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The pain of miscarriage does not end when the pregnancy ends

It still hurts. It has been three weeks since my D&C, six weeks since that first ultrasound, the one where we first learned our baby was not growing as expected. I am starting to heal, but I think it's important for people to know, anyone who knows someone who has gone through this, that it doesn't go away quickly. The pain lingers.

I recently linked to this post on facebook after it was recommended by a friend. The funny thing is that I've been reading Finslippy for about 10 years, I've surely read her miscarriage essay before. But I didn't remember it, it didn't resonate with me then. So it may not resonate with others who have not experienced this kind of loss. But it's worth a read anyway. So much of it spoke to me - spoke for me. She writes so well what I've been struggling to write. 

This part really resonated:

There’s so much I’m grateful for, of course. I’m grateful that I already have a child, a beautiful six-year-old boy named Henry. I’m grateful that my husband and I are healthy and young(ish) and can try again, if we ever manage to have sex without my crying. (Someday! Cross your fingers!) I’m grateful that it didn’t happen later in the pregnancy, that I didn’t get even more attached, if that would have been possible. (I was already talking to my unborn fetus every day, gazing at the ultrasound printout, coming up with names.) I’m grateful that I didn’t have a stillbirth. I’m grateful that Henry didn’t know about the pregnancy, that we didn’t have to deal with his heartbreak on top of ours. I know all the reasons I should be grateful, but if you try to remind me of even one of them, I will punch you right in your head. 

I, too, am grateful for my healthy, wonderful child. I'm grateful for my own health, for my husband, my family. I'm grateful I got pregnant relatively easily and hopefully will again. I'm grateful that I didn't have to wait until I started bleeding to find out something was wrong, that I didn't spend 4, 5, 6 weeks in ignorance. I'm grateful that I didn't lose the baby later, that I didn't have to give birth to a baby that had died or would die shortly after. Just like she said, I know all the reasons I should be grateful, and I am, but if anyone tries to remind me of that, I will punch them.

Right now I'm waiting to get my period so that we can safely try again to conceive. It feels like an endless wait. In the long run, in the big picture, it will be short (I hope), but while I'm living it, it feels like a lifetime. Everyone keeps telling me "it's not that long," as if that is a comfort, as if that erases the pain of the fact that I'm waiting at all. That I'm supposed to be 13 weeks pregnant instead of waiting impatiently to try to get pregnant again. 

What they don't understand is that every day they live is like a week to me. This is with me every minute. My heart is heavy every second, and it drags through the day like it's waist-deep in mud. Even when I seem happy or when I appear to not be thinking about it, it's there. I can't hear one more person tell me about their interpretation of time. 

I foresee a happy ending to all of this. I hope with all my heart that I'll get pregnant quickly and even have a baby next year. I can't focus on the possibility that those things won't happen, or that I might have another loss. I choose to be positive. But even if it all works out beautifully, this still hurts. I still cry alone far too often.


Thinking thoughts, feeling feelings

Mike had the idea to buy me a necklace with an emerald, May's birthstone. Had I not lost this pregnancy, we would have had a May baby. I loved the idea and added that I'd like to honor our first loss too, which would have been a September baby. A sapphire. We bought this on Etsy.


I actually had the thought, "Maybe I should wait to buy this, just in case I lose more pregnancies." Terrible that one has to think that way. But I decided to change my thinking, think positive. Only healthy pregnancies and babies from here on out! I can order another charm if I need to. But I won't need to! I hope.

Here's the thing about pregnancy loss. Nobody talks about it. Not really, not enough. I've been striving to be open about my experience, hoping to empower others to do the same. It shouldn't be such a lonely and isolating thing. But even with all the talking and sharing, it's lonely.


I've cried a couple times in front of other people, but usually the busyness of being with others keeps my mind off it. It's when I'm alone that I cry. At night when everyone else is asleep, I think about how I'll never have a May baby. At least not a May 2015 baby. I think about how one minute I was pregnant, and then I wasn't. And I can never be pregnant with that baby again. And I cry. In the car, thoughts creep in about how two of my three pregnancies have failed. And how both times it was just plain bad luck. No reason, no explanation, just stupid bad luck. And I cry. Sometimes when I'm alone with Mo, I think about how unfair it all is, how stupid it is such a thing as miscarriage would exist, and I cry. And Mo looks at me with tears running down my face and she just says, "wawa." And then I smile and scoop her up because thank god I have her.


Or that week, that month, that year...

