Our Miscarriage & Coping with Pregnancy Loss
Originally post October 31, 2021 on my former blog Gather Nourish Grow
Warning: This post is detailed and graphic about natural miscarriage. It is also emotionally vulnerable and personal. I’m sharing our story because reading and hearing others’ stories helped me both before and after I had a similar experience. It’s difficult and scary to share so publicly, but at the same time I want to talk about it. It’s not talked about enough. If it helps even one person, I’m glad for it.
We found out we were pregnant in August of 2020. I took a pregnancy test the night after going to a showing for a potential house. We’d been seriously looking for our first home as a married couple for several months. On the way home from the showing, we talked excitedly about what we’d change first – it was a large, older home, and every room needed work. We were set on putting in an offer that night.
My period was four days late this month. I knew pregnancy was a possibility, and with all the house stuff going on on top of that, I was anxious. Once during college, I skipped a period due to stress. I didn’t know if my period hadn’t started due to pregnancy, or if it was because I was stressing about whether or not I was pregnant. So, even though it was a little early, I took a test just to know.
When Hayden saw the double lines, his mind immediately changed about the house. It was too much work with a baby on the way. I was torn. I really liked the house, but at the same time, I knew he was right. In the end, even if we could get past how much work it needed, ultimately the house wasn’t in the best location for us. I would say this pregnancy saved us from buying a house we would have later regretted.
The pregnancy felt too good to be true. We became pregnant after trying for the first time. The most common question we received was, “was it planned?” Well yes, but we didn’t expect it would happen so quickly. Especially not after so many couples we knew had tried for a long time before finally succeeding.
To say I was nervous about losing this baby would be an understatement. I wanted to be excited, and I was, but I was also afraid. I knew how common miscarriages were, and how many people I knew who had gone through at least one, my mom included. But, I tried to remain positive.
On September 21st, mine and Hayden’s anniversary, we had our first OB appointment and were able to schedule an early ultrasound the same day! I didn’t realize I had scheduled the appointment for our one year anniversary, but when we saw our baby’s heartbeat on the screen, it was the best anniversary present we could have asked for.I measured 8 weeks and 4 days.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I definitely felt pregnant. My pants were tighter. I was nauseous and fatigued. I cried at nothing and forgot everything. Every symptom my What to Expect app told me would start happening each week, did.
I guess I felt reassured by the fact I didn’t have any bleeding or cramping, but at the same time, even though I was experiencing some symptoms, my belly wasn’t growing. It was hard to tell though since I felt chronically bloated.
During this time, I read a story about a woman who didn’t find out her baby had died until her OB wasn’t able to hear a heartbeat. A missed miscarriage. I hadn’t thought about that – I just sort of assumed I would know. This increased my worries. I tried reassuring myself that I wasn’t showing very much because this was my first pregnancy, which I had read is often the case.
My next OB appointment wasn’t scheduled until October 23rd. The afternoon of Wednesday, October 21st, I felt some mild cramps, like I was getting my period. Oh no. I brushed it off because I often had weird cramps or gas pains due to something I ate or not moving my bowels. So, I went for a run and I actually felt pretty good.
Thursday, I didn’t feel great either. My stomach felt weird, but again, I had eaten different foods that didn’t seem like they agreed with me.
Around 2:00 am Friday morning, however, things started going south. I woke up to use the bathroom and noticed red mucus in my underwear and a pool of blood in the toilet. I researched reasons why I could be bleeding that didn’t mean I was miscarrying, but soon woke up Hayden, crying in sadness and panic anyway.
I went to work that morning with a nervous stomach and on the verge of tears. My appointment wasn’t until 2:30 pm in the afternoon. Thankfully, that day there were actually people at Hannaford who had questions about nutrition, which kept my mind occupied until it was time to go.
I told the OB what was going on, and she too began coming up with possible reasons for bleeding before quickly getting the Doppler to check for a heartbeat. She didn’t say anything, but I was hearing what she was hearing: nothing. My heart sank. What I had feared and predicted was true.
She brought out the ultrasound machine. I measured 8 weeks and 4 days. Our baby had stopped growing soon after our first appointment.
I held back my tears until I was safely outside of the office and could sob alone. I called Hayden and came home to find him crying as well. I hadn’t seen him this sad since he had to put his dog down about three years ago. Once we finally calmed down a bit, we ordered sushi. A sliver of a silver lining for this heartbreaking day.
I knew miscarriages were common. I knew it meant something was very wrong with our baby and that even though it’s sad, it’s a good thing. I knew that I wasn’t the only one to go through this. But, I wasn’t prepared for what having a miscarriage would entail.
