How Do You Know If You’re Having a Miscarriage?
I have only known one woman in my entire life who had a miscarriage. Well, actually, I have only had one woman in my entire life tell me that she had a miscarriage. After I had mine, I actually came to learn that the opposite was true. Most of the women I knew have had a miscarriage, I just didn’t know. Many of these women have even had several. I was overwhelmed with sadness at the silence surrounding these deep, tremendous losses. The compassion I felt for these women who had to bear this burden alone was so heavy on my heart. It took a little while, but I soon learned a few very valuable lessons about miscarriages.
A Few Life Lessons
- Women do not necessarily bear these losses alone. The men or partners in their lives often bear that loss right along with them. And family and close friends can also be of great support.
- The thoughtless things some people say when you do tell them about your own miscarriage can be so astounding and hurtful that it’s better to keep it to yourself and a few close friends and family.
- Most, if not all, of these women went on to have 1 or many more than 1 perfectly healthy babies.
The Gravity of a Miscarriage
I remember when my close friend had her miscarriage. It was about 9 years ago now. She is one of the women who went on to have a beautiful little girl not too long afterwards. However, I remember the day she told me that she had miscarried. I was quite an immature person at the time and I had never been married or even dated anyone for a significant period of time at that point in my life and I certainly did not have children. However, I still knew the gravity of a miscarriage. I still understood and so I went over to her house immediately with flowers. Perhaps it was because my friend had shared her positive pregnancy test news with me right away and I was just ecstatic for her. So, maybe, I could grasp how painful it might be to have to let go of all that excitement, hope and happiness. Maybe, as a woman, I just intuitively knew. As I embark on my own pregnancy journey, the depth of my female intuition is already mind-blowing. Maybe I just loved her and I heard her in pain and I wanted to help. I’m not sure.
What It Means Physically
One thing I do know for sure is that while I understood to some extent the emotional pain of a miscarriage, I had no idea what a miscarriage meant physically for her. I mean, I understood that the baby would no longer be born. But, honestly, that was the extent of my knowledge and truly, my curiosity. It never occurred to me that there would be significant bodily transformations that would now need to take place to readjust to the loss of a growing baby. Not to mention, the actual loss of the baby. As in, the physical transfer. It didn’t evaporate. It came out. As they all do. If you are in very early pregnancy, that will likely just look like a lot of very heavy, clotted blood, which is how mine was appeared.
My Heart Exploding
If you are later in pregnancy, I cannot even begin to imagine the things these women have experienced. I cannot even think about it without the tears welling in my eyes and the pain in my heart exploding for them. And that is only for the women with support, with partners, with family with friends. What about the others? The women who hadn’t told anyone. Who can tell anyone. What about the younger girls, who didn’t mean to get pregnant. How do they deal with this loss?
The compassion I felt for these women who had to bear this burden alone was so heavy on my heart.
The First Positive Test
In June of 2017, I had a funny feeling I might be pregnant. I had involuntarily gotten off birth control when I got into my bike accident (read about it here). Once I learned just how terribly bad birth control is for depleting bone density in women, I refused to get back on because I wanted my bones to heal with all the support I could give them. Since I wasn’t taking any form of birth control, I had opted to use the calendar to track my cycle and that was working great. I got to know my body really well. However, I found myself a bit disconnected with myself for a few weeks when life got busy and I wasn’t paying as close attention and so, when I realized I was 4 days late on my period, I started to wonder. So, I took a test and sure enough. It was positive.
I Want Children
Luke, my husband, and I had certainly talked about having kids. I was pretty committed to having kids and I knew my window was getting smaller. I felt I would be okay if life took me in a direction where I couldn’t have kids, but I really wanted to try. Luke, on the other hand, said he did not need to have kids and that if he didn’t, he would be all right with that as he loved what the two of us had together. So, neither of us pursued it with unwavering ambition. However, due to my foot accident happening 9 days after our wedding and the recovery lasting well over a year, it was off the table anyhow for so many reasons like my healthy, my physical capability, money, etc.
So, since we had not been actively trying, I was very nervous to tell him. But when I did, he surprised me just like he always does. He was excited, happy, tender and so loving towards me. He told me to come sit with him on the couch and we just held each other. It was the sweetest. He, of course, then started to talk about the money we would need to save and all the business things that men start thinking about.
We decided not to tell everyone right away. However, I told a few girlfriends because I desperately needed advice and Luke told one of his good friends.
