44 Days With Blueberry

It never occurred to me, when I got pregnant for the first time, that I wouldn’t have control over the outcome of my pregnancy. I know that seems obtuse, especially with all the challenges I face as a 36-year-old first-time mother, but I honestly and arrogantly thought that if this pregnancy was prematurely terminated, my husband and I would be the ones making that decision. After all, I am the “decider” of my life (thank you, George W., for that apt term): an amazingly-lucky, 21st-century American female who gets to choose her own level of education, career, marital status, birth control and every other detail of my overly-privileged life. I’ve been out of my parents’ house since I was 18 and didn’t get married until I was 34; I’ve been making my own decisions, mostly unhindered by limitation, for a very long time.

I think this mindset is why, at our 8-week ultrasound, finding out our baby (who we began referring to as “Blueberry,” which it grew to about the size of) had stopped growing at 6 weeks and did not have a heartbeat was so shocking. I had been so laser-focused on my pregnancy experience, what healthy choices I could make for myself and the baby, what genetic conditions would cause us to consider abortion – all the pregnancy factors I could control – that it simply never entered my mind that this child could leave us without my permission.

Another shock has been the level of bereavement I feel. I only knew I was pregnant for 34 days before the ultrasound, and to be perfectly honest, I spent most of those days complaining about how awful I felt, what this would mean for my career, my marriage, my budget, my body. I called my mother in tears multiple times, lamenting how long each minute and hour and day had started feeling because I felt so awful. I reached out to friends with multiple children and begged for morning sickness remedies. I bullied my way into my doctor’s office at 6 weeks (she normally doesn’t see anyone before 8 weeks) to discuss my myriad questions and concerns – and to get a prescription for Diclegis, a miracle anti-nausea drug. It seemed a surprisingly-Herculean task to simply wrap my mind around the “simple” reality of being pregnant when this pregnancy was carefully planned and prepared for; I don’t think it should have been such an all-encompassing, scary, painful, dramatic experience. But then the medicine helped me feel human again, and (I now know) my level of pregnancy symptoms was decreasing as the baby stopped growing, so I felt better. And with that regained sense of well-being, I started smiling here and there, imagining its sweet little parts – vocal chords! – that were being knit together inside me, searching Pinterest for nursery ideas, and I was really looking forward to telling everyone about it in a few short weeks. And then, with a wave of the ultrasound wand, it was taken away, and the wake of that moment has brought more sadness than I thought possible.

Logically, I understand why this is so jarring. But emotionally, I am just shocked at the depth of mourning I’ve experienced. I’ve led a very safe life. I live like I snow ski: fast enough to be fun, slow enough not to get hurt. All the big decisions I’ve made in my life have, for the most part, worked out – because I wouldn’t have made them were they not all but a sure thing. Deciding to trust another person enough to marry them was a huge leap of faith because a human is not a controllable factor, and it was scary, but I just had to jump – and it worked out. So then we made ourselves ready, and we jumped together, this time toward parenthood. And it worked out – I got pregnant within three months. It felt remarkably like hurdling down a double black diamond you know is fraught with moguls, but I was navigating each one very slowly, carefully and successfully. And then I was knocked off my skis, and it’s so much sadder and more painful than I expected it would be.

The physical pain of the actual miscarriage process came after all that and honestly has been easier to deal with than the emotional aspect. I did a lot of research on what I could expect at my stage of pregnancy and found mostly horror stories, so I’d like to share a little bit of my experience here for anyone searching for some context on their own situation. If that’s how you found this post, I’m very sorry for your loss. The embryo stopped growing at 6 weeks, and my 2nd, follow-up ultrasound was at 9.5 weeks. We decided to use medication to induce the miscarriage for many reasons: my body was clearly not getting the idea, waiting was emotionally very difficult, my doctor said I wasn’t likely to need a D&C if we went this route, and we could minimize work schedule impact. I would recommend having someone with you at all times just for safety; my mother and sister stayed with me until my husband got home from work.

