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The Pea Has Exited The Pod
This is a really long post, so grab a cup of coffee and sit back.
You still with me? Cool.
I haven’t been writing a lot of personal stuff on my blog in the past few months, and there is a reason for that. I wasn’t quite ready to announce to the world the news that I was pregnant!
It’s been pretty hard to keep from writing about it, since it’s such huge news and it’s hard to think about much of anything else when your whole world, including your own body, is transforming. Although we told our families and close friends, we didn’t want the world to know in case something went wrong in that delicate first trimester, when you’re beginning to get really excited but still not too attached yet since you can’t really FEEL a baby inside you yet…
…But something did go wrong, and I had a miscarriage last night.
Nobody ever talks about miscarriage, other than to say that it happens frequently and it’s usually not your fault. But never anywhere did I read what it was actually like to experience one. Knowing in advance what I might expect would have been very helpful. As it happened, the chain of events seemed so incredibly severe and unexpected that I truly thought I was dying. It was one of the most painful and frightening experiences of my life, tempered only by the fact that my amazing wonderful loving husband was by my side the whole time, stroking my hair and whispering love notes and reassurances that everything would be OK, although I think he was very frightened as well and having to keep it together for the both of us. I don’t mention him in every single paragraph below, but he was right there the entire time, this force of warmth, calmness, and love that was keeping me from losing my mind.
Just a warning to the squeamish, I am about to go into DETAIL about my experience, and I really mean detail about my private bits and blood and all kinds of stuff. This may be Too Much Information and if you don’t want to read about it I won’t be insulted. You can skip ahead to near the end where you see the asterisks ***, then it’s safe to keep reading. On the other hand, maybe this can help someone out there going through a similar experience.
If you want the short nondetailed version, here it is: I began to bleed badly, went to the ER, passed out a couple of times, spent about nine hours there being tested and observed and, frankly, miscarrying; eventually I went home and then to my regular ob/gyn, who has now scheduled me for surgery on Monday. I feel like crap, but am on drugs, and the emotional impact hasn’t hit me yet.
But if you want the long version…. this is what my miscarriage felt like.
Some background: As of this past Monday, January 21, I was 11 weeks pregnant and due August 11. I’ve been having a lot of the classic pregnancy symptoms, including larger, tender breasts (larger! woot!), mood swings such as crying for no reason every few days, forgetfulness and an inability to focus, extreme exhauastion most of the time, and the need to pee a LOT. Thankfully my morning sickness was very mild, and usually quite easy for me to handle.
On Wednesday afternoon, I started feeling little twinges of what felt like menstrual cramps. I’ve had little twinges before that simply indicate a growing uterus, and so I didn’t put too much thought into it. On Thursday morning the twinges were still with me, and a little more frequent. When I used the bathroom at work I discovered that I was spotting blood a little bit. I freaked out at this and called my doctor, who told me not to worry, that cramping and spotting were fairly normal, but to go home early and rest if I could. I had an appointment the next morning for my 12 week ultrasound, so I tried not to stress out… but I was anyway. I called Doc; I think he was frightened about what might be going on, but he offered to meet me for lunch and seeing him helped me to calm down a lot. I left work at 3 p.m. to go home and lie down.
The cramping began to intensify a bit during the afternoon, and I noticed a little more blood. Around 9 p.m. the cramps were getting quite painful, not letting up even for a few minutes’ reprieve, and there was even more blood. Doc and I tried to watch a movie on DVD and I was curled up around my heating pad with Doc rubbing my back and stroking my hair, trying to calm down and ignore the cramps, but I couldn’t concentrate and kept getting up to pee and see if the bleeding had subsided yet.
