WARNING - this post is graphic in some parts, so if blood and guts bother you, you may want to skip it.
I'm writing this post because while going through this experience I found comfort in the few stories I found online that explained what to expect during a natural miscarriage. There really aren't many stories out there, so I want to share mine. Plus, writing this out is therapeutic for me.
I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child right after the new year. The pregnancy had progressed normally with the exception of extreme fatigue until about nine weeks. I had always had fatigue with my pregnancies, but nothing this debilitating.
I had my first appointment with my midwives around 10 weeks. We had decided on another homebirth and my midwives do not have ultrasound technology in their offices, and it was too early to use a doppler to hear the heartbeat, so we left our first appointment assuming everything was fine. My fundal height was normal.
Nothing was out of the ordinary on the day I began to bleed. I was 12 weeks pregnant that day and apart from increasing pain in the varicose veins that trouble me during pregnancy, I had felt pretty good and had managed to get a lot done. That night I laid down on the couch close to bedtime to nurse our two-year-old (something she hadn't wanted to do for about three days, but had begged for at bedtime). As soon as she finished nursing I felt a gush between my legs. The blood was bright red and over the next hour or so it was enough to fill a pad, but then it completely stopped.
When I woke the next day I had some more spotting, so I called my family doc to have her order me an ultrasound at the hospital to check on things. At the ultrasound we learned that we had lost the baby sometime between 8-9 weeks (right about the time my fatigue had went away) and that I was beginning to miscarry.
I learned that there are three options for miscarriage. I could schedule a D&C at the hospital, during which my cervix would be stretched and my baby would be surgically removed. I could also take a prescription of cytotech to help me miscarry at home. We opted for the third option, which was to wait and let my body do it on its own. As someone who plans homebirths and does not desire a lot of intervention for a live birth, I felt most comfortable taking the same approach for this delivery.
My bleeding was minimal on days 2-3 and only really occurred after I would nurse my toddler. Day 4 things began to happen and I was having to wear heavier pads. Day 5 was a Saturday and I was really wanting everything to happen over the weekend while my husband was home to help with the children, so I took a dose of black and blue cohosh and began drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Bleeding intensified, but by Day 6 I still had not passed any tissue. I called my midwives that day and they told me the correct dosage of black and blue cohosh to take. They also told me to take high dosages of Vitamin C, not only to help ward off infection, but to help make things progress. I took the black and blue cohosh, but the increased dosage made me nauseous, so I stopped. A few hours after that dosage I passed some tissue (two large pieces of what seemed to be placenta - they were about two inches long and looked like slices of liver).
Throughout that entire week bleeding was enough to require a pad, but nothing extremely heavy, except for when I would sit on the toilet. In that position my body seemed to open up and blood would literally pour from me. Otherwise, it just felt like a heavy period, with backaches and cramps coming and going.
On the night of day 8 (I was exactly 13 weeks "pregnant"), I began having contractions. They began around 6:00 pm and were about ten minutes apart. By 8:00 pm they were getting closer together and were painful enough for me to have to breathe through them. We put the kids to bed and I remained lying on the couch. By 9:30 pm I could no longer lie down comfortably and was moving into different positions to try to ease the pain.
I've had four children. Two of them were posterior. Three of them were born without even needing Tylenol after the births. Two of them were born in my home. One of them was born without even a midwife present (accidentally - she just came too quickly). I thought for sure that the miscarriage would be a piece of cake for me. Everyone I spoke to about the experience said that it would feel like a normal labor, but I thought they were exaggerating. I quickly found out that they were not. As I mentioned, I could not get comfortable. In a live birth, I have found that the weight of the baby on different areas of the body caused some discomfort, so you are able to shift positions to relieve some of it. But with the miscarriage, there was no heavy baby pressing on my tailbone. There was nothing but the contractions, just getting harder and faster, until they were coming every thirty seconds without relief.
In my live births I always found the tub to be a comfort, so when the pain got intense, I headed there. The tub gave me no relief whatsoever. I had envisioned miscarrying in the tub in the hopes that my baby wouldn't end up in the toilet (that was one of my biggest fears throughout the whole process). But my body just would not relax in the tub. Contractions were still coming one on top of the other so I finally called for my husband to come and help me.
