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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Julie's miscarriage story, from Christian perspective

This is Julie's story of her miscarriage. She asked that only her first name be published, so if you know this family personally, please do not include identifying details in the comments. Thank you!

October 15th

October 15th, 2012 will mark a very sad but monumental day in my life. That was the day my little baby was born, never to live here with me but to be safe in the Father’s arms.  Sharing my story comes from wanting to have some sort of closure but also stems from the desire to help those who are looking for some information during this difficult season of their life. Perhaps someone needs these exact details that will ease the pain or help with the process of losing a very precious part of a mommy’s life. 

When I found out that I was pregnant with my 6th child, I was tickled and nervous. Five living children, homeschooling, and very active in my community, I could barely wrap my brain around adding another baby to my already busy schedule. On top of that, I would be 41 years old and my husband nearing 50 when our baby would be born. It was hard not to feel nervous about it, however, every child has been an incredible blessing to our family and I had absolutely no regrets. I felt like an old pro so I wasn’t in a rush to go to the OB/Gyn and get an ultrasound. I felt fertile and experienced so I got my vitamins, ordered my iron pills and watched my sugar (I often get an early onset of gestational diabetes). My husband and I started planning which large van to get come Spring as we would no longer be able to transport our growing family in our current one. I was excited as we anticipated this new baby! My children were also happily involved in dreaming about the baby. My 12-year-old daughter was especially excited as her little maternal instincts kicked in. We were thinking up names, imagining what the baby looked like, and overall enjoying the pregnancy. 

I finally got in to see the doctor at 12 weeks. Prior to the appointment, I had my first ultrasound. That morning, I woke up early to this dreadful feeling that the baby was not alive. I was cramping for 3 hours and if I had actively checked for discharge I believe I would’ve noticed something. However, I passed the cramping off to being backed up due to the extra iron pills I was taking. However, I couldn’t shake this foreboding that I wouldn’t see my baby alive. I think every pregnant mom has that fear in the back of her mind but usually it’s dismissed with a blinking heartbeat on the monitor. My fears would be confirmed, however, as the wand panned around my belly. I saw a gaping black hole and no heartbeat. I knew within 3 seconds that the baby was not alive. The technician was very quiet and didn’t say much but she was able to tell me that she didn’t see any activity. She checked and checked and we saw that the baby only measured 6 weeks, the gestational sac only 10 weeks and looked very irregular. She went to get a room for me to await the doctor so I wouldn’t have to go back into the waiting room. At that time, the tears rushed in and I sat crying while my husband held my hand. I couldn’t believe the baby was dead. 

My OB is a kind and experienced doctor. While not a believer, he is respectful of his patients’ beliefs and desires to make me comfortable. He gently explained what would happen while miscarrying, the option of the D&C now or later, as well as affirmed that there was nothing I could have done to prevent all this. I think one of the most helpful things he said was that it wasn’t my fault at all. I can’t blame it on age, that glass of wine during my anniversary dinner, that I didn’t take my vitamins early enough, or whatever it was. I know that many women carry guilt about what they did or could’ve done differently to prevent a miscarriage. I still wonder about my age, however, I will never know what happened exactly and feel that he eased my concerns early on. Whatever you did or didn’t do, you have to understand that it wasn’t your fault and be at peace knowing that every baby is a miracle. 

That day, I spent time at home crying and praying. I told the children and while the boys didn’t seem terribly affected, my girls were very sad, especially my 12-year-old. I could see that she was grieving as she stayed very close to me. She drew pictures expressing her grief that I’ve captured on camera and will hold dear to my heart. She stayed with me at night and we talked about things. I was very open with her as to what was happening and why. My dear husband was such a support at this time. He took her to a craft store to get a tiny wooden box that she could decorate in case we saw the baby. She painted it and waited for the baby to come. 

