I had hoped that my children would be two years apart. That always seems like a great way to have alone time with your first child and get through a little over a year of being a new parent before beginning the journey of being pregnant and having a second child. So when I missed my period last November, I was thrilled. The timing would be perfect! My son was 17 months old, I was ready to wean him off breastfeeding, and the new baby would be born mere weeks after its older brother would be turning two!
My excitement led me to go ahead and tell my family and a select few friends that I was expecting. I also allowed myself to eat a little extra yummy food at each meal (okay, between meals too because I’m a glutton when it comes to food) to fend off my constant morning sickness. In retrospect, I feel really silly and naive that I blabbed all about my nausea and my excitement for this new life all through Christmas with my family. Because a week or two after I came home from our vacation after the new year, I began to spot.
I’m pretty sure I spotted before my first was born. It is a fairly normal occurrence in early pregnancy. But something felt different. I still hadn’t had my first prenatal appointment with my midwife group at Ochsner Baptist in New Orleans, so I had not had the reassurance that I was definitely carrying a viable pregnancy yet. When my appointment finally came around, I shared that I had been spotting. I had to answer a ton of questions as usual for a first prenatal exam and then had a pelvic exam. The nurse midwife said that everything was good and I was definitely pregnant. However, she didn’t check the heartbeat. I didn’t realize until afterward, on my drive home, that I didn’t get to hear my sweet baby’s heartbeat. That would have made everything so real and let me know that things were progressing okay. I wonder if she had skipped that on purpose or if it was by accident. And if it were on purpose, was it because she wasn’t sure she would hear a heartbeat? Or was she having a bad day and wanted to get the meeting over with?
Anyhow, my spotting didn’t stop. Two days went by and the bleeding felt like a light day of a period. I called the off-hours phone line of the midwives and received a call back from a new midwife that I hadn’t met. She was really kind and sensitive and told me that I should come in the next day; they would fit me in even though they were filled with patients so they could double check that everything was fine.
I knew in my heart that I was having a miscarriage already. Going to the midwife would only confirm it. I started to feel really sad about this loss when I woke up the next morning. My husband was at work again, so I had to hold it together as I spent the day with my one and a half year old. I shed some tears quietly and quickly when he was busy with his toys at one point in the morning. Then, right before his usual naptime, I loaded us both into the car to head to the hospital to do a blood test and check on my pregnancy. My toddler was sleepy and started fussing and crying on the short car ride over. I parked in the large garage at the hospital and tried to get him out of his car seat as he flailed and screamed. He wanted to stay in his seat so he could sleep while the driving lulled him to sleep. But we were here already so I wanted to get him out and get this over with. Since he was so sleepy, I thought I’d pull the stroller out of the trunk and put him in it to walk inside. A car pulled up and parked right next to me. As the strangers gaped at me trying to hold a writhing, screaming 30-pound boy and lift the stroller out of the back of the car, I felt a surge between my legs. It felt like a floodgate had opened. I knew what had happened and was sort of prepared for something like this to happen within a day or two. I just hadn’t expected to be out in public when it did. I looked down at my pants. My thickest pair of jeans were completely soaked through with blood. I could feel bodily tissue parts inside my underwear. I had bled so much in that burst of liquid that it was streaming down my legs, soaking my shoes and creating a puddle on the concrete. I immediately burst out crying, threw the stroller back into the trunk, placed my boy back into his car seat, sat on a sweatshirt that had been in the back of the car, and drove myself back home. I couldn’t bear to go inside the hospital in this condition and with my son upset. I knew it would scare him to see me so upset as well, so I composed myself in the front seat and focused on getting us home safely.
I called my husband and told him what happened. I told him that I knew from reading and talking to friends and just from life in general that this was a miscarriage and that I was probably in the worst part of it and just needed to get through the day until our son’s bedtime and then I could just relax and let it happen through the night. But I guess he heard the hurt in my voice because he got someone to cover him at work and he came home as quickly as he could. I was very grateful when he walked through that door at home. I hadn’t been able to clean myself up or put the nasty clothes in the wash because of my motherly duties of cooking and cleaning up and being present for my son. I let my caring husband play with our son while I laid down with bad cramps and weepy feelings. I thought about all the women that have miscarriages and how hard it must be when you are trying to conceive with your first child or if you’ve had multiple miscarriages and are losing hope. I truly feel for all of you women out there who have gone through so much with your fertility and I pray that you heal your heart and mind. We’re all sisters and have to help each other. It’s hard when someone tries to comfort you by saying that it happens to lots of women all of the time. Even if it’s happening to millions of people at the same time, that doesn’t make it any less painful to each individual. Every single one of those people had hopes and dreams for that new life and had most likely started to grow attached. For me, I was just about at the three-month mark, when you’re told it’s highly likely that you’re in the clear. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to be even further along than that.
