A Miscarriage Story

My LMP was Oct. 11. I didn’t really “know” if I was pregnant prior to missing my period, but there were times when I suspected I was. With both of my other pregnancies (but no other times when my period was later than 29 days), I have had some breast sensitivity as well as feeling discomfort when lying on my belly, even before being “late,” and this was no exception. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there — that I was imagining things. Then day 29 came and went, as did day 30, and day 31. I’ve never gone later than 31 days without being pregnant, so when days 32 and 33 came and went with no period starting, I was pretty darn sure.

There were a few different reasons why I didn’t rush right out and get a pregnancy test, but the main one was that several months prior, I had a feeling that I would be getting pregnant, but would have a miscarriage; and I felt that if I never took a pregnancy test, then I could just pretend I was really late, if I had an early miscarriage. So, I was supposed to have started on a Monday, but I didn’t go to the store until Saturday. Then, even though I took the test mid-day (my husband was bugging me to take it, so I didn’t wait for the next morning), it did register a positive.

We told our mothers on Sunday; and then on Monday, I started spotting. It was light pink, and stopped within half a day, but it was nerve-wracking nonetheless. Then everything seemed okay for a few days, until Friday, when that night I started bleeding — it was red, although it did lighten up by the next day. Then Saturday night, it started again, but stopped again; and Sunday night, yet again, I started spotting (though less), and it stopped quickly. I weighed the decision to go get an ultrasound, but ultimately decided against it — mostly since I had stopped bleeding; but also, because I didn’t really think there was anything that could be done if I were going to miscarry. And if the baby’s heart were beating, and I still had a miscarriage? — I figured it would hurt more, emotionally. And if there were no heartbeat, then I would just be sitting and waiting for the inevitable miscarriage to start, or perhaps feel pressure to have a D&C, or some other intervention.

Interventions have their place, but there is a risk of scarring and infection from a D&C, so I don’t know that I would be comfortable having one unless there were some definite indication of needing one (as opposed to just, “Well, there’s no heartbeat, so let’s just get this over with.”) Besides, I’ve heard of at least one story in which a woman had an early ultrasound that did not detect a heartbeat, opted for a natural miscarriage, then a few weeks later when she hadn’t started miscarrying yet, she went back to the doctor, who discovered that there was another baby — a living baby — which is why she was still pregnant, and it would have been killed with a D&C. Rare, I know; but I would want to make sure. Of course, there is also a risk of infection with no D&C, if the miscarriage is not complete, but I felt comfortable waiting for nature to take its course.

So, the last spotting was on Nov. 22. For that next week, I tried to continue with life as normal, as if in expectation of the pregnancy continuing normally — but there was always that little voice in the back of my mind, that I was going to have a miscarriage. It was there before I had the pregnancy test, and when I first had the spotting, and only increased afterwards. With the first red bleeding, I said, “Well, that’s it — I’m miscarrying, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I “said goodbye” to the baby, and felt that that was it. But then, it stopped.

Then, on Dec. 2, a Wednesday, I started bleeding again, almost as heavy as my period. In a way, it felt like my body was catching up to what my brain already knew (although, I will grant that “intuition” can be wrong, and my intuition could have been wrong then), so I didn’t feel very much grief — more like, “Okay, well now I know for sure.” Prior to the first red bleeding/spotting, I sometimes felt like I was “really” pregnant (as in, that I would really be having a baby); but after that, I was much more tentative — outwardly, everything seemed to be fine and I acted as if I were in full expectation of giving birth within another 7-8 months or so, but inwardly, I felt like I was living a lie. Although I still “felt pregnant” (sensitive breasts and a heavy, full-feeling uterus), my brain just wasn’t “there,” if you get my meaning. I had a small hope that it might stop again, as the other spotting and bleeding had, but it didn’t. Primarily, the feeling I felt was a relief that it was actually over — much like a person might feel from watching a loved one struggle with cancer and finally succumb — sorrow that death has come, but relief that the person’s suffering is finally over.

Physically, my miscarriage was very much like a period — I didn’t cramp much, although it did feel good to have a heating pad on my stomach (and I never think of a heating pad when menstruating). In fact, I’ve cramped worse with some periods. From what I can gather, the further along in pregnancy you are, the more painful and labor-like a miscarriage is. In early pregnancy, like mine, it is common for it to be similar to a period; but starting around 10-14 weeks or so, some women have said that it was every bit as painful as labor, and more than one of my friends said it was much worse. A few stories I’ve read have described the miscarriage as feeling like labor, with contractions every few minutes.

Several people have told stories of how they were able to catch and identify (and sometimes to bury) the baby; I felt bad about the idea of flushing the baby down the toilet, but didn’t know exactly how to avoid that, since I was feeling no contraction-like cramps. One of my friends (who miscarried at 14 weeks) said that she labored over the toilet, with a colander beneath her, so she could catch the baby. That made sense, except that my miscarriage was more like a period, with no identifiable “this is it” cramps; and it didn’t seem feasible to sit on the toilet all the time for days and days.

