This is not quite the blog I thought I would be writing at the beginning of the New Year. I was planning on announcing my second pregnancy, although many of my students had already figured it out from the slight bulge of my belly, but instead I find myself writing now about miscarriage.
I showed up for my 11 week appointment with my 17 month old son, Shay, in tow. It was a frustrating morning since the doctor was already running 45 minutes behind and I was trying to entertain Shay. Finally, when the doctor arrived, I asked if he could use the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat instead of the ultrasound. I was already nervous in anticipation before he even squirted the cold gel on my belly. We heard nothing as he moved the device around. Then he asked if he could take a look with the ultrasound. I was silently panicking and had a strong feeling that something was very wrong. The image of the tiny baby showed up and immediately I saw it was still, no flickering heartbeat. At this point I said, “I don’t see the baby’s heartbeat.” The doctor confirmed he did not either. He estimated that the baby had died almost two weeks before.
Everything else happened so quickly. The doctor told me I could keep waiting for my body to naturally abort the baby, but since it had been almost two weeks and my body showed no sign of passing this “missed abortion” (I really don’t like that term), he recommended a D and C (Dilation and Curettage). This is a rather invasive procedure in which the woman is put under general anesthesia, her cervix is dilated and then the lining of the uterus is scraped out, removing the fetus. Several of my friends have had this procedure done and said it was a pretty painful experience. Within minutes, an appointment was made for me and I was to show up the next day for a 7:30 am appointment. The risks were briefly discussed and I was sent on my way with the directions not to eat or drink anything after midnight.
I came home, put Shay down for a nap and started to cry. I was so overwhelmed and not very comfortable with the path I was on. I called the midwife who delivered Shay. We talked for a while as I went through all the things I thought I might have done wrong that could have caused this miscarriage. She gently reminded me that babies are born every day to all kinds of women, some who do not take care of their pregnant bodies at all, and that I did nothing wrong to cause my miscarriage and to try to stop blaming myself. This was helpful for me to hear. The most valuable piece of advice she offered was to look into a procedure called a Manual Vacuum Aspiration. She explained this is what she typically recommends for her patients. This procedure is done with a small hand held vacuum that sucks the lining out of the uterus instead of scraping it out, as the D and C does; during the MVA, the woman is awake the whole time. The entire procedure takes about 5 minutes.
I chose to do the Vacuum Aspiration instead of the D and C the next day. My husband was able to be with me the whole time. I will admit, the 5 minutes of the procedure were very uncomfortable, but the recovery has been easy. If you or anyone you know has the misfortune of needing this type of procedure, it seems much more gentle then the prescribed D and C.
The reason I chose to write about this topic is because it is simply a topic few people want to discuss. However, I found when I did open up about what I went through there was usually someone that had either experienced a miscarriage themselves or has a friend, sister, aunt, mother who has also been through it. According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage -most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant. About 15% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. Because it is so rarely talked about, however, most women end up feeling alone or isolated in the experience. I chose to tell my friends about my pregnancy even though it is common to wait until 12 weeks (the statistical drop off point of miscarriage), thinking that if something did happen, I would want their support. Well, I could not have made it through the past week without my support network! I started to obsess over everything I ate and did. Did I eat some turkey that had listeria? Did I have one cup too many of coffee? Is my body no longer able to hold a pregnancy? I needed the perspective of my friends and community to be reminded that I am not broken. I believe it is so very common for women to blame themselves for what is really out of their control. My hope is that we can start to share our experiences in order to support one another.
Here is another story from one our community members at Prenatal Yoga Center, retold here with her permission.
“When I suffered my second miscarriage two years ago, I found myself telling anyone who would listen, including the cashier at Duane Reade and the barista at my local Starbucks. My dog got an ear full as well, bless her heart for listening. For me, it was a way of healing; reaching outward instead of retreating inward, a pattern so many of us get stuck in. What I discovered was that the more people I spoke to about it, the less alone I felt. Its never nice to hear about anothers suffering but it does bring to light just how common miscarriages are and how infrequently people talk about them - unless a person such as myself takes the lead and broaches the subject with blunt honesty!
It is my hope that we can start to have a more open and honest dialogue about the subject, while helping each other heal in the process. This is also a way to share stories of hope, as most people I have spoken to, including myself, eventually go on to have a happy ending to their story, giving birth to healthy, happy babies. My nine-month-old daughter is laughing while accosting my dog in the living room as I am writing this. While the poor dog may feel differently, she is my happy ending.”
~Marisa de Sa
I invite anyone who would also like to share their experience to do so.