Saturday, April 21, 2007

Warning, you maybe don't want to read this post. Seriously. Especially if you are perhaps male. It is graphic, gross, disgusting and maudlin. I have waffled for the past week about whether to write about my miscarriage or not... Even after a year and half of having a blog I am still not sure where the boundaries are; I never know how much to share, with my friends and with the Internet at large. This definitely crosses the boundaries into 'too much'. I am not writing this to be read but because I need to write about it... There are some physical experiences that change us forever, a first period, first sexual encounter, first pregnancy; they are like bridges that can only be crossed once.


To begin with, "..., but worse." If a medical professional tells you that an experience will be "like (something else), but worse", ask about the "worse". Get a definition for the "worse", get some parameters for what is normal and what is not. Otherwise you may find yourself standing over a toilet with cellphone in hand, wondering whether to call 911 or not. After the ultrasound on the 10th, that showed basically a dead ("stopped growing") embryo, the wonderful nurse-practitioner gave me a brief (too brief, in retrospect) run-down on what to expect next. The phrase "like a bad period, but worse" came up and I didn't pay too much attention; I was still reeling with shock.

So, I prepared for a bad period, stocked up with pads, Advil, ice cream. I was expecting to feel grief, sadness, pain... I was prepared for that. I was so distracted and consumed by the emotional side of losing this pregnancy that I wasn't thinking very much about the physical aspect; and after all I've had approximately one gazillion periods before. I knew it was coming all day on Monday. I had a continuous bad crampy feeling and an insistent pain in my lower back, and spotting... I thought, well I guess tonight it will begin. Sometimes, at least, miscarriages must actually resemble really bad periods; several days or at least several hours of heavy but controlled bleeding. And apparently sometimes they bear no resemblance at all and happen entirely in the course of an hour, making you think that you might actually die.

At the end of the Monday workday we are having the daily run-down with the manager; sales reports, news. I am very anxious to get going because the crampy feeling is getting worse, the pain has jumped through the Advil barrier and is making my thinking all fuzzy. On the walk to my car, I feel the bleeding start, but it's kind of a "whoosh", not a trickle. In the seven minutes it takes me to get home (a record, really), I've soaked my pad, my pants, and a good portion of the driver's side seat. I didn't know what to do. I rush into the house, try to take a shower. But I'm bleeding so much that it's pouring down the insides of my legs and down the drain, startlingly like the Hitchcock film. I try to get out and get dressed, but every time I hold a pad between my legs it is immediately filled with blood; it's more like peeing than bleeding. More like a faucet that's stuck open. Actually what it is really like is throwing up, but throwing down instead. That same feeling of absolute non-control, of violence. Finally I discover that the only solution is to just sit on the toilet. I try to call Don, but his cellphone is here in the house; I hear its cheerful ring as I call. I call his hotel, leave a message. I call the nurse on her private phone, leave a panicked message asking how much blood is normal-- can we discuss this, please. And also can we discuss the huge blobby things that are coming out of me that resemble those things that come with a turkey-- the gizzards or liver or whatever. PERIODS are, like, fluid. Not half-solid. I almost throw up but stifle it, because I'm already sitting on the toilet and don't want to barf all over my clothes that are still on the floor. Don calls me back. I tell him what's happening, and that I'm afraid if it keeps going like this that I will pass out or something. I ask him to come home as soon as possible, and to bring bleach and an extension cord.

And then, as suddenly as it began, it slows back down to a trickle. It's been about an hour at this point. I try the shower again, clean myself up, get dressed again. Leave another message for the nurse telling her I seem to be OK now, just a little weak and shaky. Clean up the bathroom as it resembles a crime scene, hope Don comes home soon with the bleach. Sometimes the environmentally-friendly, grapefruit scented cleansers are great. Sometimes you need the hard stuff, like when you bleed all over the bathroom and really need to scrub away the memory of what just happened. NOW, it is like a really heavy period. All I feel at this point is relief, just sheer relief that I'm no longer hemorrhaging blood, that I didn't pass out, or have to go to the ER. I also realize that it's a real blessing that I had that doctor's appointment, that ultrasound. What happened was pretty terrifying but at least I was expecting it, or something like it. At least I had the phone numbers to call. I think that if I hadn't known ahead of time that I was going to miscarry, I would have called myself an ambulance, gone to the ER. Although it was a bit surreal, I'm glad that I had a week to process the knowledge of the loss before having to deal with the physical miscarriage.

Somewhere at this point my nurse calls me back, profusely apologetic, something about the power being out in her part of town. (Did I mention that this whole time, the weather was being freaky? If I were still in Texas I'd have been worried about a tornado on top of everything else. It was very cloudy, windy, stormy. The perfect backdrop if this had been a scene from a Shakespearean drama or Harry Potter book. Perhaps lions were walking about downtown, but I didn't see them.) She tells me that everything sounds normal, that it does happen like that sometime, that I should rest for the remainder of the evening (cue sarcastic response here, because I was planning on going out clubbing...) and that if anything else happens or I need her, to call again. She's very nice, and she reassures me that this is not my fault... because I had to ask.

