Fluke: How to Recover After Miscarriage

I have written this post many times in my head and yet, I couldn’t sit down to type it out.  Perhaps this is because I needed some time to process the experience, or maybe because I tend to avoid sharing personal failures on the internet. Whatever the case, I share this story now because I am certain that some woman, somewhere, some day, will read this and feel less alone.  Or perhaps some mom will feel less alone in the future when this becomes her story, too.

January 7, 2011

Mike and I were surprised (and overjoyed) to learn that I was pregnant!  The baby was due in September, just a month shy of Savanna’s 5th birthday.  I ceased all of the usual things immediately: alcohol, raw fish, any OTC not safe during pregnancy.  Like most couples, we spent hours thinking and talking about names and imagining Savanna as a big sister.  I had a very strong feeling that it was a boy, just as I felt with certainty that Savanna was a girl.  We named him Luke.

My first trimester was complete with nausea, occasional hurling, endless fatigue, and the complimentary muffin top.   Around week 10, I began to feel better.  The nausea lifted, energy returned, and I started to show.  We shared the news with anyone and everyone:  family, friends, school teachers, the president, and anyone else who would listen.

March 8, 2011

I breathed a sigh of relief as I ended the first trimester.  Everything was humming along, and I felt great.  At 13 1/2 weeks, I had my monthly OB appointment.  Savanna had been sick over the weekend, and I kept her home from school that day.  I reassured Mike that I would be OK at the appointment with out him.  After all, I had done this before, right?

Fast forward one hour.  Savanna sat diligently with the iPad in the exam room during the appointment.  My OB, Dr. Stern, came in and asked all of the usual questions.  Then, she grabbed the doppler and began to search for the heartbeat.  She searched , got quiet, and searched again.  And searched.  And searched.  White noise.  Somehow, my right brain knew.  I don’t know how it knew, but I kept reassuring myself that everything was fine (my left brain kicking in).

I was quickly moved to the ultrasound room to get a closer look, Savanna in tow.  She found a chair and resumed with the iPad while I waited for my OB to return.  A few seconds later, she walked in and headed straight for the ultrasound machine.  Once again, white noise.  Blank white noise.  I knew from the look on her face that it was over.  And then, I heard the dreaded words that no mother wants to hear:  Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for you.  There is no heartbeat.

It’s a fluke, probably a chromosomal abnormality said my OB.   It’s just a fluke.  I tried to remain somewhat composed  because my 4 year old daughter was there, still working quietly on the iPad.  Her little legs swung back and forth under the chair, not yet long enough to reach the floor.  I pulled out my trusty iPhone to call my husband and wondered what I would tell him.  I kept it short and simple, yet pathetically lacking in any effort to deliver a soft blow:  the baby is dead. My tone sounded as dead as the ultrasound did, and his response broke my heart all over again.

There were quick decisions to be made during that moment of crises and chaos.  D&C?  Yes.  Send the fetus off for autopsy?  No.  Insurance?  Yes.  Pre-surgery blood work at the hospital this afternoon OK?  Sure.  You know that it’s not your fault, this is a fluke?  Sure.

I was horrified to be sobbing in front of strangers while trying to explain to my daughter what the word “dead” means.  As we walked out of the exam room, I felt my sadness and grief magnify as I walked closer to my reality.  Somehow, walking out of the exam room made it all feel more final.

As I left the office, I walked through a rather crowded waiting area.  I can think of nothing more transparent than a pregnant woman walking out of the OB office while sobbing and looking as devastated as I did.  At that moment, I picked up Savanna and held her as I walked down that long, narrow hallway.  She wrapped her warm little arm around my neck and asked, Mommy, are you going to be OK?  Yes, I’ll be OK-when I think about happier things, I’ll feel better.  Why are you sad?  I’ll tell you later, OK? OK.

My sister-in-law was the first one to arrive in the parking lot.  I have never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life.  If you drove through the parking lot that day, I was the blonde pregnant woman who sobbed in her sister-in-law’s arms.  Then my husband arrived, and we all stood there bleary eyed for awhile.  I drove home alone while they went to eat lunch, and all I could think to do at that time was take a shower.  Something about the entire experience left me feeling dirty.  For the first time in my adult life, I had a glass of wine in the afternoon.

