Monday, October 20, 2014

My First Miscarriage

This is a hard post--both to write and to read. If you are not ready to get very real, or if you do not wish to read unflinching descriptions of what a woman's body goes through during a miscarriage, then please read this short synopsis below.
I found out I was pregnant a few days after we closed on our house. It was a complicated pregnancy from the beginning, and we had one miscarriage scare right away. Despite all of this, our ultrasounds showed a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat. At about 11 weeks the cramping began at 2:00 a.m. By 6:00 a.m., and after a visit to the ER, we had lost our baby. I miscarried at home, and it was the most emotionally and physically painful experience of my life. I will always be left with questions and grief, but I will always believe that the Lord is good and that He has a family planned for us, though it already looks different than we wanted for ourselves. 
This is the short version. The back of the book. What will follow is a very long post, but I personally think it reads rather quickly. I wrote this account the same weekend that I miscarried. None of this is dramatized or invented. It was my own personal version of therapy. It's already turned into one, large, painful blur, and having this account is so helpful. I didn't write it to remind myself of all of pain, but rather to remind myself of what I came through. That woman go through this experience every day (more woman than we ever know), and that remembering what happened to me can help me better share with those who went through it last month, last week, or last night.

Again, what follows is what some would consider graphic. It is not written for shock value; rather, it is written to provide reality, both the physical reality of a miscarriage, and what was, for me, an emotional reality. A reality that is, unfortunately, too rarely laid bare for others to see.


Difficult Beginnings

When the bleeding first started on June 5, it was just some light brown spots in my underwear. I didn't think too much of it because I’d always read that some light spotting in the beginning was completely normal.

Then one Sunday morning I got out of bed and suddenly I felt a rush of fluid coming out of me. I ran to the bathroom to discover that it was bright red blood. A lot of it. Terrified, I sat there on the toilet, not knowing what to do or who to call. Levi was still asleep, and I didn't want to wake him up for some reason. I cleaned everything up, washed the blood out of my underwear, and put a large wad of toilet paper in my underwear—like a lot of women, I didn't even have a pad in the house, but I had read somewhere that you’re not supposed to wear tampons when you’re pregnant.

I climbed back into bed and stared at the ceiling for a bit. My midwife wouldn't be back in her office until Tuesday, and our first appointment was three weeks away. Since this was our first baby and I was going from a friend’s recommendation, I hadn't even met her yet. Was I really going to try and call her?

Levi woke up then, and I told him what happened. Being as new to all this as me, he wasn't sure what to do either. I told him what I’d read about miscarriages—that once they’re starting there’s no stopping them. If that’s what was happening, then I had no way to prevent it.

We went ahead and attended church that morning, and I checked myself with frequent dashes to the bathroom. Never before had I felt so anxious about the quantity and quality of the blood coming out of me. Things were slowing down to some large, regular spots of dark brown blood. After regrouping with Levi at home, we decided to call the midwife’s office on Monday. We also decided to tell Levi’s parents, who didn't even know yet. We wanted them to know in case the worst was happening.

Work on Monday was difficult, to say the least. As a receptionist, I was constantly answering phone calls and greeting clients who walked in our salon, but at the same time, I was impatiently awaiting the midwife or her nurse to return the call I’d made first thing that morning. I’d already had a few missed calls from them because I couldn't answer my phone outside of the break room.

When I finally got in touch with the nurse, I told her what was going on. She recommended coming in later that day or on Tuesday, when the midwife would be in. I chose Tuesday, mostly because I wanted to meet the midwife. Since the office is almost a full hour away, I had to take the next day off of work for this appointment. I had my first breakdown that day on the way home from work. We’re talking full on, messy sobbing. What triggered it? Having to buy pads from Walgreens and a sappy story on Christian radio. Instant. Mess.

Premature Grief

When I met the midwife, she was wonderful. Calm and soothing and knowledgeable. She helped me calm down a lot, and she told me about miscarriages. She didn't attempt to make me feel better about the whole thing, but she simply said that it was pretty common and that I wasn't alone. I was healthy. I hadn't done anything wrong. They were going to take my blood two days apart and test my pregnancy hormones to see if they were increasing. If not, then we’d lost the tiny, 6-week baby.

That evening when I went to the bathroom I felt that rushing sensation again. When I wiped, I brought a large, gummy blob out. I sat there staring at it, devastated. I called for Levi and showed him the blob.  I called the midwife the next day to let her know what had happened. She finally got back to me at the end of the day, and she didn't have good news. She said that based on what was happening to me, she could be fairly certain that we’d lost our baby. We’d still do the testing the next day, but it was mostly just to make sure right now since I still wasn't far enough along for an ultrasound.

