Monday, April 7, 2014

I had a miscarriage at 17 weeks

**I'm so excited to announce that I've started a youtube channel discussing everything home making. My channel name is Surviving As Mom.  Check it out!!

 It was a normal Thursday for me.  I was running around doing my regular daily duties and taking care of my 3 boys, ages 4 1/2 and 19 months.  My mom and brother were visiting for the day and my sister was coming after work to visit.  I had started dinner in the crockpot so my late afternoon OB appointment didn't interfere with having dinner on time.

My appointment was supposed to be quick.  I just had the 16 week measurements only 4 days before and found out that I was having the girl I dreamed of for so long.  Everything was normal and the baby looked great.  At this appointment, my doctor measured my belly, asked the usual questions, including if I felt any movement yet.  I said not yet.  She then used the doppler to check the fetal heart rate.  Except, she couldn't find it.  I wasn't worried.  Maybe the baby was in a weird position, so my doctor suggested we use the sonogram machine to get a visual.  And there it was... My usual bouncing baby was completely still and the heart was just a hollow space.  No heartbeat.  In that moment, everything just stopped for me.  Everything that was in our future, which included this new baby girl was just gone.  In that instant, my pregnancy was over.  I was stunned.  Confused.  At first, I wasn't upset, just shocked and in disbelief.  These things only happen to other people, not me.  How could this happen when the baby was perfect only 4 days ago?!  It just didn't make any sense.  The doctor explained what was going to happen and left me alone for a few minutes while she made a few phone calls to set everything up.  In that few minutes, the reality of the situation finally started to sink in.  I called my husband to tell him what happened.  I also texted my sister, who I am extremely close with.  Then I cried.

I wasn't overly emotional because I generally don't get attached to my baby until I'm at the end of the pregnancy.  I also have a very scientific/medical approach to these things, so this is just a "process" for me.  I wasn't even sad that my baby was dead.  To me, it was just a fetus.  I was more upset at the loss of the whole event.  The pregnancy, the new baby and the daughter I was so looking forward to.  I was also upset that this was happening to me.  That I had to experience this.  I had already been through so much with my first pregnancy, with my twins being born at 26 weeks after 20 days of strict hospital bed rest.  Then there was the 77 days in the NICU, breathing tubes, blood transfusions, infections and surgeries.  I couldn't believe that I was going through pregnancy trauma again!

The 10 minute drive home was very hard.  I called my sister, who was also pregnant (only a few weeks behind me) and we both broke down.  All I kept saying was, "I'm carrying a dead baby".  When I got home, I had to face my family and give them the devastating news.  I told my mom and brother that there was no heartbeat and it was going to be taken care of the next day, then I just walked away.  I couldn't be there when they got emotional.  Especially since my mother had also experienced a traumatic miscarriage at 16 weeks.  I just couldn't handle it.  Then I asked my twins who were almost 5 to come to my room so I could talk to them.  I knew they would understand what death was because I've never hid it from them.  I am a Funeral Director, so I am very open with death and I make sure my kids are aware of it.  This was also a twin pregnancy until 6 weeks, so they know that one of the babies "died" early on.  I told them that I went to the doctor and the baby in my belly had died.  I explained that there was no heartbeat and that these things just happen sometimes.  They seemed to understand.  One was a little sad, but handled it well.  The other was very upset.  He cried and expressed his disappointment at the loss of a little sister.  He was the one who wanted a girl.  His reaction broke my heart.  I didn't expect him to be so upset.  Then my husband came home and I had to face him.  I felt terrible for giving him a dead baby.  Obviously, I know I'm not responsible for what happened, but I still felt guilty since I was the one in charge of taking care of the baby as it grew.  We just hugged each other in silence.  The rest of the evening was just very awkward.  No one wanted to talk about this giant elephant in the room, but everyone was obviously upset with the news.  I was still visibly pregnant, so it was just a constant reminder.  We all had dinner and tried to carry on and be as normal as possible.  We got the kids ready for bed and my husband drove my mom and brother home, an hour away.  Normally, I drive them home, but I just couldn't handle sitting in the car in silence for the long drive.