Without going into too much detail, on Week 10, Day 2 (44 days after learning I was pregnant), I took Misoprostol vaginally (less nausea/gastro side effects than taking it by mouth – very important to me) and Tramadol to control the pain, two pills each every 4 hours. I started the first Misoprostol round at 11:15 a.m. so that hopefully the process would be over in time for bed that night, and looking back, that was a good choice. I took the first 2 Tramadol pills when the light cramping started, about 35 minutes later, and they took about 30 minutes to kick in. The bleeding started at 1 p.m., and the lower abdominal pain was minimal (Thank God for painkillers! There is NO reason to go through this without them). I felt hungry and ate a small lunch at 1:45. Small clots started coming about 3 p.m. The second round of Misoprostol and Tramadol at 3:15 and 3:45 brought slightly heavier bleeding and slightly less pain. Over the next couple of hours, both the bleeding and pain became heavier, and I noticed about 6 p.m. that reading made me a little dizzy, and it was hard to focus on the words – but I didn’t feel “drugged,” just not sharp.¬† At 7 p.m., I had a wave of sweating, nausea and pain that lasted about 15 minutes, and then it all stopped pretty suddenly. I went to the bathroom at 7:30 and passed two large, heavy clots (about 2 inches long) that I believe were the embryo/sac. That process was painless and quick. I went ahead and took the third and fourth round of drugs in case there was more. I had small clots throughout the evening, but my pain level reduced after the two main clots. I had a small dinner but couldn’t eat much. I got very sleepy at about 10 and went to sleep after the last drug round at 11:30. I woke up every hour until 3:30 a.m. for safety, just to check the bleeding level. I then slept several hours at a time until about 10:30 a.m.

That morning, I felt fine until I had half of a chocolate protein drink for breakfast, which started nausea that lasted the entire day. I didn’t eat much and stayed in bed, but there was very little pain. The next day, the nausea was gone, but I had intermittent lower abdominal pain all day. I checked with my doctor, who said all of this was normal; the nausea was likely from the drugs, and the pain was from the uterine activity. She recommended Ibuprofen for the pain, which worked very well, and I set up a follow-up appointment for two weeks later. The third day, I felt good enough to be bored, with lighter, intermittent pain. I slept 10 hours and went to work on day four, and I felt tired and slightly crampy with movement. On day five, I had bleeding and light cramping, but I felt better than I had since I got pregnant. Day six, the bleeding slowed somewhat, and my energy has been shocking. Bleeding continued for two weeks, with very light, intermittent lower belly pain.

The emotional component of recovery has been interesting.¬†Flushing the tissue that would have been our child down the toilet wasn’t hard to do when it was happening, but the emotional aftermath has been hard to deal with. I have actually felt lonely without someone inside of me, which is a feeling I never could have imagined experiencing. Grief has come in unpredictable waves. Work, talking to friends and family, television and the Internet offer distraction, which is helpful. But the only things that make me feel truly better for any length of time are spending time with my husband and planning a ski trip/mental health break. Being with my husband is always something I enjoy, but right now it is a healing balm, and I find myself getting very sad – and sometimes even a bit panicked – when I leave him or he has to work odd hours. I’m not sure why this is, as we’re a fairly independent couple, but I’m told it’s common until the hormones leave your system, and I’m not going to worry about it too much; I know it’s part of my process and will pass. I do, however, love that this experience has drawn us closer, rather than further apart – drawn us into communication and mutual support rather than isolation. I in no way compare this experience to the loss of a born, living child, but I know this general category of experience has a tendency to weaken some relationships, and I’m happy to know we’re not one of them.

The doctor did an ultrasound 12 days after the miscarriage; she said my uterus is empty and declared the process a “success” with no infection and no D&C needed. I’m glad for many reasons that this is the case, but the word “empty” stung a bit. I’ve never had “baby fever,” so I’m constantly surprised by the sadness and, well, emptiness, of this process. I began the pregnancy knowing it was something I wanted but was extremely nervous and unhappy about the physical experience, and that only got worse as my symptoms became more pronounced. Now that I’ve experienced what it’s like to be pregnant, even though it was only for 10 weeks, I think when and if it happens again, I’ll be much more prepared to deal with the physical and emotional experience. Knowing loss, I will be all the more happy next time to see that second pink line appear – and, until I meet the child, much more cautious about considering it a person. So I will plant a blueberry bush in the back yard to remember the short life of our little one, enjoy this time with my husband and puppy, treat my body well until we can try again, close the door on this painful chapter and look forward to whatever lies ahead for our family.Blueberry_1