Miscarriage and D&E surgery.
Hello, my friends. This is a post that I wish I didn’t have to write. But I want to share with you what I’ve been going through, because it’s something many women have to go through. And I need to mention before we begin that there will be some TMI moments, so please proceed with caution.
My experience with a miscarriage and D&E surgery
Last week, I went to the hospital for a D&E surgery at 8 weeks and 3 days pregnant. A D&E surgery is a dilation of the cervix with a surgical evacuation of the uterus, which is a common procedure performed to remove all tissue after a missed miscarriage. I don’t know when I had the actual miscarriage, but it was clear that the pregnancy was not viable after a week-long process of testing and ultrasounds before proceeding to the surgical route.
It has been a painful experience, both physically and emotionally.
How I found out I was pregnant and how it was going before I had the miscarriage
Before we get to the miscarriage and D&E surgery, let’s back up …
How I found out I was pregnant
I found out I was pregnant on the morning that Dave left for a one-week trip overseas to London, and it was a little bit unexpected. I knew I didn’t want to tell him while he was there, and I knew I wanted him to be the first one to know, so that meant I kept this news to myself for a whole week. I was finally able to tell Dave when he got home from his trip, then I immediately told my mom, and the three of us held onto this secret together for almost four weeks. I wanted better confirmation before we told anyone else, and I guess it’s good that I chose that route, because unfortunately, the pregnancy was not a viable one.
In the beginning, I felt most of the things that I had felt in my last pregnancy. And funny thing is, I didn’t really remember everything, and I found myself going back to my old blog posts to read about the symptoms I faced that first trimester. Many were similar, but some things hadn’t started happening yet, and while I was concerned about this, I also knew that every pregnancy can be entirely different.
I changed my eating habits (and forced myself to cook my eggs more thoroughly, even though you know I like a runny yolk), I stopped getting my nails done, I quit sushi, I cancelled my hair appointment, and I stared longingly at that bottle of cold white wine in the fridge that I couldn’t drink. And I downloaded the Bump app, which I used last time, and began tracking the size of my baby. I also went in for my pregnancy confirmation appointment during the fifth week, and all of my blood-work looked great.
While I did all of this, I grew excited. I wrapped my head around being pregnant again. I came up with a name for the baby. I talked with Dave about switching our guest room into a nursery and making some additional changes in our house. I made plans for everything, feeling a bit unsure about the pregnancy, but also being very hopeful, because I had never experienced a miscarriage before.
I was definitely feeling mild nausea and fatigue for the four weeks that I knew I was pregnant, and I didn’t feel great from it. But one thing that stood out is this: I had a very sore chest at first, and then all of a sudden, that symptom began to fade. I immediately turned to Google, which told me this was a very bad sign, which got me a little worried. And I waited and waited until my doctor’s office would bring me in for my first ultrasound to check on things. They wanted to wait for two full weeks after my pregnancy confirmation appointment, so I waited. Then, finally in the seventh week, I went in, with Dave in tow, because my mom was visiting us and could stay home with Brady.
The first ultrasound and finding out there could be an issue
The technician began the ultrasound, and once she had something visible onscreen, she asked me right away when my last period was, which I knew was not a good sign. Then she said that although there was a fetal sac, there was no heartbeat. I thought I was 7 weeks and 2 days at the time, but I was only measuring 6 weeks, with no heartbeat. But both the ultrasound tech and the doctor said that perhaps I had my dates wrong, and we were just a little behind schedule — a chance for a healthy pregnancy still there.
They said I should come back for two blood-tests two days apart to check my hCG levels (the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, which is produced in the placenta when you are pregnant) to see if those levels were increasing like they should. While the hCG levels are supposed to double every 48 hours, mine did not. Over the course of those two days, they went from 25,000 to 27,000. But, because the levels went up slightly, the doctor said there was still hope.
I had to wait through the weekend after that second blood-test to get back in for the final viability ultrasound, and wouldn’t you know, my nausea increased throughout the weekend. I was feeling pretty gross, even though things clearly weren’t where they needed to be.
The second ultrasound and finding out that I had miscarried
The second ultrasound was scheduled for a Monday afternoon. And once again, Dave came with me, and my mom stayed home with Brady. During the ultrasound, the first thing the tech said was, “I’m so sorry, but there’s been no change.” That same-size fetal sac was there, it was empty, and it was over. I felt blank. Very blank. Yet, in my heart, I felt like maybe I knew this was what was going to happen after a few bad signs.
In a very strange way, I also felt a little relief that I finally had an answer. Because the week of going around with mildly uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, knowing that there’s a good chance my pregnancy may not be viable was absolutely awful. That week was draining for me, physically, emotionally and mentally. But I got through it. I worked. I taught my classes. I did all I could to pass the time. And the moment I had an actual answer, at least I knew the waiting and uncertainty were over.
Discussing my options and choosing the D&E
After that unfortunate second ultrasound, Dave and I were moved to a different room to sit and wait once again. Then the doctor came in, and she told me that I needed to know I did absolutely nothing wrong in this situation, and oftentimes miscarriages happen because of chromosomal abnormalities totally out of our control. She stressed this point, which was nice of her.