The Morning it Happened
It was only 2 weeks later, when it happened. Every morning I would wake up early to meditate in our guest bedroom. About 10 minutes into my meditation, I suddenly felt a quick wetness between my legs. Immediately, I stood up and rushed to the bathroom. I found blood. It wasn’t that much, just a bit, but I knew instinctually that blood was not good. It was more than spotting, but less than anything that would have been obvious. I started to worry and, of course, did a search online. What I found went both ways. Some people said light spotting was totally normal in the first few weeks. Others said it was very bad and a sign of miscarriage. The reason I did a Google search instead of calling my OB, was because I did not have an OB yet. I was only 4 weeks. I truly was not sure what I should do. So, I put a pad in my underwear and went to work.
Throughout the course of the morning, the bleeding worsened. I found myself in and out of the bathroom all morning trying to manage the blood — and my emotions. It’s so vulnerable and real to me now when I realize, I was still holding out hope. Even as the blood really started to flow, flow as in worse than any period I had ever had in my entire life and the cramping started. I still thought that maybe this was normal. How would I know? I had never been pregnant.
Finding an OB
Between each of my visits to the restroom, I called around to several OB offices to see if anyone could see me. This part started to get confusing, overwhelming and very emotional because they each asked if I was expecting and then I had to explain what was actually happening and yes, I would technically be a new patient. Every single OB I called could not see me that same day. Each of them had at least a 2-3 day wait. The question I asked each one is, “Is bleeding normal at 4 weeks”. And each person responded with, “How much bleeding?”. Of course, as the morning went on, that answer changed from “a tiny bit” to “about a normal period”.
The Bleeding Increased
The following two days that amount would increase drastically as I began to bleed heavier than I ever had. Truthfully, I have always had light periods, but it was still a lot of blood. And it wasn’t just blood. It was tissue and clotted blood. It was chunks of blood. Chunks of tissue. And I know, I know, at 4 weeks that is truly simply all it is — tissue. But that did not stop my tears or my convulsive sobs. It didn’t matter to me. I didn’t care what some doctor or scientist called the tissue, I was losing my baby.
Losing My Baby
I know, it had only been 4 weeks and I had just barely started to think about what it all meant. But still, I was losing my baby — in the toilet. Nothing could be worse. And I knew, even in those moments, as I cried and bled and cramped and sat on the toilet, even then, I knew I had it so much easier than so many other women who had experienced a miscarriage. I knew this was a modest miscarriage. But no, it doesn’t matter. It truly doesn’t. The loss is real no matter how many weeks along you are. It is real and it is painful and it is so, so sad.
Acknowledging the Truth
By about noon, I finally came to acknowledge what was happening. I finally said, as I spoke with the last OB offices I was going to call, “I’m pretty sure I’m having a miscarriage or I had one this morning or I mean, I think it’s just happening right now. And I guess, I guess I just wanted to see if there was anything else I should do”.
“Yes.” She said. “I’m so sorry to hear that. And yes, you will want a follow up in a few days so you can get some blood tests to make sure your HCG levels have decreased again.
“Ok.” I said.
“Would you like to make an appointment?” She asked.
“Yes, thank you.” I said, holding back the tears and sobs.
I made the appointment for 3 days later, the earliest they could see me.
More Than I Had Imagined
I know it may seem crazy, but I stayed at work the rest of the day. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to take care of myself, it was that I really, really, really needed to focus on something else for a second. I just needed to work. And so, I worked. I took some Motrin and I worked. By the time I got home, the cramping had gotten so much worse and I found myself in bed the rest of the night with Motrin at my bedside.
For the next 3 days I bled heavily. I would say it was like a heavy period but it was not. It was so much more than. It was constant and it was clotted and it was obvious that my body was expelling much more tissue than a regular period. I laid low for many days afterwards in order to give my body the rest it needed. Within a few days, my energy was back up and I my body started to feel normal again.
Another Woman’s Strength and Wisdom
One of the girlfriends I had told about the positive pregnancy test, I knew had also had a miscarriage. So, I called her. Come to find out, she’d had three miscarriages. My heart broke in pieces for her. She was 6 months pregnant at that time with a healthy baby girl (born in perfect condition just 3 months later), but still, I was so devastated for her. I could not stand having to do this 2 more times. i don’t know how I could bear it or actually, how I would have ever been able to muster the courage and strength to ever try again. I mean, the power of the woman. She stood, in my mind’s eye, on a mountain top as a hero, a conqueror, a warrior. Three miscarriages and now, goddammit, pregnant again.