Because I hadn’t had many symptoms of a miscarriage until recently, the OB explained my options if my body did not start to do things naturally: take a pill to induce a miscarriage and cause severe pain and cramping, or undergo a procedure to remove the “products of conception,” where I would be given anesthesia. Both with risks of bleeding and infection, neither sounding pleasant. I had always thought that if I had a miscarriage, it would be like having a heavier than normal period, the way my mom made hers sound. I cried harder at the thought of going through either of these processes.
Nothing happened on Saturday except Hayden and I spent some time with our sisters, and I was able to have a beer. I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, but it was like as soon as I couldn’t have it, I wanted it. I’d been craving pumpkin beer all fall.
Sunday morning was when things started in full swing. I woke up around 5:30 am bleeding and in pain, but thankful. It could only mean one thing: my body was trying to do this naturally.
Every time I stood up it felt like a gush of blood came out of me. I changed pads frequently, not necessarily because they were completely full (this is important), but because I didn’t want to keep wearing one once it had a decent amount of blood in it. Around 7:00 am I sat on the toilet and heard a “pluep” sound into the water. What was that? I fished it out with an old scrubber brush holder. It looked like a chicken liver, but about two or three times the size. It was an odd feeling, being both fascinated by what was coming out of me and mournful at the same time.
I called my OB to make sure I was doing the right thing: hanging at home and letting my body do it’s thing. As long as I’m not hemorrhaging, I was fine, she said. Nope, not hemorrhaging, and didn’t feel faint. I was fine. Fine.
Eventually, I just sat on the toilet to let myself bleed as opposed to changing my pad the minute I stood up, each time I used the bathroom. But when my bum and leg started to go numb, I just sat on the floor instead. I was bleeding so much, and I was tired of walking back and forth from the garage to the bathroom.
Wait, was I hemorrhaging? I thought. I didn’t actually know the definition. I just assumed I’d be bleeding non-stop, like a faucet, if that was the case. The internet told me if I was filling a pad per hour then I should probably seek medical attention. Oh boy… I don’t know if I’ve been filling one per hour? I pretty much change one within minutes after gushing blood! “A miscarriage is usually heavier than a normal period…” Okay, well this is MUCH heavier than a normal period! I got a little panicky and called Hayden. Phew! He was on his way home. He’d gone to get me more pads. Then, I called my former co-worker. She had hemorrhaged and gone to the ER before. “Give it a couple of hours, if it doesn’t get better, then I would go.” Okay, a few hours. I feel better about that.
I stood up. It felt like my uterus was about to vomit and I couldn’t get to the toilet fast enough. After a few splashes of blood on the floor and a very red toilet, I told Hayden we should probably go to the hospital… just to be on the safe side. I didn’t know what was normal and what… wasn’t. He agreed.
We spent six hours in the hospital that day. We missed lunch, the going away party I was supposed to stop by at, and having dinner with our friends who just had a baby. I wasn’t hemorrhaging, but I did have an ultrasound showing that some “products of conception” remained in my uterus. My bleeding had slowed down, and I didn’t have anymore cramping at the time.
I had two options: have a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure that afternoon, which would involve suctioning out the rest of my uterine contents, or go home and risk more heavy bleeding and infection if my body didn’t continue to miscarry naturally.
I really didn’t want a D&C, but I also didn’t want to go home to the same bleeding I was experiencing earlier. To have peace of mind, we decided to move forward with a D&C. I was feeling confident about this decision until I learned about every single risk of surgery. I didn’t want a pulmonary embolism! I also generally like to do things with as little intervention as possible. I ended up talking to a friend who had had this procedure before and she helped me calm down. I received a COVID-19 test so that I could have surgery (my mask would come off).
Then we waited. As we sat in the hospital, I started to wonder if this was the right decision. I remembered my mom saying her miscarriage took about a week or so, and another story of a woman’s loss that took about two weeks to complete. I looked it up and read it does often take days or weeks to happen fully. If my body could do this naturally, I want to let it. But, I was still nervous. It was possible that I could have an incomplete miscarriage and end up having a D&C anyway. I’m here and I can have one today, but should I?
I phoned the on-call OB. If she said I could wait, I was going home. Without a procedure.
She said wait. Thank goodness! COVID-free, Hayden and I went home, picking up pizza on the way.
I didn’t really consider calling out of work the next day because I knew I had a schedule full of patients depending on me, and I’m just not someone who misses work. So, Monday morning I woke up and went. Emotionally, I wasn’t doing well, but thought the distraction would help. Physically, I actually felt okay. I had decent energy, limited bleeding and barely any cramps. I was, however, exhausted by the end of the day and spent the rest of the evening on the couch.
