WARNING: Graphic language
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Miscarriage is not funny.
But hear me out…
Watch this short clip from Season 8 of one of my favorite British sitcoms, “Only Fools and Horses.” The main character, Del Boy, gives his younger brother, Rodney, advice on how to console his wife who’d just lost their baby.
If this doesn’t make you laugh, we may need to check your pulse. Having moved to England, where this kind of thing was after-school fare for my generation while they were growing up, I’d venture to guess it’s part of the reason why there’s a stark difference in how difficult subjects are broached there compared to other countries.
I keep a classical station playing in my daughter’s room (she likes it because it’s “ballet music” <3), and just last night, during a talk radio segment, the DJ and a guest were discussing how miscarriage needs to be addressed more openly in the UK. Regarding things like family planning, crime, ethics, religion, politics, and definitely racism, England has NOTHING on the United States’s unfathomable depths of depravity that are egregiously performed and then immediately gaslit on a daily basis.
One can only operate from the frame of reference you grew up with or lived in, but I still had to scoff at that woman’s genuine concern that Great Britain needed oh so much improvement. In America, it’s infinitely more taboo to talk about miscarriage, and pregnancy, for that matter. The prevailing sentiment is that one shouldn’t even say anything until at least the second trimester because heaven forbid you have to actually discuss if you don’t make it to that point. That is utter bullshit, in my humble opinion. Just because these things are common doesn’t mean they’re common for me or any woman.
Even if someone has had five miscarriages, like a dear friend of mine’s mother did, it’s not like they just become an old hat at losing babies. It simply becomes her first time experiencing a fifth miscarriage. And can you imagine the fear and worry that accompanied what was once a happy and enthusiastic discovery of her pregnancy? Or the trepidation that came with every single day, every single twinge, every single cough? Finally, the pure devastation of losing yet another child after believing that surely the universe wouldn’t be so cruel? Sorry to belabor the point, but I’d like for you to now imagine going through all of that… alone.
I understand and appreciate that I’m in a unique position, as I am not seeking employment or in a working situation where sharing a pregnancy could have negative ramifications. Hopefully, my stories can be bridges for other women and men to share what they have gone through or are going through, even if only by way of a private message. I think this is especially necessary for those who cannot share their experiences as vociferously as I’m allowed to. With all that being said, here’s what happened as I approached the third month of my first pregnancy.
What Had Happened
A week prior, I’d had a horrible miscarriage scare, which you can read about in my blog post, Lost and Found. To sum it up, after a day of overexerting myself, I began bleeding and passing clots. I was given an emergency ultrasound, and everything appeared to be in order, so I tried to take things easy moving forward. Unfortunately, nothing I did (or didn’t do) mattered.
Thursday, March 30, I was in an early evening Zoom meeting when I (Final Warning: it gets pretty gross from here on out) felt my panties begin to soak through. I got off camera and checked myself in the bathroom. Sure enough, fresh blood. But, no worries, it was probably just a recurrence of what happened last week. Therefore, I calmly return to my laptop, wrap my call, and head upstairs to take off my soiled clothes and clean myself up.
While on the toilet, I text my husband (I do that a lot… I’m sure he still thinks it’s weird…), but I text my husband to let him know what’s going on and that I’m not overly concerned. Don’t be alarmed, my love. But the bleeding only got worse. If the previous scare was a heavy period flow, this was approaching the elevators in The Shining. I put on a maxi pad, and within an hour, it was overflowing with bright red blood, but still no clotting. I change yet again and text Chris with an update. Please don’t worry, sweetheart. The moment after I hit send, I wipe myself and pull up not a clot but a whole slab of meat.
This is not good. Last week, the doctor told me that if I started filling up sanitary napkins, to go to the Emergency Room, known as A&E (Accidents & Emergencies) in England. Still, I tried to hold off a bit to see if things would subside a little… and then I sneezed. Ladies, you know. Fellas, so you know, when this happens (a cough or abrupt laugh), you can feel your insides instantly jettison your body. My underwear and jeans were deluged. Darling, I’ve gotta go to the hospital.
I decided to take a quick bath before heading out because a shower just wouldn’t cut it. But that was a mistake. I could literally see a crimson stream emanating from my nethers the entire time. At one point, I passed another large chunk and had to fucking catch it in my hands… it could be most likened to the size, density, and texture of what I’d imagine a human kidney must feel like. (Hey, I warned you.) I tried hard not to speculate; our little one was only the size of a blueberry at this point, but it nevertheless occurred to me that I was most likely holding the remnants of our baby. More crucially, that was the moment I was 99.99% sure my pregnancy was over.
