Journey to Motherhood-Part 4: The Physical Pain

This is part 4 of a series of blogs chronicling my journey from Jen-the-Wife to Jen-the-Wife-and-Mom.  It’s a journey filled with ups and downs, with most recently a huge valley to navigate through-miscarriage.

In this blog, I’ll be recounting the physical side of miscarriage, which for me was a huge part of it.  Before I had to go through the physical miscarriage, it was easier to be positive in spite of the sadness.  However, during the physical pain, I entered some pretty emotionally dark places.

I wanted to write this part of the series for two reasons: one-so I can remember the details.  A friend who has lost her son said that it doesn’t really make sense now, but one day I will actually look back with longing to the physical pain, because it was a time when I was still connected to her, physically.  And secondly, even six months ago, before I had any idea that I would be going through it myself, my heart broke for the women and families who go through this.  It is such a secret grief that is not talked about, maybe because some feel like they can’t, like it’s a taboo topic, because it relates to reproductive health and issues.  And I want to overcome that oppressive silence.

All of the research I’ve done on it, pre-and-post-miscarriage, has said that the key to healing is to talk about it.  Sadly, I read a story the other night about a woman who had a miscarriage before her two living children, and never told a single person about it.  Eventually, when her grown daughter had a miscarriage of her own, she finally told her daughter, and still felt shame about it.  She lived for decades with this secret grief, which only churned and multiplied inside of her, stealing away her joy.

So anyway, here is the story of my physical miscarriage.  Get ready for open talk.  (Don’t proceed if you don’t want full disclosure.)

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After learning the heartbreaking truth that our Ellie Hannah was no longer living, I spent the rest of that day in bed, crying, sleeping, and trying to figure out where to go from here.

The next day, Thursday, I was tired of laying around in bed.  I wasn’t ready to go out and be social, but I was ready to begin forward motion-even if that just meant leaving my room to go downstairs.

When Josh got home from work that afternoon, I was ready to go out.  We decided to go to a late lunch at my favorite restaurant-Olive Garden.  While there, I had my first soda in months, and although it was good, I still found myself wishing that I had a reason to abstain; I wished that I was still pregnant.  As we talked over our meal, I began to feel light cramps.  They weren’t anything that I don’t normally feel during my period, so I was able to continue talking.

After Olive Garden, we headed to Starbucks, so I could write and Josh could read.  Starbucks was packed, so we ended up taking the corner of a long table, across from a lady who was waiting for her tutoring student to arrive.  As I wrote, I continued to feel the light cramps, but they started to get stronger and stronger.  I had to go to the bathroom a few times, and I had the strangest poop I’ve ever had (and believe me, after traveling all over the world, I’ve had some strange ones).  It was bright green.  And I mean bright.

I Googled it when I finished in the bathroom, and it said that it sometimes happens in pregnancy, and can either be caused by eating something that has a high amount of chlorophyll, like leafy greens, or by eating something with purple dye, and it didn’t have enough time through your digestive system to turn brown.  I couldn’t remember eating any greens lately, so I figured it was my artificially dyed cereal I had eaten.

By the time we left Starbucks, to head home to see the first night of the Olympics, I was hurting pretty badly.  The cramps would come and go, though, and I was able to sit on the couch and watch the Olympics.  When I first walked in the door, I was greeted by Walter, my sister and brother-in-law’s dog, and he whined and cried more than he ever has when greeting me before.  I think he knew that something had happened, and that I was in pain, physically and emotionally.  As I sat on the couch, he sat on my lap under the blanket, and the warmth of his body helped to soothe the pain in my abdomen.

We finished watching the Prime Time Olympics, and Jay Leno’s final show came on.  There was a segment that showed a clip from a speech from President Obama, and they had overlaid footage of someone kicking the door in, making it look like Obama kicked the door.  It was hilarious, but when I laughed, the pain in my abdomen spiked.

