As my belly grew, so did my excitement, my anticipation, my joy. The fear of miscarriage shed away, until one day I stopped starting my sentences with, “If this pregnancy sticks…”. I was at twelve-and-a-half weeks, just arm’s reach from the safe haven of the second trimester. I had so diligently squeezed the calendar along, with the strength of my desire, that I had learned that my will alone was enough to create a viable pregnancy.
The spotting was so light – nothing to worry about, I knew. Lots of women spot and go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies. Then on Thursday, some dark red blood in my underwear, and dark thoughts crept in. But there was still so little blood. On the advice of my midwife, I went to the hospital to get my Rh factor checked, and an ultrasound was scheduled for the next day. With a positive Rh (and thus no need for a Rhogam shot in the event of miscarriage), I went home unsure if I would even return for the ultrasound because the bleeding had stopped and my optimism had returned. This was just my miscarriage “scare”, the positive-outcome story I could share with other women whose bleeding was creating fear.
Overnight, I woke up to more bleeding with some small clots. I awoke my husband and showed him, and while his brow creased, I collapsed on the floor, dizzy from angst, before dragging myself to the couch to catch my breath and my thoughts. Eventually we returned to bed, and the bleeding stopped for good.
The ultrasound was long and too quiet. The ultrasound tech wouldn’t tell me anything, even as I tried to elicit answers. “Is there a heartbeat?” I asked several times, deliberate desperation in my voice. The protocol is to have patients return to the emergency room where we wait hours to see a doctor to tell us the results. It is a cruel and unusual punishment.
But in the end, she didn’t have to say anything. When she left the room to print up the results, I saw two numbers on the screen. GA LMP 12w2d; AUA 8w4d. There was my gestational age, based on my last menstrual period (the false date I give that falls 14 days before I ovulated). I don’t know what AUA stands for – actual ultrasound age, maybe? – but I knew enough to glean that this pregnancy shouldn’t be measuring in the eight-week range.
“I’m pretty sure it’s over,” I told my husband in the waiting area. He wasn’t allowed into the ultrasound room for “confidentiality reasons”, nevermind that it’s his wife and his baby, nevermind that he’s my only source of emotional support in an unnecessarily callous process.
The triage nurse was so nice as I handed her my ultrasound results. It was one sheet of paper, folded in thirds, and stapled shut so that the information about me was protected from me. “It’s bad news, I think,” I said, starting to cry for the first time. “Hey,” she said gently, offering me tissue, “this paper doesn’t say anything, it’s all in the computer. Don’t give up hope yet.” But I knew the paper showed that awful number – 8w4d – and I told her so. At least you know you can get pregnant, she reminded me. Yes, I know. And you’re so young, she said. I’m 29.
We waited for hours to see a doctor who confirmed that the pregnancy had stopped developing, that there was no heartbeat. We waited for hours more for a gynecologist to come examine my cervix and talk to me about my options: let the miscarriage happen on its own, take a medication called misoprostol at home to induce, or have surgery to scrape the insides of my uterus clean. I already knew what my options were. I wanted the medication.
She disappeared, before I had my prescription, and by now my husband and I had been at the hospital for six hours, five-and-a-half hours of which were spent waiting without any idea as to how long we would be waiting or for what. We funneled our sadness into anger over how we were being treated at the hospital: neglect, condescension, uncompassion. We found the doctor whom we’d asked to find the gynecologist who had disappeared, and she told us she had forgotten about our request. This was the third time she had acknowledged forgetting about us.
Our unwavering politeness, deference, and understanding finally gave way and I told her we were leaving, we had been waiting for too long. A nurse coldly told me they wouldn’t discharge me because they weren’t done. “I’m leaving,” I said. “Fuck you,” I thought. We left, exercising control over something for the first time in two days.
An hour after we’d arrived home, the gynecologist phoned me to say that she would phone the prescription in to my nearest pharmacy. YOU CAN DO THAT? I wanted to scream. I could have left the hospital after the ultrasound that morning. Before hanging up, she apologized for the wait, and she apologized for my loss. I felt surprise that she had noticed either.
That evening I was never far from tears. I cried not only for our disintegrated plans, but from the gentle love and support that was offered in response to my husband’s email to family and close friends sharing the bad news and asking for a moment of privacy during which we could return from the brink of despair. Knowing others grieved for us and with us meant more to me than I could have anticipated it would, and the extreme and selfless care they took to give us space and time was itself enough to send me into tears.
My husband cried for himself but also for me, hugging me as I used a single tissue to wipe my tears and then his. So much of his pain came from knowing how crushed I was, he told me. He felt for the first time how intense it would be to expand our family because deeply caring about others causes one to feel their pain as one’s own. The enormity of his love soothed my grief – how upset can I be when my life is already so rich?
I got a good night’s sleep, knowing from my own research that a misoprostol-induced miscarriage hurts like hell and not wanting to be exhausted on top of everything. And hurt it did – but that is its own post.
By late yesterday afternoon, I was no longer pregnant, having caught the sac in my hand after labouring – howling, pacing, and writhing – for three hours. The relief was instant, and it spread from my abdomen to my aching mind.
Despite being weak from losing almost a pint of blood, I felt and feel good. Something went wrong with this embryo genetically and my body knew what to do. I got pregnant easily, and I miscarried well: my uterus is perfect. Women’s bodies are perfect. I will get pregnant again, and soon. I will carry many babies to term. We are back to our beginning, and that is disappointing, but I know this is a minor setback in a long and beautiful life.
To the future.