I first wrote this on May 15, 2006, about six weeks after having a miscarriage, although I slightly revised and added details to it for my blog. I wrote this as part of an internet forum dedicated to first trimester miscarriage stories, and I shared my experience by answering pre-written questions. It contains graphic details. But it is my story, and it is a memory that I will never forget. Just as I wrote birth stories for my daughters, this is my birth story for my baby that I never met. Thanks to detailed charting of my cycle, I know that I conceived this baby on March 1, and the baby’s life ended with a miscarriage on April 1. I had exactly one month to be this child’s earthly mother.
I still have moments when I am reminded that I have a child who died, and I every so often, I still cry.
At what stage did you discover the pregnancy was not viable?
We had a less-than-promising ultrasound at 5w5d [5 weeks, 5 days] where we saw only an empty [embryonic] sac. By the time the next week’s ultrasound came, it merely verified that I had already had the m/c [miscarriage] and passed the sac, although the ultrasound showed that I hadn’t passed all the tissue.
Had you been spotting/cramping prior to that?
Not at 5w5d. I started lightly spotting at 6w, more spotting the next two days, and started cramping and bleeding the day of my m/c, which was 6w3d.
Did you still have any/all pregnancy symptoms?
Not really sure, as it was early. However, I continued to have morning sickness the week after the m/c.
Did you wait for a natural m/c? Yes.
How long did you have to wait before bleeding began? I had light red bleeding the day before the m/c, and heavy red bleeding the day of the m/c.
What was the bleeding like? Like a period? Heavier? Yes, it was like a period, not really that much heavier. As I had already given birth, I would say that the m/c experience itself was like a mini-childbirth. I felt “small “contractions through which, while they definitely hurt, I could always continue talking. (I say “small” as compared to the contractions of a full-term childbirth in active labor, through which I have been unable to talk.) I definitely felt the need to continually move around, and except for frequent trips to the toilet, I stayed on my feet constantly, moving and pacing around.
I started cramping around 3pm on a Saturday, and I believe I passed the sac around 5:30 pm. I remember that for some reason we had visitors in our home around 3pm, and I desperately wanted them to leave. Later on, I also was trying to make supper while having my miscarriage. I remember stirring something on the stove, turning it down, and going to the bathroom, then coming back to the stove, turning it back up, stirring some more, all the while moving around as much as possible and moaning softly, but trying not to make too much noise so that I wouldn’t scare my 2.5 year old daughter. It was a very strange experience. I also called a few friends who had had miscarriages, and asked them to share their experiences with me even as I was going through the m/c myself.
Was it obvious to you when you passed tissue? Was there any clotting?
I could tell when I passed the sac. Compared to passing blood and tissue, the sac was a slightly more “solid” object. When I felt that slide out, I ran back to the bathroom to see what had come out. What I saw was about the size and shape of a kidney bean. It was dark purple (although that may have been a coating from the clots and blood), but I didn’t try to examine it closely. I knew that there was no baby in it, as we’d seen nothing in the sac for the past two ultrasounds that I had had, so I didn’t feel any huge desire to save the empty sac. Regardless, it felt strange and final to flush the toilet after passing the sac. I passed many clots, too.
Interestingly, within a few minutes of passing the sac, I stopped feeling the need to move around. All I wanted to do was to lie down; I no longer wanted to move at all. I guess your body tells you what it needs you to do.
Was the amount of blood at any time frightening to you? No.
If you tried to pass everything naturally, was it successful, or did you end up having a D&C anyway due to residual tissue, etc.? I wanted to pass everything naturally, but I ended up asking for a D&C four days after passing the sac. I tried Methergine first, but it didn’t help and it made me sick. So I chose to have a D&C, even though I had hoped to avoid one.
If you had a D&C, what was your experience?
I passed the sac on a Saturday. Four days later, on a Wednesday, I was still cramping and bleeding, and I had a lower backache. I really wanted to avoid a D&C; however, it was emotionally draining to me (and JJ) to have the m/c experience be dragging on and on. I finally realized that I emotionally needed the closure of a D&C as much as I needed it physically. I figured that I had already had the actual miscarriage on my own, including passing the sac; the D&C was just an efficient way to get the rest of the tissue out, to get the wound cleaned out (so to speak), and to bring an end to the miscarriage experience.
The D&C was done in my OB’s office, and my OB performed the procedure himself (on his afternoon off, no less!). He gave me a shot of some medication in my arm to relax me and make me woozy. He even held my hand for a few minutes while we waited for the medication to take effect, something for which I’ve always been grateful.
The D&C was not pain-free; there was some sharp pulling sensations as I was “cleaned out” and suctioned out internally. The medication didn’t completely take away the pain; instead it made me tired and a bit mentally hazy. But, it was over relatively quickly. The experience, while emotionally traumatic, was over in about five minutes. Afterwards, I laid alone on the table until I summoned up the energy (I was still tired from the medication) to get dressed and drag myself back out to the waiting room. I think I lay there for about half an hour or so, but I’m not sure. For some reason, JJ didn’t come in with me for the D%C. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think it was a childcare issue with Lyd. I remember that it was a Wednesday in Lent, and JJ probably had a midweek Lenten service that night to preach for which complicated matters further. When I got home, I went straight to bed and slept soundly for 3-4 hours. I don’t know who took care of Lyd or how JJ managed to preach and play mommy simultaneously.
In the end I was glad I had the D&C. It helped that my OB, once he began the procedure and was able to visibly assess the state of my uterus, said, “It’s a good thing you’re having this done.” My body was metaphorically spinning its wheels, trying to clean me out, but for whatever reason, it couldn’t finish the process on its own. I made a good decision to have the D&C.
How long did you bleed total (for natural or D&C) including spotting before and after?
I spotted three days before the miscarriage, and bled for almost two weeks afterwards, although the last week it was much lighter and browner. The cramping stopped within a few days after the D&C.
How long until you physically felt yourself again? There were a lot of other things going on in my life at that time besides the m/c that were taking their toll on me emotionally. As far as physically feeling like myself, I would say about two weeks. But with all that had happened, I became depressed afterwards, and that affected me physically, too. Now, 6 weeks post miscarriage, I’m feeling a lot better. Thanks to vitamins, sleep and exercise (I’ve been putting my daughter in her stroller and going for walks in the sunshine almost every day), the depression is mostly gone. I’ve had a period, and now we’re back to trying to conceive again.
The depression I experienced post-miscarriage was a result of not being kind and gentle with my body while it was recovering. I expected to bounce right back, and I didn’t acknowledge to my body that I had indeed gone through a birth and didn’t give myself the rest and care I needed. Therefore, my post-miscarriage experience included post-partum depression. I now advise anyone going through the awful-ness of a miscarriage to treat their body with all the care they would if they had given birth to a live baby, and to allow their body and hormones (and emotions) time to rest and recover.