Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Painful Reality of Miscarriage

Ever since we were little girls, we all seemed to know how painful childbirth would be. Whether it was from overhearing conversations between older women, or having your mother hang it over your head - how hard she had to work to bring you into the world, or seeing a woman scream and moan in a TV drama or comedy where there is a birth scene. Plus, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a 6-10 pound baby, squeezing its way out of a hole that was barely big enough for a penis when you were a virgin... has got to hurt.

But for some reason, nobody ever really talks about how physically painful a miscarriage is. Obviously, it's emotionally painful. But none of my friends ever mentioned how physically painful the whole thing is. And my doctor at Planned Parenthood, who knew I was going to have a miscarriage, didn't bother to warn me that I'd better either stock up on a Costco-sized bottle of Motrin, or get my hands on some Vicodin to prepare. I had NO IDEA.

I guess I was somehow thinking that, since my baby was only 7 weeks old when it's heart stopped beating, and had grown only to the size of a kidney bean, then there wouldn't be a lot of pain involved. I mean, a penis is a lot bigger than that, so if that can go in and out of a vagina, then something as small as a kidney bean wouldn't hurt when it's coming out, right? Somehow I managed to forget about the fact that menstrual cramps are super painful when just a tiny little clot comes out. I didn't really think about the fact that, it's not the kidney bean sized embryo that hurts when it comes out. It's the intensely painful CRAMPING that goes along with it.

A girl friend of mine, who is just a year younger than me (42), had a miscarriage just a few months ago. During the lunch when I told her I was pregnant, she told me about her experience with her miscarriage. She had taken the drug Misoprostol, and said if for some reason I ever had a miscarriage, "DON'T EVER TAKE IT! It's soooo painful." Little did either of us realize... it's not the Misoprostol that causes the pain... it's the miscarriage itself.... and all the cramping that goes with it. 

So, when I found out I was going to have a miscarriage and my doctor asked me if I wanted to take the drug, I said no. She really, really wanted me to take it OR go and have an aspiration (abortion) or D & C to remove the fetus. But I didn't like the idea of doing that for sooo many reasons. I didn't like the idea of sucking my poor baby out of me with a vacuum. I didn't like the idea of getting a needle injected into my uterus. I didn't like the fact that a D&C could cause scarring (I know, the chances are minimal, but I still didn't like it). And to make matters worse, it would cost $400! So I decided to wait.

It had been over two weeks since I found out my baby had no heartbeat, and I wasn't showing any signs of spotting. I was starting to wonder if maybe there was a chance that the doctors could have made a mistake. I looked up all kinds of miracle stories on the net, hoping, during those two weeks, that maybe I cold have a miracle story of my own. I refused to give up. Maybe my baby's heartbeat was not able to be detected. I spent all day on the net, looking up stories that could give me hope that maybe I could carry this pregnancy to term.

But the doctors continued to report my declining HCG levels. At first they were 114,000. The next one was 84,000. And the one after that was 34,000. A miscarriage seemed inevitable.

Sure enough, on Sunday, March 4th, I saw my first miniscule droplet of blood. It was so tiny, it was smaller than a poppy seed, and it smeared into a dark red line when i smudged it. Looking back at it, it was like the first drop of rain before a hurricane. I wish I had known, what I know now.

At about 3:00 in the morning on Monday March 5th, I woke up with terrible cramps, and had to ask my husband to bring me some Motrin. I was about twice as bad as any menstrual cramps I'd ever felt, and I couldn't sleep. At the time, I thought, this is horrible! It was the worst pain I'd ever felt, up to that point, and I couldn't imagine it ever getting any worse. Little did I know what was in store for me the next day...

I actually woke up feeling good, and luckily the pain was gone, thanks to all the motrin. I was so relieved not to be in pain anymore, that somehow I managed to forget how bad it was (how it is that women can actually forget enormous amounts of pain is something that will always baffle me). So, I didn't bother to take any more pain medication. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!

I felt almost no pain the next day.... until about 3:00 in the afternoon, when the cramping came back very suddenly. And it came back with a VENGEANCE. It was horrible. The worst pain I have ever felt in my life... about 5 times worse than the worst period cramps I've ever had. I called Planned Parenthood and practically begged them to let me come down and get some Vicodin. But they had already closed for the day and I was only able to talk to a nurse on the phone. I was in tears, moaning and groaning and sobbing. I knew the nurse felt bad. I didn't have a fever, or feel faint, so she told me to just watch out for those things and if they happened, I should go to the emergency room.

