September 11, 2017
[Editor's note: This is a deeply personal and graphically descriptive summary of the writer's experience with a recent miscarriage.]
It was back in February when my period stopped: I was late. My husband and I began to get excited; we had been trying for almost a year. Pee test after test came back negative, but as the days went on, I remained period-less.
After four negative pee tests and two do-it-yourself-at-home wacky ones I found online, I called my doctor and went in for blood work. That, too, came back negative, and he informed me that sometimes ovaries just temporarily stop producing eggs, and it was probably hormonal. He ran some more blood work and told me not to worry about it.
Time dragged on; my period never returned. I had not one pregnancy symptom. At this time, I was a host in a restaurant; my husband and I were working there together. It was a new location, and my Texas best friend's husband was the executive chef. He knew I was a stay-home mom with a child in school and had limited free hours. He hired me and gave me the Monday-to-Friday mom school shift that no job would ever accommodate.
In May, my period came back from the dead. Not only that, but it came back with a vengeance. I bled for days. It was normal at first, but days turned into weeks. After three weeks of blood, it began to get thicker, chunky, bright red, and my cramps became more painful than anything I had ever experienced. I called my husband after bleeding through two super-max tampons within 20 minutes or so. He came home from work early and told me he would watch our son so I could go to the emergency room.
I grabbed a pile of tampons and headed out the door. I bled through my pants by the time I arrived; it was less than a 10-minute drive. The man at the front desk checked me in right away, and I was given a room at the end of a crowded hallway. I was placed in the children's room. It was painted like the beach: The walls were blue and covered with painted-on fish, whales, seahorses. It was almost nice.
I was quickly seen and was asked to take a pee test. After, I was wheeled down a hallway and into a room for an ultrasound -- to see where the bleeding was coming from, they said.
When that was done, I was wheeled back to my room and given scrubs and hospital underwear to change into, since I was covered with blood. Once I was changed, a nurse came into my room. She hooked an IV up to my wrist (I have super shitty veins), then she let me know that I was pregnant and casually walked away like it was a normal doctor's appointment.
Here I was, bleeding all over the place, alone in the emergency room with a dying cell phone battery. My girlfriend and husband were texting me as I lay there with this information. I did not tell either of them. I was speechless and maybe in shock. Obviously, this amount of blood cannot go with a good pregnancy. I lay there and cried as the doctors in another room tried to figure out what to do with me.
I was there for hours. I had gotten a room a little after 5 p.m. Not until 11 p.m. was I told that I was 10 weeks pregnant with a dead baby.
They needed to get it out and were debating whether to send me to another hospital via ambulance or let me go and have it done in a normal doctor's office in the next few days. Since my vitals were stable, they were in no rush to transfer me, so finally, around 2 a.m., I was released in my snazzy scrubs carrying a bag of bloody clothes and prescriptions for pain medication.
When I walked into my house, my husband and son were sitting up watching a movie, waiting. I told my husband in private, since our son was six years old and one of the things he wanted most was to be a big brother. Also, explaining a miscarriage to a child was not on my list of things to do -- ever. I put our son to bed and had a slice of pizza. I took a shower to de-blood myself and also went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up around 5 a.m., and my cramps were so bad I thought I was going to die. I had a heating pad and had taken some Advil; I tried to take a hot bath to calm the cramping. I seriously thought I was going to pass out. I tried to not wake our son since his bedroom was the room next door to the bathroom with the tub, and he had just gone to bed some three hours before. About 20 minutes after my moaning and groaning, my husband got out of bed to fill my prescriptions. Those pain pills were amazing; I slept most of the day, while the boys went to pet stores and filled an empty fish tank our friend had given us.
The boys got breakfast and fed the fish while I napped with the dogs and cat for most of the day. I scheduled a doctor's appointment with the place the emergency room recommended; however, their website had nothing open until a few days later. I booked it. I then arranged for my girlfriend to watch our son, so we could try to get the D&C (dilation and curettage) done faster at the emergency room they were originally going to transfer me to. The waiting room was empty, and we were seen almost immediately. I brought my stack of discharge paperwork to avoid any issues or duplicate tests. They said that since my vitals were fine, it was not an emergency to have it taken out. They, too, sent us away.
The pain meds got me through the next few days; my girlfriend again watched our son as we headed to the doctor's office for our appointment. Too bad they needed $500 upfront, and they were not going to be able to do the procedure that day either. We left that office and called my HIV doctor to see whether they had any suggestions. I was immediately transferred to a nurse who used to work in a local county hospital in an OBGYN triage unit. She gave us the address, and we headed there.
We arrived at the hospital, checked in and waited to be called. Soon after, I was called back into a room to be weighed, given a hospital bracelet -- I now had a collection -- and gave a woman my reason for being there and my pain-level information. I was sent back to the waiting room, and by the time I sat down, I was being called into a room. I re-explained what was going on to another nurse, who assured us that they would try to help, but also mentioned how late it was in the day and that the anesthesiologist was not on this side of the hospital at this time of day. We were pleading with her that this was my husband's last day off work to drive me to an appointment like this, and he might have mentioned taking me to Mexico for the procedure if this place was not going to do it today.
Soon after, a midwife came in, and said she heard we wanted this done today and she was going to try and do it herself with no medication and no machines. She opened me -- yes, it hurt -- and she took out the fetus. She even asked us whether we wanted to see it. "No," was the answer all around, and they took it away. It was done. She informed me that she got the baby, and the rest would bleed out in the next few weeks. I was then finally given a painkiller. After the procedure, we had to wait for 30 minutes to make sure I had no side effects.
I lay on my hospital bed after getting dressed. We heard a woman come out of the bathroom down the hall screaming, "It's coming." Then, we heard a splash and all sorts of commotion, and we heard a baby cry followed by clapping and cheering. A nurse had caught the baby as it fell out of her mother, who was standing up in the hallway coming out of the bathroom. We listened to life begin within minutes of death leaving our room.
After 30 minutes, we walked out and drove home to pick up our son. Our lives went on; my bleeding continued for more than a month. In more ways than one, my family's life would never be the same.
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Brooke grew up in San Diego, Calif., and from a young age she wanted to change the world with her words. She has been writing poetry since 1992, and majored in journalism in school.
She was diagnosed with AIDS when she was eleven weeks pregnant in her first year of marriage. She is now a single mother living in Long Beach, Calif.
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