At Ipswich A&E (who were fantastic), I fill another pad before myself, a 3-month-pregnant Romanian woman, and a 7-month-pregnant Turkish lady are all wheeled as an adorable little international convoy up to the Peggy Cole maternity ward. The nurses warned us that they didn’t have ultrasound capability overnight but that an obstetrician would examine each of us in turn. We get there around midnight, and Turkish is up first. Things do not go well. We can hear muffled moans, and it sounds like the doctor pages someone for help about a half hour later. The Romanian and I never saw the Turk again, but she was called back herself at 1:45am.
She came back to find me 30 minutes later to report that she and her baby were doing fine! Her sciatica nerve seems to have been the culprit for her excruciating lower back pain, not her kidneys or anything critical or unmanageable. I was so relieved and happy for her. We embraced for a long while, and then I was alone in the crucible.
The on-call maternity doctor saw me soon after and examined me vaginally. My bleeding had slowed by this time, and she confirmed that my cervix was passing blood but appeared closed and had no material stuck in it. Understandably, without imaging, she could not tell me the status of what was still just my embryo at this stage, not even yet a fetus. The hospital would call in the morning to schedule a scan. I was initially slated to come in for one on Wednesday the 5th, so the best they could do when they called was to move my date up to Monday, the 3rd.
They rescheduled me on a Friday, so despite my analytical side knowing full well that the amount of carnage emerging from my body couldn’t have been survivable, I still felt like I was walking around with Schrödinger’s womb all weekend. The feeling of deja vu from what I’d experienced the previous week didn’t help. I was so sure I had lost the baby then, had accepted it as a point of fact, and had begun searching flights back to Charlotte for a second try. Yet, I had been wrong then…
To Those Who Wait
Saturday, I’d planned a small dinner at The Mermaid for my husband’s 42nd birthday, which was so pleasant that it helped us keep our minds off things. Then, the next morning, this man wakes up, on his actual birthday, and makes Cloud and me the biggest, most scrumptious full English breakfast. He even whipped up his homemade crepe-style British pancakes that I adore. Chris’s love language is Acts of Service, so you better believe I felt it to my core. We chilled for the rest of the day, but he was clearly coming down with one of the multitudinous bugs that originate from your child’s daycare.
Come Monday, Chris was far too sick to accompany me and had to stay with Cloud anyway as she doesn’t go to nursery until the afternoon. So I set off on my own to lift the lid on this box. I had a very sedate male technician this time around named Kieran. He didn’t even take a full minute to confirm what I already knew. Our little nugget’s heart had stopped beating at seven weeks, presumably on Thursday when I had the heavy bleeding event.
My first reaction was, “Aww, you were trying so hard to hang in there, baby.” Because their heartbeat wasn’t detectable in our previous scan a little over a week prior, I felt gladness seeing that they had actually continued to thrive since that initial emergency ultrasound. I’d had morning sickness since then, but I guess I was still uncertain until I saw that they had grown. It was a small comfort, somehow. Seeing their teeny body at all was a surprise in itself. I was fully expecting to have had a complete miscarriage due to the severity of my bleeding. Going in with this expectation, and having reconciled the loss from the first scare, helped me to take the news very well.
Maybe a little too well. Kieran, his female observer, and Katie, the nurse who came to retrieve me… everyone was so incredibly sympathetic that I felt a little bad for not openly weeping or showing distress. After I’d gotten dressed, Katie moved me into what they call the “Quiet Room,” which solely housed three plush chairs, a small table covered with pamphlets, and the world’s sweetest but most depressing bulletin board. There were flyers, leaflets, and posters for miscarriage support services, suicide prevention helplines, ectopic pregnancy information, and even a football (soccer) league for men who have experienced child loss.
Katie returned wearing the softest of figurative kid gloves. She spoke to me in dulcet tones about how sorry she was for my loss and the services available for processing and moving forward. I told her how much I appreciated her consideration and kindness but that I was quite alright. She kind of reluctantly continued in a more neutral but friendly tone of voice that seemed more her norm and outlined my options.
Because I didn’t have a complete miscarriage, I could wait to see if I passed the remainder of my "pregnancy material” naturally within the next several weeks. Otherwise, I could have what essentially amounts to an abortion. I silently thanked my lucky stars that I was dealing with this in a more civilized country than dumbass bible belt America. I could be put under for the procedure with a general anesthetic, but they couldn’t schedule this for a few days. Even then, anyone needing the operating theater would trump my appointment. So instead, I opted to have it done with local anesthetic injections directly onto my cervix.
They were able to bring me back in for this the very next day. Chris was even further under the weather, which I was admittedly somewhat relieved about. My husband is the most even-keeled person but not much of a talker. He was on such a short fuse (for him) when we faced the prospect of losing our little one the first time around, so I knew that all of this was hitting him hardest. I probably would have made him stay home if he wasn’t sick. So off I went to handle it alone.
No Laughing Matter
I really wasn’t, though. Chris was a text away at every step, and Katie, the same nurse who’d been with me after my scan, was there again that day. The doctor performing the removal was an insanely nice and precious African man named Dave, which, if you know anything more about the show I shared above, had me chuckling to myself. Speaking of which, they give you a nozzle to suck in as much laughing gas as you can during the surgery.
