I originally wrote this post in August of 2016.
This post is titled “My first miscarriage,” because, well, our story doesn’t end here. It took a lot of time and courage to sit down and author this post, and more time to get the courage to share it online. This first will be the first in a series that documents our struggle with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
I hope by sharing my story publicly I can help women who are experiencing something similar. Hearing of other women’s struggles with fertility and recurrent miscarriage were and continue to be been inspirational to me, so I hope my experience can provide that same solace for someone else.
Is it positive?
“Is that a line, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?” I wondered as I squinted at the pregnancy test, while sitting on the floor on a spring afternoon in the bathroom at my parents house. I had traveled north to Georgetown for Easter weekend and after my period proved to me much later than normal, I had run to the grocery store while no one was watching to grab a home pregnancy test. Andrew, my husband, was to arrive later that evening, driving in from a friend’s bachelor party.
It was March 26 and we had officially started trying in February. After having many friends struggle with infertility I just hadn’t imagined we could have gotten pregnant so quickly. I hadn’t even had any time to order ovulation test strips or do much more than start tracking my period in an app.
There I sat, alone, and puzzled. There sure looked like a line, but if it was there, it was faint at best. I texted a picture to a trusted friend. She informed me that when there is even the faintest of lines it usually means you’re pregnant. She told me try to be patient and try again the next day. The line should get darker with time. Patience is not my strong suit. When Andrew arrived I queried his opinion. “Do you see a line?!” I demanded. He said he definitely saw something.
I made it through the evening, mind racing with a mixture of excitement and questions. I could hardly sleep and finally woke up around 6 a.m. allowing myself to re-test. There was definitely a line this time, but it was still really faint. I allowed myself to get a bit excited.
We headed of for Easter Sunday service at church then brunch at the country club. All the while in my mind I was thinking “why didn’t you splurge for the ClearBlue digital test?” and plotting to find a time to sneak away back to Walgreens to get one.
Dad and Andrew went to golf, mom went to take a nap, and I finally found an excuse to sneak out. I tore open the packaging as soon as I got back and took the test. The result: Pregnant. I was pregnant! I was grinning ear to ear. I couldn’t believe it had happened so quickly, and I was dying to tell Andrew that our suspicions had been confirmed.
After he returned from golf I showed him the test. We hugged. Kissed. And high fived. We agreed not to tell anyone right away as this was the day our brother and sister-in-law were set to reveal the gender of their baby. We were not going to steal their thunder.
I don’t remember how I made it through the rest of the day. My mind was swirling, trying to calculate a due date, thinking about which bachelorette parties and weddings I’ve have to pretend to drink at and daydreaming about baby names. I ultimately stayed quiet that evening since, if anyone asked, I might have just burst out and told everyone right then and there. Needless to say I was a little excited.
The First Few Weeks
The next few weeks were a blur of googling, telling our families, downloading pregnancy apps, taking “bump” pics, and looking for a doctor. I learned from my sister-in-law that doctors don’t even want to see you until you’re 8 weeks pregnant. That felt like an eternity!
We decided to tell both our parents since Andrew was going out of town for work and I wanted to have someone who knew just in case something went wrong. We planned to tell his siblings at our annual Camp Callahan getaway, which would fall the weekend after our first doctor appointment. We’d bring the sonogram and announce the big surprise!
One night, a week before our first doctor appointment was scheduled, I was playing tennis and decided to stay after to chat with my tennis partner. As soon as I didn’t grab a glass of wine, she knew. Happy to have someone to confide in I asked what she thought of my only real issue with pregnancy thus far: I was symptom free — no sore boobs, no morning sickness. And that I was a bit worried about that. Was it weird. Or was I just lucky? She said probably just lucky.
But she also then mentioned that her first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage. It jarred me a little. I hadn’t really thought of miscarriage. I probed her as to what it was like and she gave me the details. She told me not to worry, but somehow I kinda felt like she was there for a reason. I spent the night wide awake, praying and nervous.
The First Sonogram
Just a few short days later, we were set to go to the doctor for the first time. Only, the doctor had an emergency and couldn’t see us. Could we come in the next day? Reluctantly, I agreed. I was just so ready to see my baby’s heartbeat! At 7 weeks and 6 days (per my app) we finally made it to the doctor. Andrew and I held hands and waited for the sonogram. The technician was a sweet, and made everything seem normal when she couldn’t find what she was looking for on the traditional belly ultrasound and recommended we try the transvaginal route.