Fast forward several hours.  Savanna asked again, “Mommy, do you remember when you were sad today and you told me that you would tell me why later?”  Yes.  “Will you tell me now? ”  Yes, I said.  This was a biggie I had never tackled before with her, and I wasn’t sure what I should say.  The best I could do was this:  “God took the baby away to live with him for awhile, and he’s going to give him back again when he’s ready.  I am sad, but I know the baby will come back soon.”  Savanna asked, “By my birthday?”  Maybe, I said.  “Can I still have my birthday at Chucky Cheese?”  Of course, I told her.

That night, I spent a lonely night on the couch.  I couldn’t sleep because I had suddenly come down with a bad sore throat.  That, and I had a dead baby in my body.  What if something happened the next morning and I couldn’t get the surgery done?  What would the surgery be like?  Would everything be OK afterwards?  What if?  What if?  It was a long night.

March 9, 2011

We arrived super early at the hospital. The pre-surgical nurse was a timid, frail little lady with frizzy, auburn hair.  I didn’t know her name, but she reminded me of a Trudy.  Trudy went through all of the necessary pre-op items, repeating questions here and there and seeming flustered.  As she finished up, Trudy stopped cold.  She looked at me and said, “OH!  You’re here to have…..um….. a vacuum suction D&C?….Oh, I’m so sorry.  I just stared at her blankly because she sounded like such a moron.  I also found the phrase “vacuum suction” devastating.

The best moment of this entire experience was being put to sleep.  I felt like thanking my anesthesiologist for gassing me.  The worst moment was waking up.  When I heard the anesthesiologist call my name and regained consciousness, I immediately began to sob.  Not just any sob.  The embarrassing, can’t catch my breath, trying to stop but can’t kind of sob.  This was the darkest, heaviest, saddest moment of my entire life.

An hour later, I left the hospital unpregnant. I had no baby and nothing to show for my 13 1/2 weeks of motherhood except for 12 pounds and a massive medical bill.  One week afterwards, I had a second D&C and have since learned that this is pretty common.  Sometimes, they just don’t get it all out on the first shot.

Telling everyone sucked.  Taking Savanna to school for the first time two weeks later sucked worse.  It was obvious that I was no longer pregnant, and what does one say in such a situation?  “Hi, I know that I was visibly pregnant the last time that I saw you, and I know that we don’t know each other that well, but I would feel better letting you know that I had a miscarriage.”  I opted not to say anything and hoped people would just figure it out for themselves.  Then, there were the Stragglers, or those who asked how I was feeling a month later, not knowing about the miscarriage.

I have always said that losses mark new beginnings.  In other words, losses are necessary in order for us to experience a new beginning.  For example, graduating from college marks the loss of college life and the beginning of a new career.  Marriage represents the (voluntary) loss of single life and the beginning of a new marriage.  Each loss brings a new beginning, whether or not we want it.  We just have to step forward in faith, knowing it’s there.

Nowadays

Of course, there was a new beginning.  I finished my professional licensure and began work that I enjoy.  I also met an amazing personal trainer who helped motivate me again.  My first workout with her was incredibly embarrassing because I felt so out of shape and defeated, but I left my ego at the door and went in head first anyway.  It was extremely difficult to lose that 10 pounds, but I finally lost the weight.  In retrospect, I recognize that I learned a lot about weight loss after miscarriage that I will share that with you another time.

Nowadays, I’m feeling excited about the possibility of getting pregnant again, but I’ve retired the name Luke.  When asked if Savanna is my “only,” I sometimes explain that I am “mother of two, with one living,” because it feels wrong to ignore that pregnancy.

In the Future…

This isn’t the end of my story.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes, things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they go right.  Good things fall apart so that better things can come together.  I know that something really good is going to come together for us in the future, and I am grateful for the love in my life-specifically, my wonderful husband and daughter.  I guess that’s another way of saying that faith, hope, and love can get you through just about anything.

I hope to share all of the better things that come together with you soon.  Thanks for joining me on this ride.

‘Til the next chapter,

Lisa

Update:  I had my 2nd miscarriage on September 16th, 2011.  It was devastating.  It was the exact same situation, exact same surgery.   Instead of rewriting this post all over again, I decided to update it with this information for those who care. We had the chromosomes tested and found that the baby had normal, healthy chromosomes.  Apparently, I have something called corpus luteal deficit, which means that I don’t produce enough progesterone to support the pregnancy.  We are still recovering from this loss, and I am trying not to hate myself for it.  Thanks for your kind emails.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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