My husband and I arrived at our first 8-week appointment a little frazzled, a lot anxious, and very late; but our doctor was lovely about it. We gave him our history and talked to him about my symptoms (they were few, thankfully). And after a bit of small talk, he said “alright, let’s see how things look.”
He didn’t say anything for a long time after starting the ultrasound, then he asked if we were sure about our dates. “The pregnancy,” he said, “does not look as expected for someone 8-weeks along.” He explained it was possible that our dating was wrong and that we were earlier in the pregnancy than we thought, or it was possible that this was something called a “blighted ovum” which meant that while the gestational sac had developed, the embryo never started growing. He sent us home and told us to come back in two weeks.
Back in our apartment, I remember sitting on the couch with my husband in silent tears. We were in complete shock. I had known “miscarriage” was a possibility, maybe I’d even known it was common, but I’d only ever thought about it in abstract terms, never really expecting it to happen to me. I can’t find a good analogy. All I can say is that I had truly believed miscarriage was something that happened to “other people,” unlucky people, older people, unhealthy people, you name it. But. Not. Me.
It became immediately apparent to me why women don’t share the news of their pregnancy until after the first trimester. Having to text my family and friends with whom I’d shared the news was devastating. I felt like I’d disappointed them. Answering their questions was impossible given that I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening. And holding their feelings was excruciating because I could barely hold my own.
In my head I knew our dating was correct. In my head I knew my lack of morning sickness was not a good sign. In my head I knew this was a loss… But my heart, oh my heart was a tricky devil. Her denial was a powerful drug. With her I scoured the internet to find multiple accounts of people in my situation for whom everything worked out. With her I prayed to God and painted a beautifully hopeful picture of everything turning around. Her strong fingers clung to those two weeks like a lifeline.
The second ultrasound took place in the obstetrics unit of the hospital. My husband came with me, but honestly, I have very little memory of him being there that day. I do remember the ultrasound tech leaving the room to get her supervisor – a kind, young, male doctor, who explained as politely as he could that it was indeed a miscarriage. I do remember sitting on the procedure table, in a dark room, naked from the waist down, and sobbing. I do remember walking out past all the happy and rotund women in the waiting room with tear streaked cheeks feeling like a wraith.
I didn’t want to do anything about it. I believed that eventually my body would “do the right thing” and pass everything naturally (and maybe I even hoped that my lack of bleeding meant some medical miracle was occurring, and things would still work out just fine). I was wrong on both counts. At 12 weeks – 7 weeks after the pregnancy had stopped progressing – my body still thought I was pregnant. This is called a “missed miscarriage.”
I became irrationally angry at the body I had previously trusted. I felt like my own uterus had betrayed me. She was so completely delusional, so wrapped up in the experience of being pregnant that she had failed to recognize the non-viable fetus. I was disgusted with her and finally opted for a D&C.
My husband had a conflict the day of the procedure, so my mom came with me instead. She told me I’d be back in that hospital again someday under better circumstances, and I think I believed her. The nurse asked me if I wanted information about support groups, and I declined. Nearly a month had passed between my first appointment and the day of the D&C, and by that time a support group felt like too little too late. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was anxious to hurry up and move on. I wanted to try again.
The nurse also asked me if I wanted to do anything with the tissue, like have it tested or interred. Again, I declined. I wanted nothing to do with those traitorous cells. I just wanted them out of my body. In retrospect, I wish I’d been in mental place to ask for testing. My doctors and nurses were surprisingly dismissive about the loss. It was early. Loss was common. Testing would most likely show that there was something wrong with the fetus, but there was no reason to believe it would happen again. My best course of action was to keep trying.
What I know how is that while it is true that most miscarriages are a result of chromosomal abnormalities, there are other causes. Testing the pregnancy tissue can help with diagnosis. One study I read concluded that when testing is combined with the standard workup for repeat miscarriage, a definite or probable cause can be found for 95% of losses. Knowing the exact cause of my losses may not have made me feel better, but it may have influenced the decisions I made about treatment options. I may not have tried some of the experimental treatments; or I may have pursued them more aggressively. I can’t be sure. But I’ll never know, because I didn’t ask.
Through this process I have learned to be a better advocate for myself. I bring a family member with me to appointments because sometimes my emotions cloud my ability to listen, and I want someone there to ask questions. I do my own research online following appointments. I ask for referrals and read reviews of hospitals and clinics. I don’t do this because I mistrust my doctors; I have an immense amount of respect for doctors. But my doctors will never care as much about my health and well being as I do. They will never know my medical history without looking at my charts. They may be kind, and compassionate, and smart, and excellent, but they are human, and they are fallible. I think we have a personal obligation to ask questions, seek second opinions and conduct our own research, because nobody else will do this for us. Anyway, this is just one girl’s opinion. Take it or leave it.