December 02, 2013

What Does Miscarriage Feel Like?

This post has been in my brain and my heart for YEARS, but never committed to writing. Not because I don't want to write it - I actually have no problem answering the question when someone asks - but I guess it's never easy to just put it all out there. So I start with this warning: while miscarriage is not and should not be a taboo or shameful subject, it still doesn't make it a fun or easy subject to talk about (at least not for me). So be gentle and patient with me as I try.

I'm writing this to be informative for people who need it. When I was going through my first miscarriage, I had no idea what to expect. I searched the internet for some sort of idea and only found a few places with scattered bits of info. So I will try to detail MY experiences and if it helps someone, I've done my job. I can't speak for all, only MY experiences.

If you've read about me or about us, you'll know I've had three miscarriages. My mother had two. They were caused by chromosomal abnormalities. We know this because of genetic testing. However, I did not have this information until after my third miscarriage. It took a lot of begging and pleading to find a doctor willing to give me answers. In sum, I suffer from what's called "secondary infertility;" I have no problems getting pregnant, I have problems staying pregnant.

After three miscarriages, I consider myself a bit of an expert, though it's not really something I'd like to be an expert in. I've had many different doctors, with many different approaches and bad bedside manners. I've had people say amazingly stupid things, which I may or may not go into detail about here.
What I truly hope is that if you are going through this right now, you find the strength to advocate for what you want and need during this process. So I hope sharing my experiences can give you some ideas on how to do that or avoid certain undesirable situations.

The number one thing I want everyone to do before anything else: PLEASE, please, please DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF! When you think about the miracle of life (and it really is a miracle) so many things happen so fast. Your body is working to create something so complex - the amount of precision required is just mind-blowing. Of course things can go wrong! Like an orchestra playing a masterpiece, it will not be perfect every time. This is not a reflection of you or your partner. It does not mean you are incapable. It means the clarinet player hit a wrong note, and I bet you no one in the audience noticed. Sometimes the rest of the orchestra keeps playing and the song that comes out is not perfect, but it's still great. Other times the clarinet player throws off the flute player, who messes up the bassoon and the song has to stop. But that doesn't mean the conductor is a bad person or did something wrong. Maybe a fly landed on the nose of the clarinet player. Something totally out of anyone's control! Don't blame yourself.

So on to physical symptoms: in my case, my regular period cramps actually feel like labour, they are that bad. In contrast, I prefer miscarriages because they were never very painful for me. The cramping I got from them did not require painkillers. I've had miscarriages on planes and while at work, and they never stopped me. Only the emotional part was a bother, not the physical. With the exception of the first one where I was very scared and nauseated, I actually wish my regular periods were as painless as miscarriages.

In terms of amount of blood, not significantly more than a heavy period, though perhaps more clotting and different colours of tissue than you may be used to seeing. You may or may not see the egg sac (like a little bubble), but I can almost guarantee, if it's an early miscarriage, you will NOT see a fully-formed baby. (I know a lot of pro-life sites like to scare people with that, but they take late miscarriages and pass them off as early (before 12 weeks), which is really a mean thing to do!) Regardless of what you see coming out, what you choose to do with the tissue is your own business. If you think it will help to keep it and plant a tree, so be it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to take pictures, more power to you. Or if you don't want to look at all and have your partner flush the toilet for you, go ahead. Do what YOU need to do to heal.

Also, I've always opted for minimal intervention and letting nature take its course. In other words, I never had a D&C or took an aborticant. This means while I knew my embryo was dead in some cases, I waited for my body to expel it. All my miscarriages were early enough that waiting was not a danger. While the first two were relatively quick, my last one took a whole 10 days from when I knew it was dead to come out. Waiting is annoying, to say the least. You can continue to experience pregnancy symptoms while carrying a dead embryo. Also just walking around knowing you are carrying around a dead embryo can be really disturbing. For me, it was impossible to get closure until I knew it was out.

It is also totally normal to start bleeding, then stop, then start again. Know that this can go on for weeks. Once you stop bleeding completely, you can expect your normal period to start again in 4-8 weeks, give or take. Every body is different.

The emotional side is a whole other ball game. You can experience post-partum depression after a miscarriage. Talk to your doctor about that. Depending on where you are, you may also be able to claim short-term disability benefits. (I did for my first one through my insurance because I was really too upset and I worked in a really nosy office at the time.) The first miscarriage truly tore me apart and people can say amazingly heartless things. It's not something I would wish upon anyone.

Still, you can get through it with time. It will never be perfect. If you do get pregnant again, you will probably be very fearful of losing it. I know I was! What helped me was talking to others who had miscarriages - either online or in person. You may not know it, but you know someone right now who has had one. If you disclose it, EVERYONE will tell you they themselves have had one or know someone who has. Miscarriage is VERY common, just not openly talked about.

In terms of healing, you can grieve in whatever way you see fit. I opted to take really good care of myself and was very gentle with myself. I bought myself roses and took rose petal baths. I named my "angel" babies. I remember when I found out I was pregnant with them, due dates and death dates. I had a baby book for the first one. I believe that if there is a "heaven" that my father is with them - though I don't think my dead father's idea of a good time would be hanging out with three babies, let's pretend they are old enough to care for themselves and they're all having a party. It's a sweet thought that still makes me cry and it's been over 5 years. It never goes away, but you go on.

They were potential children who are so loved and so wanted, but never held in my arms. But if anything came from the heartache, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a mom and I'm always so grateful for the one I do get to hug everyday.

That's about all I get out today without becoming a heaping mess of tears. *hugs*

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from readers. Thanks for your comments!