A Story of Loss
In this post, I'm going to write about something very close to my heart. Miscarriage can feel like a dirty word in the realm of beautiful women and their pregnancies, instagram perfect #babybump posts everywhere. As a Birth Doula, it was heart wrenching to experience a loss and see so much love and life surrounding me. It's taking me a while to see this as a blessing, but it is. I see healing every day in my work.
There is a lot of fear and shame surrounding miscarriage. As I'll mention later, most people don't know what to say. It's unfortunate that an issue that is so common can be so hard to talk about. 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 80% of those within the first trimester. With those numbers I personally and professionally believe that it would be more helpful to pregnant women everywhere to have more knowledge, understanding, and emotional support in the event of a loss.
As this is an emotional subject for me, there will be less information in this post than usual. If you have additional questions or I've missed vital information you need on abortion, miscarriage, or loss, feel free to contact me.
Although it may be a sensitive subject, I'd like to share my story with you and what helped me heal from this experience. As a Bereavement and Birth Doula, it was both helpful for me to have the knowledge I do and hard (or just overwhelming) for me to navigate making decisions throughout the process.
After a normal weekend with my family, I started noticing a brown discharge on a Sunday afternoon. I hadn't been incredibly active or experienced any trauma, so I thought it could be normal changes and decided to wait and see. By Monday afternoon, it had become pink tinged and I was cramping. With my experience, I knew I was likely miscarrying.
My personal feelings are that medical care can't do anything to prevent the natural process of a miscarriage, only help it along and ensure your safety. With that in mind, I decided to stay home and practice expected management. My husband came home from work and helped with our two children while I laid in bed with wave after wave of cramping. I couldn't call it contractions, but it felt like a lesser version of labor. It definitely felt like labor to me.
I felt pain throughout my body, mainly my back and my abdomen but it reached all the way through my upper shoulders and my thighs. My tailbone especially ached. I took baths, used a hot water bottle and essential oils, all the while crying and wondering all the "what ifs". Essentially, torturing myself. My internal dialogue is a jumbled mess of anxiety and self reassurance.
Was my baby a boy or a girl? It's way too early to know. Would I want to know? Would it make it easier?
It won't. Either way, it will hurt the same. Just breathe.
How was I going to tell my babies? I just told them last week about their new baby. I bought them books. We talked about names.
They will be okay. With lots of tears and hugs shared.
Was I going to be okay? I've had some fertility issues in the past, my doula knowledge tells me these things happen, but what if I'm not okay?What if something is wrong with me?
No. It's nothing I did. I know that. I know that.
As the evening progressed, I passed out from pain and exhaustion. When I fell asleep, I thought the worst of the bleeding was over, but I woke up wet and confused. Scared, I called out to my husband and got ready to go to the hospital. I knew this could be normal, but I was feeling shaky and had begun to question how well I could make decisions and objectively think about the situation.
The hospital was the worst part of the experience. Because of our circumstances, my husband stayed home with our children. That decision is one I didn't and don't agree with, and I'll be honest about that. Being at the hospital alone, for hours on end, I wouldn't wish on anyone. Call a friend, call a bereavement doula, call the hospital chaplain. Do something for yourself so that you won't be alone. Unless you truly wish otherwise, having companionship through loss is incredibly valuable. Being alone can be traumatizing.
I wasn't entirely alone. My nurse, Elaina, will always hold a special place in my heart. She was the first person to say, "I'm sorry this is happening to you," and squeezed my hand. I felt so badly for her, because she did something so sweet, and I exploded into tears. After all the fear on the ride in and joking with my Uber driver, the brave face through checking in at the front desk, and feeling alone for hours, her kind heart broke down my walls. I sobbed and thanked her over and over.
The doctor came in after a while and told me my HCG levels were low enough that they considered this a loss, but they wanted to do an internal ultrasound to be sure. As he held a plastic wand inside my vagina, he told me he could no longer find my baby's heartbeat. Then he told me I would have a second ultrasound to confirm later after the products had passed. And he left the room.
I hate to share such blunt details with you, but I don't think that doctor knew that he said or did anything wrong. I don't know if he knew that he could have said more. He could have done more. He could have said he was sorry for my loss. He could have called it my baby, instead of "products." He could have ended the ultrasound before breaking the news. He could have said it would be okay to ask for support during this time.
Instead, it was painful for him, or he simply didn't know any of that, and he walked away from someone who was deeply hurting and had just lost a child. In fact, once learning I had two children, he said "Oh, okay then. They will be a comfort to you." It was obvious that he thought this was no great loss because I already have children.
They left me alone in a triage room for a few hours until I passed the amniotic sac and the products, or my baby. The doctor took everything away in a plastic bin to be sent to a lab. I never asked what would happen to it after that, and after he left I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone about it.
I want you to know that some people won't know what to say. They will say the wrong things, even hurtful things. They will think something has no meaning, and it will mean the world to you. You can correct them. You can tell them what hurts and what you need to hear instead. I'll be writing a brief letter to my emergency department where I received care, personally thanking Elaina and asking for sensitivity from their doctors in future scenarios.
After being cleared by the doctors, I decided to go home and the miscarriage naturally continue instead of pursuing a D & C. This was a personal decision, I wanted to be at home with my family and rest there. It was difficult to go through a few more days of the cramping and recovery at home, but I preferred this option because the hospital was becoming traumatic.
The days at home are a bit of a blur. I had help with my kids, so I rested and kept using baths and hot water bottles for heat therapy. I will cover everything I used for recovery near the end of this post, but I mainly used heat and ibuprofen. Having lots of pillows on hand helped when resting in bed. I went to my local herbalist and began taking herbs with every meal, and had lots of tea, bone broth soup, and chocolate.
I was deeply hurt by my miscarriage and wanted to process it. It's not like that for everyone. For me, I had to write, create art, and meditate through a lot of emotion within the first few days. If that's what you need, know that it's okay. It's not silly because your baby was "only 5 weeks" or because you have other children. Work through it in your own time and your own way. Grief has a way of hanging around for a while as a welcome or unwelcome guest.
I'm still working through it. It's painful, messy, and it seems like a really cruel joke. But I'll keep moving through it and forwards because it's all I can do day to day. I'll keep giving myself peace and love until I can make sense of the mess. I hope the same peace and love, and eventual acceptance for you if this is your journey.
Care After a Miscarriage
- Heat pad/Hot water bottle
- Belly Binding/Massage
- Lots and lots of pillows and blankets
- Herbs (if you see a certified herbalist)
- Pregnancy Tea/Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Comfortable Underwear, Clothes
- Maxi Pads
- Stool Softener/Fiber Supplement (you'll likely need it)
- Healthy Food (fruit, vegetables, protein, fat, hydration)
- Talk about how you're feeling
- Rest, relax, sleep
- Watch your favorite movies, TV shows, read books
- Pray or Meditate
- Follow up with a care provider
- Keep up with physical activity to your comfort level
- Consider finding a local grief counselor or therapist
- Keep talking with your family and friends, tell them what you need
- Hire a Bereavement or Postpartum Doula for support
- Make memories- purchase a Star Map of your babies birthday, write their story, create art, donate in their honor, put away anything you bought for them in a keepsake box, have a piece of personalized jewelry made
I pray that you are not alone and have support through this difficult time. If you're located in Hampton Roads, I would love to help you in any way I can. I also provide Skype support if you are out of town. Feel free to get in touch with me for support in any sensitive situation.
Love and Light,