On a Tuesday in July, at 9½ weeks, we flew to Arizona to visit my parents and brother and sister-in-law. The first night we were there, we sat on the floor of my old bedroom in the house I grew up in, introducing the kids to Grandma’s dogs, and exploring toys she had bought for them. We sat and talked for a bit, and I went to the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding. It was a small amount, but bright red blood. I tried not to panic, but the only other time I have bled in pregnancy was when I had a miscarriage at five weeks, a little over two years ago.
I called my midwives back home, and felt reassured that the midwife I spoke to believed it didn’t mean miscarriage was inevitable, and the fact that I was not in pain was a good sign. I was instructed to go to the ER if my bleeding got really heavy, or if I was feeling cramping. I had a small amount of bleeding for several hours, and then it tapered off overnight.
The next morning, I was feeling hopeful that the bleeding was over and that everything was fine. However, early afternoon, I began bleeding again. I knew that bright red bleeding was not a good sign, and began to really worry about my baby. I called my midwife again, and cried a lot while I was on the phone with her, discussing the “what ifs”. I was worried about going to the ER, finding out the worst, and being pressured to have a D&C rather than being allowed to miscarry at home. My midwife assured me that I could refuse a procedure, and that at 9 weeks, the baby would be small enough to pass at home. She encouraged me to go to the ER if I wanted to, so at least I would have an answer about what was going on, and we decided to go.
Aaron and I were checked in quickly and taken directly to a room without having to wait. The nurses drew my blood and started an IV. We waited just a short time, and then the Physician’s Assistant came in to do a pelvic exam. He said that my cervix was closed, but that any time you bleed during pregnancy it is considered a threatened miscarriage. Then, I was transported to radiology for an ultrasound.
I had multiple ultrasounds during my pregnancies with my two kids, and we knew what we should see and hear. The tech that did my ultrasound didn’t say anything while he working. But we knew. In the first ten seconds we knew we were not seeing the little flutter of a heartbeat. He had the volume turned way down, but I heard the silence when I should have heard the “whoosh whoosh”.
I didn’t cry the entire time we were at the hospital. We went to the pharmacy on the way back to my mom’s house, and when we checked out, the cashier handed us our bags and smiled and said, “Have a great day and be well.” I felt like I had been slapped in the face. And I cried for the first time since talking to my midwife on the phone.
I bled steadily, but not too heavily, all that day and the next. I had manageable cramping off and on until around 10pm on Thursday, when I realized my pain was coming and going rhythmically...contractions. They continued for a couple hours, and then Delaney woke up crying. I decided to take a couple Advil and take her to bed with me and try to sleep. Not too much later, I sat up in bed and felt a gush. This time when I went to the bathroom, it wasn’t blood. My water had broken. I decided to stay up then, since I was having more painful contractions that felt like I was in active labor. Aaron stayed up with me and we watched TV while I labored. In the next hour or so, I passed a tiny baby. It was only about an inch long, but we could see its fingers and toes, and dark spots on its face where its eyes were developing.
My contractions spaced out and got less intense. I finally was able to sleep around 4am, and my contractions must have stopped, because I slept for 3 hours. When I woke up, they started again, not too painful, but consistent. Around 9 hours after the baby came out, I passed two pieces of placental tissue, and one was as big as the palm of my hand. As soon as that happened, my contractions stopped. I bled heavily for the rest of that day and the next day, and passed a few more small pieces of tissue. I bled for a total of two weeks, mostly spotting or really light bleeding during the second week.
When I spoke to my midwife on the phone about passing the baby, I actually felt relieved. I had been concerned about whether everything would happen on its own. I can see how women who experience a miscarriage could feel their body has betrayed them, but I know there is nothing I could have done differently to change anything, and I feel that my body did its job when our baby died. Our baby measured 8 weeks and 2 days on the ultrasound, but the hospital gave us a 10 day window when the baby could have actually passed. I believe that it probably happened just days before I began bleeding, as I was still having pregnancy symptoms when it started, and the baby was bigger and more developed than we were expecting to see.
“To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”