The next day, I went to the hospital to begin the process of "getting rid" of my failed pregnancy.    I was to be admitted to the maternity ward, have labor induced, and give birth to my dead fetus.  I'd always had c-sections, so this was a new experience for me.  I'd always felt like I missed out on having a vaginal birth, but this was definitely not how I wanted to experience it.  My husband took off from work (it was Friday) and stayed home with our kids while he waited for my sister to come take over so he could be with me in the hospital. The nursing staff was amazing.  As soon as I walked in and gave them my name, my nurse put her arm around me and walked me to my room.  They got me set up in my bed, and explained everything, including how they'd do their best to control my pain during the labor process.  This was good news, especially since I was looking forward to being stoned so I could be as far from reality during this process as possible.  I also asked for another sonogram before we started, just to be 100% sure.  They had no problem with this.  A few hours later, my husband arrived.  Shortly after that, I received my first dose of Cytotec.  It took 3 doses, each 3 hours apart to get things moving.  By 8pm, I'd started experiencing labor pains, and by 4am, I was in full labor.  I'll admit, I was disappointed by how little the meds worked to control the pain.  I was given Stadol and Dilaudid, but they only helped a little with the pain.  However, they did keep me nice and loopy, which I was happy about.  Eventually, the pain was so bad, I gave in and got an epidural.  By this time it was 5am and the contractions were constant, with no breaks in between.  I was exhausted!
It took about 15 minutes for the epidural to numb me enough to not feel pain anymore and I fell asleep.  About 2 hours later I woke up, still completely numb from the waste down and looked over at the monitor to see what was going on with my contractions.  I was in a daze and needed to assess the situation.  I noticed that the line was flat, which meant it was over.  I was a little confused by this.  I put my hand down next to me and realized the pad I was laying on was wet and when I looked, I saw that I was sitting in a puddle of blood and fluid.  I panicked and woke up my husband.  I reached my hand between my legs and felt skin that wasn't my own.  Then it hit me...  While I slept, the fetus passed through me and was resting between my legs.  I was very relieved that I didn't have to experience pushing it out.  I jumped and immediately pressed the call button for the nurse.  Within 15 seconds, 2 nurses hurried into my room to take the fetus and clean me up.  It happened very quickly and quietly.  They were very sensitive to the emotional state of me and my husband.  Surprisingly, we weren't overly upset, as we expected.  We were just both in shock at what had just happened, especially since we just woke up to this.  One nurse cleaned me up, while the other nurse attended to the fetus.  She asked if we wanted to see and hold it.  I said yes.  The nurse wrapped it up in a nice blanket and handed it to me.  I didn't snuggle or hug it.  I didn't cry.  More than anything, I was just curious to see what it looked like at this point.  I examined it like a medical specimen.  It was simply a dead fetus.  It looked worse than I expected.  There was a lot of bruising, with 2 large blood blisters.  One on the head, one on the abdomen.  The head was also an odd shape, probably from the birth.  The hands and feet were the only things that looked ok.  They were beautifully formed, with nails.  I noticed that the skin was starting to peel too.  This led me to believe that it had been dead for days and was beginning to decompose.  I held it in my hand for a minute, making mental notes of the size and features.  I noticed that the hands were the size of my fingernail.  The head was about the size of an egg.  My husband eventually agreed to just look at it for a second, to acknowledge it, but he didn't want to hold it.  The nurse asked if we wanted to name it.  We said no.  We didn't want to forget it existed, but we didn't want to hang on to the experience either.  Just naming it would have made it too real.  We just wanted to move on with our life.  Then the nurse took it away, and it was over.  The doctor came in to make sure the placenta came out whole and that was it.  We just waited for the epidural to wear off, and we went home a few hours later.  Looking back, I think the birth happened about an hour before I woke up and found the fetus because it was already cold when I found it (which doesn't happen immediately).  I also partially woke up at one point and found a nurse standing in the doorway looking at me, but I went back to sleep and she left.  I think they noticed on the monitor that my contractions stopped, realized it was over, and when they came to check on me, decided not to disturb me as I slept.  Then when I woke up and hit they call button, they knew what happened and came running.  I'm ok with that method.  The doctors called this whole thing "induced labor due to fetal demise".  I didn't actually call it a miscarriage until someone had to tell me that it's what actually happened to me.  We had genetic testing done on the fetus, but as of now, there is no specific cause.  It was just a random occurrence.

When I got home, I hugged my 3 boys extra tight, and went on with my day.  My husband and I were both pretty down for about 2 weeks and I had moments of depression that lasted about a month.  During that time, I experienced a range of emotions.  Sadness, confusion, guilt, anger, fear, failure.  I had so many feelings I didn't expect.  Every time I looked down, I saw my empty womb, that only a few days ago had a life in it.  Our plans for our near future baby had completely stopped and changed.  It was too abrupt.  My breasts filled with milk, as if I just had a live baby, which felt weird emotionally.  Because I was so used to eating and feeding my baby, it felt wasteful for me to eat and just feed myself.  I could now eat things that were forbidden.  I could drink and take medications again.  My mind and body were so confused.  I could only describe it as weird.  I had NO desire for sex (after the bleeding stopped).  Just the thought of sex was repulsive to me.  My womb had just created death, why would I want to feel pleasure down there?  My husband tried to be patient, but there's no way he could possibly imagine what I was feeling.  Eventually, my hormones shifted and I was very eager again after about 6 or 7 weeks.  My hormone fluctuations were crazy and it took almost 2 months to feel normal again.

The hardest part was dealing with everyone else's reactions.  That was worse than our own feelings.  The morning of the "birth", I posted a Facebook message to my friends and family, explaining what happened and requesting that no one contact us about it.  We know everyone is sad and concerned for us, but we don't want to hear from anyone right now.  Most people respected our wishes, though some sent private fb messages to us.  At first we were upset about it, but then we learned to appreciate it.  Some of my friends sent over dinners for us, which I appreciated greatly.  Seeing people for the first time afterwards was very awkward.  There was the fear of their reactions, but everyone did their best to just be normal, which is exactly what we wanted.  That's how we got through it.

Now, it's been 2 months since everything happened and we will be trying to get pregnant again soon.  We feel almost completely normal now and are just trying to move forward with having another baby.  This whole bitter experience is just a memory now and we are pretty much back to normal.  I'm not going to say we are completely healed, but we have learned to live with it.  Although, it has left some big scars.  Between my first traumatic short pregnancy, and now a miscarriage, I don't think I will find any joy in the next pregnancy.  We won't feel the normal excitement and happiness that comes with creating a new life.  There will be so much fear and worry every step of the way.  Even finding out the gender will be meaningless till the end.  I was so excited to find out I was finally having a girl, only to have it end just 4 days later.  I feel that we won't be able to enjoy any of it until there is a healthy baby in our arms and that's very sad.  Pregnancy is supposed to bring great joy, happiness, excitement and hope.  We won't feel any of that for fear of it disappearing again so quickly.  I'm even hesitant to try again, but I feel incomplete since we started the process last time and it got cut off.  All we can do is just try again and hope for the best.  Life goes on...