After that, I figured I needed to go lay down.  I got ready for bed, and asked Josh to heat up the rice bag that we usually put by our feet, so I could put it on my abdomen.  After a little while, Josh went to bed, and the pain kept getting worse and worse.  The cramps eventually started spiking to the point where I had to remind myself to breathe.  I remembered my sister telling me about the Bradley Method a month or two before, a school of thought in natural childbirth that teaches relaxation and trusting your body to labor the way it was designed to.

As the cramps spiked, I would inhale and slowly count through it.  They would peak at 7, and fade away by 25 or 30.  I timed them on my phone, and they were occurring every three minutes.  When I realized that they were spaced evenly, I understood that my body was laboring, in a way.  In between the pain, I would try to distract myself by scrolling through Pinterest on my phone.

After several hours of this, it was the middle of the night, and the whole house was asleep, except for me.  I didn’t want to wake Josh up, because he had to be up early for work the next day, and there wasn’t really anything he could do to help anyway.  I felt utterly alone, and I was in a lot of pain.  I tried to adjust positions-on my side, on my back (that was the worst), even on all fours.  Nothing really helped.  Eventually, I woke Josh up, and asked him to reheat the rice bag, and to rub my lower back.  I was feeling the pain in my abdomen and my back, and it did help to relieve a little bit of the pain.

After a little while, I got up to go to the bathroom.  I realized by this time that I was bleeding-a lot.  Fortunately, the doctor had given me a little bit of an understanding of what to expect physically, so I wasn’t terrified by bleeding so much.  He had said that as my body passed what used to be the baby, I wouldn’t see anything recognizable, just large clots of blood.  It didn’t hurt to pass the clots-it was just a very uncomfortable feeling.

After laying back down, and continuing to time the cramps, they spaced to six minutes apart, then to nine minutes.  At some point, I was finally able to fall asleep, I think somewhere around 3 AM.  I woke up just before 5 AM, and the cramps began to come every 2 minutes.  I tossed and turned in bed, trying anything to relieve the pain.

At around 6:30, Josh got up for work.  “I wish I could stay home with you,” he said.  We both knew that he needed to work, and there wasn’t anything he could do to take the pain away, so he left for work.

Staying still wasn’t doing anything for the pain, so I ended up walking back and forth across our tiny room, stopping to lean on the bed or nightstand when a cramp spiked.  Kneeling by the end of the bed worked for awhile, but if I stayed in any position for too long, it began to be too painful.

During this time, I had to make trips to the bathroom every thirty minutes or so, to change pads and to pass more clots.  At one point, I laid on the floor by the end of the bed, and I had reached my breaking point.  It was getting close to 12 hours of intense pain, every few minutes.

My body was laboring, and the worst part about it was that I knew that it was all for nothing.  I didn’t get that moment at the end when the pain is worth it all-when your baby is placed in your arms and suddenly the whole world is right.  No, this was a senseless, meaningless pain.  A pain that reminded me with every rise and fall that it was no longer me and my little one-just me.

I was starting to get lightheaded, so I figured I needed to eat something.  I knew I couldn’t make it downstairs, though, so I called Tyler and asked him to bring me some applesauce.  I figured it would be light enough for my stomach, but would also bring my blood sugar to where it needed to be.  He brought me one of Henry’s applesauce pouches, and asked me if I needed anything else.  I told him that I was okay for the moment, but I would let him know if I needed anything.

After another trip to the bathroom, I leaned on the counter of the sink outside the bathroom door as another cramp spiked.  I could hear Jess, Tyler, and Henry in the next room, and I stumbled to the door, and knocked.  “Jess, would you come sit with me for awhile?  I’m in a lot of pain right now.”  “Of course,” she said.

I made my way back to my room, and laid on the floor, with my pillow under my head, and covered by the heated blanket my Mom got me for Christmas.  Jess came in, and sat next to me.

“It’s just not fair,” I told her, “That so many people have babies and don’t want them, while so many people who want them so badly can’t have them.”  Tears slid down my face as I felt this injustice more than I ever have before.