That evening, we made the tough decision, and we called our family and told them we’d likely had a miscarriage. It was so hard, and it was made harder because most of them hadn't even known that we were pregnant yet. On the way to the midwife’s office on Thursday, I called my pregnant friend to offer her congratulations and tell her we’d had a miscarriage. I had my blood drawn, and I went home to crawl into bed.

Friday began in a haze. I was distraught, but I was being professional at work. It hadn't even occurred to me to take the day off. My phone had rung a few times in the back, but I just couldn't get to it in time. Finally, my co-workers, anxious for me, convinced me to keep it with me so I could answer it the next time it rang. When it finally did ring, I ran out the back door to hear the worst news. Instead, the words, “Your hormone levels have gone up,” were ringing in my ears.

“What?” I whispered into the phone.

“You’re still pregnant,” said Anne.

You’re still pregnant. We hadn't lost our precious little baby after all! Tears began to stream down my face as I thanked her profusely. Since I already had an appointment scheduled for what should be 8 weeks, I went straight from talking to Anne to calling Levi. He was just as shocked as me. My mother was equally shocked, albeit concerned for my bleeding.

Still Pregnant

That night was a whirlwind of telling people the good news and apologizing for prematurely scaring them. I was still spotting heavy, dark brown stuff, but I was still going to have this baby. Nothing could touch me.

Two weeks went by and that feeling wore off. Thankfully, I hadn't had any morning sickness, but the spotting was as constant as ever. I was definitely getting tired of it.

Then one morning at work the spotting started gushing bright red again. I almost broke down with terror, but I stayed as calm as I could while calling the midwife’s office. They said they would talk to an OB there and get back to me as soon as they could. I went home after that and fell into bed, sobbing, knowing again that something was wrong.

When I finally got a call, they wanted me to come in for an ultrasound. In an hour. Levi rushed home from work and we flew to the doctor’s office, barely making it before the cut off for late patients. I got into that ultrasound room, and settled in for my first transvaginal ultrasound—a most uncomfortable experience.

Then I saw them. Pictures of a little peanut-shaped thing floating inside a perfectly round bubble. The techs started labeling things like “yolk sac.” Then they showed me the one they’d labeled “baby.” It was our baby. It had a healthy heartbeat. It was totally fine. Levi drove a much calmer me home. I’d been given a CD with our pictures, and I showed them to Levi at home. When our parents visited, I showed them the pictures, too. Everyone was excited.

At my 8-week appointment, we got to see our baby again. The heartbeat was still strong, and the baby was just a bit of a blob on the screen—to get a full picture they’d need to do another trans-vaginal, which I did not want to do again. Levi was finally excited, and he and I both looked at each other in amazement as we listened to that tiny, little throbbing sound that was our child’s heartbeat.

The midwife explained to me that I had something called a subchorionic bleed. It was pretty common—about 1 in 5 women get it, though most don’t have spotting as long as I had mine—and it didn't affect the health of the baby at all. It would go away with time, and I was free to call her or come in with any questions or concerns. We went home feeling lighter than we had in weeks. Finally, we had proof that our baby was healthy, that I was going to be ok, and that this little gift would stay healthy.

The next week, I was finally ready to tell people. We gave our parents the go-ahead to start spreading the news.  Then we put it on Facebook. Then we started talking openly with people about it at work and church. It was official. We were the newest pregnant couple, and beaming because of it.

The Last 48 Hours

The next Friday, I was at work, and my hormones were out of control. Completely out of control. I actually confronted a co-worker about her method of doing laundry, which I felt was totally wrong and a personal attack on me. I even started to sob in front of her. Then I couldn't stop sobbing. Then I knew I needed to go home and chill out. I thought my hormones had been bad before, but this was the worst episode I’d had. I kept crying, all the while despairing that pregnancy was going to turn me into a raving lunatic instead of the calm and rational woman I knew myself to be.

That evening, Levi and I went about our business—picking raspberries from a co-worker’s garden, doing laundry, playing some computer games and bass. I’d decided that evening was going to be a junk food night. I needed it after the messy emotional breakdown. I’d had enough difficulty with everything else that day, so it was time for our special brand of junk food—jalapeno poppers, chips and dip, and fruity, sugary cereal.

