So what’s a missed miscarriage?
It’s a silent miscarriage, a missed abortion or a non-viable pregnancy. It’s when your body doesn’t recognize that the pregnancy isn’t viable and it also doesn’t expel any of the “pregnancy tissue”. This means your pregnancy hormones continue to increase, leaving you feeling all the feels of being pregnant even though your baby/babies will never be. The average time it takes for a woman to expel the tissue/products of conception (as doctors call it) is usually within 2 to 4 weeks. So after the embryo or fetus stops growing, it can take 2 to 4 weeks for the mother-to-be to actually have a physical miscarriage.
Since the first ultrasound in mid-December when i knew my pregnancy wasn’t “viable”, I’ve wanted to share it and scream it to the world. It’s crazy the amount of people who come out of the wood-work once they find out you’re one of them. Yes, it was reassuring but at the same time very frustrating since I knew so little about missed miscarriage. I had read all the books and countless articles on pregnancy and birthing. I had also been fortunate enough to have family and friends let me in on some very detailed aspects of pregnancy and birthing over the years. Feeling as ready as I’d ever be to experience all of it.
Was I aware of miscarriages? Of course. About 1 in 4 women (or 20%) go through a miscarriage and the bulk are in the first trimester – between 1 and 12 weeks. And since I am 35, I am at a higher risk for miscarriages and that percentage keeps going up with age. I knew all of this but still had no idea what was happening to me or what would happen next since no one had shared details of their missed miscarriage.
I did end-up learning about what a missed miscarriage was through online blogs and through my awesome nurse practitioner (who’s also a life-long friend). Being able to lay in bed at night on my own time, do my own research and learn from other women was the best way for me to learn and cope.
Miscarriages are private and bring heartbreak. I understand and respect the personal choice for most to not talk openly about it but I also know that plenty of women don’t know about missed miscarriages until it happens to them and wished they had a heads up. I was one of them. Hearing about other missed miscarriages might have prepared me a little better for what was to happen.
So I decided to just “bring it up” and I realized that, for the most part, people will join in and talk about miscarriages if you bring it up. Is it sad? Damn right. But it’s also informative, supportive and therapeutic in a way. To know you’re not alone, to know that others have survived and had successful pregnancies after is always encouraging. To also know that others are still trying, battling multiple miscarriages or infertility is eye-opening and I believe an important conversation to have.
How did it all start for us?
We found out we were pregnant in November 2019. What a great surprise! Being in a long distance relationship and only seeing each other once or twice a month, we were just going with flow but we were elated! I did the reveal to my partner through an “early Christmas gift” which was adorable to watch as I know he really wants to be a dad. We only told our parents but we were so excited as this would be both of our family’s first grandchild.
I was feeling the effects of pregnancy – hard!
The migraines, sleepless nights, huge appetite, nausea, body changes and so forth. Everything I did, ate or read was for this baby. I started a list of names, looking at nursery furniture and themes, car seats, the works. (And let’s not forget driving my partner crazy with demands). But I was tracking our baby’s growth with cool apps and looking forward to being a mama – finally!
The First Ultrasound
Early in the pregnancy (usually between 6 and 10 weeks) you’ll go for your first ultrasound where you can see and hear the embryo and the heartbeat and also make sure everything is moving along nicely. The ultrasound is a sonogram. Sound waves bounce off the sac/embryo and send back signals that appear in black and white on the screen, giving an image of what the pregnancy looks like.
I went in for the ultrasound alone initially (this is common). The ultrasound technician explained that she would do the exam, take pictures for the radiologist and then would bring my partner in so we could both see the ultrasound and take a video of the screen/heartbeat if we wanted to. At 6 weeks, the heartbeat can usually be heard in an ultrasound and that’s what I was really excited for! I was 8 weeks pregnant at my first ultrasound.
There Was No Heartbeat
As soon as the exam started, I knew something was wrong since I couldn’t hear a heartbeat and the tech’s face was a little perplexed. I tried to stay calm. The ultrasound tech advised that I was measuring earlier than what my dates stated – about 2.5 weeks earlier. She then performed a vaginal ultrasound to get a closer look and make sure but it showed the same results. She tried to reassure me saying that women miscalculate their dates all the time and it just meant a follow-up ultrasound in 2 weeks. But I knew I wasn’t wrong. I knew then and there, my pregnancy wasn’t “viable” as they call it…
Now the tears are rolling down my face and my partner is being positive but as much as I appreciate his optimism, I knew I was right.
Now the tears are rolling down my face and my partner is being positive but as much as I appreciate his optimism, I knew I was right. Regardless, his presence was huge and I am forever grateful that he stayed that night and held me. When you are going for ultrasounds or appointments – I strongly suggest you bring someone with you (If you can). Whether it’s for moral support or an extra ear to listen or mouth to ask questions – I found this valuable.