She pointed out the yolk sac, but didn’t mention a heartbeat, which I had read from many of the pregnancy forums I was reading, would be visible at this stage. She said I might not be as far along as I thought. My stomach lurched. Something just felt wrong.
Andrew gripped my hand tightly and told me it would probably be okay as we waited for the doctor. The doctor was busy so we got a nurse practitioner. She was very nice and explained to us that we would do some blood tests to see if my levels matched the ultrasound. She also explained what would happen and what to expect if I miscarried. There was that word again. I started to tear up, asked a few questions, and got out of there as soon as possible.
When we left, I cried more. I had built so much up waiting for this appointment and hearing them talk about miscarriage rather than a heartbeat had broken my heart. I was scared, nervous and embarrassed. I called my mom and gave her the update. She said to be positive. Easier said than done.
The next day I was a nervous wreck waiting for the test results. The doctor didn’t call. The day after, I called the doctor. They would have someone call me. More waiting? This was torture!
Finally, I got a call from the nurse who I saw the day before. My HGC was 3,283. Numbers vary, but this could put me anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks. Since my sonogram was reading 3-4 weeks, this matched and seemed to be a positive sign. She also said my progesterone was low (7) and that she would prescribe to me progesterone supplements that I needed to begin using. She wanted me to come back in for a follow up sonogram and blood tests in one week.
There was a small amount of relief in the fact that my numbers matched my sonogram. But I was still nervous and worried. I spent a ton of time in prayer and tried my best to avoid message boards/google.
That weekend we were supposed to be announcing to Andrew’s siblings that we were pregnant at his family’s annual “Camp Callahan” retreat. Instead I told him I wanted him to tell them on the phone so no one would ask why I wasn’t drinking. I didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want anyone to mention it. I was emotionally fragile and just couldn’t take talking about it. It was sad. I so wanted to have a big exciting reveal. But I was too nervous and unsure to do it as planned.
The Beginning of the End
The weekend came, and on Saturday morning I began to bleed. Just a little at first. Light pink. But it freaked me out. I knew what was happening. Everyone tried to keep me in positive spirits. My mother-in-law did the best job, letting me know that she bled through two of her pregnancies and went on to have healthy babies. Her words helped, but I knew in my heart what was happening.
Sunday the bleeding got worse (still light, but more) and I called the on-call nurse at the doctor. She told me she’d get me in the next day and that she would be praying for me, Andrew and our baby. (It was in that moment that I knew I had chosen the right practice.)
We returned to the doctor the next Monday — 6 days after our original appointment. The sonogram technician was quiet and I couldn’t get any hints out of her. I was still a tiny bit hopeful, but not much.
Finally we sat down with the doctor. She confirmed it: I was having a miscarriage. The little yolk sac that was there last week was breaking down. My body was losing the pregnancy. I cried. Andrew held me in his arms. Our doctor told me she had experienced two miscarriages herself and that she also had two healthy kids. That made me feel a little better.
She explained that I had a few options. One, I could let it happen naturally. That it might happen today or two weeks from now. Alternatively, I could take some pills to cause it to happen. She said some people like the predictability of knowing when it will happen. The last option was a D&C but that in my case she wouldn’t recommend that. I asked her to prescribe the pill but said I’d decide later whether to use it. She also let us know that we needed to wait till my first normal period before we started to try again. I’d have to come back for testing to make sure my HCG went back down to normal. That she hoped to see us back in better spirits next time with a better result. She hugged us both and we left.
We went to my car and I bawled. Eventually Andrew had to eat and get back to work, so we went to In and Out burger. He got food while I sat in the car crying. I had a milkshake and some of their awful fries. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go there again without thinking of that moment. He would call our families and break the news. I would go home and rest. I’d call in sick the rest of the day to work.
After talking to my mom and a few trusted friends I decided to take the misoprostol to speed up the miscarriage. At first I worried that this would be considered abortion. If there was any chance they were mistaken I couldn’t handle that. But the doctor said that there was no way this pregnancy was viable and so I ended up taking the pills.
[TMI Warning: The next part is graphic. Please don’t read if you may feel uncomfortable reading about the gory details miscarriage. I felt like I needed to put it out there for anyone who might be experiencing anything similar and need reassurance or to know what their body is about to go through. I relied on so many blogs and personal accounts that were helpful to me so I wanted to pay it forward. You can pick up reading at the next heading below.]
