Real talk about my real(ly awful) miscarriage.

The Friday of our ultrasound…after we were told there was no heartbeat…after our nurse called and told me to stop hormones…after I called my mother and told her not to order the angel onesie…after I cried with Dan on the stairs for an hour… Dan and I were sitting on the couch when my phone started ringing and our fertility clinics number flashed on the screen. I picked it up anxiously, a part of me thinking maybe they were calling to say “oops we got it wrong! You’re totally pregnant! Sorry about that”…the rational part of me knowing that was not going to happen. I was surprised though when I realized it was our physician (mind you it was 6pm on a Friday night) calling to talk about what had happened earlier in the day. One thing that sticks in my mind about our twenty minute conversation is he never used the terms miscarriage or baby… he kept saying “the loss”. I do not know if this is something they learn in medical school, but I will always appreciate our physician for how he spoke to us that night, because Dan and I lost much more than a pregnancy that day, and I really felt like our kind-eyed doctor recognized that.

After a few minutes he said to me “We need to talk about what the plan is moving forward…” I thought he meant with the IVF (which I thought was a little insensitive…we literally just found us we weren’t going to have this baby) until he continued “We have to decide how you’re going to have the miscarriage.” Now, blame it on my shock and grief, I had not really thought about the fact that I hadn’t really had a miscarriage yet, our baby had stopped developing, but physically I had no idea. I had what is referred to as a “missed miscarriage” there are no symptoms of a miscarriage (cramping, bleeding, pain), but the pregnancy stops developing. My physician and I discussed my options…

  • I could wait for my body to recognize the pregnancy was no longer continuing and miscarry naturally.
  • I could have a D & C
  • I could take medication to “induce” the miscarriage.

I made the decision to have a natural miscarriage. I figured my body had been pumped with enough hormones and medications over the past 6 months, I did not welcome more. I also wanted to avoid a D & C because I had enough issues stacked against us with the infertility, I feared scar tissue from a surgical procedure would affect my future fertility (I want any future embryos to have a nice, healthy place to implant!) and truthfully, I hated the idea of having anesthesia again, (blame it on the ICU nurse in me). My physician told he would give me one week to miscarriage naturally… he wanted me to come to the clinic every other day for blood work to check my HCG levels because the drop would help predict when I would miscarry and he told me if it didn’t happen within a week we needed to explore the other two options.

I went for bloodwork the following Tuesday and my nurse (sweet, kind Marsha) called that evening and said my number was low enough that they believed the miscarriage would happen within the next 48 hours, she told me to be prepared for cramping and bleeding, “the worst period of your life.” This was a cruel understatement.

The next morning I woke up with terrible cramps, but mind you I have endometriosis, terrible cramps are nothing new for me. I took some extra strength Tylenol, put on my scrubs and drove to work. (I’ve always found it helps cramps to keep moving, I figured if this was supposed to feel like the worst period of my life there is no place more active for me than a short-staffed, busy ICU.) I was about thirty minutes into my 12 hour shift when I realized this was nothing like a bad period. The Tylenol hadn’t touched my pain at all, the pain was radiating through my stomach/back so fiercely I actually found myself struggling to breath. A co-worker who works nights and was late leaving called me over to an empty room and said “You look like you’re about to pass out…what’s going on?” I broke down and explained to her what was  happening, she had been a ER nurse for 15 years before coming to the ICU and she calmly told me she had seen a lot of women come in with miscarriages…and she knew there was no way I was going to survive a 12 hour shift, she looked me dead in the eye and said “if you really do this naturally, without pain medication, this is going to be the hardest 48 hours of your life… and you’re not staying here.” I am so thankful I spoke to her that day because she was the first (and only) person who really explained how difficult this was going to be.

I took my charge nurse aside, explained what was happening, and said I would try to stay through morning assessments and morning medication pass (the busiest few hours). I do not know why I felt the need to be “super nurse” that morning, (at one point I looked down and realized I was white knuckle gripping my patients bed as the pain literally felt like it was tearing through me), but I think it has to do with control. I couldn’t control anything that was happening to me… I had no control of our fertility, my body or the loss, but I could still be a good nurse (and that was important to me). I ended up leaving work around 11 AM and spent the majority of the next 48 hours going between my bed and the bathroom.

What happens during a natural miscarriage is not something I was prepared for. Your body literally goes into a modified labor in order to have the actual miscarriage. (i.e.: you dilate, you have contractions). At one point I was lying down and could see my stomach contracting…I genuinely felt like an alien had taken up house inside me and was now fighting  to get out. There was more blood than I expected. And it was a lot more painful than I was prepared for. There were moments when I thought I was going to pass out from the pain (I told Dan what ER to take me to).  I would wake up (from Tylenol PM induced sleep) and feel as if someone was beating me up. The worst period of my life did not even come close to what I experienced.