Here’s where I get into TMI — if you’re squeamish don’t feel like you have to read on. I include these, though, because there wasn’t a whole lot of detail in any of the stories I read (which admittedly, weren’t many), and I thought some women might find benefit from them. I don’t even know if what I experienced was normal (although I suspect it was); it’s just my story, as it happened.

The first two days of bleeding, there was nothing except period-like blood and an occasional clot (not big enough to be a baby even at that early gestation), although it’s possible that something passed that I didn’t see or identify (after all, toilet paper can obscure a lot). Then the next day, a couple of different times, there was some tissue on my pad, that I didn’t feel passing — it was just there when I went to the bathroom. To describe it… it looked basically like a reddish slug — no form or structure — just sort of gelatinous.

Several years ago, I remember seeing a CSI episode in which a woman was killed, and on autopsy, it was discovered that she was pregnant, about six weeks along. As part of the investigation, they removed the embryo (fetus ?), and dropped it into a little tray (I’m thinking for genetic testing, to be able to identify the father… and therefore prime suspect in the woman’s death), and it made a little clink sound. [Yes, I know it is fictional; but they did try to be realistic in these shows, so I will assume that the sound effect was accurate.] I’ve seen embryonic development pictures, so I wasn’t expecting it to look like a full-term baby or anything, but I was expecting to see some structure, even if it was just the size of a pea. So, I dismissed these things as… not baby — not sure what it might have been, though.

Because I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily feel things passing through my vagina, I would usually wipe first (and would frequently get blood clots), then use the bathroom. There was nothing remotely embryonic, though. Then, on Saturday, I felt something pass — just out of the blue. I went to the bathroom and saw this [it’s graphic, so if you’re squeamish, don’t look]. Because of its size [this graphic picture shows it in my hand, so you can see the size of it, compared to my fingers], I felt like it was the main or total mass of the pregnancy, and if there were a baby, it would definitely be in there. But again, I felt nothing remotely solid, except perhaps what could be membranes, possibly the placenta — but no embryonic skeleton, no arm buds or leg buds — nothing.

In a way, that makes me feel better, as if perhaps it was a blighted ovum, and there was no way that it could ever have been a successful pregnancy. I don’t say that to suggest that women who do have confirmed “empty sac” pregnancies  should grieve less — because it is still the loss of the pregnancy, and the baby and the idea of a baby and the dream of a baby. But for me, it felt better. I recognize that perhaps the baby passed when I didn’t see it or notice it; or also, that the development stopped (the baby died) very early in the pregnancy, so perhaps it was the size of a sesame seed still, or perhaps was even being absorbed, and I wouldn’t have seen/recognized it.

After that, there was very little other than period-like blood that passed — a few small clots, but no more tissue. The bleeding continued, though it slacked off a tiny bit, Sunday through Tuesday; then almost as if a switch were thrown, Wednesday, I had almost no bleeding at all. There was a tiny bit of spotting, but not even enough to completely “use” a pantyliner. And today, only the faintest of color. I was expecting a more gradual end to the bleeding — much like I experience in a normal period, or like I had with postpartum lochia, where it gradually fades from red to dark red to brown to nothing. But perhaps since it was heavier flow, the uterine lining shed faster, so it went faster, and then just stopped.

I could tell that my breast sensitivity had decreased slightly after a few days of bleeding, but it really took a nosedive after I passed the tissue. I feel distinctly “un-pregnant.”

When I talked to my midwife friend to tell her that I had had a miscarriage, I asked her what to look for, to tell me if I should go to the doctor. She said that if I bled for longer than a week after passing the baby, that would be a sign of retained “products of conception” [with my uterus not recognizing that the baby was gone, so still directing blood flow to it], and I would need to see a doctor, and perhaps have a D&C (although I would have requested Cytotec, because there is no known risk of uterine rupture as early in pregnancy as I was, and a D&C might cause scarring and future fertility problems). Had I not been pregnant, my uterine lining would have shed in 7 days; being pregnant, it got thicker and more lush, so there was more to shed, and I was expecting it to take between 1-2 weeks to fully empty. However, it has taken me just over a week for the full miscarriage, which with a normal menstrual flow being 7 days for me, I would consider that to be well within the range of normal.

Update — for more miscarriage stories which talk about the physical aspects of miscarriage (what it feels like, how long it took, how much blood loss there was, what it looked like), you can go to mothering.com, register, then go to the forums; the main thread is “pregnancy and birth” and then “pregnancy and birth loss”, where it’s a “sticky” thread at the top of the forum. You will have to register before you can even see any of the topics, much less the posts themselves, in this folder. I’m glad it’s there, because often there is little or no mention of these physical aspects; and for my part, it helps to know whether something is normal or abnormal, or just that other women have gone through the same thing, even if their experience is a little or a lot different from mine.