At 11:00 as I was using the toilet, it was like somebody turned on a faucet inside me and the blood began flowing out nonstop — fresh red blood. By this point the cramping was almost too much to handle. Holding my panic in check by sheer force of will, I called Doc into the bathroom and we decided that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately. The amount of blood was scary. We didn’t have any pads (since I started using the Diva Cup I don’t buy them anymore) so he grabbed me a towel. I got up, shoved the towel between my legs and went to my closet for sneakers. Every time I moved it felt like a warm gush came out of me. Doc ran around locking doors and gathering his phone and coat and my purse, and helped me downstairs and out into the car (the Saturn; I didn’t want to bleed all over the brand new Prius!!). I was wearing old paint-covered sweatpants and sneakers (breaking two of my personal cardinal rules: sneakers are only for exercising and sweatpants do not leave the house) and my hair was a mess and I forgot my phone and my coat but I didn’t care.
I was in such pain on the car ride over but trying to be calm and hold my panic in check. Doc was driving and I did not want to give him any acute reasons to worry; I needed him to get me safely and quickly to the ER. My legs started shaking uncontrollably in the car, but I kept smiling and saying that I was OK, not to worry, just keep driving. The truth was, I WAS worried, but not that much. I figured that once I got to the ER, it would be like on the TV show “Scrubs”: A cute intern would whisk me away on a stretcher and take a look up the old VaJayJay (or was it “bajingo”?), do a little procedure or something, and send me on my merry way home.
Doc pulled into the emergency room driveway, hopped out and ran inside to get someone to come get me out of the car since I was sure if I stood up that a river would pour out down my legs. A nurse came out with a wheelchair, and she and Doc helped me out of the car and wheeled me inside. I think that the valet guy took Doc’s car key and drove our car off to the parking lot. Don’t ask me why the ER only has valet parking, maybe because of all the nutty construction going on at the hospital, but it came in handy for us.
I filled out a small form at the checkin desk giving my name, SS#, vital statistics, and reason why I was there. There were a LOT of people in the ER waiting room and they told me that it might be a little while before anyone could see me. I thought, ok, I am BLEEDING profusely out my VAGINA, should someone not see me NOW before I die from blood loss in the waiting room?? Nobody but the two of us seemed concerned though, so I sat tight in my wheelchair hoping that they would hurry the fuck up because I was in severe pain. I asked Doc to get me some water; I suddenly felt extremely thirsty, but the paramedics said that I couldn’t have anything before they measured my vital signs. Which apparently might have been hours away, from how things were going so far.
They probably should have let me have some water because a few minutes later I began to see spots. I felt like the whole world was floating away from me, and I remember saying to Doc “I am going to pass out now.” From a distance, I felt myself slump off to the side towards him and everything went dark. The next thing I knew, it felt like I was waking up from a long, wonderful dream, until the reality slowly hit me that I was indeed in a wheelchair in the ER, that THAT was not part of my dream. I was being wheeled along a corridor and someone had ahold of my shoulders to keep me from falling forward. People were saying my name. I was having a hard time responding. I don’t know if I was actually saying anything out loud or making any sense if I was. Doc said that I had passed out in the waiting room and began convulsing. He yelled for help and THAT prompted the ER people into action. I guess I was only out for about 15-20 seconds but it was enough to push me up to the top of the list.
They got me into an exam room and onto the table, and people in scrubs were buzzing all around me, putting IV lines in and taking blood samples, hooking me up to a heart monitor (interesting tidbit: the little sticky pads they apply to your chest are made by 3M, the post-it-note people!), blood pressure cuff, and a little clamp on my finger to keep track of my pulse. I felt like I was in a complete fog, not sure what was going on but in serious serious pain, and people I didn’t know were doing strange things to me and I couldn’t see Doc. They’d sent him out of the room for a few minutes while they got me all hooked up to the monitors, but I asked 3 or 4 times where he was, that I needed him, and so a few minutes later they brought him back in. It was such a relief to see him; immediately I felt calmer and more grounded.
I’m already starting to forget the sequence of events that occurred over the next couple of hours, probably because I was in that weird foggy haze. Doc was by my side through all of it, whispering that he loved me, holding my hand, calming me down. I was very worried that I was dying, bleeding internally and they wouldn’t be able to stop it.
