Why Miscarriage Isn't Simple

In life, events have scripts.

After giving birth, a woman is pampered–she sleeps as much as possible, people bring meals, the boss expects her to take time off of work, etc.  People like to see the baby and are typically conscientious of what the mother needs.  In reality, all mothers and fathers know how those first few weeks are more exhausting than any other point, but the script is still available.

If a person experiences an unexpected death in their immediate family–spouse, parent, child, grandparent–concerned family members and friends surround them and provide food, cleaning, and whatever else they need.  They take time to grieve and people give them space to do so.

But if something happens that has no script, what do we do?

Take this miscarriage.

After I started bleeding, I went to work.  I figured that the harder I worked, the less I would think.  I ignored what was happening inside my body by focusing on things and people I could help. I accomplished what I set out to do: I successfully ignored the miscarriage, only thinking about it when I needed to share the news; however, it didn’t alleviate the physical pain or the increasing morning sickness.

The difficulty with a miscarriage lies in the ambiguity.  I enjoy research.  When something is happening in my life or in my immediate family’s life, I like to find out all I can so I am fully informed.  That way, when I meet with a physician, I can ask appropriate questions and answer their questions with specifics that will help with diagnosis.  I observe, I document, I form my own hypotheses, and I try to find the root cause–even if it means my opinions are wrong.  With a pregnancy loss, there are no specific answers.  There isn’t a FAQ sheet I can look at to make sure everything is going okay.

For example, my primary care physician sent me to the ER last Tuesday. I went, they did tests, and found what could be leftovers from the miscarriage.  They insinuated that I might have to have a D&C and encouraged me to make another appointment with my Primary physician.  I did, explaining that I was still feeling very ill and hurting as much as before.  He listened, patiently, and decided to talk with my Ob/Gyn to see what he suggests (as he is the specialist for this kind of thing). My Ob looked at the ER sheets, called back, and explained to the doctor that my hCG levels were very low and that a D&C at this point could do more harm than good. He then asked me to return to the office if I started feeling worse.

But what if I don’t feel any better?

At this point I feel resigned to not having any answers.  I would like to focus on healing, but where do I start? I didn’t have a live birth; instead, I bled and cramped until all the remnants of the primitive placenta and embryo were discharged.  So what is the script?

  • Should I take time off from work?  If so, how long?
  • When can I expect the “morning sickness” to go away?  If it doesn’t, what should I do?
  • How long will I cramp?  Will my back ever not hurt?
  • When can I start exercising again?  Should I have stopped?
  • Is mental confusion typical (i.e. fuzziness in the brain)?  What causes the mental confusion and how can I decrease the negative effects so I can work and parent again?
  • Where is the What to Expect When You Miscarry book?

For a research-minded person, like myself, this experience is incredibly vexing.  A doctor will be the first to admit that there is limited miscarriage research and the reasons behind recurrent miscarriages are almost impossible to detect.  I did everything I could think of doing when I had my second miscarriage.  My doctor and I discussed options, ordered blood work, and felt that this was only bad luck.  When I became pregnant the third (really fifth) time, I was put on progesterone, had weekly blood draws, and went through several ultrasounds.  After that miscarriage, Sue ordered more blood work and with great frustration exclaimed, “what is going on with your body?”  I felt so glad that someone, besides me, had these feelings.

Naturally, with this being my fourth, the irritation is mounting.  My Ob/Gyn called to make sure that I would be coming in so he could “figure out why you keep miscarrying.”

I’ve never really had the desire to write a book; weird, I know, for a blogger.  However, I am seriously considering collaborating with an obstetrician to write a go-to book for women that miscarry.  Maybe something good will come out of all these losses.

But the answers for my case may or may not be forthcoming.  I do know that I’m tired of this experience.  I would like to put it all behind me, but my body refuses to let go of whatever it is that is keeping the morning sickness alive.  So instead of moving forward, I am stuck in a place that I hate: ambiguity and bed rest.  I have to take time off of work because I can’t focus on anything.  I forget what I am saying mid-sentence.  I feel dizzy, nauseous, and in pain–like a clamp is stuck to my lower back, sending waves of pain whenever I move, sit, or do anything.

Sometimes I really want to sleep and not wake up.  At least the pain and sickness would disappear.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Why Miscarriage Isn't Simple

  1. Oh Amber. My heart aches for you. I’ve only been through this once – and I know how I grieved and how that echo of a child that could not be remains with me.

    I don’t know how you’re bearing this, over and over. I do think your idea of a book on miscarriage is an excellent one. It is, indeed, an ambiguous place and such a lonely one. You could help many women – and men – by that sort of collaboration.

    I hope you will be feeling better soon – not “not worse,” but actually better.