What made the situation exponentially bad, is that I was in SO much pain, I began vomiting, and therefore, I couldn't keep any Motrin down, long enough for it to take effect. Every time I swallowed it, I'd barf it up within five minutes. There are orange stains on my bathroom rug, from me barfing up Motrin. Even when I chewed it up, I couldn't keep it down long enough for my body to absorb it. Nothing was working. The nurse on the phone told me I could take 3 or 4 at a time, after she could hear how much pain I was in, and she said I could do this every 4 hours. But it doesn't matter much when you keep puking it up!!!

My husband had to work late that day and I had been in so much pain I hadn't checked my email or text messages to see he was coming home late. I ended up calling him, crying, "Where ARE you?!?!!?!? I'm in so much pain, I need your help!!!" I couldn't even feed the cats. I couldn't answer the phone. I was a total basketcase.

I kept moving from the toilet to the bed to the toilet to the bed. I tried taking a bath but it didn't help, and as Murphy's law would have it, it seemed to be the ONE time I can ever remember that our tub ran out of hot water. My poor husband looked so frustrated and helpless, like he wanted to do something to ease my pain but couldn't think of anything that would help. It was truly like being in labor.

As I found out later, from researching on the internet: The labor pains of a miscarriage can be just as bad, if not worse, than regular labor contractions when you deliver a baby at full term. WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY FREAKING TELL ME THIS AHEAD OF TIME?!?!?!?!??? With "regular" childbirth, there are one minute breaks in between contractions. But with a miscarriage, guess what. There ARE NO BREAKS! It's just constant contractions!!!

I tried pacing around the house, then jogging in place, then jogging around the block, rubbing my stomach, using a heating pad and heated blanket, but nothing worked A ton of blood came out. Big clots came out. But little did I know it would take another 3 days to pass the gestational sac.

Finally, at around 11:00 PM, I took 2 Alleve tablets and somehow managed to keep them down. I fell asleep (or passed out) and woke up at about 1 AM. My husband was still up, and we watched tv for a few hours. I took 3 more Motrin tablets before I went to bed, and vowed NEVER to forget to take them again!!! And I didn't!!!

I bled quite a bit for the next few days, and the following Thursday, I finally passed the gestational sac (I could feel this big blob slide out... it wasn't painful, but it could also be because I was doped up on Motrin for the last 4 days). It happened just seconds before I had to get up to answer the doorbell because some guy from Craigslist was coming over to look at a car I was selling. So, I left everything in the toilet and decided to fish it out later and look at it when I was done with the test drive.

I took photos of it (I know, that sounds gross but I wanted to show it to my doctor to confirm that it was, indeed, the gestational sac). I was pretty sure that was it. My girl friend had described it as this big, round, disgusting grey blob. I felt bad thinking of it that way... after all, it was like the little house for my baby. I searched inside the sac, to see if I could find the embryo, but for some reason I couldn't find it. I felt around inside the toilet (it was so dark with blood I couldn't see anything) but still couldn't find it. I am thinking it may have been absorbed by the gestational sac and maybe I just didn't see it (after all, the last ultrasound pics I saw made it look like it was getting a lot smaller, and it did look like the tissue was being absorbed into the sac).

I wasn't sure what to do with the sac (and the possible embryo that was in it). I just couldn't imagine flushing it down the toilet like a piece of crap, when it was literally a little piece of me and my husband. It had a life. We even gave it a name. So, I buried it in the back yard, under an apple tree. I had reservations about doing this, but got over it. I remembered that a friend of mine, who had a sister in law who grew pot, had said she actually saves her menstrual blood and uses it in the soil for her plants and they grow really strong and healthy and have good energy. So at the very least, I like to think of it as another part of the circle of life. There's always something good that happens with something bad, right? If my baby didn't get to live a full life here on earth, then by golly, I want to know it was able to bless and bring positive energy to the apple tree outside.

Life (even if it's short lived) creating life . That's what it's all about.

For anyone reading this, who has ever been through a miscarriage... I am sorry for your loss. I never understood, or could have true empathy for, what it was really like to go through this, until it happened to me.  For anyone else reading this, who has never been through a miscarriage.... I hope it never does  (I've heard that progesterone cream can  help).  If you ever have to go through this... be sure to stock up on Motrin!!!


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