A miscarriage debrief on October 15th


If you are anywhere on pregnancy and parenting-related social media sites, you know that October 15th commemorates pregnancy and infant loss. It is the day when parents who have lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth replace their profile pictures with a burning candle. It is also a month almost to the day from when I experienced my first significant miscarriage and ended-up in hospital as a result, without my fetus and without most of my blood supply. 

I’m not in a place where I can wax poetic and inspiring about the reality of pregnancy loss but I can wax brutally honest any day of the week so ready or not, here I come. 

How much have my husband and I learned through the last 5 weeks! Miscarriage packs quite the sucker punch. Leaving aside the medical fall-out, it’s like a post-partum hormonal crash minus the baby to cuddle. One minute you think you’re holding-up pretty well, thank you very much, and the next you’re sitting in a puddle. This post is an attempt at expressing the depth of conflicting emotions that grab you when you go through the experience of miscarriage. Maybe you will read it and learn something. But maybe someone will read it and feel normal, this is my hope. 

My new pregnancy happened in my new community and I had to debate whether I would seek the care of my usual midwifery team — which would involve driving into town to deliver in hospital or at the birth center — or to register with the midwifery practice for my area — which would allow me to give birth at home or at my local hospital. I really struggled with this decision. The safe course of action, given that I dilate more-or-less painlessly until 7-8cm, was to stay in my area rather than risk an hour long drive into town in transition. But despite being a rational and rather well-hinged individual, I couldn’t think rationally about it. I did get on a local midwife’s roster but when I miscarried, the lack of emotional support from my midwife was really difficult to cope with. It wasn’t her fault: we had only met once. The scope of practice of Ontario midwives is perfect for normal healthy pregnancies but it it grossly inadequate for not-so-normal pregnancies. When I started bleeding heavily, I paged a midwife I didn’t know, who didn’t know me, and directed me to the emergency department of my local hospital. I never heard again from my midwifery clinic. It’s not their fault: they have clients and jobs and no-longer-pregnant women are not part of it. I had to call to cancel lab appointments, midwifery follow-ups and ultrasounds appointments and never got a single call from my midwife to make sure I was ok. 

The same scenario was repeated the following week when my family doctor asked for an OBGYN referral to the specialist who was on call when I miscarried for an unrelated issue. My family doctor got a fax back from the specialist’s desk saying: “This Patient was seen last week for a miscarriage. Is this referral still needed?” I had to shake my head: why would anyone want to follow-up with a specialist about a miscarriage anyway (insert sarcasm)? You are no longer pregnant. Next caller. 

After all, an entire cast of characters saw you bleed from your private parts, stuck stuff up the same parts (u/s wand, many speculums and some pliers), washed you as if you were an infant and watched you use the bathroom at every bladder or bowel movement to make sure, in their words, that you didn’t “empty out.” I felt like I wanted to meet these people. Face to face. I wanted to show them my living children so they would know me for more than “that great grand multipara who had a miscarriage.” I received superlative and compassionate care from the doctors and nurses I met along the way, from my admittance until my transfusion and my final release from care. It still sits weird with me that these people hold such an important place in my life and memory but I’ll never be more than another patient to them. When I was the head of the students’ legal information clinic in university I used to tell my volunteers “Clients may be one in 20 people you will talk to today but their legal issue is probably occupying  almost 100% of their head space. The contact you have with them might feel like nothing to you but it could be everything to them if they are caught in a difficult situation. Be compassionate and mindful of that rapport.” Now I am living what it is to be at the vulnerable end of a relation of care, where saving your life is just another day at the office. It is a terrifying and humbling vulnerability that I will never forget. 

When I started bleeding more heavily, I called a friend who had had a miscarriage and asked her to tell me, no punch pulled, what to expect. I had to hang up to call my midwife and head to emerg. The last thing I told my oldest daughter as I left was “try to make my bathroom look not like a crime scene.” I lost so much blood that I was no longer able to inspect every blood clot for my fetus. When I finally had an ultrasound, I was still hoping that they would find a strong heartbeat. The hope that your baby might still be alive will just not die. But not only was my baby not alive, it was not even there. They never saw an embryo, let alone the 12 weeks fetus I was hoping to see and hold in my hand, to make it real. Being seen in a situation of emergency means that health care personnel don’t always have the time or opportunity  to slip-on their kid gloves. From the doctor to the u/s technician, nobody is taking the time to explain very slowly and clearly what is happening. I had to piece it together from things I overheard and caught flying. Just before I passed out from the blood loss I asked my husband to take pictures of anything that they pulled out of me. I have phone pictures of a tiny placenta and sac with a chord extending to nothing. To this day, I’m still unsure exactely how or when I lost my fetus and whether there was ever anything to see. Many women who have experienced miscarriage have asked me if I have named the baby but how can I ? As far as know, it might have been anembryonic. Was there ever someone? Am I only grieving the idea of a baby? Is this all in my head? I still cry when I see my friends’ ultrasound pictures thinking this could be my baby, then I want to slap myself back to reality. There was no baby. Or was there? I have not named my baby. I can’t. It just feels fake.

