Girrrrrrl, have I got a story for you.
Yesterday I had an appointment with my midwife at 11 AM. It was a sunny, temperate day and I hopped on my bike to make the easy five-kilometre trip. As I was cruising along, I felt a warm gushing sensation, which I chalked up to normal vaginal discharge. I continued to feel warm gushes for the rest of my ride, and mildly observed that I had never quite felt so many gushes of discharge at a time.
When I reached the sidewalk outside the clinic, I jumped off my bike and turned to look at the black seat. I could see moisture, so I moved my fingers along it to investigate. For one last, innocent moment I thought it was probably sweat.
My hand moved through the viscous substance and I turned my fingers over to see: red. Blood. And suddenly, just like that, I was having a very different sort of day.
I made my way upstairs, holding my purse behind me to cover any blood stains, nodding a polite, distant greeting to the strangers who couldn’t have known that inside I was screaming. In the bathroom, I found my underwear and shorts soaked with blood. The receptionist sympathetically gave me a pad and a glass of water and put me in a private place to wait.
There was no sense in having my prenatal appointment, and the midwife encouraged me to go to the emergency room instead, which I did—via cab. After I waited, answered the same questions for different people, waited some more and then some more again, and got poked with a needle, a very kind nurse practitioner came in to examine me. She told me that she would have a look at my cervix and then do a quick bedside ultrasound “for reassurance.” But when the speculum was inside of me, her tune changed: my cervix was open, she said, and there were clots mixed in with the blood. I was going to have a formal ultrasound. “It doesn’t look good, does it,” I asked, although I wasn’t really asking. “I’ll be honest with you,” she said, bravely I thought. “It doesn’t.”
The thing about being in the hospital, especially if it is unplanned and you haven’t brought a book or something else to do to pass the time, is that the experience can be its own form of misery. Alone, wearing a uniform gown in the air conditioned room, with nothing to do but think and wait for the unknown, I felt the suspension of my real life, the loss of control and the strangeness of time.
I knew that the ultrasound technician wouldn’t tell me anything, but that didn’t stop me from meekly trying. “Is there a heartbeat?” I asked when she was finished. She paused and stumbled as she informed me that they’re not allowed to tell us results. She’d probably give me a nudge, wink if everything was fine, though. She had asked me three times if I felt cramping, twice before and once after the ultrasound, and I assumed that meant that she had seen that I was miscarrying and that she was surprised I couldn’t feel it yet.
Back downstairs in the ER, I resumed the purgatory of waiting, thirsty and hungry after having spent the majority of the afternoon unexpectedly in the hospital and not having eaten since breakfast. I mentally composed emails to family, to whom I wasn’t ready to speak, and planned my referral to and appointment with a recurrent miscarriage specialist. I felt sour towards a world that would allow a woman to go through not one but two wretched first trimesters with nothing to show for it. I reminded myself that I can get pregnant.
Finally, the nurse practitioner came to where I was waiting and gestured for me to come with her. It was a friendly, fun gesture, and I felt a glimmer of hope. There were no open rooms, so she led me into a hallway and put my file on a shelf. “Step into my office,” she joked. She couldn’t possibly make a joke before delivering bad news, I thought, and she couldn’t give me bad news in a hallway… right? My hope got stronger.
“EVERYTHING IS FINE!” she told me. My jaw dropped. I hugged her, hard, and we stood in the hallway, embracing for a long, joyful moment. She showed me the ultrasound report: single live intrauterine pregnancy at 12 weeks with a fetal heart rate of 156bpm. Cervix is closed.
In other words, totally normal.
Apparently bleeding can happen and everything can be okay. Sometimes they know why, and other times—like in my case—they just don’t know. But I don’t care. Live intrauterine pregnancy. Cervix is closed.