Note: this is based off my personal experience, as that is the only one I can speak to. I’ve had many folks reach out to me with their stories, and they all differ. But one thing I’ve noticed that occurs across the board is trauma. So, while you read this, remember that miscarriages are traumatic. Be kind to folks you know who have experienced them.
1. Your baby may stay in your womb, lifeless, before your body gets the hint to dispel it. This is technically known as a missed miscarriage. But, in my case, my body got the clue about two weeks after the baby’s heart stopped beating. So technically, I’m not sure it can be considered a missed miscarriage.
Carrying our lifeless baby for the week before I could get in for a D&C surgery (where they essentially remove the baby, and any tissue related to the baby from your uterus) was the worst emotional pain I’ve ever experience. I kept resting my hand on my belly to protect a baby that couldn’t be protected any longer.
My mind knew it was no longer carrying a baby full of life, and it felt like my womb had become a tomb that I couldn’t escape. In all honesty, I felt like a walking graveyard. But my body, oh my body just didn’t get the clue. I’d wake up swearing I felt movement, swearing the ultrasound technician made a mistake. I’d ask my wife over and over again “You didn’t see a heartbeat right?” My mind and body were at war, one knowing our baby was no longer with us, and one swearing they were. It’s hard to convince your body that the baby you’re carrying is lifeless.
2. You may have to wait weeks before you can get surgery to remove your baby. I had to search actively for 2 days (while grieving the news that our baby had passed) to find an OB that could fit me in within a week. The rest of the clinics and OB’s I contacted (keep in mind, I contacted them. My midwives were less than helpful in the situation, and I couldn’t help but feel like they cared more about the babies that were healthy, than ours that was gone), only had appointments booking out 2 weeks minimum.
I couldn’t bare the thought of carrying our lifeless baby for another two weeks, and the thought of it made me physically and mentally ill. So, we booked a D&C surgery with a lovely OB exactly 6 days after we found out our baby had passed.
3. Even if you book a D&C surgery, your body may still miscarry “naturally.” We booked our D&C for Monday, March 15th. But, on the Saturday I started bleeding. It wasn’t heavy, but it was enough for me to know my body was soon going to naturally miscarry and that I’d need the D&C ASAP to avoid that.
I chose to have a D&C because of the pure trauma we experienced for 4 weeks knowing our baby wasn’t going to make it, plus the 1 week carrying our baby after they passed. I couldn’t handle the thought of bleeding out in our bathroom, in our home- our safe space. I couldn’t handle the image of flushing our baby’s remains down the toilet. I just couldn’t.
So, we went to Emerge, shaky and hopeful they would take mercy on us and do an emergency D&C. They typically only will if you’re hemorrhaging, which I was not, but I was visibly unstable and needed this for my mental health.
I remember the doctor came into the room, saw my wife and I (luckily they let her accompany me for this emergency room visit after she advocated for us), he looked at us with cold eyes and stated it wasn’t an emergency, so we’d have to wait for our appointment on Monday.
I lost it- started shaking and crying and picturing our baby in the toilet, blood on my hands, unbearable pain. I asked him “At what point does this become a mental health emergency?” Without the surgery, I was afraid I would go into a dark place that I wouldn’t return from. He calmly stated “If it’s a mental health emergency, you should go to the Royal, or emerge and let them know.”
He didn’t ask if I was actively suicidal, didn’t ask if I had a safety plan, didn’t ask follow up questions relating to my mental health. If he had asked, maybe he would have pushed for us to get the surgery sooner- maybe not. All I know, is that day, I lost faith in humanity, lost belief that people genuinely care for others. Little did I know, my faith in humanity would return.
4. Miscarrying naturally is traumatic. I continued bleeding lightly from our ER visit on Saturday all the way until our scheduled surgery on Monday. Monday morning I woke up and the bleeding was heavier, the cramps were getting progressively worse. I went to sleep, hoping it would help pass the time and the pain before my appointment at 1:15 pm.
When we arrived at the hospital, I had no idea what to expect. I said goodbye to my wife as she had to wait in the car, not knowing what to expect. I sat in the waiting room for the nurses to bring me into the operating room. To my surprise, it would be 3 more hours before the surgery was performed.
The cramping was getting worse, I could barely stand and was asked to put on a gown and remove my clothes. I did, and then was helped onto a hospital bed where I lay in utter pain and terror for the next 3 hours.
I can’t explain the pain to you, other than to say that it came in waves and knocked me down each time. At the worst of the pain, I was convulsing, rocking back and forth, losing consciousness and having trouble breathing. The pain was quite literally overtaking my will to continue living. My blood pressure started dropping and my lips were turning blue. I remember screaming out “Please, I need to push something out.” That request was ignored, and I laid in the hospital bed in and out of consciousness for another hour.
The nurses were kind, bringing warm blankets to put on my stomach, and cool clothes for my forehead and back (I was drenched in sweat so these were a god send). They held my hand, and assured me it would be over soon. They gave me Ativan to help my body calm down, but nothing worked. With gentle hands I reached for a nurse and begged her “please, put me out.”
5. The D&C surgery is less scary than I expected. When they finally wheeled me into the operating room I was so thankful that soon the pain would be over. The doctor performing my surgery had the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. I remember she looked into my eyes before the surgery when I asked her why the pain was so bad, and she said “Because your body is pushing out clots, you’re miscarrying, but it will be over soon.”
When I was in the operating room, right before they put me under anesthesia, the nurses, doctor and the anesthesiologist all held my hands while I cried, and mourned our baby. A collective group of women holding my pain with me, knowing damn well how heavy that pain is. This moment is forever etched in my memory and I am thankful to have experienced it.
When I woke up, I was freezing, but was covered in warm blankets. I looked around, searching for a baby. Until I realized, I hadn’t given birth, I had experienced loss. My body started shaking again- processing the trauma. A nurse came over, told me the surgery went well and that I could go home now. She helped me into my coat, and wheeled me down to the main entrance where my wife was waiting, patiently, unaware of anything I had just experienced.
After the surgery:
I remember the car ride home, I stared out the window, at horses and farm houses and I imagined a life where we had our baby in our arms, instead of in our hearts. I imagined what their laugh would have sounded like, their cry, their vice. I imagined what the look in their eyes would have felt like, if they would have looked like me, or if they would have dark hair. I imagined a life that wasn’t our reality and wished I could live there instead. But I knew damn well, we had to face this.
So I told my wife everything, slowly (as I was still loopy from the anesthesia), tears calmly fell from my eyes as I recalled the pain, the pain, the pain.
When we got home, she tucked me into bed, because all I wanted was rest. My body felt like it had run a marathon that it spent years training for, only to not receive a metal. I slept, feeling hollow, empty and alone. I don’t know if I’ve truly woken up.