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.