At the beginning of this year I had a missed miscarriage at about the 14-15 week mark. A missed miscarriage is also known as a silent miscarriage. It occurs when a fetus dies, but the body does not recognize the pregnancy loss or expel the pregnancy tissue. I had already seen my little baby’s heart beating on the monitor at 10 weeks at my doctor’s office; had 3 full-term healthy and happy babies, all delivered naturally so there was no real alarm for the doctor’s to see me any earlier than what was already scheduled. They sent me off with a print of the ultrasound photo with a little peanut in the center of photo like all the ones I had received before.
I would return at 15 weeks to hear my baby’s heart beating. That day I remember it vividly. I had my two boys, my 18-month old and 3-year old, along with me. I laid down on the bed and waited for the doctor as she moved the fetal heart doppler around my tummy. It felt like hours as she was searching around, up and down. She smiled and said “I can hear it swishing around so it’s moving a lot” but still no heart beat. My 3-year old had been jumping up and down and whispering to me that he needed to use the potty. The doctor said she would transfer us to the ultrasound room to take a closer look. So we picked up our things and headed down the hall. I told my son to wait. My 18-month old trotted behind us.
I laid down and the doctor quickly turned on the monitor and started searching across my belly. She was quiet as she studied the images on the monitor and then abruptly said she would be right back. She came back with the other doctor, who was newer to the group of doctors I regularly saw, and had her look at the live ultrasound images. “Yep,” as she shook her head and said, “It’s not there,” and she pointed to where the heart would be beating. Just as quickly as she came, she left and I turned to my doctor as she sighed and apologized.
It looks like the heart had stopped beating at some point. It looks smaller than it should be by at least a week. She’s not sure what happened, but it happens.
And just like that my son started to jump again and said he had to go. I excused myself and took him across the hall to the bathroom as tears streamed down my cheek. My 18-month old screamed and cried as I left the ultrasound room. The doctor said she would have the nurse help watch him for that moment as I left. I came back to my other son after we finished using the bathroom, he had large tears in his big eyes, streaming down his cheek and was screaming profusely, confused about what just happened. I held him close to my chest and rocked him back and forth as we both cried. So many questions ran through my head, but this was not the first time it happened so I knew what the next step would be. I had a miscarriage at about 7-8 weeks before I had both of my sons. This time, I was too far along for it to even have happened.
We agreed it would be best to do a second ultrasound at the hospital before we decided to do anything. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe the baby was just turned the other way so we couldn’t see or hear it. The doctor scheduled me to be seen the next morning.
When my two boys and I got home, I promptly called my husband from the bedroom. There is no heart beat. They couldn’t see or hear it. It’s gone. He could barely understand my broken sentences between all the crying. Clearly I was distraught, clearly, I had distraught him too. He does not like it when I am unhappy or sad. It affects him greatly. He said he would be home soon and not to worry and to stop crying. After I hung up I laid down and slept for the rest of the day. My two boys climbed up onto the bed as if they knew it was time for their nap too.
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The next morning we dropped the kids off at a relatives house, while my daughter went to school and headed to the hospital. The ultrasound technician saw us right away. She took all the measurements she needed and saved several clips of the images. And then like a protocol she called for the doctor to come in and redo the process all over again. As my husband and I both listened, the doctor confirmed what my own doctor had told me the day before. He said he would call my doctor to give her an update and that I could talk to her over the phone afterward. It was over. Tears streamed down my eyes. “Why had my body not actually dispose of it yet?” I asked.
He replied, “Sometimes it takes the body time to realize that the fetus is no longer growing, then it will detach itself. It could take days or weeks.” But they would not recommend it at this stage. I was already in my 2nd trimester. This shouldn’t have happened even though it did.
Try not to back track to the day to figure out what you were doing or how you were feeling. Sometimes it just happens. You could have been running a marathon, you could have been laying it bed. It’s like my doctor had been reading my mind as she talked to me over the phone. I thought about what I had been doing the past few weeks early that year. How much stress I had been under. How much had been going on personally that had caused me to be in so much emotional pain and anger. I thought about the hundred times I picked up my son, who was pretty big and strong for being 18-months old. I thought about the time I slipped on ice as I walked up the steps to my sisters house only to catch myself as my knee fell onto the ice. I thought about the time I lifted boxes and whatever else needed my attention that day as a working mom of three. Then I thought about the day my chin and outer mouth area suddenly flared up with acne. It was so bad that it scarred me for weeks and I had wanted to take a knife and scrape it across my chin. There was no one to blame but me.
It was a Friday, so they scheduled me for a D&C surgery at the hospital that Monday. I would have the weekend to wait and see what might happen, if anything.
Since I am Hmong, my husband headed out over the weekend to the farm to buy some fresh organic chickens. We would need at least 20 to last me for at least 3 weeks. The recommended time my mother instructed him that I eat only chicken soup for breakfast lunch and dinner after the surgery.
