(Warning: This is a post about miscarriage.)
Step 1: Get Pregnant
I couldn’t believe I was holding a positive pregnancy test. It was a Friday. Normally my drive home from work is like an arrow from a bow; no errands, no shopping, a straight shot to the bulls eye; my house. That day in traffic three things occurred to me. My period was due. I had no period symptoms. I could use a snack. I exited the highway and headed to the drugstore for pregnancy tests and chocolate.
My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for four months. The ratio of foreplay to penetration in our lovemaking had taken a turn for the worse (less foreplay, more penetration). We were over it. I was frustrated that the process was taking so long.
But now the digital display said, “Pregnant”. My bluff had been called and I was scared. I didn’t feel ready to be pregnant. I called my husband away from the contractors installing new wood floors in our house. He was shocked. We sat on our bed while the contractors worked, Mr. Shocked and Mrs. Scared.
We went to dinner and I had water instead of Diet Coke. We called the baby TPB; tad pole baby. We talked about it all the time. My husband sent flowers to my office and when people asked if it was our anniversary I coyly answered, “Oh, he sent them just because.”
Step 2: Start Bleeding
It was another Friday four weeks later in a bathroom stall in my office. The toilet paper was tinted the lightest pink. I stared at it in my hand. I studied it in disbelief while I sat on the toilet with my pants around my knees. I wouldn’t have noticed it if my body, particularly my lady parts, hadn’t been acting differently the past few weeks. I wouldn’t have noticed it if I wasn’t eight weeks pregnant.
I walked back to my desk somewhat dazed and did what anyone with Internet access would do in this situation. I started Googling. “Bleeding while pregnant.” “Bleeding in early pregnancy.” “Should I be worried if I am bleeding while pregnant?” “Miscarriage.” “How do I know if I’m having a miscarriage?” “Early miscarriage signs.” “How to prevent a miscarriage.” I turned my computer monitor so that no passersby would see what I was doing as they walked by my cubicle situated annoyingly on a busy footpath in the office. I couldn‘t find a website to tell me “It‘s all OK. You are overreacting. Your baby is fine, and by the way it‘s a boy like you always wanted.”
I went back to the bathroom. White. Maybe I hadn’t seen pink after all.
I tried to work. It was a big day. It was an exciting day. It was a morale building day. A barbeque was planned. Tables and chairs had been set up in the parking lot. We were given hats to wear.
Smiling and hatted, I stopped by the restroom again just to be sure. There it was like a bad rerun. Pink. Definitely pink. I called the doctor, but of course the first trimester of a pregnancy is ruled by fate and not science. Nothing could be done. I should go to my regularly scheduled eight week appointment on Monday and call if it got worse.
The lost weekend began. Lie on sofa, go to bathroom, wipe and look. Repeat. White and pink, white and pink, hope and despair. By Monday my crotch was raw.
Step 3: Have Ultrasound
Hope springs eternal. On Monday morning the bleeding had stopped. I signed in for my afternoon appointment at the doctor‘s office. My husband came along for his first gynecological doctor’s appointment. I explained to him that he should stand near my head and not look below my waist. I didn’t want him developing any gynecological equipment related sexual fetishes.
I filled out the patient questionnaire. “Why are you here today? Pregnant? Check. Bleeding? Check.” I waited as obviously pregnant women, who probably were not bleeding filed in and out of the waiting room. I excused myself to use the restroom one last time before my name was called. Pink again. Darker. Possibly Red. Bad Sign.
A nurse called my name, weighed me, measured me, asked me to pee in a cup, and put me in an examination room. The nurse walked in and chirped, “Well, you are definitely pregnant, the test turned positive right away!” She proceeded to tell me that we would be receiving a pregnancy care package before we left. My husband and I stared at her blankly. She looked at my questionnaire where I had indicated my bleeding and I think an “oh” escaped her lips as she excused herself from the room and saying that the doctor would be in shortly.
We waited and played the maybe game. Maybe it would be OK. Maybe we were worried over nothing. The doctor came in and performed an internal exam while my husband squeezed my hand thinking I was in pain. The doctor gave us hope, she said my cervix was closed and sent us off for an ultrasound.
It was my first ultrasound, my only point of reference was television shows where ultrasound jelly is applied to rotund bellies and happy couples find out, “It’s a girl!” This wasn’t like that. This was an internal vaginal ultrasound which was quite a surprising experience if you aren‘t aware such a thing exists. I was penetrated and I waited, and waited. Even with my inexperience in reading ultrasounds I know what nothing looks like. I was waiting for something, anything to show on the monitor suspended from the ceiling, as long as I was still being probed there was hope. My silent ultrasound ended. No baby. No dead baby. Nothing. Blighted Ovum.
I felt like a fool. I felt like my body tricked itself into thinking it was pregnant. I felt like I had a mental illness. It had to be mental; physically there was nothing. How do you lose nothing? How do you feel pain for nothing? How do your mourn nothing? How do you ask for sympathy and empathy for nothing? Even today, two years later, I am reluctant to call this a miscarriage. I haven’t earned it. Others lost something. I lost nothing.
We were not given the promised pregnancy care package. Instead we were given options, the miscarriage trifecta; go natural, take a pill, or D&C. I wanted this to be over as soon as possible. I scheduled a D&C for Friday.
Step 4: Start Bleeding More
Thursday night it happened. It started with bleeding and cramps like a period. Then it intensified into more bleeding and stronger cramps like a bad period. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I made an appointment for a D&C to ensure this didn’t happen. I was paying money to ensure this didn’t happen.
Two simple instructions swam through my mind, Number one: “If you are bleeding through a pad an hour call the exchange.” Number Two: “If you pass any tissue, save it for analysis.” This was my blueprint for how to have a miscarriage, but in my analytical mind nothing is simple. I started new pad at 6:45 pm and watched and waited.
There seems like a lot of blood. Is it enough blood? Do I count the blood that drained from me as I sat on the toilet? Do I call, do I not call? What happens if I don’t call? What happens if I do? What did they mean by tissue? Things seem to be getting stringier and clumpier. Is this what they mean by tissue? How am I supposed to collect this?
Suddenly I experienced a moment of clarity, a revelation, an immediate acquisition of knowledge I never wanted. I passed a quarter sized piece of tissue and there was no more questioning. This was a miscarriage. This was what it was all about. I collected that piece and another piece of tissue I passed in the night. Later I was told that it was placental like tissue, but it was something. It was validation.
I went to the medical center the next day for my D&C. I was angry that I had to experience this loss twice, once naturally and once medically.
Step 5: Have D&C
My first hospital gown. My first IV. My first surgery. The nurse was empathetic. She told me her own miscarriage story. She was sorry this had happened to me. The procedure was pretty much a non-event. I remember walking into a room and waking up in another room. I wanted my husband. I cried. A different nurse told me that she was thirty eight and she and her husband were trying to conceive and having a hard time. She told me she was sorry this had happened to me. Everyone was sorry. I was sorry too. It was all over, the finality weighed on me.
Step 6: Repeat Step 1
This is where I have been stuck for almost two years. We’ve tried ovulation kits, endless sex, pills, tests, IVFs, and nothing to show for it. I don’t remember what it is like to feel pregnant. I used to worry about having another miscarriage. Now I wonder if I will ever be pregnant again…and I worry about having another miscarriage. We will never celebrate the first trimester of a pregnancy again, with flowers and nicknames. We know better now.