    Hugs.

  2. Like BLW, I think that your book idea is a terrific one. And I’m impressed – but not surprised – by your ability to think of ways to help other women when you’re still in such pain yourself. Sending love to you, my generous friend.

  3. I remember with startling clarity a moment about a week after my miscarriage when I felt so dizzy, so wrong. I went into the ER. They had nothing for me. Time. Time for the hormones to fade. I hated my body for not knowing it was over.

    I think a book that bridges research with real experiences would be a tremendous gift to the world.

    And I hope you feel better (really better) soon.

    Where are the women who band around each other in times of distress? The one who came to me with chocolate and bubble bath made my world better.

  4. Both of my misscarriages happened before I had any other children, so I did sleep, a lot, like all the time. It would be so hard to juggle the babies you have and get the rest you need. Be easy on yourself, your body may have failed you again, but you are not a failure, you are amazing. And you are right, there is no help or information for women who misscarry, a book would be very helpful. The drs had no help for me, they basically said “we don’t know what is wrong”. I had my thyroid tested by a natropathic dr who used a different test than the allopathic drs had, and he told me that my thyroid was marginally low and put me on a thyroid hormone, I’ll never know if that was truly what caused my misscarriages, but I haven’t misscarried since then. But truthfully, it could have been anything.

  5. One of the worst things about my first miscarriage (which was before my first child) was that there was no literature out. It was 1993 and the first thing I did was go to a bookstore and there were only books about birth. When this is actually a very common experience I also wonder why it’s a no man’s land for actual conversation. With that pregnancy, too, my hormones moved so slowly back to normal that each of the next few months I thought I was pregnant all over again, and miscarrying all over again, because I kept having positive pregnancy tests. It was really one of the most painful times in my life. So, yes, write it if at least it will help to make some sense out of this journey.

    • admin

      The weird thing, this time around, is my hCG was super low when they tested it–like I had never been pregnant. My husband thinks my body is reacting to not having any hormones, and I do believe he’s right. Even if it sucks, what can you do.

  6. Amber there are no words. I think a book would be a wonderful idea. After I had my miscarriage, I didn’t know what to do either. I know it doesn’t help but you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. I am constantly baffled at how much of medicine is guessing. I just feel like, with how advanced Science supposedly is, and how much we can do technologically, there should be cures for terrible diseases and answers to questions like, “Why did I miscarry?” Especially for how much doctors cost. Anyways.

    I feel for you. And I’m sorry you’re feeling crummy. After my miscarriage, I felt like I was going crazy. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write lists, I felt like my mind was swirling around and around. You will figure it out. Because you’re smart and because you’re asking for help from people who (at least partially) know what they are doing.

  8. just a thought, dear niece: one of the beauties of Judaism for me was the tradition (sitting shiva) of grieving a death. I won’t go into the details here, but I have found that having a process to truly move through loss, and slowly back into life is very healthy and loving. Ignoring sadness, being stoic, etc. all those things that come as messages to just Get on With It=not so good for the soul. I support you, and sit with you in spirit as you feel your emotions fully.

  9. PS-I had 23 years of crippling endometrriosis, from before it had a name, to having a hysterectomy. In between I was told it was psychological (can I call that one in to work that I miss a week every month?), tried chinese herbs, accupuncture; vitamins, no vitamins; exercise, no exercise; sex, no sex; marijuana, laparoscopies, etc., etc. Sometimes just watching PeeWee’s Big Adventure was the only help! Our bodies do their own thing, despite all we think we know about ourselves.
    My lesson, I think, was that like much of life, we just can’t answer why. We can support ourselves and each other, get from one moment to the next sometimes, and eventually things get better. They really do (or at least we get new things to be concerned about!) –love, aunt sue

  10. I think a book idea is great and maybe incorporate experiences real women have had. It seems to be taboo to talk about miscarriage very deeply, mostly just casually mentioning it in conversation–“Yeah, I miscarried X times between these kids” or “back when I had my miscarriage.” Yet there are many questions that are not answered and that vary from woman to woman–some bleed for a long time, some don’t, some need the d&c, some don’t. Perhaps even a broader category, like lost pregnancies, because a molar pregnancy is not a miscarriage, but it doesn’t end up with a baby either and there is a lot of medical stuff that goes on afterward that can last for up to 18 months. Yet there is very little support and very little information out there.

    I hope they can find a cause and solve it for you. It can happen and I hope that it happens for you.

  11. Sorry that I am coming to this conversation late. I wanted to let you know that I wholly affirm your desire to write a book about miscarriage. And I admire your grace and courage in thinking of others while you deal with your own pain. The book writing might prove to be cathartic for you. Sending you love and strength. xoxo