The hardest part was waiting. Every day, I spotted more and more. It was Tuesday when I started spotting. My husband took time off on Friday and Monday so he could help with the kids and the homeschool group I am in charge of. I prayed that the baby would come by the weekend. I started taking black and blue cohosh in order to speed the miscarriage along. 20 drops of each in a tiny bit of water, held under my tongue for about a minute five times a day was what I was told. The cohosh tasted nasty but I chased it with OJ and it was palatable. Sure enough, within a few days, the bleeding started and I felt confident that it was to happen on the weekend. 

The spotting turned to intermittent bleeding by Friday. Whenever I went to the bathroom and wiped, I turned up some brown blood as well as some blackened tissue. The lining was shedding slowly but surely. I also started cramping more and had a loss of appetite. I took this time to distract myself with cleaning and doing some other quiet projects I wanted to get done. I also prepared myself with what I was going to do to ‘catch’ the baby. You see, I suddenly had an incredible desire to see the baby. I felt so sad when I thought about my baby being flushed down the toilet. Please, if this happened to you, don’t feel badly. I know that if I didn’t see the baby, that was God’s sovereign plan, for whatever reason, but I really wanted to see it if I could. I was able to secure one of those ‘hats’ that you can put under the lid of the toilet that you go into to measure the volume of output. This assured that I would be able to see everything that came out before I flushed it. It definitely helped me feel less anxious about going to the bathroom.

I also had a few other supplies ready: a small, clear container of water that I could put the baby in, craft sticks in case I had to sort through, disposable gloves, and paper plates. I also had some extra trash bags. I know these are a lot of details and I think at one point I would’ve thought this a bit macabre but I feel strongly about sharing details in case you are clueless what to do. This worked for me and I needed everything I had prepared. It was truly a blessing to be ready rather than panicked. 

I also checked out some websites that a friend sent to me. Several of these prepared me for what to expect. The one I found very useful was Still Birthday: Pregnancy Loss is Still a Birthday. This had links to different developmental stages of your baby. It really helped me to visualize what size the baby might be as well as what it might look like. There are stories and actual pictures tastefully done. 

On Sunday evening, the bleeding started much more heavily. I started having to rush to the bathroom as the discharge gushed out in chunks. I felt stronger contractions – they were much stronger than menstrual cramps and were in intervals just like contractions. I was surprised by how strong some of them were. With each contraction, there was more bleeding and blood clots. I knew it had started. 

That night, I bled for hours and I stayed on the toilet for the majority of the night. I was surprised by how heavily I bled. I was able to see exactly how much volume of blood I was losing as I was going into the ‘hat’. Every 10-15 minutes, I had 300-500cc of discharge. Much of it was clotting and sometimes the clots were larger than the palm of my hand. I literally peed blood. Everything I had read said go to the doctor if you soak more than one pad an hour or if you bleed much more than a heavy period. That’s laughable as it was SO much more. (I found out later that earlier miscarriages (under 6 weeks) would bleed less but over 12 weeks this much blood was more normal.) I called my husband who stayed up with me. I think most husbands - and I sure don’t blame them! - would faint at the sight of so much blood. It truly looked like a murder scene. Terrible! My resolve to see the baby outweighed the grossness of the grim scene. My husband took over examining the discharge for any fetal parts. Thank God for a doctor husband! At one point we wondered, ‘How much bleeding during a miscarriage is too much?’ Neither one of us had seen so much blood. Yet, I wasn’t willing to go to the hospital until I knew I had passed the baby. 

After a few hours, I cramped terribly and when I looked, there was a tiny yolk sac and something fleshy near it. I knew in my heart that this was the baby. I put it in the container with some water to wash it off. After a while, it was obvious that it was different than the other mess that was coming out. It was irregular and very deformed and it had the color of flesh. The size indicated that it was definitely around 8-10 weeks rather than 6. It had degraded some and the parts were barely recognizable. However, I felt relieved. After bleeding heavily for about 2 hours more, I decided to go in to the hospital in case I had lost too much. I wasn’t scared or panicked. I did feel lightheaded and shaky though – most likely because of lack of sleep, no food, and an intense night on top of the loss of blood. Incredibly, I found a sitter at 5am and by 7am I was in the hospital. 