I found it awfully strange that no one wanted to get a peek at the area in question; the nurses initially pulled my sweatshirt off and got me into a hospital gown, but left my blood-soaked sweatpants on. I remember my abdomen just convulsing in pain nonstop, and my entire body shaking uncontrollably again. I think that someone threw some blankets over me, hot out of the blanket heater (did you know hospitals keep blankets heated? I didn’t! I remember telling a nurse that now I knew why my cats liked to hop in a basket of laundry freshly pulled from the dryer), but despite the warmth I could not stop the shaking. I remember at one point raising my head up and actually looking at my body, and the movements were so violent that it must have looked like I was having convulsions again. I tried to calm myself down and stop shaking but I simply couldn’t.
I remember whispering crazy nonsensical things over and over, like “stop it stop it stop it stop it stop it” and “calm down calm down calm down” — which actually aren’t too crazy, but the repetition must have seemed a little crazy. I know I was saying other things too, that made a whole lot less sense. And the nutty part of all this was, I was completely conscious of the fact that I wasn’t making any sense, that I was probably acting like an insane person, and yet I had no ability to control it.
After what seemed like hours of being completely out of my head and waiting, shivering, shaking, whispering, cramping, making “ouch goddamit motherfuck that hurts” faces, a doctor finally came in to see me. The nurses got my pants off, put some fresh absorbent pads under me (actually this was probably the third or fourth time they’d replaced them), and the doctor took a look at my business. His conclusion? “Oh yes, she’s definitely bleeding.” Wow, Sherlock, ya think?! He was in the room for probably a total of 90 seconds before he ordered a sonogram and left.
The crazy shaking continued but began to abate somewhat, and maybe 15 minutes later a nurse came in with an injection of some wonderful wonderful medication into my IV line. A minute or two later I stopped shivering and began to feel wonderfully light and floaty but at the same time very very heavy, like all my limbs weighed a ton.
They turned out most of the lights in the room and left us alone for a while before the sonogram was ready. A woman came in with a clipboard and had Doc fill out some paperwork for insurance. He asked me questions about various things on the forms and I remember trying to speak very clearly out of my pain medication floaty haze. Things seemed really funny for some reason and I think I was talking veeery slowly.
We were both exhausted — he hadn’t slept much the night before either — but nobody left us alone long enough to drift off to sleep for a bit. Nurses came in every few minutes to check my vitals or change my padding, which was getting thoroughly soaked by warm trickles of blood every few minutes. I remember at one point telling the main nurse, I think her name was Jennifer, that she was SO nice and I really appreciated everything and she was making me feel so much better. I think I was kind of high from the pain meds but the sentiment was heartfelt.
I asked Doc to go get her before the sonogram was ready, because I had to pee. There was a little pink bedpan waiting in one corner so I figured that was probably my fate (thank god my fate didn’t lie with a catheter; another nurse had poked her head into our room a while earlier asking if I was the one who needed the catheter! I said “Good god, I hope not,” and she laughed and left).
Nurse Jennifer asked if I wanted to use the bedpan or the bathroom. I had a choice!! Hallelujah! I asked to be wheeled out to the bathroom in the hallway, although I think that Doc would rather I have kept to my bed and just used the bedpan instead. But I’d been stripped and poked and prodded, my bloody bits seen by god only knows how many people already, and I wanted to preserve this one little modicum of modesty. I remember laughing at one point as I was lying on my side, as I said to Nurse Jennifer “I cannot believe I am lying here mostly naked, door open to the hallway, with a nurse washing my butt with a towel. All sense of modesty is gone!”
Nurse Jennifer handed me the world’s largest maxipad (really and truly, it was ENORMOUS), a pair of blue socks with nonskid soles, and a pair of stretchy mesh disposable undies to pull on over the giant diaper. She wheeled me into the bathroom and thankfully did not insist on staying with me as I went. As I was going, eight or ten large chunks of tissue and blood came out of me too. I guess this was all the uterine material that I was finally expelling. It was kind of gross but also fascinating at the same time. And I instantly felt better; the cramping that the pain meds hadn’t taken care of began to die off.
Another nurse wheeled me back to my room, and as I passsed the nurses’ station I told Nurse Jennifer that I thought I’d expelled it all. She asked me if I flushed, which I thought was a very weird question — of course I’d flushed, I’d just gone to the bathroom! It didn’t occur to me until later that they might have wanted to collect the expelled material for testing. A gross thought, actually.