Don comes home a bit after that, with a gallon of bleach, an extension cord, take-out burgers, and a sympathy card; it was like a selection of props for an improv comedy sketch. I bleach the bathtub, the toilet and the bathroom floor. Run all of the affected clothing and towels through two wash cycles. The next morning, I use our little carpet-shampooer thing to scrub out the car's upholstery, the orange cord stretching across the lawn and into the house. I just didn't want to be faced with any dark, bloody reminders of that evening.

And I've been bleeding and cramping ever since, but gradually, less and less. I'm hoping it will end today. Perhaps I should have mentioned that my periods are usually only two days, three at the worst. It's SATURDAY, for crying out loud I just want this to be over with. The whole week, I've felt tired and just drained... I can't tell if it's a physical reaction to the pain and blood loss, or an emotional one. With a little perspective, I can see that I was being a bit naive. Of course the end of a pregnancy, no matter how short, is going to be different than a period, and not just as a matter of degree. If your uterus has spent the last two months creating and growing stuff, that stuff is going to all come out and it won't be pretty. The pains had, I think, more in common with labor contractions than with period cramps, at least in the way they worked to just shove everything outwards.

Now what I am hoping is that this incident indicates that I have an incredibly efficient uterus. I mean, just over an hour to evict everything? Maybe this this a preview of the real thing, and I will someday have one of those 3-hour labors you hear about. There's probably no correlation, but it would be nice...

Anyways, if you read this whole thing and have the urge to throw up, don't say that you weren't warned. Sorry.


Bella said...

I think it would be hard to gross out any female who is familiar with how her body works on a monthly, ya...probably. :)

Oh Mara. Are you going to take any time off? even a day or two? I have an aunt who tried to get pregnant for years, and when her and her husband finally conceived, she miscarried and tried to continue working. She was a flight attendant who hadn't missed a day of work in 15 years. They sent her home and told her she needed to keep her strength and spend some time at home. She's 48 now and has a three year old son named Jordan. :)

(yes, there is a point here!)
I've just read, I believe, the testament of a very healthy uterus that will indeed bear you lots of little ones. How else could it be so efficient?

Please, please, take some rest and spend a little time loving yourself. Your body needs all the energy it can get if it's got you for a partner! ;)

Mara said...

Well, I've got the weekend off. Now that the worst is over I don't think I will take any sick time, although I think I probably *should* have stayed home on Tuesday. Hindsight, ya know.

Don and I are taking two full weeks off in late May and taking a vacation. So I've kind of got that as what I'm holding out for... being away from work for half-a-month is really what we both need.

And, I only work a 35-hour week now, so I have all my evenings free and almost all weekends. It isn't hard right now to get lots of rest, lots of time to myself. Work is actually providing a nice distraction, a balance, so that I don't spend *too* much time just wrapped up in myself.

Maile said...

Hi Mara. I found your blog through MDC, and I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. I think it's important for women to share the happy stories as well as the difficult ones. You might consider publishing it in Mothering.

My husband and I just started TTC this cycle, and if/when I face a miscarriage, I know I'll be so much better off for having heard your story and not just a nurse's "like a period, only worse."

Hope you're doing well and getting some rest. {{hugs}}

Mara said...

Thank you, Maile. I don't know where on Mothering I could put it except on the miscarriage forum, where there is plenty of the same already...maybe I'll post it there anyways.

I hope you and your husband have lots of luck with getting (and staying) pregnant!

Benjamin said...


I hardly know how to respond to this. I'm so sorry. What can I do? I want to make you smile and laugh, but what can I say?

Hang in, there. You're gonna make beautiful babies.

Mara said...

Oh Ben. Single bachelor guys should not be reading about bloody female stuff... I'm afraid this might be a little more than you needed to know about it. (Nobody heeds the warnings, nobody!)

Thanks for the kind thoughts, though. Honestly, I'm doing pretty well. Writing everything out is really theraputic, and getting it out of my head and into words frees me up a lot.

Bex said...

Wow Mara, I'm glad you're ok. Even though I've never actually been pregant bits of that sounded familar. My freshman year of college I randomly stopped getting my period. Wasn't pregnant, doctors really didn't offer anything except something to make me start again. The drug (I forget what it was but it is part of what makes up the abortion pill) made me start fairly studdenly and I found myself standing in the shower at my dorm wondering how so much blood could be there. But then it stopped suddenly and things were normal. Our bodies are so weird. They just decide to do things, they don't consult us or even tell us. It's just rude really. Ok sorry, sleepy silly and rambling. Bedtime.

Mara said...

I totally know what you mean about bodies not consulting us about important stuff. Would it be that hard to send an email or an owl?

ayla said...

I am humbled and awed at being allowed to have this glimpse into your life. I am so sorry for your loss. I'm amazed and flattered that you're still reading my blog, even though I imagine that it's painful for you. Take care, take time off, and rest. Let me know if there's anything I can do.