And then it ended. After about 4 days the bleeding stopped, the cramps subsided, the nausea was gone. My HCG level remained elevated (that would take almost a month to reach 0) but the physical miscarriage was done. And I survived.

Those 96 hours were torture…but I am also thankful for them. The physical pain (as weird as this will sound) made it very real for me…there was a baby. I never heard our baby’s heartbeat, I never felt a kick, I never saw my stomach grow or put on a maternity top… I never experienced most parts of being pregnant, but I experienced the miscarriage…that was real…and it helps me to remember that so was our child. So… after all the pain…after all the tears… I feel grateful for my ability to have that time to say goodbye to our baby.

So advice time:

               If you, or someone you know, is going to experience a natural miscarriage (or really anything to do with a miscarriage): ask your physician every question you can think of… do not going into it blindly. A miscarriage is awful, you do not need to be googling your symptoms while experiencing it to make sure you’re not dying. Also, if something doesn’t feel right (and you don’t have a friendly co-worker who’s treated 100+ women experiencing miscarriages or years of medical experience) call your healthcare provider. WebMD is not your friend…your doctors answering service is…they get paid of be on call for a reason.

               My greatest piece of advice is don’t be a superhero. A miscarriage (regardless of how it happens: naturally, a D&C or medication) is traumatic. Give yourself time to recovery physically from the loss, because the emotional aspect lasts a lot longer than a few days and drains you. I still wish I had taken more time to recover (I went back to work the following Monday) and worked three 12-hour days in a row…I pushed myself to be ‘super nurse’ and take care of other people, instead of taking care of myself. If it hadn’t been for Dan, my mother and one kind-hearted co-worker I would not have made it through those days, but I also put a lot of added stress on myself, that I didn’t need and you don’t need either. So allow yourself time to recover, get plenty of rest and allow your body to heal… your body is going to heal a lot faster than your heart so take care of that first.

WordsWednesday

“We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds- the strength to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.” –C. Myss

I was disappointed.

I’ve been blessed with an exceptionally wonderful family. My parents are kind, considerate, loving people who raised my siblings and me to have strong morals, values and work-ethics. My siblings, although all wildly different from one another and me, are my favorite people, any of them would drop everything they were doing in a heartbeat and fly to me if I said I needed them. There’s a security in that type of relationship that is hard to describe. My extended family is closer than most, I grew up going to my great-grandparents house every Sunday for dinner. I do not think a day has ever passed in the past year when at least one member of my family hasn’t called just to ‘check in’.  I have a remarkably strong support system…and that’s just the ones related to me by blood. My friends, co-workers, and 1 earth-angel of a sister-in-law have been extraordinarily good to me. I cannot put into words how tremendously blessed I am to have such a wonderful network of people supporting Dan and me.

Which is why I’ve been trying to write this post for few weeks… it’s been an endless cycle of typing…deleting…crying…typing…deleting…crying… BUT I need to write it… because I’ve been feeling like a pretty garbage person lately…

I was disappointed with every single person in my life.

Now before you turn away from this blog, curse my name and write me off. Let me explain.

After the miscarriage I just wanted to feel better. The physical pain was unbearable, but it passed… the emotional warfare that still rages in my head and heart is indescribable. All I wanted/want is for it to not hurt so much.

Now those wonderful people I described at the beginning of this post tried, my God they tried. I have a stack of cards, countless texts/phone calls and e-mails from loved ones sending their love, sympathies and support. I have never been hugged as fiercely as I was in those first few days after the miscarriage. People cried with me, they cried for me, they cried for themselves. My support system stepped up to the challenge and were wonderful.

And I let those wonderful people down. Every card I read, e-mail I opened or phone call I picked up I kept wishing this time, this person, was going to get it right. They were going to magically have the perfect combination of words that ‘fixed me’. They were going to take my pain away…

…And then they didn’t. Their words fell short (as words do), they helped me, but they didn’t ‘heal me’. And it made me sad. It made me feel like I was alone. I resented people for not being able to do or say the right thing. It made me feel like no one understood what I was going through. And I felt bitter that I was alone in my suffering.  I became a sad, bitter person who was resenting the people around me for trying to help… Miscarriage Meghan was the worst version yet!

And then I read something in a blog that clicked… this woman wrote how after her miscarriage a friend said to her “No one is going to say the ‘right’ thing to you.” And I realized I was setting myself up for disappointment…no one was going to say the right thing-because there is no ‘right thing’. There are no words that can take my pain away. I’m suffering because a truly horrible thing has happened. But by expecting too much from the people around me I started to close myself off from that wonderful, kind support system. I built walls around myself, walls made of resentment, anger and disappointment, to keep the people who wanted to help away. I became my own enemy. And I imagine I hurt the people who were trying so hard to help me.

I wasted so much time being disappointed and causing myself more grief when I should have spent my time being thankful people cared. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation (I pray you won’t) – Don’t be like me. Don’t expect too much from the people in your life. Accept that they want to help you. Accept that wanting to help you is actually enough to help you.