A few minutes later they came and got me for the sonogram. This time they didn’t put me in the wheelchair; they just rolled my bed down the hallways to the radiology lab. Just like in “Scrubs!” I finally got wheeled down a hallway on a bed! The sonogram went quickly; the nurse was young and businesslike and very very fast. She did both the jelly-on-the-belly kind (the first I’ve had like that) and the internal kind, then wheeled me back to the room. By this time it was 3:30 in the morning and we realized that we probably wouldn’t get much sleep before we had to go to Dr. Burt’s office at 9:30.
The doctor came in about 2o minutes later with the sonogram results (a nice suprise for two reasons; one, they told us it might be up to an hour before the results were ready, and two, this was a different doctor, a woman who was very very nice and seemed like she actually cared about what was going on with me, unlike businesslike Dr. Butterfield from before.) Dr. Way said that the sonogram showed that it was an incomplete miscarriage, meaning that there was still some material in the uterus to be expelled. I would need to watch for that and follow up with my own doctor within the next 48 hours. She went out to write a prescription for some pain medications for me and collect up my discharge information.
I asked Nurse Jennifer if I could go pee again, and this time she gave me a pair of gigantic cotton underpants (really, they were size 14, and I wear size 8!) and a pair of gray sweatpants so I wouldn’t have to wear my old ones home. I expelled a little more of the uterine material again, and again felt a lot better afterwards. I wasn’t bleeding profusely now.
I got back to the room and they brought in the discharge paperwork, took out my IV line and taped me up, got me into the wheelchair, and Doc put my old pants and towel, shoes, and purse on my lap. They wheeled us out to the payment area, and I sat right outside the door while Doc sat right inside the door talking to the nurse and paying the co-pay. I started feeling absolutely awful — nauseated, lightheaded, and the severe cramps came back. I began to see spots again. I tapped on the door frame and said “Doc, I’m passing out again. Here I go.” I slumped forward to try to get some blood to my head, but to no avail. I felt my arms go limp and then nothing.
I woke up — again, as if from a very long, wonderful dream — to hear Doc saying my name trying to wake me up as they wheeled me back down the corridor towards a room. I couldn’t say anything, I felt sick to my stomach and dry heaved most of the way to the room. He looked so scared; I don’t think I have ever seen him look that frightened in his life. He was so pale. I didn’t want to get out of the wheelchair because I was bent over and it felt like if I straightened up I would faint again.
The nurse was about to put an IV line into the back of my hand, when I realized I really would rather by lying down. She and Doc got me up onto the table, got me hooked into the IV (it hurts a lot more in the hand than it does in the elbow), and hooked back up to the heart monitor and everything else. They took some more blood to check my counts. I was really cold and starting to shake again so they brought me some blankets. Dr. Way came back again to see me and said “Didn’t quite make it out the door, did you?” and told me she had a call in to the OB/GYN on call for advice.
She came back a while later and said that the OB/GYN wasn’t being as helpful as she hoped, and they wanted to keep me for a few more hours for observation. If I passed out again then they were going to admit me to the hospital. She turned out the lights and left us alone for a while (well, nurses were coming in every so often to check up on me), but Doc and I were able to get maybe 30 minutes of uninterupted sleep before yet another doctor came to wake me up, and told me that he wanted to see if I could get up and walk around.
A nurse came in and unhooked me and slowly I got up and walked the corridor. It was tough but I tried really hard to ignore my nausea and stave off the lightheadedness. I was desperate to get out of the hospital and home. I really did feel a lot better than the last time they tried to discharge me. Yet another doctor came by to remove my IV port from my hand and he brought me and Doc back to the discharge area. I did not pass out this time. We did not have to pay another co-pay; Doc’s theory is that it’s because they didn’t want it to seem like they discharged me before they should have. Which is fine with me!
