April 24, 2016 is a day that holds significance for many reasons. It was the first day of Infertility Awareness Week (in 2016). It was the day of our first miscarriage. It was a day that changed our lives forever. I feel like I had to get this blog post out today. Right now Brian has too much going on to share his perspective, but maybe in a few weeks he can add his own April 24th entry. So let’s go back to the beginning.
Brian and I started “trying” to make a baby over six years ago, and we had no reason to think it wouldn’t happen for us. Yes, we were “older” (but not “old” – I hadn’t even entered the geriatric maternal age yet). Brian had previously made a baby, so obviously it had “worked” for him before. We were both in good physical shape. We had no reason to think it wouldn’t happen for us. But after a year and a half and no baby, we started looking for some answers. We made some appointments and started learning about the fertility world – a depressing, expensive, emotional world. We started learning about IUIs and IVF and ovarian reserve and sperm motility, and all kinds of reproductive fun we apparently had working against us.
At one point we went to see one of Brian’s doctor’s together for an unrelated, (but kind of related), medical issue. The doctor was pretty open-minded and when we asked about Brian taking a certain medication, Clomid, (typically taken by women to help with increasing egg count, but also showing some positive results with fertility in men), to see if it would make a difference, and the doctor agreed that it could help and wouldn’t hurt. And it was just a cheap co-pay, so why not? Well, it must have been the “miracle” we needed. Low and behold, just a month later, on Easter Sunday, I got my first positive pregnancy test. It was actually pretty funny – the second line was really light, and I was so confused. I told Brian, “I think I might be a little bit pregnant.” He laughed, and I went on Google. Turns out, there’s no such thing as a little bit pregnant – a second line, no matter how light, does indeed indicate pregnancy. A Happy Easter indeed!
We went to church that day, excited as could be. We ran to Kaiser immediately afterwards, to do a blood test and confirm the pregnancy. Well, apparently the lab was closed on Easter Sunday (imagine that), so the blood test had to wait a day. That week I did get the confirmation and saw those HCG numbers rising – woot woot! I excitedly called the fertility doctor we had started working with months earlier. I told her nevermind, we wouldn’t be needing her services after all because I. Was. Pregnant.
They asked me if I wanted to come in for an early ultrasound or just wait a few weeks and do it with our regular OB. Well at this point, I had no reason to think anything was amiss, after all, our issue was GETTING pregnant, not STAYING pregnant. Or so I thought. So I told her I would wait and see the regular OB in a few weeks.
We spent the next few weeks in total bliss. We ordered a little onesie with “Jelly Bean” printed on it (after all, this was our Easter baby). We spent the nights on our phones looking up boy names and girl names. We planned how to tell our parents. Brian told me to go ahead and tell my two closest friends. One of them was pregnant herself and I couldn’t wait for us to raise our babies together. Everyone else would have to wait to find out – these were early days, after all.
A few weeks later, the day before our first scheduled ultrasound, I started spotting. Just the tiniest bit. I called my friend (the pregnant one), to get her take. She calmed me down and assured me that this was probably normal, but to maybe call the nurse to see what they’d recommend. So the next day, that’s what I did. The nurse told me to come in to the ER (it was another Sunday), so we went to church, and then headed over to the ER. I still remember the clothes I was wearing that day, and if I had known where the day would lead, I definitely would have worn something else.
Some of that morning is a blur. I remember they did “something” to me (which was probably an initial ultrasound, but I wasn’t accustomed to these things so what did I know). After that, they said they were going to send us down to do an ultrasound in another part of the hospital. Since I had entered the hospital through the ER, I figured this was all just standard procedure. The ER isn’t necessarily equipped with everything needed. They sent us down to the the lowest floor of the building. At this point I was actually excited – an ultrasound meant that we were going to get to see our baby on the screen, a day earlier than expected!
The ultrasound was completed, but of course the tech wasn’t allowed to tell us anything. They sent us back up to the ER. In hindsight, this was strange – why would I be going back to the ER if everything was okay? Why was I still in a hospital gown?
With Brian holding my hand, the Doctor With No Bedside Manner (a real ass – I wish I had gotten his name), told us that the baby had stopped growing a few weeks prior. I was over 10 weeks pregnant, but the baby was only 6 1/2 weeks in size. There was no heartbeat. There was nothing we could do. This was going to be a miscarriage. With no empathy in his voice, he gave us our options. #1. Go home. Your miscarriage can happen “naturally” – it could be a few days or a few weeks or maybe longer, but it would eventually “pass” on its own. #2. Schedule a D&C (a medical procedure to remove the tissue). Or #3. Use the medicine that would induce the miscarriage at our home. Some options, huh?
By the way, the friend I had mentioned earlier? The pregnant one? She was in the same hospital at that exact moment. She was on a different floor, her son having been born just before midnight on the 23rd. How could my good friend and her husband be having the best day of their lives, while we were experiencing our lowest time? It was all just too much.
Brian and I took some time to consider the three horrible options. We decided to go for Horrible Option #3. I didn’t want to risk miscarrying at work by doing Option #1. A D&C had to be scheduled and could leave scarring. Horrible Option #3 seemed like the way to go.
Here’s where things might get a little graphic, so feel free to stop reading. I do know that a lot of people who haven’t had to go through a MC are curious about how it happens, but it’s not something most people are comfortable asking.
Option #3 is not a medicine you swallow. It’s a medicine they insert inside of you that induces contractions. They gave me a some papers about what to expect. The papers should have just said, “Expect the worst pain of your life, for several hours, coupled with complete emotional torment.”
They said that the pain would begin in about an hour, and the worst of it would hit in about four hours. 15 minutes later, we were in the car, heading home. I was already sweating. I was wearing my church clothes. I was light headed. I thought I was going to pass out. Brandon (my teenage stepson) was at home – he didn’t even know I was pregnant – and there was no way I was going to be able to hide this. The 10 minute drive home seemed like hours – I had no idea how I was going to make it up two flights of stairs to my bedroom. Somehow I did.
I honestly don’t know how I survived the next few hours. The physical pain was excruciating. I cramped and cramped and cramped. I bled and bled and bled. At times I couldn’t get off the bathroom floor. I spent hours on the toilet. Every time I thought I could make it back to the bed to lay down, another wave would hit me. There was nothing Brian could do. There was nothing anyone could do. I couldn’t go back in time. This was really happening.
Eventually the “tissue” that they described would pass, passed. The bleeding lessened slightly (although didn’t go away completely for a month and they don’t allow you to use tampons, so that was fantastic). Eventually I was able to stand. I was able to eat. I was able to face Brandon, who by this time knew what had happened and was so sad. I was able to make a few calls – to my mom and sister. The physical pain was passing. The emotional pain was just getting started.
A day later, I was able to go back to work – I even kept it together when a parent told me she was pregnant with their third (oops – it wasn’t planned, but ya know, whatever!). I only told a few people from work. It took me a few days to tell my friend who had just had a baby, and a few more days for me to visit her and her perfect baby at their home. He turned three yesterday.
It has now been exactly three years since that first, painful loss. In some ways it feels like it’s been decades. So much has happened since then. In other ways I can still picture myself back in that Kaiser ER, that hour changing our lives forever.
I know everyone’s story is different. Those of you who have experienced your own infertility struggles may identify with parts of our story. The pain is very real, and it never truly goes away. It just becomes a part of you, a part of your story. Thanks for reading this chapter of ours.