A Misoprostol Miscarraige
After I took the pills I began to read of other “misoprostol miscarriages.” Some of the stories I read online were terrifying, saying how painful their miscarriages were and how badly they bled. In that sense, mine was not bad. (Emotionally was another story.) I read accounts that you should take the pills in the morning so you’ll be awake for the bad part of it. Great. I hadn’t taken mine till 3 p.m. (I took them orally, per my doctor’s instructions.)
I kept waiting for the painful cramps to come, but they ended up only being as worse as maybe really bad PMS. I laid in bed all afternoon and distracted myself with a Netflix binge. That night, nothing more happened other than bad cramps and more bleeding. Were the pills working? I was nervous, but so emotionally drained that I fell asleep pretty quickly.
The bleeding really picked up the next morning. I was passing huge clots. Early that next morning, what I had been reading about happened. I passed the gestational sac. I didn’t realize how emotional that part would be. There it was, sitting in the toilet. I couldn’t bring myself to flush it. I even took a picture of it, that, even now, I sometimes look at. I know this makes me sound crazy. But my baby was there, in the toilet and I just couldn’t let it go. Andrew came in and we both cried. We said a prayer over our lost baby and finally summoned the courage to flush.
[Again, this is probably totally gross, but for those who are interested or are going through something similar, here is a picture of what the sac looked like. I know I searched for pictures when I was going through this and couldn’t find many with my my same gestational age.]
We had been calling the baby “peanut.” I had several dreams while I was pregnant that our baby was a girl, so we decided to name her Penelope. I still pray for my dear baby P. No matter what, she will always be my first and I’ll never forget her.
The bleeding and clots continued to be heavy so I ended up taking the next day off of work and eventually the whole week. It was just easier and cleaner to be home. Plus, I was very sore and I was an emotional wreck. I couldn’t help just bursting into tears randomly. Andrew had to go on a work trip that week, so my wonderful mom came and took care of me. I spent the first few days in bed barely even able to even talk to her. By Thursday I was bleeding a little less and ready to think about something else so mom took me shopping. I am normally a great shopper, but the blood loss and soreness took a toll on me and I only lasted a an hour before we were back home.
A bit more physically about the miscarriage for anyone who might be experiencing one for this first time.
First, the worst part of the whole thing was having to wear pads. (They say you should do this to avoid infection and to make sure everything gets out.) I have worn tampons since I was a teenager and going back to pads was awful. I had to wear super heavy duty pads to get the blood, so I felt like I was constantly wearing a diaper.
Second, while I felt like I bled a lot, I did not think my bleeding was as bad as some of the other accounts I’ve read online. In hindsight, it was probably because I wasn’t as far along as others who have experienced miscarriage and it makes sense that the sooner the miscarriage the less the blood and tissue that needs to come out. At the time I was worried about it — that I might end up needing a D&C or something, but looking back it was probably pretty standard for where I was in my pregnancy.
Lastly a few more specifics. I ended up bleeding for about 10 days. It was very heavy for the first three — way more than a heavy period. The next three was like a heavy period. Then regular bleeding for 2-3 days before trickling off.
[TMI WARNING over, proceed reading here!]
Just because the miscarriage was “over” the emotional effects lingered on and continued to affect me. As weeks passed, I became more open in talking about my miscarriage with close friends. I found that the more I opened up the more people I’d learned about who had also had miscarriages. I had read that miscarriages were common, but I didn’t actually know but one or two people who had had them. Turns out I was wrong. A wide range of my friends had experienced the same thing — they just didn’t share it publicly.
It did make me feel better to know I wasn’t alone. It gave me hope that this was just a fluke and that we’d have no issues the next time.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case for us. This was just the beginning of our struggle with pregnancy loss.
If you have experienced or are experiencing a miscarriage and need someone to talk to or ask questions of, I’m here to talk or chat. Email me or message me on Instagram. I may not have the words you need to hear, but I’m happy to offer prayers and listen.
Update 7/23: Since posting this I’ve gotten messages from several friends and strangers sharing their stories of multiple miscarriages and asking if I had any resources I could share.
I will share more about how we eventually got pregnant with our rainbow baby in a future post, but for now I wanted to share a book that was helpful for me in understanding the testing that goes along with RPL.
Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss offers well researched information about miscarriage and RPL Though I wasn’t 100% on board on all their recommendations (like not touching receipt paper), I did find the book useful and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more and educate themselves on this subject.