He went and got the car from the valet and helped me into it, and we headed home. He got me settled in bed and went out to the drugstore to get me some giant absorbent pads, Motrin, and some apple juice. When Dr. Burt’s office opened at 8:30, I called to see what they wanted me to do, and they said that I definitely needed to come in as scheduled. With Doc’s help I took a shower and got dressed (in my fancy Presbyterian sweatpants again!) and we headed up to Presby Plano.
I began crying for the first time since this started when I asked the doctor if he knew what might have caused it. He said that almost all first trimester miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities; the fetus is simply not viable. I asked if it was anything I might have done, and began to cry. He said absolutely not, nothing like caffeine or exercise could have caused it, and that all women struggle with the guilt of this question even when rationally they know the truth.
Doc described my fainting episodes to him, and he said that it was due to the abdominal contractions. When the belly cramps up like that, it signals the heart to slow way down and blood pressure plummets, triggering fainting. I’m not sure quite why this happens, it sure doesn’t seem like an evolutionary advantage.
We told him that we’d been told it was an incomplete miscarriage but that I’d passed some tissue after that diagnosis. He sent me in for a sonogram, which showed that there was still some tissue left (RPOC, or “retained products of conception”). He took a look inside me with the speculum and was able to pull out what he thought was that remaining tissue (NOT a pleasant procedure; it’s like that little *cramp* you get during a pap smear when the tester touches your cervix, but a lot worse and a lot longer in duration), then sent me back for a second sonogram. Unfortunately it showed that he didn’t get that tissue.
He said at this point we had three options. We could wait for it to pass naturally, although it may not actually expel itself, in which case I’d be at high risk for a very serious infection; we could get me in for a D&C surgery right away, which involves putting me under anaesthesia and manually cleaning out the uterus; or the middle ground, which would be to wait a few days and see if it passes on its own, and if not, schedule me for surgery. We decided on option #3. So I’m scheduled for surgery Monday at 11:45 a.m., unless something happens in the meantime. I really hope it does because I do not want to have that surgery done.
*** OKAY, the yucky part is over. If you’ve skipped ahead, you can start reading againg! ***
Dr. Burt didn’t charge me a co-pay for today’s visit, which I think was really very nice of them. Maybe it’s a matter of policy not to burden people who have just had a miscarriage with a bunch of paperwork. Fantastic policy! It was a relief just to get to go home. I called my boss on the way home and told him what had happened and that I wouldn’t be in for a few days at least. I broke down on the phone with him and I was trying so desperately not to. The one person I wanted to be calm on the phone with, I just couldn’t.
We went to Target to fill my prescription for Vicodin for pain, and for Doc to pick up some quick-fix groceries for the next few days, and FINALLY we got home. My wonderful wonderful husband, who has had maybe 3 hours of sleep in the past 48, then went back out AGAIN and got me a grilled cheese sandwich and Dr. Pepper from Sonic. I didn’t feel like eating but can’t take Vicodin on an empty stomach, so I sucked it up and ate what I could.
We’ve each managed to sleep for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we’ve told a few people what’s happened. I don’t think I can talk to anyone in person about it right now, it’s just too hard and I know I’ll break down. Maybe in a few days.
Right now we’re resting in bed and watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I’m eating a few leftover roasted potatoes from last night with my evening Vicodin, and Doc is having a chicken salad sandwich.
I guess that I can have a glass of wine this week if I want! Ha. One good thing about all this.
We don’t know what exactly we’re going to do once this is all over. We need to think about whether we want to try again. I know it’s not even a question for some couples, but it’s more of a complex issue with us. There’s a lot of things we’re going to need to talk about. I’m so glad our marriage is rock solid. I feel like this situation has pulled us even closer together. I still feel numb emotionally, although I’ve cried a few times today. I think that the full impact just hasn’t hit me yet. I’m sure once I see tangible things like the maternity clothes I’ve started to collect or the tiny socks that Mom Kerry got us for Christmas or the little stuffed animals from Brittney, it’s going to feel a lot more real. There were so many things that we had begun to think about and do in preparation that I think are going to startle me when I come across them and realize that maybe we just don’t need to do them anymore.
As Doc said earlier today, this sucks donkey ovaries. But we’ll get through it.