Dear Summer 2019
Miscarriage is the Mary Poppins bag of baggage. It is mysterious, holds an abundance of things (grief, shame, guilt, jealousy, confusion, desperation.. to name a few), and no one talks about how f**ked up it is.
Man, the summer of 2019 was a full-blown disaster in the Chambers' household. There's so much to unpack here.. and I've decided to do a series of the different layers my miscarriage had. Today, I'd like to share my story, and perhaps dive deeper into the ripple effect another time. And without blubbering on my keyboard this soon, I will preface this with: If you're here, in the trenches of miscarriages/infant loss/infertility, I feel you. I am so so sorry this is your reality. This kind of grief and loss is so unique and unknown to so many, yet familiar to an entire community who unwillingly and unknowingly created a safe haven for you. It's indescribable, heavy, dark and outright unfair. I see you. I validate you. I welcome you. And I will hold this space here for you. I pray I can provide you some comfort in knowing you are not alone.
I lost count the amount of times I cried myself to sleep. It was a lot. I felt pain in every capacity. It was all encompassing, all consuming, and nearly impossible to navigate through. It's interesting the things you learn about people once you fall. The things you learn about yourself. The things you wish you didn't learn. Experiencing a miscarriage (and sharing that information) provided an amazing opportunity for community. I wish I had shared earlier, and perhaps my community may have looked differently.
I had what is called a missed miscarriage which is when the baby dies in the womb, but the mother does not experienced any symptoms (pain, bleeding, etc), and the body doesn't recognize the loss and continues feeling/acting pregnant. I received the news at from our 12 week ultrasound, and to say it was a shock is an understatement. Because my body didn't naturally begin the process of miscarriage, I had three options on how to move forward.
1) Do nothing, wait and hope my body begins the process on it's own (timeline unknown)
2) Take medication that induces your body to begin the process (24-48 hours)
3) Schedule a D&C to surgically empty your uterus (1 day procedure)
There is no right or wrong decision, only a decision that needed to be made.
I was with a midwife for the beginning of my pregnancy, and once a pregnancy is no longer viable, you are no longer their patient. My family doctor was on holidays and his office was far out of town, so the midwife caring for me at the time called the closest hospital to arrange an appointment to talk about said options and transfer my care to them. That was an awful feeling having my care passed to the hospital and (at the time) altered my opinion on midwives. It's unfortunate that they don't see you through that time. One amazing benefit to midwifes is their postpartum care to help ease into the new role as a mother, and to care for both mama and baby for the first two weeks. It was confusing to me that their holistic approach didn't include a support system for families who miscarried. Perhaps if I miscarried when I was farther along that would merit support. I brain understands the logic of why they let go of you as a patient, but my heart doesn't.
I knew I had miscarried the moment my ultrasound technician began questioning my dates and told me there would be no need to get my blood work done, wouldn't show me the screen or call in my husband. And if I were to be honest, which I try my best to be, I think I always knew this particular experience was just too good to be true. I can't remember a time I didn't want to be a mom. It has been a role I have always admired and dreamt of the time I would be able to step into it, so when we got pregnant (right away) it felt too good to be true. Surely it couldn't be that easy. Surely there has to be some bump in the road. You don't just snap your fingers and out comes a baby. I think in the back of my mind it always felt too dreamlike. Nonetheless, the shock and heartbreak was like no other.
That was the first time I saw my husband cry. I remember every minute of it so clearly. Once out of the ultrasound clinic I called my mom in the car, filled her in and very intentionally said: I need you to tell me everything will be okay. Then I called my midwife. Within the hour my midwife called me back to share with me that there was no heartbeat, gave us some time to process and said she'd call back in a bit to discuss the options moving forward. Right off the bat, Brandon and I experienced miscarriage differently. I heard it on the phone, heard the words clear as day.... Brandon heard my reaction, and had to only assume the worse. Both tragic in their own way. That was the day after Mothers' Day. I still had my MOM cookie in my kitchen from last nights dinner. I had an appointment at the hospital that Friday.
Those next couple of days were difficult. I remember sending out texts to my close friends and family saying: I wanted to let you know I've had a miscarriage. I don't want to talk about it, but I wanted to share the information. We had shared with our close family and friends when I was 8 weeks along. It happened to be around Easter and it felt like the perfect time to share. To be honest, I wasn't very hesitant to share. Not only did the fear of miscarriage not once cross my mind, I'm someone who shares my life with those around me and whatever our journey looked like, I wanted it to involve my loved ones.
This particular sorrow is so deep. It's a cruel, heavy, debilitating sadness. Brandon took the following day off work to be home with me, and then returned to work for the rest of the week before heading to the hospital with me Friday. I remember him getting ready for work Wednesday morning. I was crying and begging him to stay home. I didn't want to be alone. Looking back my heart breaks for that moment. Brandon having to leave me in that way, probably feeling like shit as I begged him to stay with me.
The idea of having surgery felt scary and the next available time was four days away, but knowing my baby had died and was still inside me was mortifying. The idea of taking medication to induce a miscarriage and have the visual and physical experience felt impossible. And the idea to wait for my body to start naturally with no timeframe at all felt unpredictable. It's a f*cked up position to be in. Reluctantly I decided to take the medication. I had taken that week off work, called work the evening we found out, and agreed to return to work the following week. Friday was our hospital appointment and once we left the pharmacy we were told to take two pills that evening (the first set of pills terminated the pregnancy - in my case, it was already terminated) and 24hrs later the remaining four pills would induce the cramping/bleeding within one to four hours. That was not my experience.
