Warning: This post contains details of a miscarriage. If you are at a point where you may not be ready or comfortable reading these details, written in an honest but perhaps somewhat off-the-cuff manner and absolutely “TMI”, please feel free to browse some of our other excellent offerings, such as this recipe for brownies. This post will not contain any graphic images.
Also please note that everyone has their own story and deals with feelings in their own way. I am sharing my story mostly with the hopes of helping anyone else who might be going through or one day go through a similar situation. If you’re like me and nobody close to you has ever told you their miscarriage story before you have one, you end up in a really shitty and dark place where you’re pretty sure your uterus is broken and you suck as a human. But that being said, I do not pretend to believe that my situation is universal. If you had a miscarriage or know someone who did who had a totally different experience or emotions around it, that experience is equally valid. What follows is my specific experience.
Also, this post is long. And it is not comprehensive. Cause miscarriage is complicated.
Okay here we go for real now:
Unlike other miscarriage stories I have read, I didn’t get the blood-gushing-definite-miscarriage moment. I can’t tell you where I was or what I was doing the moment I miscarried. I suspect this is the case for many women, but it is decidedly less cinematic than the woke-up-middle-of-the-night-drenched-in-blood story I have read most often. What happened to me was more of a light drizzle of spotting over about a month.
Yep. You know how one of the perks of being pregnant is not getting your period? I got to experience that bliss for like two weeks before all this nonsense.
So anyway, here I am about six weeks along (so that’s about four weeks from when my egg actually fertilized) and according to all the apps that I was checking obsessively my embryo was looking more and more human, which was both amazing and incredibly disturbing at once. The concept of pregnancy (especially in the USA) is not one I’m in love with – give up your body to a parasite for nine months, feel like if something bad happens to it it’s all your fault, get fat, risk death in a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, spend assloads of money on medical care when you really need to be paying down your credit card – sounds like a party… That said, while I have never been particularly enamored of the concept of childbearing, obviously growing your own baby is the quickest and most affordable way to get them. If I could order a genetic replica on GrubHub I would be so down, but you have to plant it and grow it yourself. (Sidebar: being and/or attempting to be pregnant really brings new life to the euphemism for female genitalia “garden.” I have never before in my life likened human life to seeds for plants so many times than in the last five months, during which I have probably made the comparison mentally or out-loud at least weekly. And when you think about your cells like seeds, and you think about how shit you are at growing plants, and you imagine planting a microscopic egg and a microscopic sperm in a garden of dirt and growing a human baby you start realizing how totally fucking insane it is that any humans are alive ever.) Anyway, I have never been particularly thrilled with the idea of being a human incubator. That said, being aware that we do not live in a world with artificial wombs, and being a person who wants a child, I would have enormously preferred to remain pregnant for the usual amount of time.
At that point around six weeks I started noticing splotches of blood when I went to the bathroom. Of course I was mortified. Dr. Google was no help, telling me it was either totally normal OR the worst possible scenario… GREAT! “Spotting in early pregnancy is totally normal, but the most common reason for any kind of bleeding in pregnancy is miscarriage.” OKAY THANKS INTERNET FUCK YOU. Even though I had read every list from Pinterest on what do to BEFORE you get pregnant, and every fucking one of them seemed to indicate that you could totally wait to meet your obstetrician/midwife/pregnancy-medical-provider AFTER you’re pregnant, that’s the stupidest fucking thing you can do. Here I was, bleeding when I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be, and I did not have an established network of pregnancy care to fall back on when I needed help. My midwife that I had set up multiple appointments for a consultation with after getting pregnant had still not met me because two of my appointments were cancelled due to births (the practice is very small), and had really short office hours and I didn’t know if it would be appropriate to call the on-call midwife about my worries, which the internet told me may or may not have been justified (though obviously they were).
I figured what I’d need to see if I was in trouble was an ultrasound and a blood test to see my HCG levels, thanks to my extensive Google medical training. When I called a nearby radiology place that does pregnancy ultrasounds to see if I could come in for one, they told me I needed a prescription for it. I called my primary doctor hoping they could do it. Nope, they don’t do anything for pregnant people. They wouldn’t even order the blood test for me. It really seemed like the only option was to go to the emergency room and spend who fucking knows how much money. The lady at my insurance company refused to give me any idea how much emergency services might be covered but was like “this is what your insurance is for.” TELL THAT TO THE $1200 HOSPITAL BILL I GOT, LADY. Doesn’t feel very insurant to me. So we go to the hospital where they tell us everything is great with the fetus, the heart rate is high which is good, and I had an ovarian cyst which ruptured and might have been a source of the bleeding. Okay so we leave the hospital feeling pretty good.
But the bleeding continues. It went on for about another week before I started getting even more exhausted and frustrated about the uncertainty of my situation. Having never successfully incubated a human, I obviously have no idea whether this is something that is even physically possible for me. I also have no idea what is considered “normal” in early pregnancy. And since society tells you over and over again not to tell anyone you’re pregnant until you’re like 20 months in, you can’t just go ask random people you know who had babies what happened with their vaginas and how much blood was on their toilet paper at 8 weeks without totally outing yourself. So unless your mom vividly remembers all her pregnancy symptoms or your sister or BFF recently had a baby, you’re out there in a sea of unreliable internet forums just hoping for the best with basically no support system.
