The moment I saw the double line on my pregnancy test, I began to read the statistics. An estimated quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage. I wanted to be prepared. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then be crushed.
So at my eight-week appointment, when my OB-GYN said she didn’t immediately see a heartbeat, I steadied myself. It’s common, I knew. It would be over, and then I would try again. Lots of women have a miscarriage and go on to have healthy children.
In the windowless room, she dug the ultrasound wand into my lower abdomen, searching for hope.
“You could have had miscarriage,” she said, finally. “Or it’s possible you ovulated later than you thought you did. In that case, it could be normal not to see a heartbeat yet.”
The only way to know for sure was to test my level of human chorionic gonadotropin, better known as hCG, a hormone that doubles every 72 hours in early pregnancy. If that number went down, she told me, a miscarriage was likely.
When the results of the test appeared in the patient portal, my heart sank. My hCG level was nearly half of what it had been two days prior.
I felt numb. I didn’t cry. I didn’t blame myself. A part of me expected it. I knew so many women who had miscarriage stories.
But there was one thing I wasn’t prepared for: I hadn’t “had” a miscarriage — I was very much “having” a miscarriage.
My OB-GYN offered me three options:
Let things happen naturally. With this option, you pass the tissue out at home.
Take medication to speed the process and pass the tissue out at home.
Have a dilation and curettage (D&C), which would involve removing the tissue while I was sedated in a medical office.
I chose the last option, wanting to close this chapter as soon as I could. When I called to make the appointment, the scheduler told me the first appointment was February 14, Valentine’s Day. “Do you want to schedule it for a different day?” she asked.
No. I wanted it over. The sooner it was done, the sooner I could try again.
The procedure itself was mostly painless. My husband told me I was talking to the nurse throughout the 15 minute procedure, though I don’t remember a thing. Driving home, I told my husband I was glad this was “all finally over.” In a few weeks, we could start trying again.
That night, I passed a golf-ball sized clot. The pain, like the worst period cramps imaginable, lasted for days. For three straight days I called the hospital’s emergency line to check if my symptoms were normal.
“It can be,” was the reply each time, a response I quickly came to expect.
About a week after my D&C, I finally, physically, felt normal. My paperwork told me my period would come again in three to six weeks, a sign that we could begin to try again.
I waited. And waited.
On days I was feeling especially masochistic, I would take a pregnancy test, which checks your hCG levels.
Positive. The most painful two lines I could see. I wasn’t pregnant, but my body still thought I was.
I waited more.
Finally, six weeks after my D&C, I started to bleed. Relief. Now, it was finally over.
But it wasn’t over. A few hours after I had first seen blood, I thought I might be leaking through my tampon. When I stood up, my leggings were covered in blood — heavy, I thought, but not necessarily alarming. But then I woke up in the middle of the night hemorrhaging. I went straight to the emergency room.
Once again, I realized I had not “had” a miscarriage — I was very much still having one.
At the ER, I sat on a giant pad and bled continuously. When I stood to walk to the bathroom, blood streamed out and covered the floor.
“Is this normal?” I said to the nurse helping me clean up the mess.
“It can be.”
I left the hospital with more questions than answers. I called the doctor who had performed my D&C, and she said clots must have formed after my procedure and just passed at that moment.
“Can this be normal? To hemorrhage blood six weeks after you had a D&C?”
“It can be.”
Now, eight months later, my period comes every four weeks like clockwork, despite our best efforts to conceive again.
After my D&C, my doctor asked me if I wanted to have genetic tests run on the tissue they removed. I wanted all the information, so we said yes.
A few weeks later, my doctor told me that the embryo had trisomy 16, a very common genetic disorder, and likely nothing to worry about for future pregnancies. “I’ll e-mail you the full report,” she said.
What I didn’t realize was that the report was going to tell me the sex. The baby was a boy. It was then that I finally, for the first time, broke down in tears.
The baby boy’s due date came and went this past September. Most days, it’s still hard not to imagine what my life would be like with a baby. What would he have looked like? What color would his hair be? Would he like our dog?
Will my miscarriage ever be over? I like to think that one day, holding a healthy baby in my arms will let me say the phrase in the past tense: “I had a miscarriage.”
But for now, I feel like I’m still “having” a miscarriage. Is that normal?
I guess it can be.