Friends cautioned me against trying to assign blame (to myself) or find a reason why. The doctor who saw me mentioned that my age and parity were probably the reason I miscarried. But this just makes me angry. I know why I miscarried. I’ve been complaining to my family doctor about hormonal imbalance, progesterone whackiness and thyroid shenanigans since 2012. Now I’m angry. I will be recovering from this miscarriage for the next year or two. I have problems absorbing iron (probably something else that is caused by age and parity — insert even more sarcasm) and now I’m stating from something less than scratch. This could have been prevented. When I asked for a full thyroid panel, I was begrudgingly given a requisition for TSH and thyroid antibodies. When I asked for T3 to be tested as well I was told that since my thyroid dysfunction was probably due to (DRINK!!!) my family size, it was not necessary. Every complaint I take to my doctor — and I moved clinics, saw specialists, this “doctor” is a compendium of several specimen — is explained by my family size. Nobody will listen when I say that I did my Master’s in law at McGill in Montreal, commuting 2 to 3 times a week, getting an A+ average, when I had 5 children, including a 5 month-old breastfed infant. I worked full time in active politics, on Parliament Hill, with 6 children. I trained for half-marathons when I had 6,7,8 children, running 20 to 30 km a week. Suddenly my health goes haywire, I’m depressed, I have no focus, i’m shuffling rather than running, I’m gaining 5-10 lbs a month while dieting, I’m losing my hair, I’m not sleeping even when my baby does, and it’s because I have 9 children? Are you actually kidding me? You went to med school for how long to tell me that? I’ve had a big family since 2006, Bucky! What is ok with 8 that is suddenly making me unhealthy because I have 9? Can someone with a medical background please explain that to me? Because to me it sounds a lot like someone wanted to call it in today and is trying to get me off their examining table before rush hour. Being a woman is such a convenient cop-out, still today. I know that with proper healthcare I might still be pregnant today. I know that if I didn’t have any children at 41 and experienced two losses back-to-back, my doctor would be investigating the causes of the miscarriages. But I have children already, so why should I care? Could it be because the underlying causes of the repeated losses impact my overall health? I’m not trying to catch-up with the Duggars here, I just want to be healthy again. Maybe this is a coping mechanism and yet another sign that I’m just another nutcase great grand multip. But now I’m kicking ass and I’m taking names. I have 9 kids, you can’t scare me. 

  

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8 thoughts on “A miscarriage debrief on October 15th

  1. lillie

    re: midwifery practice. I left that practice ( your local) when they showed dubious levels of concern for me during a scary incident. So I left. I would say your impressions are not imagined, not at all. However, I was also treated brutally horribly during birth, enough to complain to the college, by a downtown clinic that you use. So it is luck of the draw, some midwives can be awful, just like all other profesions, I guess. Thank you for this post.

    1. Oh wow! I’m sorry to read that! I found that a lot of politicking got in the way of optimal treatment. I got caught in the crosshairs between doctors and midwives a couple of times (and OB and family doc once, same idea). Not what you want to focus on in labour. I’m assuming that you changed caregivers for this baby?

      1. lillie

        Veronique, yes, hospital politics played a role in my bad experience with a midwife. It was Jeckyl and Hyde midwifery: one midwife in clinic, another midwife and cruel bully in hospital. Hospital policy and risk aversion can account for some of her actions but sadly not all.

        Onwards and upwards! I found a practice I am content, if not ecstatic with for these past two pregnancies. Unfortunately, still have to labour in hospital due to my history, which is dancing with the devil in my books.

        Thank you for your beautiful posts, I read them all. When I took classes on grief and loss at university, miscarriage was an area of loss hilighted as unsupported by medicine and society in general and I hope you are doing well.

  2. Lolo

    I am so sorry for your loss – I really feel your pain over this. The anger, too. I have suffered several miscarriages, and one of the biggest issues that come back to me is the frustration of the attitudes of total indifference (even some outright hostility) of many of the caregivers regarding our losses…..when it happened in my 20’s the attitude was, you have time, why rush it, there will be more pregnancies.After being blessed with our first two daughters it was like, you have two already, you want more? Be grateful for what you have. Now, in my early 40’s the attitude is, it’s because of age, don’t push it, you might end up with a special needs child. My husband and I always desired a large family, since I keep falling pregnant anyhow, it would be great if I could get some support to give these little souls the best chance possible. For the last several months, we have been working with the Creighton method, and are hoping if I get pregnant again the monitoring of my hormone levels, etc may make a difference. All the best and much love to you and your family during this painful time 💕 P.S.Just came across your blog looking for info and anecdotes about Catholic homeschooling, really enjoyed some of your posts, thanks!

    1. Thank you for your message! I’m happy that you liked the blog! When I read the first half of your message I thought “I must tell her about Creighton!” We are also Creighton users and it’s been such a blessing through this because at least I can look back on my charts and see why I had the two losses. My NaPro doc (who is not my family doc but maybe should be…) has already told me that if I get pregnant again, to come right away for some supplemental progesterone. I would prefer waiting for the thyroid issues to be resolved but it’s definitely a great comfort to know that should a pregnancy happen regardless, they’re not just going to hold their breaths and hope for the best (which is what a normal doc would do). 🙌🏻

  3. madd

    Thank you for sharing your heart… it must have been very hard for you! Doctors may be inhumane and judgmental at times. Hugs and love Veronique! 😘❤

  4. Laura

    I have so felt for you in your last posts. I am so sorry you have been so let down by the medical fraternity. I felt such anger after the birth of my first child because of simple indifference by the medical personnel attending the birth which didn’t result in any damage to myself or my daughter but a lot of miscommunication and discomfort. Thankyou for sharing on your blog. Love and hugs.

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