So this is my advice: (Because remember there is going to be a lot of advice in this blog now)

  • If you’re the 1 (of the 1 in 5) who is suffering through this terribly tragic moment in your life, please do not expect too much from the people around you. They love you. They want to help you. Accept that this is hard for them too. Stop expecting people to know what to say, what to do and how to act. This is a very tough situation for everyone involved. And NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE is going to get it right…many will be close to right, some will even get it wrong. Forgive them. Appreciate them for trying. Accept that there is no ‘right’ thing to say. But remember, you have enough negatives in your life right now… do not become one.

 

  • If you’re the other 4 (of the 1 in 5) stop worrying you’re going to say or do the wrong thing… just do something. Send the card, even if all you write is “I don’t know what to say.” Make the phone call. Deliver the flowers, wine, fruit, candy… whatever it is that will make your 1 feel better. Be willing to get it wrong in order to support the person you love. The only wrong move here (in my opinion) is to pretend like it did not happen. Acknowledge that the person you love is in pain, feel free to acknowledge that you’re also in pain…then love them.

 

That’s my advice, but also my apology…for the people who I didn’t let in, who I was disappointed with, who tried really hard when I wasn’t trying at all. Know that every word was appreciated and I’m sorry if I fell short in acknowledging them. I’m sorry if bitter, sad, angry Miscarriage Meghan failed you when you were trying so diligently to support me. I have enough to be disappointed with right now, it was a terrible waste of time and energy being disappointed with the people who love me… and hopefully (after acknowledging my crap behavior) I can now stop being disappointed with myself.

The best way out…

1 in 5 women will suffer a miscarriage. That was the statistic given to me by our fertility clinic. I’ll assume it was offered up to help me feel less alone. But truthfully, the statistic just made me sad. If so many other women have also suffered through this horribly tragic, unimaginably heartbreaking and physically traumatic experience, why do I not know their stories? When I decided to start speaking openly about our infertility everyone had something to share… whether it was a story about a friend/cousin/sister who had also dealt with infertility issues and now had a happy family, a fertility boosting smoothie recipe or advice on surviving frequent blood drawers (lots of water=‘juicer’ veins) and daily injections (ice the injection site first) people wanted to engage in our infertility.

Infertility did not scare people. But my miscarriage does.

People do not ask for details about a miscarriage. People seem afraid to ask how I’m doing. I get the sense people are walking on eggshells around me, afraid to address the elephant in the room. A co-worker who I’m extremely close to (she also had fertility issues and has been a great person to vent to through this whole process) stopped me the other day and said “I don’t know how to act around you anymore… I don’t know what to say to you.” Apparently, infertility was fair game to discuss (once I made our journey public) but our miscarriage is off limits.

But it shouldn’t be this way.

Think about that… 1 in 5. The sad truth is-you’re going to know someone who has a miscarriage. Chances are you’re going to love someone who has a miscarriage. Sadly, you may very well be someone who suffers a miscarriage. So we owe it to ourselves and the people we care about to talk about this. All I have really wanted over the past few weeks (aside from you know the miscarriage to have not happened and to still be growing Baby L) is to have someone make this easier for me. To have someone share their story with me… to tell me about their friend/cousin/sister who suffered a miscarriage and now has a happy family, to recommend a book they read during their own time of loss that helped them survive, I’d even welcome unsolicited advice on surviving the brutal cramps (heating pad, loose pants, extra strength Tylenol).

Sharing our infertility has been a way for me to lift the burden I felt like I was carrying off my shoulders. It allowed me to acknowledge that I was not in this alone, that there are women like me everywhere, living with and, more importantly, surviving infertility. Infertility was like joining a club (that I NEVER wanted to be part of) filled with fellow warriors. But the miscarriage club is different… it’s quieter, people do not advertise their membership, friends will not tell you about the club member they know.

For a club so big, its initiation feels isolating.

So I’ve chosen to not isolate myself…I’ve decided the next few posts on this blog will be about my miscarriage. The helpful words I heard…and the not so helpful…and the words I wanted to hear. The emotions I felt over the first few days (anger, resentment, sadness) and the emotions I’m still working through (anger, resentment, sadness). The guilt that, at times, consumes me. Why I kept asking my husband if he planned on leaving me (for someone more fertile and without SMA carrying genes) and why a weekend away with him drinking dirty martinis and eating fried clams might have been the best decision we’ve ever made. The actual physical miscarriage (I promise I won’t give too much information) but I felt uninformed and I shouldn’t have been (and neither should you). And other parts of my own personal miscarriage story that may help when, inevitably, you have to help someone who also become 1 in the 1 in 5 statistic.

Robert Frost wrote “the best way out is always through.” So I’ll take you all through this with me…hopefully we all come out better.