Eventually, it started getting stronger, and redder. At that point I honestly felt like I wished I would stop bleeding for fuck’s sake or just miscarry already. I felt like my body was trolling me, dragging it out like that (apparently this is a thing my body likes to do, as I would learn). I figured at that point, especially since I’d been spotting/bleeding for about three weeks, that whatever was going to happen was going to happen and so I just wanted to get it over with. Does this make me a heartless bitch who doesn’t deserve to be a mother? You tell me. I tried to go to one of the aforementioned internet forums for some emotional support with the above sentiment (get it over with) and was met with a good chunk of commenters who told me I wasn’t ready to have a child. Because I was fucking sick of having this super uncertain pregnancy. Yep. Not ready. Because I didn’t feel like worrying anymore over something that may never come to be. It seemed pretty clear that the people who commented that I was the worst had never miscarried themselves, because I did get a lot of people who shared their own experiences saying they felt similar things.
It was never that I wanted the fetus to die and leave me alone. I just wanted a normal pregnancy. You know, the kind that is in the books. The kind where you get a little spotting at first and then just disgusting weird cervical mucus that terrifies your bikini waxer the rest of the time. I didn’t want to go through pregnancy unscathed. I wanted the nausea and the backaches, the stretch marks and the heightened sense of smell, not the terrifying symptoms that left me in limbo every time I used the toilet. Apparently that makes me a monster I guess.
Eventually when I was turning my bath water red we were pretty sure we knew what was going on. I sent my husband out to get pads and acetaminophen for the cramps. The pads were horrible. I have been using a menstrual cup for a while now, so having to use pads PLUS having a miscarriage was for sure adding insult to injury. They say you’re supposed to avoid inserting anything into your vagina during a miscarriage because the risk of uterine infection is higher due to an open cervix. You hear about how you’ll have to wear pads after giving birth, but you’ve got a tiny human as a trade off. Miscarriage pads just added more frustration and discomfort to an already depressing situation.
Actually having the miscarriage was easy for me once it started in earnest. I think I was fortunate to fully miscarry naturally and not have to incur additional procedures and costs associated with a D&C to remove “fetal remains.” I also had the benefit of not seeing any part of what was the tiny fetus. I suspect it dropped into the toilet at some point and was obscured by all the blood in the water. That or it was sufficiently broken up by the time it came out that it wasn’t recognizable. I wasn’t honestly looking very carefully for it. Sorry for that mental image. It didn’t hurt like you sometimes hear it does, I had some cramps but nothing like “worse than labor pain” I’ve read about. So physically the pregnancy ending was fine. Emotionally is where it gets really fucked up.
There’s a large part of me that feels like having a miscarriage the first time you get pregnant is probably the worst case scenario, not that I can ever know if I’m right. Basically, it boils down to thinking “I’ve never had a successful pregnancy.” When you start thinking in terms of “never,” shit gets dark. No matter how many times you tell yourself it’s not your fault, it’s natural to want to blame something or someone. Since most people who have miscarriages never get any reason for it, closure is impossible. I read things like “chromosomal abnormality,” and since I’ve never had a chromosomally normal child, I start thinking all my eggs (or my husband’s sperm) are fucked. I think about how literally every living human’s mother was able to successfully gestate them, and I start feeling like there must be something wrong with me. I look at every visibly pregnant person and every person carrying a baby carrier and shoot secret daggers at them with my eyes. In my case the daggers are probably not very secret because I have no poker face. I hate everyone who is due when I should have been. I went to a new yoga class this morning and the teacher was due March 6th, three weeks before I would have been, and her bump was too big to do cobra. There I am, doing cobra with no bump in sight. Every social media pregnancy announcement makes me jealous and angry and sad. Being not-pregnant, a state I spent 98% my life preferring, is now the worst part of my existence. Plus, we are still paying the medical bills from the ER visit and the miscarriage confirmation ultrasound.
Next step after learning how to cope with the constant jealousy and convincing yourself that your body is broken and useless is thinking about “trying” to get pregnant again. To start, you may or may not know what your cycle is going to be, so good luck trying to predict when you may or may not be fertile. Then, once you are having procreative sex again, every time you get your period is just another reminder of your failure (and then it sticks around for a week).