I wasn't surprised when my stomach started to hurt. I hadn't abused it this badly in a long time. I felt the slow, internal pressure that meant gas buildup. . . . Only, it didn't eventually release itself. By the time I was sitting upstairs watching Levi play bass and our kitten play with his tail, I realized that I was feeling cramps. Now, I know cramps. Before I went on birth control, I’d have cramps bad enough to make me throw up. These were very faint, but I knew what I was feeling.

Uneasily, I told Levi that I was headed downstairs to climb into bed. My stomach hurt, and it felt like cramps, but it might just be really bad gas. I already knew what I was feeling, but I was hoping against hope that it would turn out to be the weirdest gas I’d ever had.

My stomach rebelled for the first time that night around 9:00. It was pretty painful, and I was hoping for relief, but it only made the cramping more noticeable. Also, I noticed that the blood coming out of me was red-brown now. I fought against the sinking feeling in my stomach.

We got into bed, laughed for awhile at our kitten’s insane antics, and then fell asleep.

I woke up around 1:30 that morning. The cramping feeling was stronger, and my body emptied itself of all waste—again. There wasn't much left. But now the cramping was more than noticeable. And the blood was red.

I woke Levi up as I crawled back into bed, and I told him what was happening. I thought I’d try to wait until the morning to see if everything was still happening, and if it was we’d go to the hospital. Then I couldn't go to sleep. My mind was racing with the possibilities—all terrible.

And then I had my first contraction. It was a small one, but since it was the first contraction I’d ever had, it didn't feel small. It hurt. And it scared me. I told Levi that that was most definitely not a normal cramp, and we better go to the hospital. Now.

As I got dressed, I felt a strange resignation. Not the fear or the anxiety I’d felt before. Somehow, now that I knew for sure what was happening, I was no longer terrified. I was simply numb, which covered up the creeping heartbreak.

We drove to the hospital, and I had another contraction in the car. It had been about 15 minutes since my first one. I was already having trouble walking normally, and Levi had to slow down a lot to keep pace with me. We were admitted to the ER, and a nurse took down all of my information in a hospital room. Then she left to go find the doctor. We sat on two metal chairs, feeling very small and alone.

The doctor arrived and had me sit on the bed in the room. He asked me a lot of questions, and then he said we’d need to do a number of tests and exams. They’d do a physical exam, draw my blood, and do an ultrasound.  First was the physical exam. It didn't give him any conclusive information, so he said they’d have to wait on the ultrasound to know for sure what was going on with me. We were to wait in a hospital room again until the ultrasound tech came to get us.

By this time it was just after 2:00. I called my mom and told her where we were and what was happening. I promised to call her back when we knew something. My bleeding had increased even more, and I was doing all I could to keep myself still and calm. We waited for who knows how long, and then a woman knocked on the door and rolled a wheelchair into our room. I thought the wheelchair was a bit much, but I climbed in anyway, and she wheeled us down to the radiology department.

As she began the ultrasound, the pressure of the device took away the worst of my cramping, and I watched the screen for a sign of something…anything. Whatever she was seeing was a mystery to me. And then she said we’d need to go ahead and do a transvaginal ultrasound to get a better look at everything. When that began, she turned the screen away from us. Measured a few items and clicked a few buttons.

“Now, you say you’re at 11 weeks right now?”

“Yes, and that’s by ultrasound and not by dates.”

“Ok. Well, I’m sorry to let you know that your baby measures at nine weeks. And there is no longer a heartbeat.”

She explained a few things after that—that our baby had died almost two weeks earlier and that the gestational sac was at 11 weeks but misshapen and that the baby had already begun to break down—but all I could hear were the words, “There is no longer a heartbeat.”

She gently asked if we wanted to see the screen. I nodded, unable to speak. She turned the screen toward us, and I was looking at a sac shaped like an hourglass with a blob on the right side. She explained that the blob was our baby, and she showed us where the head had been and where the bottom had been. She explained that the baby was floating down by the cervix, and not where it was supposed to be. Then she said she’d give us a minute and to take all the time we needed before we came back out of the room.

Levi leaned down over the bed to embrace me as tears fell down my cheeks. It was over. Our baby was gone. What were we going to do now? Then I remembered that it wasn't over yet. We knew the result, but we still needed my body to deal with it. I dressed, and we hugged for a while longer. Then we left the room, wiping the tears from our eyes. This time the wheelchair wasn't too much. I didn't feel like thinking about anything, and that included walking.

