On Tuesday, the day after we found out we lost the baby, we had to return to the doctor’s office for pre-surgery blood work and registration. I think I was mostly numb at that point, because I was able to keep my tears in check most of the time.
That evening we went to school (J. and I both teach high school; he teaches upper-level sciences and I teach business and technology). Because my surgery was scheduled for the next morning, Wednesday, we both had sub plans to make (I had to make mine for the rest of the week, but J. planned to return to work on Thursday). I was calm and collected during those couple hours working in my classroom; I’m pretty good at dealing with stress if I have tasks to complete. I methodically made my plans and left detailed notes and instructions for my sub(s).
We had to leave early Wednesday morning for the hospital. Because of the nature of my surgery, I didn’t have a set appointment time; they just fit me in where they could. We sat in the waiting room, waiting to be called back, for nearly two hours. I killed time messing around on my phone and watching The Today Show, not shedding a tear.
It wasn’t until the nurse was leading us back to a room that my eyes began to fill. By the time I’d changed into the gown and climbed into bed, I was sobbing. I would pull myself together for brief periods of time, but any time someone entered the room and brought with them the unavoidable reality of the situation, I’d lose it again. Finally, the anesthesiologist came in. The way my voice cracked during each response to his questions must have been a giveaway because he prescribed an Ativan for my anxiety.
The medicine did the trick while we waited. I was able to lay back and watch Kelly & Michael with J., even laughing a few times. As soon as the staff came to take me to pre-op, though, I began to cry again. I cried in the big open room while waiting to be taken into the OR. There were two nurses nearby discussing cake decorating, oblivious to me in the corner by the curtain.
It wasn’t long before I was wheeled into the OR and scooted over to the operating table. By then I was doing my best to hold my sobs in, but the result was gasping hiccups that made me appear more hysterical than I was. The anesthesiologist put something in my IV and reassured me that it would help me calm down. I attempted a joke, asking something like that “what, do I seem not calm?” I’m pretty sure my humor was lost, only making me appear more unstable. Before too many more minutes, the mask went over my face and I was out.
I woke up easily, not having to fight my way to consciousness like I’ve had to after previous surgeries. When I got out of bed to get dressed, I was shocked by the amount of blood left behind. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if there’s a lot, or if it just soaks in and spreads, but this was a lot.
I’d been warned that the next few days would bring cramping and bleeding, similar to a bad period. I have pretty bad periods, though, so what I experienced, physically, was a breeze compared to menstruation. Emotionally, the following days were rough. At times I would sob and sob, but then I would go hours with no tears at all. Every time I thought I’d turned a corner and was dealing better, another crying jag would hit.
By Sunday evening, I was dreading going back to school. It was finals week, though, and I wanted to be there for my students as they reviewed for and took their final exams. There were only five days standing between me and Christmas vacation. I was confident I could make it.
I don’t think going back to work five days after a D & C for a miscarriage is right for everyone, but it was the right decision for me. I love my job, I love my students, and I would have wallowed if left at home alone. My biggest fear was that I would fall apart if students or coworkers asked questions. I only fielded a few “how are you”s from coworkers and didn’t get teary. I did have two students tell me they’d been thinking about and praying for me; that’s the closest I came to crying that first day.
At the time of posting, it’s been eight weeks since my miscarriage. I did ask for a prescription for anxiety medicine when I went to my post-surgery appointment. I’m normally a calm person, but in those first days back at work I found myself getting angry or wanting to cry over the smallest things. I took that medication- it seemed to work, helping me control my feelings without turning me into an emotionless robot- for a month. I stopped because I felt like I could cope without it, and I could. I wasn’t opposed to continuing to take the medicine, though, if either J. or I thought it was necessary.
I continue to have moments where I’m overcome with longing and grief, but those are fewer are farther between. When friends and acquaintances who conceived around the time we did announce the gender of their babies, that’s tough. I know that I’d be 20 weeks right now, feeling tiny butterfly flutters in my belly and attending our baby reveal appointment. I’m sure that our due date in June will be especially hard.
The loss is hard. Knowing that my body didn’t do what it was supposed to do to keep the baby safe is tough. Looking at the maternity clothes I’d just washed, the diapers I’d begun to stock up on, the ultrasound picture we’d put on the Christmas tree in a picture frame ornament. All of those things are difficult, but they aren’t the hardest part.
The hardest part is the longing. The longing for those first moments when baby is fresh from birth, and the world fades, and it’s just the three of you. The longing to see our two children hold their brand-new baby sibling, to see our youngest become a big sister and watch our oldest thrive in the big brother role we’d already begun to discuss with him. The longing to experience all the struggles and triumphs as we adjust to life as a family of five.
Longing for all of the what-should-have-beens is hard, and knowing that we’ll miss those moments with this baby for the rest of our lives is even harder. We know that one day we’ll get to meet and hold and love on this baby, and there is comfort in that, but it doesn’t make the dark moments of raw grief any easier.
I don’t have advice or wisdom for women healing from pregnancy loss; that isn’t what these posts are meant to be. I do plan to write a couple posts like that, if and when I feel like I have something valuable to add to the conversation. This is just my story.
Note: if you have experienced miscarriage, please feel free to share your story- or a link to your story- in the comments. I continue to gain strength from hearing and reading about other women’s journeys. Also, feel free to leave links to any articles, tips, or posts on miscarriage that you’ve found helpful.