The pregnancy announcements with May due dates are starting to roll in. All pregnancy announcements sting a little, but now I'm starting to watch people announce a happiness that should have been paralleling mine. I dislike cutesy, elaborate pregnancy announcements in general - for some reason they just, yuck, I don't know, they annoy me. But the May babies hurt. Birth announcements sting too. Baby bump photos. Pregnant ladies everywhere. Maybe these things shouldn't bother me - I was pregnant once, I celebrated - but they do.

I said before that with this pregnancy, I wanted to simply enjoy it. Not worry all the time, not fear I might jinx it, not feel guilty. Just enjoy as much as possible. So from the beginning, I celebrated. We took some family photos (For our own use, of course, not for a cutesy announcement.)

Pregnancy test

And I started taking belly pictures as soon as I found out. Here I am at just four weeks:

4 Weeks!

Oddly, despite my determination to be positive and enjoy everything, some strange things happened. At the time they could be easily explained away, but in hindsight I wonder if I had a premonition. For instance, I planned to wear that tank top for each weekly photo to watch it grow and stretch as I did. A few weeks in I thought, "Shoot, I should have chosen this other shirt, it's cuter." And then I immediately thought, "Don't worry, you'll get to use that one because this pregnancy won't last." What the hell? Where did that come from? Ignore! Celebrate! Enjoy! Another time I was thinking about the fact that my baby would be born in May, and suddenly my brain said, "No it won't." Ignore! Celebrate! Enjoy! When I bought my pregnancy test, it was a two pack. By the time we took the family pictures with the test, the digital screen had gone blank. I could have used the other one to get a Pregnant reading for the photos, but I thought, "No, I need to hold on to that. I'll need it." Ignore. Celebrate. Enjoy. I pushed all these things from my mind because they made no sense and were just useless clutter. But isn't that strange?

Pregnancy test

Hello baby brother or sister! Mo thought the pregnancy test was a phone.

There's no good reason this happened. I know there are silver linings, there are positive ways to spin it. But there is no reason. If someone thought I needed to learn a lesson about the preciousness and fragility of pregnancy and babies, I already learned that lesson. If I wasn't meant to have a baby just yet, there are other ways to accomplish that. Why get my hopes up and then crush them? I believe things will work out, I really do. I believe they'll work out even better than I can imagine. But I don't believe there is a reason this happened.

I remember when I was about 6 weeks pregnant, I overheard a group of women talking about how there is no good time to be pregnant. Either you're pregnant in the heat of summer, or you're trying not to slip and fall on the ice with your giant belly. But I thought to myself, maybe there is a perfect time to be pregnant, and I've nailed it. I started pregnancy at the end of summer, August, when the heat is wearing off. I wouldn't be too huge during the icy winter, not too wobbly yet, no worries about needing a maternity coat. Then I'd give birth in spring before it gets too hot. And it was nearly perfect as far as my work calendar goes. I really couldn't have planned it better if I tried.


Or I guess one of my favorite "what ifs"...

Do you remember that my sister and I were pregnant with Mo (and my sister's son Will) at the same time? Well, we have similar timelines I guess. We were ready to start trying for a second at around the same time, and we managed to get pregnant, again, within a few weeks of each other. It was amazing and thrilling, and it seemed too good to be true. We acknowledged that, but we chose to believe we are allowed good things, we are allowed this happiness, and amazing things can happen! 

Damn it, I should have known. I feel foolish even. I know that's not how life works, but really, isn't that just how life works sometimes? My dear sister, when she found out about my loss, said it should have been her. She had an easy time getting pregant both times, and hasn't had any pregnancy-related complications with either so far. That's how it should be for everyone. But of course it makes no sense that it should have been her that screwed up our fairy tale, that's not how it works. Some of us have shitty luck with this stuff, some of us have even shittier luck with this stuff (I know several out there!), and some of us have shitty luck with other things.


A text to my sisters. This was after we already knew my sister was pregnant (hence, two babies). Crossing fingers is, apparently, not full proof.

I have a great marriage, a nice house, a job I love, a healthy daughter. I have good luck in so many other things. When I'm feeling really sad, I count my blessings. So cliche, but sometimes it works. My husband is awesome. My family is great and so are my friends. I have a job, and I enjoy my work. I'm healthy, my husband is healthy. I had a great pregnancy, a healthy birth, a healthy baby. Mo is healthy and thriving. I know people who have children with devestating diseases. My daughter and my daughter's health are my biggest blessings. I have so many things to be thankful for, and I know that. They don't erase my losses, but they do help ease the pain.