It would have been hard enough if this was all that happened to me. Unfortunately, the physical part of the miscarriage process became a bit trickier than I had anticipated. I read forum after forum and saw that a miscarriage could be light bleeding for a number of days and then you’d go through a more heavy part with tissue coming out and surges of blood and painful cramps, and then it would taper off again after half a day or maybe a day of the heavy flow. When I was still bleeding heavily and having surges every time I moved, my husband insisted I call the after hours line again. It was the midwife from my first appointment. She told me that I could come into the hospital to finish my miscarriage, but they really wouldn’t be able to do anything for me. If I was more comfortable at home, which I told her I was, then I would be fine to just ride it out in the comfort of home. She let me know the warning signs to look for, such as soaking through two overnight sanitary pads within an hour. I went to sleep a little sad but knowing that I didn’t cause this to happen and that it wasn’t meant to be. I was forcing my mind to understand what had happened so that my heart would be able to move past it.
But for the next two days, the heavy bleeding and passing of big chunks of tissue and clots continued. My husband had to take off another day of work to help me. I know he was worried about missing work, and usually, I try not to ask for help for anything, but I could hardly leave the bathroom and was soaking through pads whenever I had a surge. To make matters much worse logistically, our old shotgun home could not handle the cold weather we were having. It must have been the coldest week I had ever experienced in my years living in New Orleans. Our homes are not equipped for frigid temperatures and despite letting our faucets drip overnight, our pipes froze. So I couldn’t flush the toilet. My husband would go in after I made the toilet a mess of red and use gallon jugs to flush it out. I couldn’t wash any of my blood-soaked clothes. We couldn’t wash dishes and they were beginning to pile up. Our home was a wreck. And we were freaking cold! Our heater basically stops working if the temperature dips below 40 degrees, which it had. So for two days, we had to live in relative filth and cold while I was dealing with my bodily and hormonal changes.
Finally, after three days of all this, my husband voiced his concerns even louder. I could see in his face that he was worried. I should have listened to him sooner, being that he is in a medical profession, and gone to the hospital to check things out. But I kept thinking, “This is obviously a miscarriage and my pregnancy is over. I want to be here, not poked and prodded at the hospital just to have them tell me what I already know.” Finally, around dinner time, I told him that as soon as I was sure I could stay out of the bathroom for 10 minutes, we’d load up in the car and he could drive me to the hospital. But I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. I kept having surge after surge, and suddenly the cramps were so bad that they felt like labor pains. Then I started throwing up because the pain was so bad. While I was in the bathroom, my husband was working on whipping up dinner for our boy. I shuffled out of the bathroom to see our son eating in his high chair. I had to hold onto the wall because it felt like the room was spinning. That’s when I realized I had to go to the emergency room. If I passed out, which I knew was inevitable now, my poor dear husband would not only be trying to watch our child, but he would also be trying to revive his wife and pick her up off the floor and keep our son from crying when he saw that scary sight. So I said, “Let’s go now.” Since it was our son’s bedtime, I insisted that he just drop me off at the ER and I would get settled in while they went home and then we’d figure out what to do from there.
Neither of us is from New Orleans, so we don’t have strong connections or any family there. We do each have a couple of good friends, but I just didn’t feel comfortable calling any of them late at night to either stay at our house while August slept or come be with me in the hospital. I would definitely rather be alone at the hospital and have my family safe and sound sleeping at home.
I checked in at the reception desk and tried to tell the apathetic lady who was logging me into the computer system that my midwife had told me to come in immediately if I was bleeding through multiple pads and that I had long exceeded that marker. But she just lazily put my information in and barely even looked up at me. I started to worry as I sat down in the waiting room and counted how many people were already there before me. I wasn’t sure if they were family of sick people with the flu (there were lots of intense cases this winter) or some malady or if they were the people in need of emergency care. Thankfully, my name was called pretty quickly. The intake nurse took my vitals and exclaimed, “You’re tanking!” and called someone over who wheeled me on a gurney straight into an exam room.
A doctor looked my chart over, asked me some questions about how long I’d been bleeding, and then asked me if I would please sign off on getting a blood transfusion if necessary. It turns out that my red blood count was right on the verge of me having to get a transfusion or else I would be in a life or death situation. That was scary to realize. Another OBGYN was called for and she came with assistant nurses and a med student. They did an internal exam and she used a tool to manually extract some of the blood clots and tissue that she could see. She said that it was going to slow the bleeding a bit and that would buy us time to go up and get a Dilation and Curettage (D&C). I was going through an incomplete miscarriage. That is, my pregnancy was no longer viable and my body was trying to cleanse my uterus of everything. However, something was stuck in my uterine wall that my body was having trouble extracting. So basically my body kept flushing itself with blood to try to clear everything out, but it wasn’t working so I just kept bleeding and bleeding. Before long, I was being prepped for the D&C, signing papers, and staring into blindingly bright lights in a stark white room as anesthesia quickly took its effect and I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up, I saw a young nurse next to me and I said, “I thought you were my son. I was about to be like, ‘Oh my gosh it’s way past your bedtime! Time for night night!’” I heard a handful of nurses and doctors giggle from elsewhere in the room. And then they wheeled me out to a recovery room for the rest of the night.