My brief but profligate history with drugs hard drugs will have to be a tale for another day, but suffice it to say that smoking weed does nothing for me; only edibles. I had to take god-level amounts of shrooms just to baseline. I have tried five tabs of LSD on three separate occasions and never felt a damn thing. My friends have a running joke that “Sophie micro-doses the whole bag,” and it’s genuinely more a statement of fact. So unfortunately, I can add nitrous oxide to the list of things that do not work as expected in my body.
Katie did warn me that the nos wasn’t intended to diminish the pain, but more so to take you off to another land so you don’t care about it. Beyond a little tingling in my fingers, I got nothing. It was only about a ten-minute process of administering the local, suctioning out my uterus, and then repeating the process for good measure. I felt every single bit of it. Katie held my hand throughout it all and was so encouraging and explicit about each step. Still, I couldn’t help it. I started crying about halfway through; it hurt so badly. The physical pain began to meld and mesh with the emotional pain… it was awful. Then, as the reality of what was happening to me at that moment set in, all I could do was weep and keep huffing on that gas in hopes that it might eventually make a dent.
When everything was all said and done, Katie continually reassured me that I'd done a great job, as though I were puttering across the finish line of a marathon in last place. Like, you clearly didn’t have a good time participating in this, but good for you for managing to make it through to the end. If that were really the case, my consolation prize was the most British thing ever: a strong cuppa with a digestive biscuit to help put me to rights before taking my blood pressure and sending me on my way.
I got home and slept for pretty much the rest of the day. Throughout the next few weeks, I existed in a state of peace, stippled with sudden, sporadic, and sharp dips in my countenance. For example, a day or so after, Chris and I were out when I received a call from an NHS midwife specializing in loss and grief. She asked how I was doing, and I got the impression she was extremely weirded out by how chipper I was when I regaled her with how lucky I felt that I could even get pregnant and how beautiful it was to carry a piece of my husband with me for the time that I could.
Then a few days later, I had trouble sleeping but finally fell out around 2am. Moments later, Cloud came into our room, and I woke up feeling just this profound and interminable depression. I put her back to bed, went downstairs, and cried for what felt like hours. No amount of self-talk or CBT exercises or positive thinking helped. I told you how I text my husband despite being in the same house? Well, I’m so glad I did so that I can go back and re-read his response whenever I need to. I sent him something along these lines:
I'm so sad right now. Tired, angry, and sad. I feel like a failure on so so so many levels. I can't keep my kid in her own bed. I can't keep my weight off. I can't keep a job. I can't keep a baby… You know me. I can usually ignore a dark day or find the light in it, but I just can’t right now. I do recognize that I have innumerable things to be happy about, that I'm so lucky, that I'm supported, but I'm still sad. Logically, I know this will pass, but jesus, it's so painful to be in this space at this moment.
I’ll have to apologize to him for sharing that publicly (as well as all our personal business, come to think of it). But I know he would say the same things in front of a stadium full of people. Plus, he knows to whom he’s married, so I’m confident he’ll forgive me. Besides , if there’s a “Perfect Responses to an Overwrought Woman” manual, this needs to be in it. I am so in love with this man.
That’s one of the primary reasons I’m so excited to try again. A personality that kind, genuine, funny, copacetic, and wholesome simply deserves to be propagated, dammit! To that end, I have once again utilized my favorite service in the whole world, Skiplagged, to find a $230 flight to JFK. Then again to purchase a hidden-city ticket to Charlotte for just $70! Yes, you’re reading that right. I was able to fly from England to the United States last minute for about $300. Y’all better click that link!
So as it stands today, May 9, the ball is already rolling on our next transfer. In keeping with the TMI nature of this post, I started my period yesterday, which was officially ‘Cycle Day 1.’ I have an appointment in the morning for bloodwork and an ultrasound at my clinic, Reproductive Specialists of the Carolinas, to determine meds and next steps. As I look forward to my next occupant, I’d like to thank my tiny nugget for doing their best. I've posthumously named them Gem since that’s fairly unisex and perfectly describes what they were and are to me. I will forever be grateful for the lessons they taught me about pressing pause and relinquishing control.
And god, I’m crying so hard right now. This is a very difficult piece to write, but thank you, dear reader, for making it through with me. I’d like to leave you with a recommendation. I recently re-read Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and had forgotten how poignant that book is. Many gems (see) pertained to my situation, such as, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Also, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” But the verse that hit hardest was this:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
How beautiful is that?
And remember the woman from earlier who experienced five failed pregnancies? She went on to have three children, including my sweet friend, who the world would be so much worse off for if he weren’t in it. Part of me feels it would be a slap in both their faces NOT to keep trying, so that’s precisely what we’re going to do.
Thank you so much, Gemmy darling. Mommy and Daddy will always love you!