Mo - 21 months

I'm 12 days late with this update, but it's no surprise with everything that's been going on here lately. Regardless, Mo is 21 months old! It seems like kind of a non-monumental milestone, but she's got a lot going on right now, so it seems significant. Her vocabulary is exploding. I've heard from several people that their kids went from a handful of words at 18 months to full on talking by 2 years old, and that it usually happens in one big burst. That's what we're experiencing with Mo right now. She used to be unwilling to try new words. We'd say "Can you say ball?" and she'd just not nod or do nothing at all. Now she will make an attempt to say anything. She's learning all kinds of new words - it's really fun to watch.

Mo fall outfit

We did talk to Mo about the pregnancy a little bit. She is blessedly too young to understand what happened, it hasn't affected her in any way except that I have been laid up on the couch most of the last three weeks, having little energy to do much else. When I was pregnant, we would ask her if she wanted a baby brother or a baby sister, and she'd always, without fail, say "Two!" No idea what that means, but we joked that maybe I was having twins. There was only one embryo in there though. Maybe somehow she knew that this pregnancy was #1 baby brother or sister, and that there would be another to come, #2. We can hope.

Dad and Mo

Mo has been pretty cuddly. When I'm laying on the couch, she likes to crawl up and cuddle. Sometimes only for a few seconds, sometimes long enough to read a couple books. She often runs over and says "uh" and reaches out her arms, and I pick her up onto my lap. We've been letting her watch cartoons lately, especially weekend mornings when we're still recovering from the week and have very little to give. She sits in my lap, eating a banana, watching PBS.


She also likes to hold my hand when we go for walks. Mike pushes the stroller, and she sticks her hand out, waiting for me to grab it. We walk the whole way like that. When she falls or bumps into something, she quickly shuffles on over to me and asks me to kiss it better. Even the littlest ouchie needs a kiss. I taught her that, I admit, and I love it every time.

Mo holding Mom's hand in stroller

For a long time she couldn't say yes, so she said "huh huh." It's more like "heh heh" or "hm hm." Some combination of those I guess. Anyway, we loved that. But recently she learned yeah, and that's equally adorable. Yeah!

Mo still loves books (LOVES them!). She sometimes calls herself Mamo, an attempt at the Momo we often call her. She likes to play horsey. If you're sitting with your legs crossed, she will inevitably climb on and say neigh, an indication for you to bounce her around and sing Pony Girl.

She has been a little more stubborn about eating lately. She's generally a really good eater, easy to please. But recently she plays this little game. Makes the sign for eat, we go to the fridge or pantry, she ponders, picks something out. She has a few bites. Ten minutes later she makes the sign for eat again, but refuses the item that's still sitting there waiting to be eaten. We're trying to enforce the rule that you don't get anything else until you finish the thing you asked for - we don't want to teach her bad eating habits already - but it's not always easy. And then she gets frustrated and throws her food. The throwing of the food, it's our biggest battle. When she's done eating, rather than just stop eating, she has to chuck her food away from her. Onto the floor. We tell her every single time that it's rude and inappropriate, and if she continues, we give her a time out. And then we make her pick up her mess. Hopefully this will eventually sink in - it's not worth it, just don't throw the dang food!

Mo porch railing

We've started some initial potty training. She likes to sit on the toilet with her training seat adapter, and she is interested when I use the bathroom. But she has yet to actually use the toilet. I'm not sure how to make that leap. Once she knows what she's supposed to do in the toilet, we can start to help her recognize the urges, to teach her to tell us when she needs to go. But for now, the two acts are still separate. There's what you do in your diaper, and there's sitting on the toilet. What do they have to do with each other? I keep hoping if she sits there long enough, eventually she'll go and we can say, "See! That! That's what you do here. Yay!" We're not ready to dive head first into potty training, and I don't think she is either, so we'll just keep familiarizing her with the concept. But if you have any helpful stories of potty training, I'd love to hear them. Does that connection happen naturally, the one between potty in the diaper and potty in the toilet? Do we just need to wait until she starts to demonstrate she's getting it? Or is there a way to teach her that? I know everybody does it differently - every kid is different, every family is different - but what worked for you?



It's a loss

I had an appointment with an OB last Friday. They did an ultrasound in the office, and very quickly confirmed it was a miscarriage. The baby had not grown at all and there was still no heartbeat. I cried. I didn't think I would, I thought I was expecting it, I thought I had already processed this enough. But there came the tears. My sister was with me and she cried, too. It was finally final, and that hurt.

