Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Managing" a miscarriage: The natural way

A warning: As the heading suggests, the following post is about miscarriage. I’m going to mention blood. Like, a lot. If you’re pregnant or trying to fall pregnant or squeamish or if you simply don’t really want to know, please skip this post (and the next one).
from here
The “expectant” option is a tough and especially lonely one, particularly in the case of a missed miscarriage. The waiting is the first challenge; it may be weeks after diagnosis that the actual miscarriage begins. By that stage the condolences and meals and flowers have stopped pouring in and friends and family have started to move on. Even the father of the baby is protected from the details. He may glimpse some bloodied clothes soaking in the laundry and do his best to understand, but he can only imagine. It’s the woman who must watch on in horror as her body, acting without her control or permission, does its thing, and repeatedly mop up the mess it makes.

Let me take you through 5 selfies from my first miscarriage...

This first one is of me watching clots and fresh blood arriving with a horrified kind of fascination, wondering how much more there can possibly be and hoping it will all start settling down tomorrow. I have been bleeding for approximately 3 days at this point (after the initial spots over a week ago); there is obviously an optimist hiding in me somewhere.

This next shot is me realising that the bleeding has started for real. As you can see, I’m standing in a shopping centre, frozen in panic. Moments earlier I’d sat drinking an iced chocolate, chatting to my mum on the phone and enjoying the rare opportunity for uninterrupted conversation and the consumption of a drink containing so many calories. Standing up, though, seems to have knocked over a precariously-balanced bucket inside of me, the contents of which have overpowered my inadequate Libra barrier and are now running down my legs. I decide to race for the travelator to get to my car, convinced that the back of my pants are blood-soaked and that everyone around me can see exactly what’s happening, and I speed home, propped up on a folded picnic blanket to protect the car seat from stains.

This picture is of me lying on my bed, a couple of hours after arriving home from the shops. Breathing through labour pains, knowing you’ll give birth into the toilet rather than the expectant arms of a midwife, plumbs the deepest depths of the word sucky. My vocabulary runs out after that; I have no distressing-enough word to describe actuallygiving birth into the toilet, or, worse still, the moment you realise you then have to press the flush button, washing it all away as if disposing of nothing more than a dead goldfish. I don't have a picture of me sobbing over the sink after that, crying hard enough to burst blood vessels.

This picture is of me, about a month later, responding (perhaps snappily) to a midwife at the hospital who’d just assured me that yes, it sounded like that amount of blood is normal for a miscarriage, and then repeated the usual spiel about watching out for signs of infection and coming straight in if I was concerned about the amount of blood I was losing, blah blah blah. “Obviously I’m not the best judge,” I’m saying, “Because I’m already concerned with the amount of blood I’ve lost. I did not realise I had so much of this stuff to spare. I. can’t. handle. this. much. blood.” She makes some sympathetic noises and sends me for my second ultrasound to check where the process is up to.

This one’s taken an hour or so after that conversation, and is a shot of my face falling as I realise that the sonographer who’ll be conducting the internal ultrasound is male. He finds a female chaperone, and then, when I’m ready, he asks if I’m allergic to latex and rolls a condom down the ultrasound rod. He seems to be squirming just as much as I am, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from throwing my arm over my eyes and groaning loudly at the new lows this whole miscarriage thing keeps taking me to. I don’t know whether to burst into hysterical giggles or tears. After the scan, he tells me a little too cheerfully that there’s still some remaining “product,” and so he’s going to call it an “Almost complete miscarriage,” which translates into Pessimist Speak as, “Your horrible ordeal is not yet over. There will be more blood.” I get dressed and go hug a Max Brenner hot chocolate for a while before heading home.

This last one is of me at the end of November, realising that the bleeding has stopped for good and that the miscarriage is finally over. It’s been two months since we found out the baby’s heart had stopped, and I have been bleeding profusely (the kind of bleeding that has you constantly stressed that you’re a gush away from public humiliation [men, and women who have always had light periods, you have no idea]) for the better part of that time. You may notice that I look profoundly relieved.


I wanted to add a little note to explain that although it may be clear from these pictures that I didn’t particularly enjoy this process, in the same circumstances I’d make the same “expectant management” decision again. I didn’t even start trying to figure out the logistics of pumping (at least?) a couple of days’ worth of breast milk for my son, and the thought of having to wean him suddenly so that I could have a D & C added heartache at an already fragile time. As Robert McAllister says in an episode of Brothers and Sisters (I’m paraphrasing here), “Sometimes it's not a choice between a good and a bad situation, it’s a choice between a bad and a worse one.” You know what I mean? If not, it’s quite possible I’ve been brainwashed after watching that show obsessively every evening for the last week or so...


  1. Wow. The part about giving birth into the toilet is just awful. I am so sorry :( I wish I could give your past self a big hug!

  2. Tears and hugs and thank you for sharing your story.