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That Monday we dropped off the kids again and headed to the hospital. I had been instructed to not eat or drink anything since Sunday evening. I had been instructed to take a bath or shower using an antibacterial soap. My husband waited with me since I would not be able to drive myself back home after the surgery. It would be no more than 1-2 hours. I laid on the bed where they would prep me for surgery. A nurse came in to help me change into a hospital gown and start an IV on my left arm. A volunteer from the hospital came in and asked to pray for me. I thanked her afterward and finally my husband was allowed to come in and see me before the surgery.
I did not want him to see me this way, I had an old hospital gown on and a clear plastic cap over my head to hold my long and thick black hair. I had those plastic mats wrapped around my legs to prevent me from having blood clots during surgery. I had no makeup on, puffy eyes from crying all weekend, and a sadness that was too overwhelming to cover up with anything. He held my hand and said “It’s ok, we will try again.”
Of course, we would try again, but would it make up for this one? I had so much hope and dreams, for each and every single one! My daughter was so excited she had already told her kindergarten teacher that her mommy was pregnant!
My doctor came in. She was one of the women at the practice that I saw in the past. She was the most likable and memorable of the 4. If there was any one I trusted, it was her. We talked about how she had delivered my first son and had been scheduled to deliver my second son, but I actually ended up delivering in triage where they were still in the process of admitting me into the natural birthing center at the hospital. I remembered she came in 10 minutes after I had delivered my son and I apologized to her and told her I just couldn’t wait. My baby could not wait, he arrived so quickly that she had no time to get there. We both laughed. She had a smile beaming on her face back then, as did I that day I had my son and said she was just glad I was ok and that we made it to the hospital.
On this occasion, however, it was a sad one upon her arrival. She sighed as she looked at me and said I’m sorry. I bursted into tears. Only about 1% of pregnant women experience this in their 2nd trimester. This shouldn’t have happened. We were all in disbelief. They rolled me away in the hospital bed into the surgery room.
When I woke up after the surgery my mouth was dry and my stomach was empty. I could feel it had gone down significantly and where there once was a bump, I was hallow. I was completely relaxed probably from the medication that they had given me which had not worn off yet. In that moment, to my very own surprise, I was completely relieved. This was finally over.
I could feel a pile of wetness underneath me. I hated sitting on it and I asked the nurse who had been monitoring me to please remove it and replace it with a new one. She was surprised I had awoken and that I was able to lift my hip up so that she could change the sheet beneath me. I was eager to get out of there. To see my children at home. To take a hot shower. To sleep in the comfort of my bed. I asked to see my husband.
The doctor had left already, but she had spoken to my husband before I had woken up. Everything went great. They sent the tissue off for testing. Results would come back in 2 weeks. I was scheduled to see her in the office at that time.
During the days and weeks after surgery, I had a hard time coping with normalcy though my life had seem to go back to normal. No more pregnancy symptoms or being extra careful when liting, exercising or do anything normal at all. I had very little pain, but I was weak inside. I was still bleeding. I didn’t enjoy taking my medication. It made me cramp like I was going to die and was suppose to help with my uterus contracting back to it’s normal size. Maybe my son wasn’t ready to be an older brother yet. He was still waking up at night crying some nights for no apparent reason. I became angry at myself. Some days I laid in bed crying not wanting to interact with my husband or children. Thank God my husband just let me be. After you have a baby, they always tell you to be prepared for postpartum depression because it is very real for so many women. But no one talks about the depression post-miscarriage. Had it not been for my husband, I would have not been able to get through this dark time in my life. We talked about why I was so upset. Why was I crying? I finally took the time to slow down and hug my children closer. There was no time to dwell on the past. I had to live for my three little children. They needed my attention the most. I calmly explained to my 6-year old daughter that the baby was no longer there. Maybe one day we would have another one, but it would take time.
Two weeks later the results had come in. Nothing extraordinary. Nothing out of the ordinary. Everything was normal. It was a boy.
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When I had my two sons, I remember I would break out with acne all over my face, mainly my chin and outer mouth area. No amount of concealer could cover it up, though I did try my best. It didn’t matter what I ate, what I didn’t eat, how much I slept, changed my pillow covers, change the facial soap I was using. Using moisturizer, not using anything at all. Most days I was bare faced. I came to accept that the extra hormones from carrying boys caused me to flare up since I tended to flare up around the time I was menstruating. Hormonal acne. Nothing you can do about it.
Though I don’t know what happened to cause the miscarriage. I will remember the experience that came of it. It brought me closer to my husband, to the friends and family who were there to emotionally support us during that time. I remember the wonderful staff at the hospital during my second ultrasound and before the surgery, and my doctors who were so sincere and thoughtful and patient as they explained every viable option and scenario to me. It made my situation better, more bearable. I know that I wasn’t alone in this. I had my children, whom I look at every day in wonder and think how lucky I am to have them, and how precious life really is. How fragile my babies can be, how in an instant they could be taken away. All the more to appreciate and to be thankful for what I already have.
If you had a miscarriage, I hope that by sharing my story with you, it brings some hope into your life to know that you do not experience this alone. After talking to so many women, friends and family, I know that we are not alone in this. It is a natural part of life that most women experience. We just don’t talk about it much. It’s such a tragic and traumatizing thing that we have to face in life, but we are never alone. I know that everything happens for a reason.