The doctor explained my options: take a pill to induce miscarriage, have a D&C, or wait until my body took care of it. The OB I saw was pretty obviously opposed to the pill. She stated frankly that she had seen too many people end up in the ER from the pill, so I quickly ruled that out. I spent the weekend debating the other options. It was such a hard decision. I wanted there to be a third choice: go back in time and make none of this real. How could I choose between one terrible option and another?

In the end, I played a game with myself. I pretended that I had no choice and that I had to wait for my body to do it, and I realized I felt scared and anxious. Then I pretended I had no choice and had to have the D&C, and I realized I felt a kind of relief. I decided to listen to my gut. On Monday I called to schedule the procedure.

Unfortunately, not even that could be simple. I was scheduled for Wednesday, and the doctor doing surgeries that day had a different opinion about the pill than the one I saw Friday. The nurse told me her instructions were to take the pill the night before and morning of the procedure to facilitate the process. I said I was not comfortable with that, so the nurse was going to talk to the doctor and see if I could decline. I knew that if she said no, I would need to reschedule with a different doctor. I chose the D&C to avoid the pill, to avoid excessive pain and other unpleasantness. Now I'm instructed to take it anyway?

I didn't get an answer until 4:45 Tuesday. The nurse said the doctor "Would like me to take the pill blah blah, but she would respect my decision if I declined." I declined. 

I won't go into details about the procedure. But I'll say this: it was even less of a big deal than I had been told. The worst part was by far the IV. I hadn't even considered the IV. I used to be terrified of needles, but I've had so many pokes in the last few years, it didn't worry me. But I wasn't allowed to drink for 10 hours before, so I was very dehydrated. It took four attempts, three different people, and about 30 minutes to successfully place an IV. I was holding it together just fine until the IV debacle. That made me nauseous, light headed, teary. I was overwhelmed by everything happening - people kept coming in to introduce themselves, explain their role, ask me questions, all while I'm trying not to have a break down.

Eventually Trevor, the nurse anesthetist, got an IV in. He became my hero. He was so kind, he treated me like a person going through something real, and he was genuine. I was thankful for Trevor. I was grateful he'd be in the OR with me. 

Shortly after they got the IV in, they were rolling me down the hall. In the OR, I thought there would be some fanfare. Some sort of, "We're getting ready to get started Shannon. We're going to start the anesthesia and you'll fall asleep quickly." But I was in there about one minute while the medical staff carried on small talk about Trevor's kids and I counted the lights on the ceiling, and one second later I was waking up in the post-op room. It was like nothing. I couldn't believe how nothing it was.

I'm glad it's over. I took the rest of the week off to recover physically and emotionally. I need this time off, this time away. I know it will take more than a few days to move on from this. I know I'll never forget, it will always be part of my story. But I'm ready to accept what happened and start to heal.

Regarding the physical part, I had so many questions and concerns about a D&C. I won't be detailed here, but if you're reading and you're wondering what to expect, please feel free to contact me. I'll share all the details. If you're contemplating or facing a D&C, I think it'll help to know what to expect. And if you need someone to ask, I'm here with an answer.


Another loss?

The first time we sat in the radiology waiting room, we were filled with hope. Maybe a little apprehension, but mostly excited anticipation. The second time, a week later, we knew were there to confirm the bad news we suspected.

Three pregnancies so far. Only one baby. I'm indescribably thankful for my Mo right now. As broken hearted as I feel, it is nothing compared to the last time a pregnancy failed. I look at her and I know she's all I need. If she is all there ever is, it's enough. She, of course, is blissfully ignorant. And thank god. We had started to talk about a baby brother or sister. We mentioned a few times that she was going to be a big sister. But at 20 months, that is essentially meaningless. And so is the fact that it has now all changed. We don't have to try to explain it to her, and that is one of the silver linings to this situation.

In late spring, when Mike found a job to end his temporary unemployment, we stopped preventing a pregnancy. We had decided if I got pregnant in the next six months, that would make for a good age gap between Mo and her younger sibling. We knew it likely wouldn't happen right away - it took us over a year, some Clomid, and one ectopic pregnancy before we conceived and had a healthy pregnancy last time. But we had also heard that a lot of people, even when they struggle greatly with their pregnancy, have a very easy time of it the second time around. We were hoepful.

At the end of August, we got a positive test. We were not casual about conceiving. After a month of "not preventing" we got serious. I learned last time that timing is everything, so I used ovulation predictors and kept track of everything. That it took us only a few months is a) a great blessing, and b) not entirely by luck.