Back in our hospital room, the doctor arrived and confirmed the news. He told us that they’d send us home and that the bleeding and cramping would likely get worse before it got better. That it might last for another day or two. That it was ok to take ibuprofen now because we were no longer worried about harming a baby. They drew my blood, and then they sent us out the door with our doctor’s orders. We were going to have a natural miscarriage at home. I had no idea what I was about to go through, nor had I ever read about what was in store for me over the next two hours.

Suddenly, the act of walking was very difficult. I felt lightheaded, and the contractions were starting to come more quickly. It seemed like I was getting one every two or three minutes. At the discharge desk, the lady started confirming our information, and I found that talking to her was beginning to take enormous effort. She asked for my employment information, and I actually had to pause for a long time before I could get the words out. She just kept going and going, and then finally she was sliding a clipboard over to me to sign and initial over and over again. My hand trembled and a massive wave of nausea swept over me.

I was relieved to escape her desk, but then I began to panic because I could barely walk. The last thing I wanted to do was throw up all over the front lobby. I told Levi that I felt like I was either going to faint or throw up, and he got me outside and onto a bench as quickly as I could hobble there.

Then I began to retch onto the pavestones. Nothing was actually coming out of me except my saliva, but I couldn't stop for a few minutes, terrified all the time that someone was going to come by and see me like this. Finally, I stopped gagging, and I told Levi he’d better hurry and get the car. As he jogged off to bring the car around, I sat on the bench, wondering how much worse things could get. 

When the car pulled up, I climbed in and sat, gasping, in the passenger seat. My contractions were definitely coming more quickly now, and they were getting stronger. Strong enough that I could no longer stay silent through them, and small hisses were beginning to come out of me. I finally realized why driving a laboring woman around in a car is a most unpleasant experience for all involved.

When we got home, I asked Levi for some ibuprofen, and then I asked him if he’d lay a towel down on the bed for me. My contractions were beginning to come less than a minute apart, and I was starting to whimper out loud through them. Levi gave me my body pillow, and I hunched over onto my side, wrapping myself around the pillow as contraction after contraction rippled through my body. It was 4:15 a.m.

I hesitate to describe the next hour and a half because one, it’s almost impossible to put into words, and two, it’s going to be hard to read. Suffice to say, my body was going through a genuine labor, and that tiny ibuprofen might as well have been a tic tac. The passage of time didn't register to me. I could no longer do any sort of counting between contractions, for the “between” part of contractions ceased. I simply existed in a state of misery, fluctuating between intense pain that caused me to whimper and huge peaks of literal, gut-wrenching agony that caused inhuman sounds to come out of me.

Levi closed the windows so the neighbors wouldn't call the police. He kept the cat away. He encouraged me and told me that I was doing a good job. I kicked the covers off of me. Then pulled them back. Then kicked them off again. I alternated between burning up and freezing cold. I know I looked up at Levi and cried, “I don’t want to do this! It’s all so pointless!” That’s about the extent of what I remember during that time.

If you know about labor, you’ll know that there are different stages a woman goes through. I was aware enough through my pain to understand what was happening to me, but I didn't realize until I hit the transition stage (the constant pain with the worst peaks) that that’s what was happening to me. Later, I would read that some women have miscarriages that actually do include real labor, and that though the labor is shorter than the labor of a woman birthing a full-term baby, it feels almost physically the same. Most women described their miscarriage labor as harder, though, since the excitement and anticipation of a baby at the end was gone.

I felt no excitement. No anticipation. I was no longer numb. I was simply terrified. I was ashamed at my inability to control myself during the process, and at my body’s inability to carry this baby to term. I felt hopeless, and I couldn't stop thinking about the futility of the situation. The horror of going through true labor for nothing. For nothing.

I’m not sure how long my body put me through that pain. Levi had fallen asleep sitting up in the living room, attempting to give me some privacy and to let me go through what I was going through. Even if I had known then what I needed from him there was no way I would have had enough time to tell him. I barely had enough time to gasp a deep, painful breath before the next massive contraction revved back up.

At some point the contractions began to happen farther apart, and finally there were 15 to 30 seconds of pain-free time between each one. By this point I was so exhausted that I would almost drift to sleep in those blissful seconds, before gripping my pillow and moaning while my legs kicked of their own accord—like I was pedaling a bicycle. The peaks of each contraction began to lessen as the length and strength decreased at the same time. Soon I was falling asleep and waking up every now and then to a contraction that no longer caused me to cry out. I was back to whimpering.