A Woman Who Knows
I balled my eyes out. She listened and talked with me in the way that only another woman, a woman who knows, can do. I will forever be grateful for everything she said to me. Her words and her love comforted me in a way that truly saved me that day. The best thing she told me was a piece of guidance she learned from an article she had read (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/well/family/the-japanese-art-of-grieving-a-miscarriage.html). The article was written by a woman who has suffered a miscarriage and she talked about how she dealt with it. In Japan, there is a tradition where when a baby is not born, a statue, called a Jizo is placed in a cemetery in his/her honor and remembrance. Now, since this isn’t a tradition in the US, the made arrangements in a way that suited her, which turned out to be ordering a Jizo online and “stationing the statue on our dining room table where I could pat him on the head on my way to the kitchen”.
This quenched my heart so deeply and so thoroughly. I could barely get through the entire article because the tears were welling so fast that they obstructed my vision so badly.
The Spirit of the Unborn Baby
The very next day, I found my pregnancy test and decided to make that my Jizo. I broke it into several small pieces and took two pieces that had holes in them where the lines indicating pregnant/not pregnant would show through. With one of the pieces, I looped a metal beaded key chain through it to make a bracelet and I wore it every day for over a week. With the second piece, I looped my dogs name tag through it and dangled it from her collar so she could keep careful watch over my baby’s spirit. So, for several days, both my dog, Greta (the first true love of my life), and I walked around watching over the spirit of my baby.
The immense comfort this gave me brought me to tears several times a day. It gave me so much comfort being able to touch the broken piece of plastic around my wrist. I loved that it came with me to work, was there with me during meetings, at home while I was making dinner or working out. I slept with it and showered with it. And I love that Greta kept a watchful eye over the baby too.
My First Love
Greta is my first love. The one true love who broke my heart open so wide that I could finally allow someone else to enter it. Shortly after I adopted Greta and she opened my heart, I met my husband. I always tell Greta that my life, my heart, my love, my everything is real because of her and her sweetness and her joy and her energy and her unconditional love. That it is because of her that am able to feel safe being vulnerable. So, to know, that my first love was watching over my most recent love, gave me so much peace of mind.
A few weeks later, I noticed that the token had fallen off of Greta’s collar. And slowly, over time, I started to wear the bracelet less and less. Then eventually, it came off and I placed it on my bedside table so it would be next to me while I slept. It is still there today.
The Long Recovery
While the actual miscarriage itself lasted for about 3 days, it was the following months that proved to be more involved that I had expected. I honestly thought that my body would bounce back after the initial few days and that we could try again within a few weeks. I had read online that many doctors recommended waiting at least 3-6 months before trying again. However, I also read a lot of doctor advice that said to start trying as soon as you felt emotionally ready.
While the Jizo helped me feel emotionally ready much faster than perhaps normal and while my body felt good, physically, there were still a lot of adjustments my body clearly needed to go through before it would be eligible for pregnancy again.
Five More Months
It took a full 5 months before my body completely recovered. The way this looked for was that my periods were so much worse than they had ever been. The cramping was severe and the bleeding was so much heavier than I had ever experienced. The first period after the miscarriage came about 4 weeks later and was extremely heavy and the cramping had me bedridden which is not my usual experience with my periods. It wasn’t until about 4 months after the miscarriage that I started to have a normal period.
By the 5th month, my period was totally back to normal, which for me is light bleeding with little to no cramping. Every month after the miscarriage around the time I saw on my calendar that I would be ovulating, I would wrangle my husband so we could try to get pregnant. Every month for 5 months nothing happened. But once I had that normal period 5 months later, it was the following ovulation where conception happened!
Things People Say
Honestly, it took me awhile to understand why more women didn’t talk openly about having a miscarriage. Initially, I thought it was social injustice that there was not more awareness. I almost felt ashamed that I didn’t know more about what a miscarriage actually means. However, as I did start to tell people, I began to learn why women do not broadcast these events. The reason is that, just like me, people do not know — until they know, which often means that people say things are insensitive, unthinking or even outright rude. During such a sensitive time, it can be very challenging to handle these sorts of comments. So, I too, have mostly kept it a secret. My close friends know, but that’s it. Well, and now, the world knows through my writing.
You’re Not Alone
If you are having or have had a miscarriage, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, you are among the majority of women. Remember, after a miscarriage most women go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies and perfectly healthy babies. A miscarriage is not an indication that something is wrong with you. Quite the opposite. It means that you are healthy enough to get pregnant and that is very important. It also means that your body is smart enough to know how to take care of you, how to keep keep you alive and how to give you a healthy baby that will survive and thrive.
Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to chat. I am always happy to share my experience.