I had to sleep at the hospital that night. Well, I didn’t actually sleep because someone came in to take my blood pressure and draw my blood every half hour or so throughout the night. My blood pressure was still very low and they had to put me on an IV of a blood thickening agent. My red blood cell count was also too low so they wanted to continue to monitor it until they felt safe sending me home. I still was covered in multiple days’ worth of grime and blood due to the lack of running water. They told me I couldn’t shower until the morning because I would probably fall down due to my great blood loss combined with the hot water. So I just enjoyed the dark room and the leg massagers they put on me to prevent blood clots. I didn’t sleep, but it was a restful atmosphere in between the poking and prodding.
The next morning, my husband and son came as soon as they were able. I was ecstatic to see them after my strange night. I thought that everything was done and all better. I knew I’d be sad for a little while, but at least the physical part was over.
The part that I had no idea about was how sick I would feel after the incomplete miscarriage saga. Because of my extreme acute blood loss, I had low iron. I had hardly any energy for over two weeks. Every time I stood up or moved at more than a snail’s pace, I was overwhelmed with dizziness. My discharge papers said that I should take iron supplements and that it would be normal to experience some dizziness and fatigue. But I feel like nobody warned me just how extreme it would be. I also looked like a ghost. My skin was completely pale. It was practically translucent from the low amount of blood. I searched the internet for incomplete miscarriage facts and couldn’t find anything that resembled my situation. Then I moved on to looking up symptoms after acute blood loss and compared my blood levels with others on forums. That’s when I read that it would take months to have my blood count back to normal and I realized that I had been very close to needing a blood transfusion.
More realization of the severity of my situation came when I received a bill for the ER services. Ugh. Medical bills are the pits. Then I saw the code for the services rendered and looked up what it meant. I had been marked with a 5 for severity, which was their code for the direst need of medical attention. Scary!
For me, it took about two and a half weeks until I felt fairly normal again physically. It took another week or so to feel better mentally and emotionally. For others, I can imagine and understand that the emotional part would take longer to heal from. And for that, I am so sorry and sympathetic to anyone that is going through that pain. I wanted to share my small story to maybe help someone else who didn’t know what to expect or isn’t sure if they should go see their doctor if they suspect they are miscarrying. It would have been a lot easier if I had been told by my midwife that there was no heartbeat and could elect to have a surgery to remove everything. Then I could have avoided the difficult half week of bleeding profusely and difficult weeks afterward of recovering from the blood loss.
Although I know that I took good care of myself and my pregnancy, this experience pushed me into wanting to be healthier. I already very rarely drink, never smoke or do drugs, and am actively chasing around and lifting a toddler all day every day. Some strange part of me wants to be completely positive that if I miscarry again, I know I did everything within my power to have the best vessel to carry a baby. So I am working on cutting back on coffee and I’ve finally gotten my act together with eating healthy foods. I’m loading up on vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods every day and no longer eating junk food, fast food, or processed foods. I feel good about it and have more energy from it. I’m following the F Factor diet. If you’re interested in a healthy lifestyle change, I totally recommend you look into it.
Another side effect of my miscarriage is a change in how I feel about having more children. While I do want to have more children, I am more cautious now. I actually am a little bit scared of getting pregnant again. I know I will be even more of a nervous wreck than with my first pregnancy now, knowing that something can go wrong at any stage. That’s terrifying. Before I became pregnant back in November, I was adamant that we needed to start trying for our second child and that it was the time. I knew that two years age difference was right for us. Now I realize that whenever that second child comes will be the right time for us. I’ve seen Instagram posts where the poster asks everyone how far apart their children are and whether they like it or not. Every single answer — and they span from 9 months apart to 10 years or more apart — includes the parent saying that it is the perfect age difference. That just goes to show that you make the best of what life throws at you, and God’s will shall be done and it’s what is best. I have even, for the first time, decided I’m okay with having my son be our only child. He is the most magnificent human being I could ever dream of, and my heart is full with him. If we are blessed to have another, or if we decide to adopt sometime in the future, then my heart will grow bigger and it will be filled with that much love for the other child(ren) too. Whatever happens, happens. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my newfound healthful energy, fill every day with love and discovery and joy with my toddler, and treasure the time I have with my husband. I’m no longer in a crazy rush to get pregnant. If I do, I’ll be nervous but hopeful yet again.