The Lingering Hormones
The following two weeks were horrible: I woke up everyday checking if I was bleeding, wondering when it was going to happen. I kept working as if everything was normal but I was a wreck. I was short with my team, forgetting things (even more than just baby brain), stressed out and emotionally and physically burning out.
The doctor ordered that I take weekly blood tests to measure my Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hcg) levels to see if they were going down (which is an almost sure sign of a miscarriage). Hcg hormone is the pregnancy hormone present when an embryo/fetus is growing and it is detected in the blood and urine. This is why we take the home pregnancy (pee) test.
Unfortunately, my hcg levels went up for a couple more weeks. More symptoms as my body believed i was still pregnant. A few hours before my follow-up ultrasound, on NYE, I got the results from my latest blood test showing that my hcg levels were now going down. There was no question at this point, no more optimism. We weren’t having a baby anymore. But there’s more..
The Follow-up Ultrasound
The follow-up ultrasound was a “shitshow” to say the least.
It was new year’s eve and no one wants to be at work that day to begin with – I get it – I didn’t want to be there either. The ultrasound technician thought I was going in for my first ultrasound so I had to explain everything to her. From then on, she didn’t say a word, wouldn’t let me see the screen, wouldn’t let me call my partner during the exam (who was out of town) and didn’t answer me when I asked if my mother could be brought in for the last part of the exam. Of course I didn’t hear a heartbeat but I already knew it was over. I had a non-viable pregnancy.
My mom did come in the room eventually and the radiologist and tech shortly thereafter. The radiologist was very vague and wanted to schedule me for another follow-up ultrasound (stating things similar to what the first radiologist had told me 2 weeks prior). Deja vue moment. I was stoic and I explained that this was my follow-up /confirmation ultrasound and that my hcg levels had started to decline that day, etc.. I asked to see the ultrasound images but they were not having it. We went back and forth until reluctantly, they pulled the images on the screen and what I saw broke my heart.
I Had Lost 2 Babies
My mom gasped and said out loud “Oh Lynn! You’ve always wanted twins“.
Still no tears but I had to argue with the radiologist to snap a picture of the screen with my cell before the screen was shut off. I did get a picture and I’m glad I did, even though it’s blurry. It’s the only reminder I have left of those little angels and I’ll cherish it forever.
But it didn’t end there.. The radiologist doubted there would be any surgeries scheduled and told me I would not want to take any abortion medication since it was NYE. This elderly man (who has never had ovaries or a pregnancy) was telling me what I apparently wanted and left me no options. He proceeded to tell me to go home and schedule an appointment with my Doctor for follow-up after the holidays.
As the door closed behind him, I couldn’t hold the tears anymore. Not one but two babies never made it… but they were still in me. And now what? Go celebrate the New Year? Then go to work? Wait 6 more days to see the doctor/nurse practitioner? I was numb. I broke the news immediately to my partner by sending him the picture. That was a mistake! He thought it meant the pregnancy was viable: “Twins! OMG I had a feeling!” He texted back before I called and clarified through sobs. [Don’t text this kind of news to your partner!!!]
Bring on 2020
I saw my nurse practitioner six long days later. The protocol while at the ultrasound would have been for me to be referred to the gynecologist. From there, the gynecologist would have reviewed my case and explained my options. My nurse practitioner was great and knew this had dragged on long enough. Plus, the longer the products of conception stay in, the higher the risks for infection. At this point I had been knowingly carrying my “non-viable babies” for 3 weeks while still feeling the real effects of being pregnant as although my hcg levels were declining, it was painfully slow.
Also if we do the math, our babies had stopped growing around the 6 weeks mark (as per the measurements from my first ultrasound) which means I had been carrying “dead babies” for just over a month now. I had been advised that the average time is between 2-4 weeks for an actual miscarriage (AKA expelling of the products of conception) to happen after a missed miscarriage. It seemed these little ones-never-to-be were not budging and my body must have loved being “pregnant” … it just wouldn’t go on its own. Still in with the nurse practitioner, she called the on-call gynecologist and explained my case. She scheduled me in the next morning.
The doctor was very nice and after reviewing my cycle history, family health history and other lady parts complications I’ve had over the years, we finally talked about my missed-miscarriage.
What Are The Options When You Have a Missed Miscarriage?
There are 3 options when you have a missed miscarriage : a) Wait it out and hopefully the body would naturally expel the products of conception, b) Prescribe Misoprostol (abortion medication) or c) schedule surgery (called a Dilation & Curettage, also known as a D&C. It’s a day surgery where they dilate the cervix and take the pregnancy tissue out from the uterus). She proceeded to describe each option and also spent 10 minutes explaining the risks of a D&C (like infertility) and the pain of taking Misoprostol on top of a 30% chance that the drug might not work which I would then need the surgery.
I had made up my mind that I wanted a D&C before the appointment. The doctor knew I had been leaning towards the D&C and squeeze me in after her other surgeries the following day. Great! Or was it?
