Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What a miscarriage feels like

I knew about miscarriages before. I knew about them vaguely, like the way I know about the electoral college system that elects the president in the US, and seventies music. Even though my mother had a late one, at around 5 months, and I can remember being 5 years old and waiting for the ambulance to come and take her to hospital. And yet I still didn't know. I didn't really know.

When I got the news that my baby had no heartbeat and had never developed past about 6 weeks, I was sent home to see if my body would naturally miscarry. I was told I could come in to hospital when it started happening, and to ring them if the bleeding got heavier than a period, and if it didn't happen in that week they would recommend a D&C. At the time I was too busy being heartbroken to really think about the details.

For a few days I was ok, the bleeding continued in the light, on-and-off fashion that it had for over a week at that stage. Then I was in town and I felt an overwhelming urge to go home. This was the Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday I got cramps. Bad cramps. Much worse than period pains, and for many years I had the sort of period pains that meant I had to gobble Nurofen plus and lie in bed cuddling a hot water bottle for two days every month or so.

My labour with E was induced, and went from early to serious very fast due to the syntocin drip, and I got pethidine and an epidural and that's another story, but the early cramps, the early labour contractions - that's what this felt like.

I am not comparing a 12 week miscarriage to having to give birth to a stillborn infant. And yet I did feel, as I sat hunched over the toilet, then E's potty so I could keep an eye on how much blood I lost, that I was having contractions. They came hard and fast for a while, and I rang the hospital and told them I wanted to stay at home, and they said that was ok, which is good at least. I didn't want to take painkillers. I didn't want to dull the pain; I needed to feel it. To have a physical manifestation of the desperate ache I felt inside.

I don't know when I lost the little sac with what was left of my baby inside it. I did lose lots of clots. And lots of blood. I felt wrecked, physically and emotionally. After about three or four hours the pains subsided. I drank tea and I cried, and I tried to sleep though I didn't manage to do much of that.

The next day I had some more bleeding and some more clots. Then there was a nice day in between, the Saturday, a break. Before two more days in which there were several hours of cramps that were more like contractions, and bleeding and big clots. The pains, the cramps that were more like contractions, like labour pains went away when I law down. The best way to keep it going was to stand up, to walk around, to stand at the counter and peel potatoes for dinner. To pick up my beautiful girl and hug her.

On the Monday I had another appointment, another scan. Officially to confirm the miscarriage, to check there was no growth. But I knew at that stage, I knew the week before, that all hope was lost. The scan showed that there was still a thick endometrial lining, and they recommended a D&C, but I argued and asked to be let finish miscarrying myself, naturally. I had come this far, after all. They agreed and asked me to come back in two weeks.

That afternoon was the last day of serious pains and clots, as my husband and I planted a cherry blossom tree in the garden. It should flower in late April or early May next year, around the time the baby was due. It sounds weird maybe, but though I didn't have the sac I did save some of the clots, and buried them beneath the tree. I figure they may have been pieces of placental tissue, as they looked like the post-partum clots I passed after having E. And if they were, then maybe they'd have had the baby's blood in them. A little bit of her to live on and nourish the tree and feed its flowers through the winter and next spring.

So that's what it felt like, for me, to have a miscarriage. More like labour than a period, which I had never considered before. I hope I never have to experience anything like that again. But I am glad it was able to happen naturally, rather than go in for surgery and go to sleep and wake up a little later with my uterus scraped and cleaned. I know for a lot of women it's easier that way so I am not making any judgements or criticising. I'm just saying that for me, I had to let my body finish it the way it had started it. The pains, the blood loss, they helped me deal with what I was feeling. I had to do it that way to say goodbye. I felt like a cavewoman, I didn't want to leave the house for a few days and even when I did, when the pains returned I craved my couch. I needed to be in my own space.

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