[This post contains some graphic details about a miscarriage. If you are sensitive about this topic, this might be a post that you want to skip.]
One thing that I have learned about loss is that nobody handles it the same way. There is no right way, no wrong way. But another thing that I have learned is that nobody wants to talk about it. People pat you on the shoulder, make soothing noises and move on. They don’t want to know the details, the inside information. For some, maybe it hits too close to home and reminds them of things that they don’t want to remember. For others, maybe they’ve never experienced such a loss and they don’t understand how completely it can consume you. Nobody tells you what to expect when you have a miscarriage. Nobody wants to share the details.
So today, I will tell you about my worst miscarriage. The one that brought me to my knees and stole a little piece of my soul. The one that I almost didn’t recover from. I will share the details. Back in 2006, in between my pregnancies with Maia and Mase, I had another pregnancy. Matt had just started his new job and his health insurance had not kicked in yet. I had to apply for State aid for pregnant women. I was 4 weeks and 5 days along when I filed the application. Nowhere in New City would see you if you did not have the State Aid card already in your possession. It take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to get a card. State Aid doesn’t offer timely aid, that’s for sure.
I had normal pregnancy symptoms starting around week 6. Everything progressed normally until the middle of my 9th week. I had some cramping and light spotting. I called to find out the status of my State Aid and was told it was still in process and I should go to the ER. I went by myself because we had nobody to watch the other 3 kids. I sat in a crowded, smelly waiting room sitting next to a lady who brought her own puke bucket. Charming. I waited for 5 hours before being taken back to a room. The nurse was in a hurry, the doctor was in an even bigger hurry. They rushed me off to the ultrasound room almost immediately.
The ultrasound tech was so cold. She kept the screen pointed away from me, saying nothing the entire time. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. Twenty minutes later, she shuffled me back to my room with not a word having been spoken the entire time. I sat and waited by myself in that cold room for another 2 hours before the ER doctor made it back in to see me. I still remember his words.
“The ultrasound shows twins, but they look small. Both have heartbeats, for now. There’s no way to tell if you are losing one or both of them. You’ll just have to wait it out.”
That’s it. Then he left. Twins. Two heartbeats. No explanation for the bleeding. Just go home and wait.
So I went home and waited. The bleeding stopped, then started, stopped, then started. I called the State Aid office repeatedly, each time being told that my application was still in process. I called around to every single OB’s office in New City, trying to find one who would see me while the application was in process. Finally, one agreed to see me. I was 10 weeks pregnant. I drove 45 minutes to the other end of the city. By myself. I sat in a little cramped waiting room, surrounded by some unsavory characters. I prayed, first for the health of the babies and then that I didn’t get shanked in the parking lot. The nurse called me back into the smallest exam room that I have ever seen in my life. The doctor did the shortest exam I have ever had in my life. It couldn’t have taken more than 3 minutes. She couldn’t tell me anything. I was still bleeding. She wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic in case I had a vaginal infection. I asked about an ultrasound and she said they didn’t have the equipment. As I left, the receptionist charged me $365. I argued. I told her the date I called and the person I spoke to, who said I wouldn’t be charged. She threatened to call the police unless I paid. I paid $365 to talk to an OB for less than 5 minutes and to leave not knowing anything other than the knowledge I came in with. I sobbed all the way home. That was 2 weeks worth of grocery money.
Two weeks later, one day shy of my 13th week of pregnancy, I started to bleed again. I called the State Aid office. In process- still. Again, I had to go to the ER. I chose a different ER this time. They were much nicer. The nurse was very sympathetic and motherly. The doctor was equally sympathetic. He examined me fully before sending me off to the ultrasound. This time the ultrasound technician let me watch the screen and she just kept saying “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” There were two babies, but only one heartbeat. And not a strong heartbeat. The ER doc explained what he felt was happening. Twin A had passed sometime in the previous 3-4 days. Twin B was barely hanging on and he felt it was likely that I would lose them both. He gave me the option of scheduling a D&E immediately or waiting to see what would happen. I chose to wait and see. I couldn’t fathom the thought of terminating the one baby with a heartbeat when there was a chance, albeit a slim chance, that the baby might survive. So I went home again. And waited. And bled. And bled. And bled.
When another week passed without any improvement, I went back to the ER again. An ultrasound confirmed that I had lost Twin B. The doctor felt that I was in beginning stages of the miscarriage and that it would be fine to let me go home and miscarry naturally. I was in my 14th week. I didn’t ask questions. I should have asked questions. I went home.
A week and a half later, it got worse. Late in the night I began to pass huge clots. Clots the size of my fist. Sometime that night I also passed 2 perfectly formed little babies, still in their amniotic sacs. It was a blood bath in our bathroom. Matt was freaked out and so was I. Around dawn, I started to feel really sick and I made the decision to head to the ER again. This time Matt took me because I was so dizzy that I couldn’t drive. They examined me immediately in the ER, confirmed that I passed both babies and gave me IV fluids. I was there for 6 hours before they sent us home. I was told to expect some continued bleeding for a week or so.
Three weeks later, a few days after the bleeding had come to a halt, I started passing huge clots again and I woke up with a high fever. Back to the ER I went. Alone this time as we had nobody available to watch the kids. The ER doctor took one look at me and called in the on call OB. I guess I looked bad. I had an ultrasound that confirmed I had retained products of pregnancy. I also had a serious uterine infection and was so severely anemic from blood loss that I required 2 units of blood before they could proceed with the D&E. I called Matt, who called my mom, who left immediately to come help but she lives 2 hours away.
I sat in the pre-op room by myself while they prepared to do the surgery. I spoke to the anesthesiologist who scared the shit out of me with all his allergy questions. The nurses made soothing noises about me being alone. I just wanted it over with. I was already out of surgery by the time Matt was able to get there. I remember waking up in recovery and he was there. I don’t remember anything else from that day.
The next few days passed in a haze of nausea from the pain meds, fever from the infection and headache from God only knows what. It was like having the flu multiplied by 1000. I didn’t find out until later that I should not have been allowed to go home at such a late gestation while in the midst of a miscarriage. It took me a long time to make peace with that loss. The first few weeks were spent just trying to physically recover, the emotional recovery came much later. The entire experience was terrible. But the kicker?
Three days after my emergency D&E, I received my State Aid card in the mail.