I asked my mom to come on the weekend to be with us. Taking the first set of pills was emotional, and taking the last set was even more so. Even though I knew there was no heartbeat, I knew this baby was no longer alive, there was something that felt intentionally evil about taking the medication that forced the miscarriage to happen. It felt like I was killing my baby. And I didn't want to kill my baby. I wanted my baby alive. It felt like I was making it happen. And yes, I was making it happen, but I wasn't killing my baby... and that was hard for me to separate at the time.
I didn't start feeling any cramping or begin bleeding until far past the 12 hour mark. When that began I would bleed through an overnight maxi pad just by standing up. The fluid and blood seeped through my clothes continually and every time I'd go to the bathroom or change my pad I was confronted with how difficult going through this experience physically was. I didn't begin passing tissue until Sunday and Monday. I slept on towels on our leather couch to make sure I wouldn't stain our bedding and mattress.
I returned to work that next day. I packed an extra set of clothes, my pain medication and a crap ton of pads. I worked for two days...in pain..bleeding abundantly before I went to my Neighbourhood Coordinator and asked for another week of leave.
Why did I do that? Why did I go back to work in that state that I was in? It had been a week from hearing the news but only a few days from taking the medication. I look back and think how CRAZY it is that I didn't take the appropriate time off work. And as the years have gone by, the stories woman have shared with me sound similar. They continued to work, went back to the tasks needed to be done and all the while in pain, distress and constant bleeding. Take the time you need. Don't put yourself in a position simply out of obligation or guilt.
By the end of the week I was having severe back pain and stomach aches. My doctors office was one hour away and had no open appointments so I decided to go to a walk in clinic. The information given to me and my knowledge from working in healthcare lead me to believe something was wrong. Things were pointing to an infection and my body was clearly holding on to something it wasn't ready to let go of. The clinic sent me straight to the ER (calling ahead so they knew I was there). During that appointment at the hospital, they ordered me an ultrasound and discovered that there was still tissue inside my uterus. The hospital staff told me to wait a few more days before looking into scheduling a D&C. A few more days? This had been going on for two weeks.
Monday morning I went to work to seek advice. There I had an amazing group of kind, loving and knowledgable people with an abundance of experience in the hospital setting. I cried more than I spoke as I listened to the wonderful advice that jumpstarted my healing journey. I was so overwhelmed. I had now taken two weeks of unpaid time off work, spent more time in the hospital than at home, and had woken up to a flooded kitchen, fallen in ceiling and broken toilet. I will never forget what she said. Ellie, it will take a long time to recover. It will take the time it will take and you can't control that. Your emotional , spiritual, mental, financial health will have it's own journey. But, your physical health can begin to heal today. Go to the hospital, tell them you have a low grade fever, ultrasound results of remaining tissue and get a D &C today. Your body will feel better when you wake and it is one of many aspects that will guide you through your journey of healing. Keep me updated, call me on the phone, text me at midnight in the hospital room, I will be there. Patricia, your heart is too big for this world. Your love and support still brings tears to my eyes today. I was terrified and heartbroken. I had no idea what to do, knew no one who had a miscarriage, and couldn't seem to make a decision. I love and appreciate you so much!
So to the hospital I went, calling Brandon on the phone as he was dealing with the ceiling debris, flooded kitchen and fixing our bathroom. I sat in the hospital room from 9am until 10pm before I went into surgery. I sat there alone. I went into surgery alone. It was one of the loneliest moments of my life. The timing of everything was terrible and it was a difficult time for us both, but it's moments like this one that made me feel like it was only happening to me, not to us both. I sat in the hospital alone, I went to the clinics alone, the ultrasounds alone, I got surgery alone. Bless Brandon and his support, and by no means am I expressing anger or throwing him under the bus. It's just that, this was our reality. Our home was literally falling to pieces the same day I had surgery.
I had never had surgery before and my only experience with general anesthetics was for my wisdom teeth. I remember holding the nurses hand as I cried and counted down from 10. I remember getting to 7. I woke in a groggy panic (as contradicting as it sounds, that's the only way I know how to explain it). I remember asking the nurses if the baby was gone. Did they get the baby out? Is it gone? They brought Brandon in, who had a comfy change of clothes and a big hug waiting for me. Slightly high from the medication he helped walk me to the truck, into the house and up the stairs as I laughed and cried over the fact that all I wanted was bbq'd hot dogs but it was 1 in the morning and our kitchen was torn apart and the ceiling was ripped open. Nonetheless, Brandon bbq'd me hot dogs and I fell asleep shortly after.
The next morning is a haze to me. Brandon was home and all I can recall is the freedom of movement with the absence of pain. Every time I moved I prepared for the sharp pain in my back and stomach that I had been dealing with since the medication... but it wasn't there. To feel no physical pain was emotional and freeing. And I believe it influenced the start of my emotional healing.
At times, that part of my life feels like another life entirely. Or that it happened a decade ago and the woman I was then couldn't possibly be the same woman I am today. Other times, I close my eyes and I am sitting on the couch on the phone with my midwife hearing the news for the first time. One day it will hurt less, my boss told me. One day it will hurt less.
Grief is an interesting thing. It manifests in various ways. And each experience is unique from another. I hope to share more around how I navigated through it; how I grew the ability to set boundaries around others; the mistakes I made that hindered my healing; the small wins I experienced during a time I was so low; the times I finally said no, and the ripple effect that brought. I hope to share them soon.
All my love,