The next day was much different. My cramps returned with a vengeance, and it was harder to bury my emotions to get through the day. I made the decision to call out the rest of the week in order to rest, recover, and actually process what I was feeling. My in-laws cooked dinner for us that night which was much appreciated, but I was laid up at their house with two heating pads: one on my back, one on my front, and I was in a lot of pain. I passed another piece of liver-like matter though, so that was good.
Wednesday was worse than the day before, both physically and emotionally. And that night it made sense because I passed some more product, but this time it looked like a mini, purplish colon, which the OB said could have been the placenta. It smelled like rotting tissue. After I passed a couple more small pieces like this, my cramps eased up. I finally let myself cry some more.
I still wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to meet our baby. I sobbed into my husband’s arms, mourning our loss.
Thursday, with a heat pack practically glued to my core, I barely left the couch – finally resting and processing this experience.
Friday, I woke up for the first time without cramping, though they did return mildly that afternoon. I hoped this was a good sign that my body passed what it needed to. I had an OB appointment that morning and I didn’t need intervention just yet. I will likely get another ultrasound next week. So far, I’d felt the most normal, both physically and emotionally, than I had since last Wednesday. I can only hope and pray that things continue to move up from here.
I know that I’m not alone in this: about 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. I know that it’s not my fault. Miscarriages are often caused by improper fetal development. I know that I can get pregnant.
The facts don’t take away from the heartbreaking loss of our baby, but they do help with grieving and the ability to keep moving forward. It’s agonizing to know that so many women experience this physical and emotional pain, but at the same time, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one.
When we found out we were pregnant, we at least waited until our first doctor’s appointment before telling a few of our closest friends and family. But, miscarriage risk was still at its highest. We knew there was a possibility that we’d have to tell them we weren’t anymore. It was hard delivering bad news, but I don’t regret it. It’s a blessing to be surrounded by so much love and support.
People keep asking how Hayden and I are doing. It’s hard to answer that question. We’re grieving our loss, but at the same time, we know that this happened for a reason. We may not know what that reason is today, tomorrow, or years from now, but we trust God. This loss was in His plan, and He doesn’t make mistakes. Personally, I continue to hold onto words from Lisa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way:
“My feelings see rotten situations as absolutely unnecessary hurt that stinks. My soul sees it as fertilizer for a better future.”
“We may be afraid of all the disappointment of this broken world…if we weren’t ever disappointed, we’d settle for the shallow pleasures of this world rather than addressing the spiritual desperation of our souls..If our souls never ached with disappointment and disillusionments, we’d never fully admit and submit to our need for God…If I want His promises, I have to trust His process…What if disappointment is really the exact appointment your soul needs to radically encounter God?”
“We live in a broken world where broken things happen. So it’s not surprising that things get broken in our lives as well. But what about those times when things aren’t just broken but shattered beyond repair? Shattered to the point of Dust. At least when things get broken there’s some hope you can glue the pieces back together…But what if fixing, editing, and repairing isn’t at all what God has in mind for us in this shattering? What if, this time, God desires to make something completely brand new? Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.”
It might seem strange, writing about and sharing this experience so soon. But for me, writing is the most therapeutic thing I can do. It allows me to acknowledge and express how I’m feeling. Writing often feels like a way to move forward. Once I write it down, it’s off my chest and I feel a little lighter, even if the pain is still there.
“But how do we fix the pain of today?…There [is] simply no easy way around the heartbreaking circumstances…[we] would have to walk through them. And it would be painful. Feeling the pain is the first step towards healing the pain. The longer we avoid the feeling, the more we delay our healing…Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us. It’s to save us. To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed, and set up for the greatest pain of all…separation from God.”
“To trust God is to trust his timing…to trust His way. God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way.”
“We see that all those harsh realities aren’t the end, but rather a temporary middle place. Not the place where we are meant to wallow and dwell. Rather the place through which we will have to learn to wrestle well…To deny my feelings any voice is to rob me of being human. But to let my feelings be the only voice will rob my soul of healing perspectives with which God wants to comfort me and carry me forward.”
I started reading this book a few months into my marriage with Hayden. About five years ago, I lost my aunt and her fiance in a fatal motorcycle accident. One day they were with us, and life was normal. Then, in an instant, they were gone. I lived in fear of losing my husband too. I didn’t know how I would get through that loss, or how anyone does. I do know that the best thing I can do is love him daily, pray, and trust God’s process.
I didn’t know then Lisa’s words would, indeed, help me through a loss, just not the one I was originally afraid of. Having started her book, though, I feel about as well prepared for this experience as I could be. The pain hurts, but I’m letting myself feel it, trusting God to walk with me through it and carry me forward.