Henry came in, and walked around our room, playing with the items that he is usually drawn to.  Jess brought the yoga ball upstairs, and I sat on it, resting my arms on the bed.  It relieved a lot of the pain, and I was able to talk to Jess and Henry.  She told me some funny labor stories, and I was able to laugh a little.

She went and got me some chamomile tea, and some cheese and crackers.  Henry stayed upstairs with me, and I was trying to teach him about having three items with some paintbrushes.  He knows when he has two items, and he always points it out.  “One, two, three paintbrushes!” I told him.  He was not interested though. “Cheeeese?” He said, pointing at the door that Jess had just gone through.  Cheese is one of his very favorite things, so of course that was all he was thinking of.

The tea helped dull the pain quite a bit, and I realized it had been about an hour since I made a trip to the bathroom.  As I stood up from the yoga ball, I realized that I had been putting a little too much pressure on myself, and I felt a rush of blood come out.  Talk about uncomfortable.

Jess and Henry had to go, and I assured them that I would be okay.  Tyler reheated my rice bag, and I laid on the floor on my side, and watched a few episodes of the Golden Girls.  I apparently fell asleep from exhaustion, and woke up about 30 minutes later.  By then, the cramps were dulling, and I could breathe more normally through them.

I was supposed to work from 11 to 3 that day, and I was just going to see how I felt before and let them know if I was coming in.  I got a text from a coworker a few hours before I was supposed to be in, and she told me that they weren’t expecting me to come in, unless I just really, really wanted to.  I responded that I was going to try, but it just wasn’t going to be physically possible.

I was also supposed to be going to a ballet that night with some friends from church, and I had been so excited about it.  We had gotten free tickets through one of the girl’s job, and I texted them that I was starting to feel better, and I might be able to make it that night.

I decided to take a shower, thinking that getting clean would make me feel so much better.  Halfway through my shower, the cramps got stronger again, and I looked down and saw that I had started bleeding more again.  It’s not a good feeling to look down at the water at your feet, and see it turning red.  I steadied myself to try not to get sick, and finished up my shower as quickly as I could.

I returned to the floor by the bed, and turned on some worship music.  I listened to some Shane and Shane, and then found a YouTube video of Misty Edwards doing a 2 hour worship set at IHOP (International House of Prayer).  As I laid there, listening to her sing Jesus, Lover of My Soul, the words hit me more than they ever have before.

“Jesus, you are the Lover of my Soul.

Jesus, I will never let You go.

You’ve taken me from the miry clay,

You set my feet upon a rock, and now I know.

I love You, I need You, though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go.

My Savior, my closest friend.

I will worship You, until the very end.”

Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how, in spite of it all, the Lord is still good.  It doesn’t seem to make sense, but that is one thing that I have been able to hold onto through everything.  I’ll explain more about this, probably in the next part of the blog series.

Josh got home from work, and found me on the ground, half asleep, half awake.  “How are you feeling, honey?” He asked me.

“This morning has been pretty awful.”

He stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, leaving my side only to keep reheating the rice bag for me.  Eventually, I remembered that I could lay on the bed (not really sure why I had forgotten that), and I was able to find a semi-comfortable position on my side.  As long as I kept the rice bag on my abdomen, I was able to relax my body enough.  Laying on my back was out of the question.  As soon as I tried to, the pain would spike again.

Unfortunately, during this time, the opening ceremony for the Olympics was on.  We don’t have a TV upstairs, and I knew I still couldn’t make it downstairs.  I tried to stream it online, but I couldn’t.  So that was a bummer.  I think I watched a movie instead.

I was able to go to sleep that night, from pure exhaustion.  I remember waking up the next morning, and thinking, “Wow.  I slept through the night.  Cool.”  As I laid in bed during those first moments after waking up, I didn’t feel any pain.  That was a welcome feeling after more than 24 hours of intense pain.  I was able to make it downstairs to get a bowl of cereal, but by the time I made it back upstairs, I was in pain again.