I took a test two days before my missed period because I suspected I might be pregnant. I had been having some abdominal pressure I recognized from my pregnancy with Mo. I took two tests, the cheap kind you buy on Amazon. Both had a faint line, but I wasn't convinced. It was early morning, but I drove immediately to Walgreens and bought a Clear Blue early detection kit. Within a couple minutes, it popped up "Pregnant," and I cheered.

It was very early. I was only four weeks. I told my immediate family because we tell each other everything. We also told a few people in Mike's family, and a couple friends. I asked my doctor for an ultrasound because my first pregnancy was ectopic. I wanted to be sure everything was in the right place. She had me wait until I was 7 weeks to be sure there would be something to see, so when I was 7 weeks 2 days pregnant, Mike and I went to see our baby. Right before we went in, I whispered to Mike, "I'm nervous." I know how often these things don't go well, so I was nervous, but mostly hopeful. 

The tech told me before doing anything that she may not see much with an abdominal ultrasound, and she didn't. So she did a vaginal scan. She pulled the monitor where we couldn't see it, and she looked around for a very long time. She said very little, but I had an overwhelming sense that something was not right. Mike rubbed my arm the whole time - I think he sensed it too.

Eventually, she said, very casually, "Sorry it's taking so long. The baby is so small I can't see it well. Only 2.2 millimeters!" I knew that meant bad news. I had just read on my Babycenter app that the baby was the size of a blueberry. A blueberry is bigger than 2.2 millimeters. I said, "That's smaller than expected right?" and she simply said, "It doesn't line up with the data you gave us."

Meaning maybe I conceived later than I thought. Maybe I had the date of my last mentrual cycle wrong. But I didn't. I kept track of it all, I wasn't wrong. The tech can't really say anything, so I didn't ask anymore questions. I took the photos she printed (while saying, "Congratulations!") and we left.

Mike had to stop in the restroom on the way out, so I stood in the hall holding my purse, my coat, two water bottles and my ultrasound photos. And I cried. I couldn't stop the tears. Nobody had to tell me anything. I knew what was going on and I knew it wouldn't end well. I cried big ugly tears, and I had no free hands to wipe them away. 

When Mike came out we walked quietly to the car. We had driven separately, so we sat in his car for awhile and decided what to do next. I knew I couldn't go back to work, but I didn't want to go home and face his mom (who was watching Mo) either. I couldn't talk about it yet. So he went home and I sat in my car for half an hour crying. Heaving, sobbing, painful crying.

I wanted this pregnancy to be different. My pregnancy with Mo was so wracked with worry and guilt. I had been through a lot, I knew so many people struggling with conception, and half way through my pregnancy my best friend delivered her baby far too early and lost him a few days later. Every day I worried about what could happen. Every day I felt guilty for having a healthy pregnancy. I wanted this time to be different. I knew bad things could happen, but I didn't want to focus on that. I wanted to be able to talk about being pregnant without following it up with, "As long as things work out."

I know it's irrational, but I feel like I jinxed this pregnancy by not worrying enough. If I do get pregnant again, I'm going to worry the crap out of it.

The day after the ultrasound, I had a blood test, and another one three days later. My hcg levels rose, but not nearly enough. That means something is developing, but it's not a healthy pregnancy. I had another ultrasound last week Thursday, a week after the first. I knew I wouldn't see anything promising, but I was ready for confirmation of what I knew. Instead, the scan was inconclusive. There was no heartbeat (though she did see some "heart movement" that turned out to be a blood vessel outside the uterus), and the baby was now two weeks too small. But the radiologist wouldn't say for sure, suspecting that maybe I had my dates wrong.

My dates aren't wrong.

But hoping for some closure, I did another blood test the next day. Surely my hcg levels would have dropped and we can decide what to do next. Except they didn't. They rose. But only very slightly. My doctor wanted another ultrasound, but I said no, not yet. I couldn't go through that again. So instead this past Tuesday I had another blood test, and my hcg levels rose again. Again though, barely. Finally my GP admitted defeat. She suggested another ultrasound, but I asked to see an OB. I just want someone to tell me what is inevitable. So Friday I have an ultrasound at the OB's office, and I'll see the doctor right away.

I don't believe this is a viable pregnany. There is no baby at the end of this, yet they can't conclusively say I'm miscarrying yet. But how long can this drag on? Do I have to wait until my body takes care of it? That could be weeks yet. At some point can they say it's not good, even if my levels are rising slowly? I don't know, but I need to be able to move on.