my incapacitation on Maeve and tried to explain what had happened and was happening to her. I had bad dreams about having an infant – where I couldn’t remember it’s name and felt ashamed and where I couldn’t keep track of it or take good care of it. I was distracted and the baby crawled out an open door and disappeared. I was stuck at a strange persons house without a car so I took Maeve and the baby in a bus (I was driving) with barely any breaks and the car seat for the infant was in pieces and there’s no way to strap the seat into the bus.
Also in the weeks after the miscarriage I noticed feeling a sort of phantom pregnancy – like a lost limb – I’d find myself putting my hand on my stomach as though I was still pregnant. Its been more than 6 months and my daughter still points to my groin from time to time and says “owee” and “baby went away.” I miss the being that was with me for those months. Someone said its useful to try to be grateful for whatever time the baby was with me and I agree. At 6 months after I feel like I will never completely get over this loss.
A couple of weeks after the miscarriage we called our midwife from my daughter’s birth and she debriefed with us and that was helpful. There should be midwives for anticipated miscarriages after a certain number of weeks. Its amazing to me that they allow people to do this at home unassisted. I am lucky my husband Joe was able to be present for me through it. I imagine it would be scarier for someone who had not given birth before.
If it weren’t for sexism we would honor and celebrate pregnancy from the first day we knew we were pregnant. How crappy to be feeling sick and not feel comfortable telling people why. How inhuman to feel the need to try to wall off one’s heart (impossible to do) while there’s a new human forming inside of them because of the statistics around miscarriage and birth defects. I have been researching and there seems to be little clear information on why miscarriage happens.
A certain percentage of the time pregnancies do not complete. That is the fact. The research that’s been done says that the mom’s lifestyle doesn’t impact it. And when it doesn’t complete it is still a profound physical and emotional experience. It is time for the meaning and value of every pregnancy to be acknowledged. For women to be supported from day one through a pregnancy if they choose to pursue it.
In the experience of miscarriage is one of the most intense forms of internalized sexism and human oppression – many women feel ashamed because they “failed” when they are going through utter heartbreak and physical trauma. There should be midwives for pre-identified miscarriages for pregnancies past the first few weeks – instead women are sent home to birth, in my case, with no information about what it might involve. So far I have found only one miscarriage support group in Los Angeles.
If you know someone who has miscarried and you want to support them then remember that they have miscarried and ask them in 6 months and 12 months how they are doing. Then listen to them and don’t offer reassurances like “it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The experience also has me thinking about pregnancy in general and how I and so many women feel compelled to not get too excited and to keep it secret during the first term. This now seems totally unacceptable and like the ultimate in human oppression, that most peoples’ beginnings in the world are a secret. I understand people are trying to protect themselves and others from the heartbreak if the pregnancy does not complete but there’s no protecting ourselves really and we loose a bit of our humanity when we deny that the first term of a pregnancy has meaning.