I remember thinking that as I stared at the screen. Then I saw the doctor’s face.
His eyebrows knit tight as he pressed buttons on the ultrasound machine. Shifting the scope, he moved closer to the screen, then stopped.
My toddler started fussing in my husband’s arms, almost as if he could feel the tension that settled over the room in that moment. “Mama?” He cried out, squirming for freedom.
“When did you say your last period was?” The doctor flipped through the chart.
That was all I needed to hear. I knew why the ultrasound looked odd.
The rest of the appointment was a blur. All I remember is that the doctor couldn’t answer my questions, they drew some blood, and then we were rushed out of the office and I had to check out with the receptionist.
“Another appointment in four weeks?” She smiled over the computer screen, unaware of my shock.
I was so thirsty. My husband had my purse and my water bottle, and he was fighting to get our toddler out the door.
Turning back to the receptionist, I simply nodded, knowing full well I didn’t need another appointment, but too tired to deal with it in that moment. As she’s scheduling the appointment, another wave of nausea rolls over me and I have to shift my stance so I don’t pass out.
There’s a tap on my leg, and I look down to see my toddler smiling up at me. “Mama, love you.” Then he hugs my leg.
I scoop him up in my arms and accept the reminder card from the receptionist.
“Bye-bye!” My son waves as we leave. It’s his second birthday, and I was planning on sending my family the ultrasound picture as a surprise. But there was no ultrasound picture. Just a two-year-old who wanted to play with presents.
Unwilling to go home just yet, we ran some errands to keep our minds occupied while we waiting for the results to confirm what we already knew. I had miscarried. The real questions were how long ago had it happened, and what did we do to get my body to realize?
It took the whole weekend to get the results back. And when we got the call, the nurse didn’t answer our questions, just sent me to the receptionist to schedule a follow up visit with the OB. The visit was scheduled for a week after the first.
Really? Another week? If we know I’m miscarrying, why can’t we speed the process along?
A week went by, and the second ultrasound showed even less than the first. This time, we didn’t bring the toddler. It was a wise decision because we spent far too long waiting in the doctor’s office to get adequate information on our options.
We had three.
1. Wait until my body took care of everything naturally. It could take 3-4 months for my body to return to normal.
2. Have an outpatient surgery to clear everything up. 1-2 weeks until my body returned to normal.
3. Take medication to induce the miscarriage and bleed everything out. 1-2 weeks until my body returned to normal.
Of course, all of these risked complications. After debating finances, risks, and every other possible outcome. Fun conversation. We made our decision and left.
The next day, the bleeding and pain started. Other than the horrible cramping, hip pain, nausea, and everything else, I felt fine. I surprised myself with how well I was holding it together.
Then I had to go back to the doctor for another follow up.
“Looks like you’ve passed most of the tissue. Give it another two days, and you should be fine,” he says.
Fine is a relative word. It’s the word I used to tell myself that I was surviving. Besides a long list of physical pain, I was fine. Besides the fact that I had spent two years recovering from my first pregnancy to finally be okay with getting pregnant again.
It’s unusual for people to need to recover from pregnancy. Usually they’re recovering from giving birth. But a few hours of labor was nothing compared to the nine months of torture I went through leading up to it.
See, I have something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Basically, it’s extreme morning sickness. It causes nausea to the point of weight loss and dehydration. I was hospitalized twice during my pregnancy after losing ten pounds, even with a strict medication regimen to fight the nausea. Most of the time, it disappears after 20 weeks, as opposed to the 13 weeks for normal morning sickness. Not for me, though. I spent the whole nine months fighting my body to keep control of myself. Everything set my stomach off. Standing up too quickly, eating too quickly, eating too slow, walking too much, not walking enough. And just when I thought I figured out what made me sick, it changed. It was exhausting.
But now I have to take care of a two-year-old as well as myself. I can’t nap to keep myself from getting sick, because I have to keep a toddler from accidentally killing himself. Also the toddler has a tendency to clean my face with baby wipes when I fell asleep.
But sleeping instead of eating doesn’t work for a toddler. While I can get by feeling “fine”, my son has to be more than fine.
It took two years of forgetting just how miserable I was to think it was okay to get pregnant again. I convinced myself I could do it. So I did it, lost 9 pounds in two weeks, and sacrificed what little energy I had for my toddler instead of taking care of myself.
And nothing came of it.
After leaving that doctor’s office for the third, maybe fourth time in not long enough, I sat by myself in the car. My husband stayed home with the toddler this time. And for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t fine.
What was I thinking? Getting pregnant? I finally had my life back under control. My toddler was on a schedule. I had finally finished my novel, started another one, and my fifth publication had just had final edits approved.
For the first time in almost three years, I felt like myself again. When I got pregnant with my son, I thought my life would never feel normal again. But it did. Did I really want to screw that up? Set myself back another three years?
To add a little context to my life, we went on vacation for two weeks right after I got pregnant, and when we got back, I was sick and couldn’t keep up with the housework. So I got home from the doctor’s office to a house in utter chaos. There’s no clean dishes, no clean laundry, and you can’t walk anywhere without hurting your feet on painful tiny toys.
I ended up in bed, crying myself to sleep. Well, not to sleep. Instead, I cried so hard I gave myself a headache. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t take care of myself or my son. I couldn’t let myself get pregnant again.
I had failed as a mom, a housekeeper, a writer, a whatever you can think of. I hated self so much. For the first time in almost ten years, I felt suicidal.
Nothing was fine.
I wanted that baby. I did. I was ready to set aside everything else in my life for that baby. And what did I get for my suffering? A miscarriage. Pain. Doubt. The feeling that I was garbage because I wanted that baby but not another one? That need to put myself above the possibility of another child?
It took me a while to figure out where that need came from. While some people believe that moms need to put their children first in every situation, there are instances where I would do anything for my child, and instances where I can’t.
If I can’t physically take care of myself, I can’t physically take care of my child. And my mental state has a strong effect on my ability to take care of myself. Therefore, my mentality needs to take precedence.
So the five hundred times the doctors reassure me that I can try getting pregnant again right away are the opposite of helpful. They make me feel worse about my decision that I’m not ready to try again right now. I remember all too well what pregnancy does to me, and I can’t handle it again, at least not for a while.
It took a few hard days, but I’m starting to feel better. Am I fine? No. But I’m getting there. This is something that so many experience, but we still know almost nothing about how to cope with this kind of loss. The loss of something we don’t have yet is a weird thing. It’s messed up, and it’s confusing.
How do we deal with it?
How are you supposed to feel after a miscarriage?
Not fine. Not at all fine.