I started writing this post on December 2nd, a week after I was supposed to get my period (assuming my period was on a “regular” cycle) but had not gotten it. It was also two days after probably my seventh negative pregnancy test. My skin was (still is) a mess of pimples, which I attributed to a lack of progesterone, a hormone secreted in pregnancy and one contained in my birth control that had kept my skin mostly clear for the last eight years, excepting a couple hiatuses during which I inevitably pimpled up again. Racking my brain to think of what my cycles are even like off birth control, I remembered a situation a couple years ago where I had my first (and only) “pregnancy scare,” when I was between birth control and had a six week cycle culminating in a negative pregnancy test and a heavy period the day after. Adding all of this together, negative tests, acne face, a history of randomly long cycles, I convinced myself that my period would show up any day now and we’d try again this month. I had lunch with my mom on Friday and told her “I don’t think I’m pregnant.” Imagine my surprise when I decided to do a test on Friday night before bed, thinking “I’d better stop taking these tests or I won’t have any left for next month when I might actually be pregnant,” and it was fucking positive. My first words were “well, shit.”
Now I get to provide a perspective I didn’t think I’d have access to this month: what it feels like to be pregnant again. I want to be excited, but the whole thing is so terrifyingly tentative. When telling our parents, the reaction was very “good for you,” tempered with undertones of “we’ll see huh.” My husband’s reaction was basically “oh cool,” and then going back to browsing Reddit on his phone. I don’t want to plan for my sister to come back from Germany in June to throw me a baby shower, since she’s already going to randomly be here in February for no reason for the last baby shower I should have had. How do I know I’m really going to have a kid in August and not October? Or ever? I’m also totally freaked out by the negative tests and the missed period. Like, who misses their period when they’re trying to get pregnant and still comes back with a negative test result for a whole week? What the hell is that about? But because doctors and midwives don’t want to get involved in your miscarriage nonsense, they’ll tell you to come see them when you’re ten weeks and we’ll see then. Never mind that you don’t even know how far along you might be because obviously your last period may have been all kinds of wonky and you just happened to do it on a good day out of nowhere. And of course, being that the only time you were ever pregnant ended in misery and never-ending medical bills and no useless humanoid milk-extractor in sight, you’re pretty sure it’s not going to work out. I mean, being pregnant doesn’t actually end in a baby, right? In my experience, that’s right. So, for now I’m pregnant, but check back in with me in nine months. I might actually believe it at that point.
Resolutions for Next Time
Being pregnant again, I have resolved to be less invested. Not because I don’t want a baby or I don’t want to be pregnant, but because being so hyper-invested and obsessive didn’t do me any favors last time. When I was pregnant in July and August, I was checking multiple pregnancy apps multiple times a day. Like refreshing the news feed on my embryo. I could not get enough info about what kind of seed it was the size of now or if it had a heartbeat or where it’s bizarre yolk sac was or how big its “hand” (flipper?) was at the time. And it didn’t help. It didn’t save the fetus that I knew what kind of organ systems it was differentiating. It didn’t help that I stopped going to yoga because a couple things I read said you needed to immediately modify for pregnancy and I didn’t feel like discussing my uterus with my instructor (he’s cool but we don’t have that kind of relationship). None of it helped. So this time around, I am resolving to be less obsessed. I am taking a page out of “I didn’t know I was pregnant” and trying to ignore it for a couple months, and we’ll see where it goes. My body doesn’t need me to know what it’s doing for it to be doing it. I don’t need to be constantly tracking my symptoms like “I had nausea yesterday and I don’t today and omg am I having another miscarriage because my symptoms aren’t consistently strong?” Although that is a fear I still encounter because, of course I’m sure I can’t be successfully pregnant, and also my lack of symptoms last time did end in a miscarriage so obviously that’s what’s happening now too. But either way, being overly-focused on every twinge and every millimeter of fetal growth probably stressed me out more than helped me.
I am going to avoid Dr Google at all costs. Dr Google never helped anyone. Enough said there.
I’m going to not go to the fucking hospital unless I am in severe pain. Yeah, maybe if I hadn’t gone to the ER in August to spend over a thousand dollars I definitely did not have just lying around to be told the fetus had a heartbeat (and then it died anyway), I would have always wondered if things would have been different if I had gotten medical attention. But let’s be real, what the hell are they going to do for a seven-week old fetus (that’s seven weeks since your period, so only really five-ish weeks gestation)? They’re going to tell you to avoid strenuous exercise, probably, which I can figure out myself. And unless I’m in some kind of danger, or I’m of course far enough along that something might actually be able to be done (so post first trimester, uncharted territory for me), I’m not going to spend my time, energy, or money, on something that can’t be saved either way. I need to save that money for the inevitably insanely expensive birth of some eventual child. And I’m not going to worry about it. I will try to see my midwife during office hours or get a normal prescription for a normal ultrasound and not deal with the emergency fees. Although on my health plan until the end of the year, everything is exorbitant. I will hopefully not have any situations that require emergency attention! We’ll see.
So that’s my story. If you ever need or want someone to talk to, let me know. And I don’t recommend being so nervous to tell people you’re pregnant that it stops you from reaching out to a possible connection. Worst case scenario, you tell people you had a miscarriage, which will be sad and might make some people feel awkward (fuck those people sorry not sorry) but you got to spend what you did have of your pregnancy surrounded by a network of actual humans who might have been where you are. And if you do or did have a miscarriage, share your story with people close to you, because you never know who might reach for that when they’re going through their own dark shit. I know I would have liked something like this to grab onto.