Now my head is spinning and there’s a pit in my stomach and I’m crying as I fill out the pre-surgery waiver forms and leave the office. I appreciate that she’s squeezing me in but I’m scared shitless that the surgery will make me infertile. I’m not normally afraid of doctors or surgery but for some reason I can’t shake the fear that it’ll be my fault if something goes wrong since I chose the surgery without trying other options first.
What Did I Pick?
A couple hours later, I called the gynecologist’s office and decided to cancel the surgery and try the medication at home. I instantly stopped crying and knew I had made the right decision for me. Mentally prepared for the worst but hoping it would be quick. My parents (who lived nearby) came to spend a couple nights as it was recommended that I not be alone during the chemical abortion. I did not want to wait another 4 days till my partner could be there. Although in hindsight I should have waited! [Ladies, if you’re in a relationship with the father-to-be, I highly recommend when possible, that he be there!] I also had a housemate/friend who offered to stay with me but I told her to go to work, she had endured enough of my crying and suffering over the past month. We grew closer through the ordeal, she was a rock for me and I will forever be grateful to her.
Taking the Misoprostol
So the time has come and It’s about 10pm when I insert 8 half pieces of the Misoprostol tablets as far as I can up my vagina. Yup, you read that right, vaginally. Plus they’re tablets… Sticky when wet. Now imagine trying to push a sticky tablet “as high as you can ” with your finger, 8 times in a row! Then it’s recommended that you lay down so I went to bed.
The First Night
About 1.5 hrs later, I was still awake in anticipation and I started cramping. The cramps ramped up to what I knew had to be full on contractions around 1 am. At this point I have about 10-15 seconds between contractions and I can’t get out of bed. I’m squeezing a heating pad [my life saver] and I flipped onto my knees and into a child’s pose. I find a little relief rocking myself back and forth on my hands and knees. I’m laser focused on my breathing and I don’t shed a tear or make any noise. I was in a trance and I never thought of waking up my parents. I was doing this alone. This wasn’t to prove anything, it’s just what I wanted in that moment and I did feel safe knowing they were there if/when I needed them.
Around 2:30am I suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom and managed to get there between contractions. I finally start to really bleed and the first of 5 pieces of the products of conception come out. I’m relieved but in shock. I stayed in the bathroom trembling from shock and pain; rocking myself and continuing the deep breathing through every contraction that almost seems endless.
Still not one tear. I know it’s not over yet and there’s more to come. The bleeding is very heavy at this point and I can feel more about to come out. Without thinking, I reached down and caught a piece before it fell in the toilet. I don’t know why I did it but I kept it and put it on a piece of toilet paper to examine it. It was a squishy grayish-tan coloured glob of flesh covered in blood. It reminded me of what our insides look like at postmortems. My insides, my babies were coming out.
I made it back to my bed after 6 am and managed to get some sleep. Although I was still cramping, the hard contractions were done. “I did it”.
I kept bleeding throughout the day and had very mild cramps but was in a mental fog. The second night I had to take another dose of Misoprostol and survived another 3.5hrs of contractions before getting a little more sleep. My mom stayed up with me the second night, rubbing my back between contractions. What followed was 12 days of bleeding.
Some doctors don’t recommend inserting anything in the vagina for 2 weeks afterwards. (I did cheat after about a week, I used my menstrual cup – I can’t stand pads!) I continued going for weekly blood tests and was scheduled for a follow-up with the gynecologist after the bleeding stopped.
I did not work the week I took the Misoprostol but I did return to work the following week. What a disaster! I found myself crying the whole 4-hour drive back from presenting at a College and the following day, locked myself in my office again, crying. I managed to take the following week off. It was exactly what I needed. I spent time with my partner and family and got the mental and emotional rest I needed. Take the time you need to heal, whether short or long. Do what is best for you and listen to your body! [Of course I wasn’t “back to normal” the week later, but I was in a much better place].
After taking Misoprostol or after having a miscarriage, your body has been through contractions, pain and loss which means you are susceptible to postpartum depression. I was never diagnosed with depression but I know I’ve flirted with it. Lacking motivation, I was not myself. I was emotionally eating and had not exercised in months throughout this ordeal. My time off work to spend with family, as mentioned, really helped. Another thing that helped me was knitting. I knitted my very first baby-blankie to keep my hands and mind busy. It’s now a little memento to our little ones that would never-be.
My journey through a missed miscarriage
Lastly, in mid-February, 2 months later, I got the final ultrasound and blood test done. I was in the clear at last!!
Am I sad about my missed miscarriage? Damn right I am! And I’m equally sad for my partner who I know will be an amazing dad and who deserves a little one he can teach and give his abundant love to so very much! But I’m also grateful for the lessons I’ve learned through this and realized I’m much stronger than I thought I was.
Thank you for reading my journey through our missed miscarriage. I really hope it not only brings awareness but maybe even helps someone along the way. Remember, you’re not alone and take all the time you need.
How was your journey? Feel free to leave a comment below. ❤️