Somehow, I found myself waking up without a contraction. I realized I’d been asleep and that my body was no longer in any pain. Until that moment I had never fully appreciated the absence of pain. Not even after a two-day migraine. As I lay there, my foggy brain realized that my body must be done doing its work to expel our baby and the other “products of conception,” as medical professionals call it. I rolled off the side of the bed toward the bathroom and stood up.

I instantly realized my mistake. A massive gushing feeling came over me, and I now count myself blessed that the bathroom was a mere ten feet away from my side of the bed. I half ran and half stumbled, frantically pulling at my underwear before I finally managed to sit on the toilet. A sickening sound occurred, like pouring a thick, chunky stew down the toilet. I felt something running down my legs, and I reached up a shaky hand to turn on the bathroom light.

I was sitting on a scene straight out of a horror movie. Splashes of blood surrounded the toilet, while streams ran down my legs and the lip of the toilet seat. I looked down into the toilet, knowing that somewhere down there must be our baby, but all I could see through the nearly opaque redness was a large, darker mass. I sat there for a moment, wondering what to do, and if I would be a horrible mother if I didn't try to retrieve our child. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. All I felt was a desperation to be finally done from this experience. Our beautiful child had so far only ever existed in my mind, and that was where it would stay.

I called to Levi, and he stumbled sleepily into the bathroom. His eyes widened in shock at the scene before him as I calmly asked him for a damp washrag so I could clean myself off. After cleaning myself, I looked helplessly at the mess in the bathroom, and Levi told me not to worry about it. He’d clean it up, and I should just get myself wrapped up and in bed. I asked Levi if it was OK for me to flush the toilet—he knew what was in it. He nodded at me sadly, and I flushed our first baby’s remains away. 

I got dressed and crawled into bed, futilely trying to straighten the mess I’d made of the covers. It was 6:00 a.m. and I was still exhausted. Levi crawled into bed with me, holding me closely while we both drifted off to sleep. For the rest of the day, we called and informed family and friends of our sad news, napped, and attempted to relax. I was subdued, but at that point all I could think about was how glad I was that the pain was over. Moments of sadness would grip me, but I felt strange that I wasn’t distraught. It was something more like emptiness. Life was still the same, and the hours ticked by just like they had before, but this time I was curiously empty.

The next day we decided to go to church, which was the best decision I could have made. I am the type who needs people to press in close during personal pain, and the outpouring of support was so wonderful. When we got home we spent the afternoon in bed again, resting and napping. Late that afternoon I felt a curious pressure and when I was on the toilet, I reached inside me to see if something was there. I didn't feel anything, but I must have loosened something up, because suddenly my toilet paper had caught a very large mass falling out of me. I examined it with a strangely detached curiosity and decided it must be my placenta. I’d attended a live birth before, and it looked like that only much smaller. I wrapped it up and held it for a brief moment. Then I flushed it down the toilet as well. Though I never got to hold my baby, holding the part of me that had nourished him or her for nine weeks was soothing in some strange way.

The real recovery is what begins now, and will continue for a long time. The grief will always be present, and no future child that we are able to bring into the world will replace this loss. They will be a joy and an amazing blessing, but there will always be questions in my mind: What would he have been like? Would she have loved nature and music like her parents? Would he have been outgoing and dramatic like his mom or would she have been reserved and soft-spoken like her dad? The heartache is knowing that I’ll never know, but I’ll always wonder. And that’s not a bad thing. The Lord doesn’t have answers for us when it comes to these things in life. He just asks us to believe that He’s good and that He has only good things for us in life. I have faith in Him despite my questions, and I’ll be waiting until my last moments on earth to find out the answers.


If you've made it to this point, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read all of that. I would love to hear your own stories, if you have them, and may I offer my deepest sympathies if you do. If you don't feel comfortable sharing them via the comments section, you can always e-mail me. The address is found in the "Contact" section.

I promise the next post won't be so terribly sad.


Keep it super real,


  1. Oh Mary Beth and Levi, I'm so sorry for you loss. You are generous to post this story; I know many families will be moved by your honesty - I most definitely am.

  2. I had no idea! I am shocked and apologetic for your loss. You are such a strong woman! I barely made it through, it became hard to read through the tears. I am not really sure what to say...hang in there? No that sounds so cliche. I know God has control of your life and I am so glad that you are able to take even this horrible experience in stride. Jeremiah 29:11!