If I’m honest with myself, I knew the baby was dead as soon as I saw the ultrasound image. With my daughter, now 2 years old, the heartbeat was fast and obvious.
This time, all was still.
The technician noted that the baby was measuring 8 weeks. It should have been 12 weeks.
Devon asked whether that was bad. I think he knew, too, but we were both hoping for a different answer.
I cried when she said the words out loud.
The doctor came in, and we shifted from talk of genetic testing to how I wanted to proceed with the miscarriage. Clearly, my body wasn’t taking care of business on its own. We could have waited it out. Another option was dilation and curettage (D&C), a minor surgical procedure that empties the uterus of what they call “products of conception.”
That sounds neater than “rotting embryo corpse,” I guess.
This wasn’t our first miscarriage. We lost the first one, before Aurelia, at 6 weeks. We barely knew I was pregnant before I suddenly wasn’t, and the miscarriage was obvious. I started to bleed, and then it was over. I got pregnant again three months later, and it was as easy as pregnancies go. I delivered via c-section after 52 hours of labor (seriously), and we all moved on.
I got pregnant this time after two months of trying, and we assumed the best. I felt great. I had minor discomforts that were abating as I inched toward my second trimester, just like with Aurelia.
It felt like a mean trick. Miscarriages should happen right away, not leave you planning nursery colors while you carry around a dead baby for as long as a month.
I opted to take medication to induce the miscarriage. My first miscarriage wasn’t all that painful, and I would take my chances.
I had been planning a solo weekend trip to the mountains before we got the news. We decided to make it a family trip, and I would take the meds when we got back.
The weekend was bittersweet. Devon and I were sad, but we are almost sociopathically pragmatic. We have a great daughter, and we have each other. We would no longer be welcoming a Christmas baby, but we could try again. If we never had another, that would be OK too. We’re good at rolling with change, and life is too precious to dwell on such disappointments.
And I cried again, because fuck it, I’d had two glasses of wine and I could if I wanted to.
After the wine and more conversation, Devon and I retired to bed to tell dead-baby jokes.
We aren’t right in the head.
I’m wandering into controversial territory calling it a “baby.” If you backed me into a pro-choice corner, I wouldn’t use that word. It was an embryo. It never even made it to the fetal stage. It was small enough to slip away unnoticed in the blood I dropped in my toilet.
I’m not mourning a person. I’m mourning the empty double stroller that existed in my head. But I will keep calling it a baby because the baby that existed in my head was real enough to me.
When we got back from our trip, I took a dose of misoprostol, according to my midwife’s instructions. It was time to get this over with.
I popped some Tylenol and waited. Two hours later, at 5 pm, I started to bleed. It was a light flow and not all that painful, so I left the Percocet untouched. By 11 pm the flow was heavier but still not very painful.
I went to bed.
I woke up at 1:30 am dizzy, nauseated and soaking wet. Devon is better at relaying the next few minutes because my memory is sketchy. I sat on the toilet and gushed what felt like a keg of blood out of my hoo-ha. Then I woke up face down on the tile with my underwear around my knees.
I had that thought much later. In the moment, I remember Devon yelling at me. He sounded pissed. In hindsight, he probably wasn’t pissed.
Then I woke up again, this time lying on my back. I wondered whether he would just let me sleep there, because the tile was nice. I liked the tile.
We went back and forth over whether I should go to the emergency room. I didn’t want to go, but it’s hard to convey authority when you can’t stand up, and Devon was like, “Bitch, please.” So I contemplated shimmying down the stairs on my butt to get to the car, but it quickly became obvious that I was having terrible ideas.
Devon called 911, and I sat cross-legged on the carpet in my blood-soaked underwear and his Game of Thrones t-shirt. I focused on sensory experiences: the towel pressed against my thighs, the street light filtering through the window, Devon’s voice talking to the dispatcher, Aurelia calling to me from her crib.
I’m grateful she couldn’t see the bathroom from her room.
Two paramedics arrived quickly. By then I was able to walk down the stairs with some help, so I got into the ambulance with no further drama. One paramedic set me up with a saline IV and some oxygen. Devon followed in the car with Aurelia.
We waited in the ER for several hours. I sang songs to Aurelia to pass the time. We talked. We played with our phones. Time passed slowly. I felt a little ridiculous for being there. I was feeling much better.
I realized I’d forgotten my shoes. At least the paramedics had reminded me to bring pants. Thanks, guys!
I went through the expected gamut of tests: ultrasound, ekg, pelvic exam, blood tests. I was clotting well, and, while I was still bleeding heavily, it was within the normal limits of what you’d expect for a miscarriage. It wasn’t entirely clear why I hit the tile, but I was fine now, and they were sending me home. The ER doctor gave me a prescription for Vicodin that I added to the Percocet that I never took.
Despite the fireworks, this was proving to be the most painless miscarriage ever.
We got home at about 5 am. While Devon put Aurelia back in her crib, I cleaned the blood off the bathroom tile, covered the blood-soaked sheets with a clean towel and fell asleep.
I spent the next day tired and sometimes dizzy, but there was no more drama, and by the following day I was mostly back to my old self.
The concept of “normal” is a strange one. Aurelia still needs to eat breakfast and dump marbles all over the floor. Devon has gone back to work, back to what normal is for him. We lost a baby, and I scared the piss out of him, and a day later everything was pretty much as it was before.
So it goes.
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