“How are you today, Mrs. ____?” It was a simple enough question. One I’d answered hundreds – probably thousands of times in my life, but one that had me stumped on this particular occasion and made my eyes fill quickly with tears. “Fine.” My answer came out harsher than I’d intended, but it was as if adjusting the tone of my voice was suddenly outside of my control. “Hang in there, honey,” the nurse whispered as she finished setting up the ultrasound machine and closed the door to the room.
I stripped down and took my obligatory spot at the end of the exam table, feet ready to be swung into the stirrups when the doctor walked in.
After what felt like an eternity as I mentally recited a mantra of, “you are strong, you are brave, you will overcome,” the doctor walked in and repeated the nurse’s question. I repeated my gruff response.
I choked back tears as he inserted the ultrasound wand which revealed a slightly larger, but equally vacant sack on the ultrasound screen. “Well, I feel confident that we are not dealing with an ectopic pregnancy here. That is definitely a sack in the uterus, but just like last time: we are not seeing a defined yoke sack or fetal pole inside. We can wait another week if you want – I know that you went through a lot to get here, but I am confident that nothing will change between now and then. In fact, I would say that there is pretty much a zero percent chance that this pregnancy will progress normally.”
His assistant opened a new box of tissues and handed me one as the tears streamed silently down my face. “I can write you the script for the cytotec, and you can think about it a little more if you want to.” I nodded.
“Will it hurt?” I asked. “Cramping, bleeding – probably a little more than a normal period,” he cautioned. “Can I have something for the pain?”
“Of course,” he said before plugging my information into a narcotics database to ensure that I wasn’t an addict in search of a high. (Which – to be honest – was a little offensive, even given the rapid culture of drug abuse in my state. If I wanted a high, I wouldn’t spend $15,000+ to get pregnant, and then lose my baby on purpose to get high, but rules are rules I suppose.)
By the time Friday arrived, I felt calm and peaceful about our decision. Long talks with my best friend – who happens to be a nurse practitioner – really helped a lot. She agreed with my doctor’s decision, and explained that fetal development at the beginning of pregnancy should be rapid and the fact that we didn’t have that made it very clear that this would not be successful – no matter how long we waited and how many additional positive signs we experienced. “In your professional opinion,” I asked her, “Am I making the right decision? Should I assume that this has no chance? I feel like we are, but am so scared to kill something that might have a chance to live – however small it may be. But [the doctor] said that holding out any longer would only be for our mental benefit, and not for the pregnancy itself, though he was happy to wait.”
“I agree with him,” she said. “Things should have progressed at this point. It was fine to wait up until now, but continuing to do so isn’t going to be fruitful effort. You absolutely connect emotionally from the beginning, but this isn’t a baby. It’s a failed pregnancy. You aren’t failing or quitting on a human. Please don’t torture yourself.”
That was incredibly hard to hear, but it came from someone with both a deep understanding of medical knowledge and a deep love of me and my wife, and it gave me comfort. It is really what I needed to hear in order to start the process of the miscarriage. (And I recognize that not everyone feels that way and respect that different things help different people make peace with this process, so if that isn’t helpful to you, feel free to continue to do what makes sense to you and your partner.)
So Friday came and went like any other normal day, and I was asked about five or six times what my weekend plans were at my office.
“Oh, you know, just taking it easy,” I responded aloud. And having a miscarriage, I recited mentally.
Friday night felt surreal. After a dinner of leftovers, I retreated to the bathroom and stripped down to a t-shirt and found a comfortable position in which to insert the 4 cytotec pills that my doctor prescribed. I then put on an overnight pad, and took a painkiller prescribed by my doctor along with a glass of water around quarter till seven.
By 7:30, I had some mild period-like cramps, and started to feel a bit dizzy and tired (probably from the pain medicine) so my wife and I retreated to bed to watch the new season of Fuller House on Netflix. (Don’t judge me, haha).
I fell asleep after one episode. I woke up around 10:30 to moderate cramps, and took one extra strength acetaminophen pill, and laid in bed for the next half our trying to breathe and count through the cramps.
One, two, three, four, five…. No more baby. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten….I failed. One, two, three, four, five….It’s almost over. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten…things will get better.
By quarter after eleven, the cramps still hadn’t abated, so I woke my wife up to ask if she thought that I could take another painkiller. She wasn’t sure and fell asleep a few minutes later, so I took one anyway and got up to go to the bathroom. I looked down – nothing. No blood. No clots.
I got back in bed and scrolled through Facebook for a few minutes before falling back asleep.
I slept until about five and got up to go to the bathroom again and saw the first blood. I felt both sad and relieved. It was the end of one try, and the beginning of another. I was sad for the baby we lost, but looking forward to the babies we still hope to have.
The cramps continued on moderately throughout Saturday and I managed them with ibuprofen. Nothing stronger than my worst period cramps, and the bleeding was actually less than I anticipated. I know that it could still get worse, and if I don’t expel everything I could still require a D&C, but overall – this experience wasn’t as scary as I anticipated. I hope that brings comfort to anyone who may read this who may be gearing up for what I am (hopefully) going to finish up in the next week or so.
I vacillate between very sad and very hopeful, and pregnancy signs everywhere make me a little sad at the moment.
But I somehow managed to go to my friend’s daughter’s first birthday party yesterday (which had more babies and infants present than any first birthday party I’ve been to in the recent past), and I didn’t cry once (and actually smiled and laughed a lot).
This process is different for everyone, I imagine, but for me – the key is to not think too much, and to get up and move and live life.
My best friend told me to remember that this is a failed pregnancy – not a baby – and on one hand, I know she is right. The decision we made didn’t terminate a living baby – by the time we made it, that baby was gone. My wife and I are both Catholic, though, and recently started going to church more, although we have always both felt a deep connection with our faith. And we do believe that we lost a baby. We don’t think the Cytotec killed our baby: we aren’t sure why it didn’t continue to grow and develop, but we know that we now have an angel looking out for us, and we hope that it protects the next one that will live in that same spot (hopefully not too long from now).
In the meantime, we are going to practice a lot of self care. We made a plan to start going to the gym more, watching TV less, enjoying our life, and maybe planning a vacation for a few weeks from now. This process has brought us closer, deepened our faith in God, and made us want to continue to make this world a better place for the babies that we hope to one day bring into it. We aren’t past the hard days, the sad days, or the tears. But we are going to try really hard to be happy.
And – I don’t know if I mentioned this before – but my wife is actually alive today because of a miscarriage. Her mom had a miscarriage during her first pregnancy. She went on to get pregnant with my wife’s older brother a little while later, and then got pregnant with twins after that (my wife and her twin). She told us that she never would have had the twins had she not miscarried as she would have stopped at two babies, so – in a way – my wife is a miracle that wouldn’t have been here had her mom not suffered the heartbreak of a miscarriage. That really helps me to keep moving forward in moments like these, and hoping and praying for our own miracle.
I’m probably going to check out of here for a little while, unless something major happens, but will update as we get closer to our next attempt. I am wishing you all luck, love, hope, and baby dust, and can’t wait to catch up soon.
In the meantime, thank you for your kind words: every single one has helped so much and we are so grateful for the little community we have found on here. Sometimes we wish we could get together for coffee (or a hug) as it feels like we know some of you that well. But please know we are rooting for you all and hope to hear lots of positive news from all of you very soon. ❤
(Flowers and a card from my amazing mom)