Yolk sac
(I’ve decided not to post pics of the baby)

I’m sharing what happened at the hospital in case you need to go. I didn’t know what to expect. First of all, I was surprised to see only one other person waiting (when I was discharged the waiting room was completely packed). I was taken back immediately and had a very kind doctor. She ordered some IV fluids, blood work, and an ultrasound first to determine whether I needed the more invasive step of a blood transfusion and a D & C. I prayed that I would need neither. The nurse was considerate about putting in the catheter when she heard that the ultrasound was ready for me, otherwise, I would be bed-ridden and uncomfortable for hours. Indeed it took 2 hours for the u/s to be ready for me. 

My husband was asked to stay in the waiting room during the u/s. I knew that this would happen and wasn’t too miffed about it. It was very different than the happy exciting ultrasound of my OB as the situation was more serious. She didn’t show me the screen, which I expected and she was very quiet while performing the procedure. I didn’t ask questions at this point because I know that techs are not supposed to say anything even though it is very hard for a person like me who wants to know everything and see it all not to say anything. I did answer her questions and tried to let her know that I knew what to expect and that I was not afraid of what she found out. I was sad but at peace. Near the end, I did ask her if the doctor would be able to tell me whether they saw the baby or not as this was very important to me. I wanted to be 100% sure that the ‘specimen’ I had at home was indeed my baby. She quietly confirmed that the baby was not there and that she only told me because I seemed ready to hear it. I was. 

Everything else was routine. My blood work came back within safe limits. I was anemic but not terribly so. I had taken some iron pills that night and morning and I’m sure that helped my levels some. I was sent back home with the assurance that we had done everything we could. 

I slept the whole day and night. The next morning, I woke up with an urge to run to the bathroom. There was a huge ‘whomp’ and I delivered the placenta. I didn’t expect that exactly as I thought I had passed bits of it earlier. It was a bit smaller than the size of my fist and one giant ball. After that, the cramps disappeared and the bleeding substantially subsided. I felt peace and closure (but a terrible migraine!).

Was it a coincidence that October 15th marked my baby’s birthday as well as The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day? Was it by chance that dozens of my friends were remembering and lighting candles for their own children who they’ve not been able to hold or see and that they added one for me? Was it pure luck that one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, had a podcast on Early Infant Loss that very day? No. None of that is chance, my friends. It is pure grace. My heavenly Father showed such care and tenderness to me in so many ways during this time. I know that not everything goes according to our plans and they really don’t have to. However, at times, His sweetness overwhelms me as I find myself being supported, cared for, loved and cuddled by friends, family and especially, by my dear husband. 

I had so many sympathetic notes and remarks via texts and Facebook. I received kind and encouraging words and friends shared stories of their own miscarriages. I had the occasional person say, “Well, at least you have 5 kids.” or “Well, guess this is a sign that you’re getting old.” but I expected these remarks as not everyone has the education on what not to say during a miscarriage but most people have good, albeit awkward intentions. It really doesn’t matter how many children you have, what the chances are on having more, if you already have one boy and one girl, if you are getting along in your age, if you weren’t ecstatic upon the news that you were having another one, if you couldn’t afford to raise another baby. The pain is really there. Your baby has died. You’ve suffered a great loss and the grief can be as deep and as intense as if you’ve given birth to, raised, and bonded with your child. However, I want to extend the same grace to others as the Lord has to me as they help me cope with my loss. I don’t expect them to understand the deep sense of grief I feel as I never could truly sympathize when my friends miscarried. I could only imagine the pain.

Honestly, as I reflect on the last week, I have gratefulness in my heart. Grateful that I have six children and one is completely loved and perfect in heaven. I have Biblical reassurance that this is the case (see the books: Little One Lost: Living With Early Infant Loss by Glenda Mathes and Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child by John Macarthur). I’m also grateful for the opportunity for this life experience for my daughter; for her to see the folly of evolution (one kink in the DNA and it cannot survive) versus the miracle of a beautiful baby created by a living and loving Maker. 

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

Drawn by 12-year-old sister