Please note that the content of this post is somewhat graphic and may be disturbing and discomforting to some people. If you’d rather not read about ultrasounds, bodily fluids, and other things to do with pregnancy loss or fertility cycles in general, I’d suggest coming back to the blog another day! It’s not always like this here– I promise!
Also: you might be wondering why I’m choosing to share such an intimate (and private) life experience with you in painstaking (and yes, sometimes gross) detail. The reason is twofold. For one thing, I felt I didn’t have enough information going into my miscarriage. I knew of people who had miscarried before, but nobody ever told me about their experiences in any amount of detail. Pregnancy loss was a rather vague and taboo topic, which I had never really heard approached in conversation before it happened to me. I wished I had more knowledge of what to expect beforehand– something more than “oh, it will be like a really heavy period”. (Heavier than my normal period or an average woman’s period?) Perhaps there will be a woman or couple somewhere who can benefit from hearing all about one person’s own experience with pregnancy loss.
Secondly, most of the information that was available on miscarriage at the time did not resonate with me at all. Most of it was (and is) geared towards women who have always wanted to be pregnant and who are positively devastated that their lives will not be fulfilled and blessed with a child just yet. More of it still was overtly religious in nature, talking about angels flying up to be with baby Jesus, which made me feel grossly uncomfortable. There was no information that related to me personally: a young, twenty-something woman who accidentally fell pregnant, who didn’t want or need to be pregnant, but who still felt profound (and sometimes contradictory) sadness at losing the pregnancy in the end. Again, maybe it’s not you who will benefit directly from hearing about my experience, but there’s probably somebody who feels a little alientated by the whole pregnancy scene and could use to hear a different perspective on it. So there you have it: my diatribe on why I am writing volumes about something that happened to me on This Day in History.
Two years ago today, an ultrasound technician looked at Marty and I hesitantly before venturing to tell us what my doctor would confirm the next day: there was no fetal heartbeat anymore, and I should expect my body to miscarry in the near future.
“I’m not supposed to tell you this”, she said. “I just wanted to prepare you for what your doctor will tell you later.”
I wasn’t sure how to react to this or what to say. I think I thanked her politely for her kindness (she was really nice) and I managed to stay diplomatic and collected until we were out in the parking lot, walking to our car. And then the tears started. Again. (I cried so much during my brief stint as a pregnant woman– I couldn’t believe it. Should I blame it on the hormones?) I was a wreck.
Before my appointment, I would have expected to be almost jubilant (in a macabre, twisted way) to find out I was miscarrying. After all, not a single molecule of me had wanted to be pregnant in the first place, but I couldn’t bring myself to terminate the pregnancy, either. Miscarriage (again, in a strange and twisted sense) seemed to be the ideal outcome for the pregnancy we had never planned or wanted– Mother Nature’s way of making things normal again, if you will. But it was one thing to wonder what it would be like to miscarry (in a hypothetical, non-pregnant, almost academic way), and another thing altogether to be told outright to expect it. Not only was I a wreck: I was positively scared.
It wasn’t like the news that our pregnancy was no longer viable was earth shattering or completely unexpected, though. Nay, a week and a half before this day (about a week and a half after taking the pregnancy test), I started spotting. Frightened, I phoned the nurses’ hotline in Alberta and was promptly told to go to emergency in case I was miscarrying. The nurse on the phone also suggested that I collect some of the ‘spots’ in a jar so I could bring them to the hospital for examination. I reeled at the thought of it but dutifully did as I was told, collecting some fluid from the unflushed toilet into a tiny old jam jar (not a Mason jar… let’s get one thing straight) and stashing it into my bag before calling in sick to work and heading over to the hospital.
We waited in emergency for a few hours before being called up by the triage nurse. I explained to her what had been happening and, when asked to describe what the spotting looked like, I sheepishly brought out the Jar Which Contained The Fluid That Shall Not Be Named Because This Post Is Already Pretty Gross. I confess that I found the whole experience mortifying and wholly embarrassing. After all, who carries around a jar of blood ‘n’ such in her bag? The situation became even more horrifying when the nurse looked at my jar of toilet bowl water and now-diluted blood and LAUGHED OUT LOUD FOR A SOLID MINUTE OR TWO. She even snorted at it and called over two other nurses to look at it and join in the amusement. I was devastated.
After the deep-bellied laughter had subsided somewhat, the original nurse tried to pull herself together. By then it was much (MUCH) too late for professionalism. I wanted to curl up tightly inside my ‘hilarious’ jar of fluid and be flushed away where nobody could see me ever again… She told me that I would be admitted to have some blood work done, but she smartly added that she would probably “see me in 8 months on the delivery ward, hon”. Asshat.
I was taken back to a bed in the emergency ward, where an IV needle was inserted but no IV medication was administered. Approximately 6 different (male) med students came into my circle of curtains, one at a time, and asked me to explain why I was there. Normally, I would endeavour to be more helpful and earnest for aspiring medical professionals. (Honestly, it must suck to be a resident sometimes.) But by then, having been pointed at and blatantly laughed at by some other “helping” professionals, I was in no mood to offer up any more information than what was absolutely required of me. ‘Look in my chart, you moron. Or look on the notes that your 5 other friends have already scribbled down about me. Hmph.’
An ultrasound was eventually administered. Marty was not allowed in (I asked). I was wheeled to another section of curtains to await the results of the test. Marty was still not allowed in.
After a while, a different nurse breezed into my cave of curtains, asked “How’s mommy feeling?” while patting my belly (I visibly recoiled), and then scanned over my chart to see what news she was expected to pass on to me. She took a breath.
“OK, hon– baby’s not doing so well. The heart rate is currently at 96 beats per minute, but we want it up closer to 120 or 130 beats. Sound good?” (like I had any control over that whatsoever) “We’re going to book you in for another ultrasound in a week or so to keep track of baby’s progress, OK?” And then, after misinterpreting the look of abject horror on my face, she added: “Don’t worry– I’m sure I’ll be seeing you on the delivery ward in 8 months or so.”
With that, she breezed out.
I felt gross: teased by the nurses, poked and prodded by the awkward residents (‘haha– she said pee’), and mistakenly lumped in with all of the women who really wanted to be pregnant and might actually have been reassured to imagine themselves on the delivery ward in 8 or so months. Everything was frightening to me: being pregnant in the first place, spotting, having to go to the hospital, being laughed at, being called ‘mommy’, and being told that “baby wasn’t doing so well”. The word ‘mom’ freaked me out; the word ‘baby’ even more so.
I had no idea exactly how to feel just then, let alone a week and some later when my next ultrasound technician quietly confirmed that the fetal heart rate had dropped from 96 beats per minute down to zero. There was nothing.
My doctor was on holidays when this latest ultrasound transpired, so his substitute told me that yes, I should expect to miscarry within the next 48 hours or so. She said I would start spotting again and that it would start to feel like a heavy period. She tossed in vague sentences about ‘cramping’ and ‘passing tissue’, but when pressed for more detail or more information, she had nothing but different textbook phrases to offer me. “Your uterus will contract and expel the pregnancy tissue through the cervix”. Um… and? “Some women prefer to take codeine as a painkiller while this is happening. Somebody can write you a prescription.”
I am the kind of person who likes to counteract my own fear and petrification with information. I was deathly afraid of what was going to happen, and all I wanted was a little reassurance that everything was going to be okay. Instead, I received an injection of Rhogam in my butt (“so I don’t form an allergic reaction to my pregnancy tissue while it passes”), and then I was sent on my extremely agitated and emotional way to wait…