I chose married life at the age of 40. I felt a bond with my future husband when we met. My first impression: I felt like I was meeting someone I already knew. Fast-forward a year and a few months when we decided to make our dreams of parenthood come true.
A Thanksgiving positive pregnancy test! We shared our happy news. I attempted to schedule an appointment with my ob/gyn. Things became strange quickly. I was told that I could only see a nurse, until I was further into the first trimester. Huh?
Two ultrasounds later, a feeling of dread increased. A nurse came and told us that the baby was known as a “missed abortion." This medical term refers to the situation when “the pregnancy stops developing, but the pregnancy tissue does not pass out of the uterus for at least four weeks”. The practice's administrator accompanied the doctor's delivery of the sad news by asking if we were satisfied with our experience at the practice. I greatly appreciated my husband's response: “Well, other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?” Our experience highlights the importance of speaking about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and infertility very carefully and sensitively. The language used in the U.S. to discuss this experience regularly fails to encompass the complexities of pregnancy, and pregnancy loss.
[Related: Three IVF myths you probably believe]
So, how to have our miscarriage? The hospital was only willing to induce a miscarriage; they were uninterested in helping me have a natural miscarriage. Targeted medical research showed that surgical miscarriages could damage the cervix, making future pregnancies more difficult. A friend who had experienced a miscarriage for each of her successful births, told me that a miscarriage is comparable to a birth. The doctor's office told me to wait no longer than three weeks to miscarry.
Within two-and-a half-weeks, I began experiencing lower back pain at work. We had the miscarriage at home, catching the “products of conception” in large plastic containers. At one point I felt extremely light headed and asked my husband to call the practice. By the time the doctor on call called back, the feeling had passed. I had felt lightheaded as the fetal sac passed from my body intact. I held my baby in my hands and thought about he or she. Then I spoke with the doctor, who told me under what circumstances I should come into the hospital. I never needed to, but it would have been nice for the medical professionals to have shared this information in advance. Some people have home births; I had a home miscarriage.
We tried again and became pregnant. This time we had a heartbeat! My husband's expression of joy included a gift of a Beanie Baby kangaroo. My much younger sister was also pregnant, and we imagined raising our children together. Our mother was looking forward to her first grandchildren. But on a follow-up doctor's visit, we learned that the baby had died in utero. Since my pregnancy was more advanced, we opted for a surgical miscarriage. On the day my miscarriage was scheduled, I went for a final ultrasound, to insure that the baby had no heartbeat. Then I went to the hospital for the medical procedure known as a miscarriage.
I visualized a miscarriage with no surgical damage. Later the doctor told me two things that I appreciate knowing: He told me that I must have been ready to miscarry, since he touched my body and the miscarriage began with minimal medical contribution to the process. I told him I had visualized my miscarriage happening this way. Next, he told me that I had asked to hold the baby. All I'd known is that I came out of the anesthetic with tears on my face. I appreciated the facts that the doctor shared with me.
A final, extremely-early miscarriage, several years, and an adoption later, we have a beloved son. We chose adoption as our path to parenthood, and we enjoy our son every day. Given the fact that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I feel it necessary to say that I support every woman's right to choose, and to make, with her doctor, the medical decisions necessary to preserve her physical and mental health. The ignorance resulting from the misinformation spread by those who fail to grasp the complexities of pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy loss threatens women, children, and society at large.