July 19, 2017
Disclaimer: This is a long post, and may be TMI for some.
One year ago today, our world turned upside down. I was 12 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I were sitting in the ultrasound waiting room, watching Fixer Upper, chatting about where we could go on a babymoon and full of nervous excitement. We got called back to a room, anticipation building as a nurse rubbed the ultrasound wand on my belly while we watched the TV screen. There was our baby! But I immediately knew something wasn’t right. It didn’t look quite like the 12 week ultrasound photos I had googled all week. But I dismissed that thought when the ultrasound tech didn’t say anything and kept taking screenshots and measurements. Then she started asking strange questions, but in a casual offhand way that indicated they were normal questions she asked everyone. One was, “Have you had any bleeding?” “Not at all.” Silence for what seemed like an eternity. Then, she suddenly turned to us and gently said, “Y’all, there’s no heartbeat.”
The next few hours were surreal. The tech went outside to call upstairs to my doctor, and within a couple minutes his nurse was down to get us. She took us back through the waiting room, which was awful, full of happy moms and dads and beautiful bumps. It seemed so cruel. She then took us up a staff elevator to avoid the check-in desk and any more people. We went straight to an exam room. The doctor informed us that the fetus measured nine weeks, meaning in 3 weeks my body hadn’t figured out that it was miscarrying. He recommended a D&C immediately. I just wanted to get the ordeal over as soon as possible, so we scheduled it for three days later, and thus began our nightmarish journey.
The D&C itself was not that bad, although I was in tears beforehand as they gave me shot after shot, first in one hip and then the other. Tears for my baby that was about to be stripped from me. After, I was sent home and returned to work the next Monday. After a week or so though, I knew that something wasn’t right. I called my doctor, and his nurse reassured me that bleeding was normal at this point, and to call back if it hadn’t let up after 2 more weeks. Two weeks later, nothing had changed, and severe abdominal pain one day told me something wasn’t right. I took an ovulation test, thinking that maybe I was ovulating and since my body had been through so much, that’s what was triggering the pain. It was positive, so I felt relieved. Another ovulation test the next day yielded the same results, and once again, I had a feeling something was very wrong. (Usually those hormones only peak for a few hours.) I knew that pregnancy can turn those OPKs positive as well though, so I had a lightbulb moment, went to the drugstore on my lunch break and bought a pregnancy test. Positive. That was definitely not right. Freaking out, I immediately called my doctor. The nurse again tried to dismiss everything. I told her about the pregnancy test, and she said “well maybe you’re pregnant again! Have you had your cycle yet?” “There’s no way,” I told her. Eventually she put me on hold to talk to the doctor, then came back and said I needed to come in immediately. Two hours and another ultrasound later, I learned there was retained placental tissue and I would require another D&C, which we scheduled for later that week.
Less than a week after that D&C, my father-in-law passed away from cancer. We buried him on my birthday. It’s been a hard, hard year, y’all.
Two weeks post-D&C #2, my symptoms were still exactly the same. At this point I had been bleeding for over 6 weeks straight. Another ultrasound, and another meeting with my doctor, where my first question naturally was “Do you think there’s still placental tissue in there?” He immediately and confidently said no way. In his 30+ year career he had never had to do 2 D&Cs, much less three. He believed I had an arteriovenous malformation (basically a tangling of blood vessels – which can be caused by damage during a D&C) in my uterus that was causing the bleeding, and recommended a follow up ultrasound the next week to see if it improved. If not, surgery may be necessary. Googling “uterine AVM” led to some horrifying results, the worst of which ended in hysterectomy, which is a terrifying word for a 25 year old trying to start a family.
Before my next appointment, I experienced probably the most horrifying event yet. We were laying on the couch watching TV late one night, when I started bleeding profusely. Twenty minutes later it hadn’t let up and Caleb drove me, shaking, to the emergency room. Of course while we were there, it eventually stopped, my labs were normal, and a few hours later we were back home. The follow-up ultrasound the next week showed no difference, and my doctor recommended a radiologist down the hall take a look. I’ll never forget her words as she was flipping through the ultrasound images. Here I was, thoroughly convinced something was drastically wrong with my uterus, as my OB/GYN had told me adamantly there was no more placental tissue in there. Needless to say my jaw dropped when that sweet radiologist said, “This looks like a textbook case of retained placental tissue.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Are you sure it’s not a vascular malformation? I’ve already had TWO D&Cs, it seems pretty unlikely that there would STILL be tissue stuck in there.” She was sure. She had seen both before and this looked nothing like an AVM. I could’ve hugged her. And then anger set in. Anger that my doctor had put me through this for WEEKS, and terrified the living daylights out of me, when he was wrong all along.
So we scheduled yet another D&C, an unheard of number 3 in a matter of about 9 weeks. This time, and the only way I agreed to it, a radiologist joined my OB/GYN to guide him with an ultrasound. The morning of, I joked with the nurses in pre-op that I was an old pro at this. They were shocked. “You poor thing,” is all I heard over and over as I told them my story.
Finally, third times a charm, and the D&C was successful. But the damage had been done. When I first learned that I miscarried on this day 1 year ago, I naively thought I’d be pregnant again by October. That’s what happened after my first miscarriage earlier last year – it was at only 5 weeks and within 2 months we had conceived again. But it was now October and my body had been wrecked physically and emotionally. I obviously found another doctor, who is fantastic, but I still don’t feel completely normal and I still have unexplained pain often, not to mention I’m TERRIFIED to conceive again.
I’m terrified of dozens of doctor appointments, getting poked by needles over and over, surgeries, ultrasounds where you have to sit in a waiting room full of happy moms with growing bumps, and piles and piles of medical bills. Oh the bills…It’s a cruel joke that a miscarriage costs more than a healthy pregnancy, and you walk away with no sweet baby to show for it. I’m terrified of being robbed of the joy of pregnancy, only to be replaced with a fear of getting too attached and anxiety that my heart may get broken again.
It’s taken me a year to share this, because I’m an extremely private person. I don’t like attention, and I’m certainly not doing this for my own benefit, or for pity or sympathy. I’m doing this because for 9 weeks last year I searched, and searched, and searched online for someone, anyone, who had gone through something similar. Someone to tell me they had been there, and it was going to be okay. And there was nothing. I’m sharing this because even though it’s hard for me to talk about, if it helps bring comfort to one woman out there, then it’s worth it. It’s scary being in uncharted territory, having your doctor tell you that you’re going down in his record books. That’s not the type of record book I ever want to be in. It’s a very isolating and lonely place to be when you think that no one else has traveled the road you’re currently on.
I’m also sharing this to tell everyone, when it comes to your health: please, please, PLEASE, listen to your intuition. Yes, your doctor has a fancy expensive medical degree. But he does not live in your body. Only you know what normal is for you, and when something is not right. Deep down, I knew all along what was wrong, but it took weeks to convince my own doctor and his ego that he had messed up. Stand up for yourself and your body, it’s the only one you’ve got.
And lastly, I’m sharing this to honor our sweet little girl, who was only with us for a short but blissful 12 weeks. I like to think that as antagonizing as those 2+ months of surgery after surgery were, my body and her’s just didn’t want to quite let go. They held on to each other so tight, and that brings me a little bit of comfort. A piece of my heart will forever be with her and her older sibling, my two little angels.
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