My phone rang, and I answered it.  It was an OB clinic that I had called a week and a half before, hoping to make an appointment for our first ultrasound at 12 weeks.  She asked if I wanted to make an appointment.  “No, I won’t be needing an appointment anymore,” I told her.  “So, you won’t be carrying the baby?”  She asked, not knowing.  How could she know?  “No.” I said.  After I hung up, I cried.  No, I won’t be carrying the baby.

I spent most of the morning in bed, trying to recover from my excursion downstairs.  Josh needed to get out of the house for a bit, so he went to get us some lunch.  He got Five Guys Burgers and Fries for himself, and Subway for me.

My friend Kayla came by after lunch, and talked with and listened to me.  It was such a comfort to see her and talk to her, and I’m thankful that she came by.  During the afternoon, I was still having some cramps, but by this time, they had faded to the strongest I would have during a regular period.  At one point, I was sitting on the yoga ball, with my heated blanket wrapped around my front and back, but I was able to have a regular conversation.

Kayla stayed for dinner, and during dinner, I said, “I feel so…human again.  I’m dressed, downstairs, eating with everyone, and I’m not in as much pain.”

After dinner, we needed to head back to the hospital, to have more bloodwork done.  They wanted to check to make sure my hormones were leveling out, and it needed to be done three days after the day I was first in the hospital.  We tried to check in, but realized we had forgotten the paperwork that had the orders for the bloodwork.  The receptionist sent a message back to the ER doctor who had seen me on Wednesday, but because it was Saturday night, the ER was full.  Josh went home to get the paperwork while I waited, and he returned with the necessary papers.

They transferred us to the labs where they do bloodwork, and they brought me back.  I was really nervous about getting blood drawn again.  The phlebotomist asked me if I have gotten dizzy or passed out when having blood drawn before.  “No,” I told him, “but I really don’t like it, so I might cry.”  “That’s okay,” he said.  Josh held my hand, and I was surprised by how much easier it was than having an IV put in.  My arm is still bruised from that stupid IV.  I even got a sticker for being so good.  I picked out a baby cheetah sticker to give to Henry.

After leaving the hospital, we stopped by the grocery store to get some Ben & Jerry’s as a reward.  We headed home, turned on the Olympics, and I ate my Phish Food.  I still had some cramps, but they were manageable.

My sister asked me, “How are you able to stay so positive?”  “I’m just so ready for the bad part to be over,” I told her, “I’m ready to make good things out of it.”

It has been two days, and I am still having some light cramps and light bleeding.  Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever go back to normal.  I went back to work today, and I was okay for a few hours, but eventually I started hurting from standing for so long.  We did a little switcharoo in positions, and I was able to finish out the day with a job that allowed me to sit on a stool every few minutes.

So, there is my story, so far, of the physical miscarriage.  Like I said at the beginning, it was the hardest part, because of the physical pain, but also because it brought me to dark emotional places-places where I felt like I had no hope.  As the pain has eased, I have been able to release some of the darkness, and to do what I want to do-to make the best out of what has happened.

I wanted to tell this part of the story to bring to light the physical difficulties of miscarriage.  It is a significant medical event.  Women should not be expected to just get on with their lives after experiencing a miscarriage.  My body went through 24+ hours of a labor of sorts, and subsequent days of discomfort and soreness.  Every time I look in the mirror, I see a flat belly, where it had been rounding before.  It is now flat, partially from my empty womb, and partially from the weight I have lost from an appetite that has been lost.

So, if you know someone going through a miscarriage, be there for her, not only through the emotional pain, but the physical as well.  She needs you.  I am so thankful for my family and friends that have been there for me.  And I am so thankful for the Savior who has never left my side, even when the pain clouded my mind and convinced me that I was alone.  He has never left me, and never will.  And that is beautiful.

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