TRIGGER WARNING: graphic and personal writing about miscarriage follows
When you’ve already told your husband, your son, your family and friends. When you’ve already begun to imagine how another child will affect the day-to-day workings of your life: two car seats, baby-wearing and a stroller or a double stroller, will they share a bedroom…will they share anything? When your first pregnancy was a beautiful and perfect miracle, a second pregnancy feels just as beautiful and miraculous. There’s absolutely no difference. It doesn’t matter how many times you pee on a stick hoping it will be positive, each and every time it’s positive there is a thrill, there is elation, there is pure joy.
We had gone for our twelve week ultrasound. I had been feeling like shit for a couple weeks at this point and figured I was carrying a girl this time since it was all so different than the first go round. We had gone for the ultrasound convinced I was having a girl and all was still hearts and flowers and rainbows and unicorns. The poor ultrasound technician. To have to search and search for a heartbeat that wasn’t there. To have to tell us. To have to measure what was there and estimate when the baby had stopped living. To have to tell us that we could go to a hospital for a D&C or we could “let nature take it’s course.”
I’d had a baby at home. I had used a midwife. I was (and still am) all about letting nature take it’s course. So we went home. Turns out we didn’t have long to wait.
When you’re sitting on a toilet at 10pm hoping you don’t wake your husband and son as blood and bits of flesh come dripping agonizingly slowly out of you there is everything including anger, sadness, emptiness, shock, grief…but there is no more baby.
Did you know that you still give birth? People hear the term miscarriage and have absolutely no idea. You still give birth. I had given birth to a perfectly formed seven pound baby with absolutely zero drugs of any kind and it was rough. I gave birth to a twelve week partially formed fetus the size of a lime and it was rough. Granted the lime didn’t take 27 hours and didn’t cause me to require 13 stitches, but it was no picnic.
I had no idea to expect that. I was completely unprepared. I was so dehydrated because I couldn’t get off the toilet to go get a glass of water. Instead I had to lean over as close as I could to the sink without leaving the toilet and drink from my hand. Now, I could very well have woken my husband at any point in this, don’t get me wrong (in fact, when he later found out that I’d had the miscarriage without telling him, he couldn’t believe I hadn’t told him what was going on, that I hadn’t asked for help). But I just couldn’t make him suffer through it; it was bad enough that I had to.
I couldn’t imagine my husband leaning up against the bathroom counter for hours while I cried and tried to quietly pass this little lime. I couldn’t imagine my husband sitting on the bathroom floor crying while I was crying. I couldn’t imagine having to share his pain when my pain was already too much to bear. I selfishly didn’t wake him because I needed to be alone for the experience. I don’t know if he’s forgiven me, I’ve never thought to ask him. If I’m sick with a cold or a flu I don’t want anyone to take care of me. I want to be left alone so I can focus on sleeping and getting better. The miscarriage was the same for me. I needed to focus on me.
I sat on a toilet for eight hours, flushing repeatedly, before the contractions became more scattered and the blood and tissue coming out of me finally slowed. I was just as exhausted as if I’d given birth. Only I had none of the happy endorphins pumping through me, none of the babies first cries to relieve me, none of the joy to make it worth it. I cleaned up as best as I could, although I was physically and emotionally exhausted, put an enormous pad in my underwear, and I went to sleep in my sons bed (he was asleep with my husband in our bed).
I woke up after about an hour and needed to return to the toilet for about twenty minutes or so. I put in a fresh gigantic pad, cleaned up and flushed again. I went and drank an enormous glass of water. I went back to bed. That was the first miscarriage.
The second miscarriage was pretty much the same but instead of eight hours for the birth, it was “only” four. I was able to go to bed for a couple hours around midnight. Then up around 2am and back to bed. Then again around 4am.
For both miscarriages I was up again around 6am or 7am and back on the toilet. By then it was all pretty much done. Almost like a heavy flow day on your period. Almost. That’s how my husband found me both times. The first time, he came to the door naked and yawning and looking like my entire world and asked if it was starting. I’d never seen him look so surprised or so sad as when I told him it was ending. “Why didn’t you wake me?” How could I?
The first time, I remember being grateful I had a book in the bathroom when it started. I was reading a young adult fantasy book, totally not the genre of stuff I usually read, and it was amazing. It was fantastic. Between the book and googling miscarriage on my phone and reading everything I could find, I got through the night. Through the “event.”
So when the second miscarriage occurred I was prepared.
If you are reading this because you’ve been told you’ve had a miscarriage, please know you are not alone. Miscarriages are unbelievably common. Most women have had them. Most women do not even know they have had them. Most women miscarry before they think to check if they’re pregnant. Whether you know you are pregnant or not, a miscarriage is not your fault, just like having a baby with Down’s, it’s all genetics.
I was extremely lucky to find several women in my circle who, once I disclosed publicly that there would not actually be another baby after all, contacted me to discuss their miscarriages. “You had a miscarriage? How come you never told me?” I asked each and every one of them. Their answers all boiled down to things like: “It happened before I knew you,” “No one wants to talk about miscarriage, people only want to talk about pregnancy,” and “It’s just too sad.” The one that hit me the hardest was a woman in her seventies who said “I haven’t told anyone before now.” This woman had a miscarriage in her twenties and was now in her seventies and had never told anyone. Can you imagine carrying all that pain on your own for fifty years? And why? There’s nothing shameful about a miscarriage. Give yourself permission to talk about it. Give yourself permission to grieve.
Everyone needs to talk about miscarriage. Everyone needs to know that it is common. Everyone needs to know there are people they can turn to who have been where they’re going. Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on or a person to ask for advice. There are tons of resources to help you heal from a miscarriage both physically and emotionally. I’m not going to go into that here. I’m also not going to tell you to get a colander because, frankly, I couldn’t handle doing that so I don’t expect you to (although the scientist in me kind of wishes I had done the colander thing once). What I will do is say you need a checklist if you have the time and ability to prepare, so here it is:
The Miscarriage Checklist
- water – you will need lots of water so you don’t get dehydrated; treat this like a birth without the happy ending
- phone – you may want to call your healthcare professional or friend or family member and you probably won’t want to get up to do so. Also, access to the internet so you can google your questions as they come or read about other peoples experience so you’re not scared and also to ground you (believe me, the whole experience can be very surreal)
- book – something to read to help take yourself away when the experience gets too overwhelming
- toilet – some people want to save everything and bury it or take it to their doctor to be sure everything came out, more power to you. Remember, this is extremely messy, like the very worst period you’ve ever had times a hundred. I vote toilet
- toilet paper – see above = messy. Baby wipes are nice because they’re soft, but you don’t want those in your toilet and you probably don’t want them piling up in your trashcan either, but that’s your call
- enormous pads – you will use many of these for many days. I was not able to use my Diva Cup after either miscarriage because I was too sore internally and my flow was too heavy for the first several days for me to use my Thinx
Finally, please know that while parts of this post may seem a little irreverent and a little tongue-and-cheek, the truth is I was completely destroyed by my miscarriages. They completely changed my personality, and not for the better. It wasn’t until after I finally had a full-term, healthy pregnancy and delivery that I began to heal. I am not in any way trying to make light of what’s an extremely painful experience. And as such, I want you to know that if you are miscarrying I am here for you. You can message me and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Going through the miscarriage alone is not something I recommend, but going through the aftermath is something absolutely no one should ever do alone. Ever.
Your body will heal from this. Your mind and your heart will need help. Please be sure to ask for it.