At 10:30 pm we made it back downstairs where I finally got comfortable leaning over the ottoman. And then, suddenly, I had a strange sensation - not a pushy feeling, but like something was changing inside. I ran to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and immediately things began falling out of me. There was no pushing, it was just falling. I knew that I had passed my baby and my first thought was worry that he or she would end up flushed, so I instinctively reached down into that toilet full of my insides and pulled out a ball the size of a large apple, which contained the placenta, amniotic sac, yolk sac, and what remained of my baby. At this point my baby had been dead for close to five weeks.
I was amazed at how my body literally sighed with relief when it was all over. The contractions immediately stopped and my body felt lighter. Once everything had passed I put on a pad and went back to my husband to lie down and process what had just happened. I wasn't bleeding very heavily at this point and remember remarking to him that everything I had read said to expect a bloodbath. We hadn't experienced that.....yet.
After about fifteen minutes I decided I needed to get up and go to the bathroom to see what was happening and the moment I stood there was a gush and I started bleeding as if there was a faucet on between my legs. I sat on the toilet for a while trying to will it all out of me and when things slowed down I put another pad on and went back to my husband (whose job at this point was to bring me clean pants when I needed them). I ended up soaking three pairs of pants with blood that night. The last time it happened I stood up and began to feel lightheaded as the blood began gushing, so I decided I couldn't stand anymore. I had my husband get some chux pads we had leftover from our last homebirth to cover the couch. Regular pads were no longer cutting it and I was too scared to have my husband leave to go buy me some Depends at the store. I didn't want to be home alone with the kids while he was gone. In the end what worked was my toddler's diapers. I would put a pad on and then cover it with a disposable diaper. If I stood, the diaper would fill, but it would keep me from ruining my pants and getting blood on the floor.
By the next morning the bleeding was like a heavy period. It remained that way for about five days and then slowly became lighter and lighter and nine days after the miscarriage I had completely stopped bleeding.
When I didn't bleed again on the tenth day, I thought everything was done, but then on day 11 the blood came back. It was heavy and reminded me of the bleeding prior to the miscarriage that would pour whenever I sat on the toilet, only it was darker in color and obviously older.
Two hours after the bleeding started back up I spiked a fever and began having backaches. Following the miscarriage my immune system crashed and I picked up a cold that my children had been cycling through the house. That cold then turned into the worst sinus infection of my life, so when the fever began I couldn't tell if it was from retained tissue or not. The backaches intensified, so I called my midwives, who wanted me to wait a bit before rushing to the hospital. They told me that if the bleeding got any heavier or if my fever spiked to 104 to head in, but otherwise I should treat the fever and rest.
By the next morning the fever was gone, praise the Lord, and the bleeding was back to spotting. Over the next week it would come and go - I would suddenly get some cramps and/or a backache and would have a gush of blood when I sat on the toilet, but as soon as I stopped bleeding the cramping would stop.
It has now been nearly three weeks since the miscarriage. I am spotting very lightly and am feeling back to normal. I am still, however, getting VERY positive results on pregnancy tests. Physical healing was very quick, but the emotional healing is not. My hormones are out of whack and I get weepy often.
I wanted to share this experience in the hopes that someone else who is out there going through the same thing will get some comfort. The fear and the waiting, while not knowing what to expect, is the hardest part. I spent a week waiting to deliver my baby, but some women wait even longer. Reading other people's stories made the waiting easier for me.
If I had to do it again I would make the same decision and miscarry at home. The other options carried risks I wasn't comfortable with and in the end, I felt like I needed to go through all of the physical pain in order to heal my heart. I am someone who loves the process of labor and delivery. I wanted to experience it for this child just as much as I wanted to for the others. And once it was over, I wanted to be able to see my baby and honor him or her with a proper burial.
Life is so fragile. A live birth of a healthy baby is a miracle - that is the biggest thing I have taken from this experience. But even in a miscarriage, the human body is equally miraculous. God has given our bodies the tools they need to heal properly, we just have to trust our bodies and have the patience to wait for that healing to occur.
If you're reading this and have suffered a loss, I pray that God will bring you His Peace and Comfort.