Our lives are a series of stories, some short, some long, some with epic arcs, but mostly vignettes connected with a common theme: our selves.
Zoe’s first story began with an ending: the miscarriage of my first pregnancy. This will probably be the only time I talk about it because, truth be told, I talked about it enough when it happened and at this point it just feels gratuitous. Also: it’s done.
But I also don’t like pretending it didn’t happen; that doesn’t seem fair to the kid-who-could-have-been, even if it never grew enough to have eyes or a heart or a voice.
But these things happen, and quite frequently, especially on the first “try”. I knew that going in, I just didn’t think it would happen to me. Our first “try” started in March 2011 and by May I had a positive pregnancy test and was breathlessly, blithely looking forward to a February birth. I had all the symptoms: tender lady parts, gagging, heartburn. I also had horrible heart palpitations, and the nausea culminated around week seven in an evening spent bent over the toilet and puking my guts out for hours. After that night, the symptoms started to let up, and I felt cautiously better. I didn’t think of this as a bad sign.
The day before my birthday, Mike and I went in for our first ultrasound at exactly nine weeks, and at first we thought the reason we weren’t seeing anything was just simple logistics. My bladder was full. Yes. That must be it. When it became clear that wasn’t the problem, we sought a second opinion from a doctor our midwife referred us to. He saw us immediately, and gave us the bad news. No heartbeat, no viable baby.
Up until the moment that we got that second opinion, I still hung on to hope that the dark, egg-yolk like thing on the ultrasound was just a mistake. I cracked jokes with the doctor and said a few things I probably wouldn’t have said under other circumstances. It was only when I got in the car and called my mom that it hit me, and at that point I started sobbing. Mike hung onto me and told my mom we needed to call her back. I don’t know how long we sat in that car as I mourned the death of our first.
We left for a birthday trip to San Francisco that night. I hadn’t planned on drinking, but the diagnosis changed things. The trip was an odd mix of melancholy and fun. San Francisco is the city of my transitional youth, and I loved sharing it with my husband. Despite grim news and sad tidings, we carried on. This is life, after all.
I had two options for the actual business of ending the failed pregnancy: have the doctor perform a D&C, take a medication that would initiate the miscarriage, or wait for it to happen naturally. I knew what I wanted, and so on July 3rd, less than a week from the initial diagnosis, I took an 800mcg dose of Cytotec. I won’t give you the (very gory) details, but suffice to say it was gory.
The miscarriage, being my first, was also confusing. I thought everything had passed by July 4th, but on July 7th I started to bleed heavily. The bleeding stopped around 4 PM, just as I was leaving to go to my family birthday party, and when it didn’t resume that night I again assumed the miscarriage had completed. Then I started bleeding again around 2 PM of the next day, and the pain and amount of blood and tissue went from manageable to staggering. I rode it out for hours, hoping each contraction would be the last, but six hours later I was clammy and my lips were pale. I had a rising temperature and the shakes. My EMT training said I was cool, pale, and diaphoretic, and those are normally signs of shock. I finally gave in and had Mike take me to the ER.
It took an hour for them to admit me, during which I paced and growled and wept angrily and couldn’t seem to sit. In the ER itself I tried to recline on the bed but it hurt like hell. I puked at some point. They got an IV and hydromorphone in me around 9:30, went to run some blood tests, and at that point everything turned the ol’ corner. I had gone from furiously weeping to relaxing into my bed. An anti-nausea drug was also administered, which helped a ton. Then an ultrasound technician came in who was none too gentle, but no problems: that just meant someone gave me more hydromorphone. Final diagnosis was there was “blood in my uterus” (reeeeally?), and someone got a hold of my OB, who advised pain management.
We were discharged at midnight, me on massive painkillers, Mike being…well, the greatest. Truly, the greatest. We got home at around 1 AM, I went to the bathroom, and a ridiculous amount of tissue passed. It was the last of the heavy bleeding, and the signal that this time, the miscarriage had ended.
In total, it took about 5 days. I was badly anemic (due to bloodloss) and prescribed iron pills, but the final ultrasound with my OB came back “clean”.
Our first question, of course, was when could we start trying again? The answer from my doctor: give it at least one cycle, then go ahead. We intended to do that. We really did.
I felt, to say the least, like death warmed over. I’d been through a physically demanding process and was exhausted and sick for two weeks. In total, I missed more days of work due to miscarriage than I did due to actual being-pregnant “stuff”. But three weeks later, I was feeling pretty good. I was off the iron pills (which, combined with the hydromorphone the benevolent angels at the hospital pushed into me, did nothing good for my digestive tract), I didn’t get winded walking up stairs, and Mike and I were missing each other’s company.
I suspected I was ovulating the night we got intimate, though with the miscarriage I had nothing but my own girlpowers to base this guess on. So I checked with an LH strip and — yup, I was ovulating. My famous last words to Mike were, “Pfff. I just miscarried. I’m in my late 30s. What are the odds?”
(Mike at this point likes to remind me that he said something to the effect of, “I can use protection.” or “We can wait a couple days.” and that I handwaved it and we went off and did the deed anyway. What can I say? It had been a while.)
Two weeks later, my period still hadn’t materialized, but no big whoop. Miscarriages can do that. Even so, I joked to Mike that I might be pregnant. He stared at me blankly and said, “Maybe you are.” Which turned my joke on its head. I said something ungracious and went off to the bathroom and my supply of test strips. A very, very, very faint pink link appeared. I decided I was imagining it.
Next day, the line got darker.
On Friday, it was very apparent.
I told Mike, “Turns out, odds were pretty good.”