From there, she went through my options for completing the miscarriage. And based on the potential issues with all routes (waiting for it to happen on its own, which could take weeks or taking medication to move it along, which could be very painful and long-lasting), I chose the surgical route. We scheduled it for two days later. I cleared my schedule, and I mentally prepared, as best as you can for this type of thing.
The thing is, in addition to all the emotions I was feeling over the loss, I was also really nervous for the procedure, because the only other time I was ever in the hospital was when I delivered Brady, and that was a long and terrible process, which didn’t go smoothly at all. I had never had anesthesia before and most definitely had never had surgery. I was fearful for it all. While also not even really ready to accept the fact that I really wasn’t pregnant, and the plans I had made for this baby wouldn’t happen, because there was no baby.
Getting the D&E surgery and what it was like to recover from it
On the day of my surgery, my mom dropped Brady at preschool and picked him up, so Dave could be with me the whole time. We were scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 8:45 a.m. for a 10:30 a.m. procedure. I was told not to eat or drink anything after 10 p.m. the night before, and to show up with no makeup, no jewelry and having not had any liquids for about an hour before arrival and wearing comfy clothes. As a rule follower, I did exactly what I was asked, and boy did I miss my morning tea latte.
The hospital is only about 10 minutes from us, and we really didn’t have to wait that long after check-in. Everyone we encountered was incredibly nice. And even though those are small things, they really helped. However, I was hoping that the procedure I was going in for was way less of a deal than I was expecting. But truthfully, it wasn’t a small deal at all — at least to me (and the only experience I have is my own).
After checking in and saying bye to Dave, I went back to the surgery area and had to sign papers, get my vitals checked, change into a hospital gown and then get an IV, which is where the medicine and anesthesia went into my system. While I waited, the surgeon came to introduce himself to me and discussed the minimal risks involved. The anesthesiologist came to introduce himself to me and even cracked some jokes. They were so kind. And it really mattered to me that they were kind. But it was all very surreal. Because each time they asked me about my procedure, I couldn’t believe that that’s why I was there.
And as nervous as I was about anesthesia, that part really wasn’t bad. In fact, I don’t remember going under at all, but I do remember being wheeled into the operating room and there were 10 people in there, for what was supposed to be a very simple procedure.
Waking up from the D&E
After the 35-minute procedure, I woke up in the recovery room, feeling very groggy and in incredible pain. And this is where I think the procedure was more of a big deal than my doctor had let on. Because I was in way more pain than I was told to expect. I had perhaps the worst cramps I’ve ever felt, outside of labor pains, and it was not good. And on top of that, when I woke up, I just started bawling, feeling the enormity of what really just happened. When I think about the logistics of being pregnant, thinking I was growing a baby, to being on an operating table to remove what was supposed to be my baby — it was gut-wrenching. My nurse handed me tissues without saying anything at all, because she read my chart, and she knew why I was there.
In addition to my crying, I couldn’t take the pain, and I started to have the post-anesthesia shakes. I had to request pain medication, and it only helped a tiny bit. I waited in recovery for about an hour and 15 minutes before they took me back to the same-day surgery department to see Dave. And when he came in, once again the tears just streamed. It was like an out-of-body experience, because even though I was feeling so much pain and feeling so many emotions, it’s like it wasn’t happening to me.
The time was so strange, for lack of a better term. But eventually, it was over. And after being in the hospital for a total of about five hours, they released me.
The D&E recovery process
Dave took me home, and I laid on the couch for the entire day with a heating pad, because my cramping was so awful. I slept for a couple hours too, and when I woke up from that nap, I thought I had only been out for five minutes. The cramping continued through that first night and well into the next day. I had some ultra-strength Ibuprofen prescribed to me, but it just didn’t help all that much. I used a heating pad and tried to move around to help the pain, but ick — it wasn’t good. I didn’t sleep well that first night either. And I was less than excited to be back in mesh underwear, without a baby as a consolation prize for my efforts. But I was relieved it was over, ready to put all of this behind me.
And just when I was feeling really low, some little joys in life snuck in. The sweetest thing is that Dave and my mom told Brady that I had a special doctor’s appointment, and I wasn’t feeling well. And while this little dude is usually very rough and is famous for jumping on me in all the wrong places, he came to visit me on the couch three times on that first day when I got home, and he was so gentle and quiet. He sat with me, gave me kisses and seemed to have actual sympathy that his mommy wasn’t up and about like usual. I appreciated that and was proud of him for being kind to me. His tiny kindness made me want to cry again. And I did.
What’s crazy is that my doctor told me I could resume my normal activities the next day. But in no way did I feel like I could resume my normal activities at all. This is, once again, why I think my OB/GYN who originally scheduled me for my surgery set my expectations that the procedure/recovery was less of a deal than it actually was. Even though I know there are many worse things, this still felt like a lot to me. I would have been nervous no matter what she told me to expect, but I almost wish she had let on that it wouldn’t be as simple as in and out and back to business.
However, I will say that my recovery sped up a little on the third and fourth days. But I was really hoping to feel more normal sooner. I continued to bleed, and I continued to feel mild cramps and fatigue for a few days. Of course, I got subs for my classes those days, and I took five days off of working out entirely. I also took time off of being a busy body and forced myself to relax a little bit, which was made possible by having my mom and Dave around to jump in to help. Based on what my doctor described to me, I expected to be back at the gym taking a class by the weekend, but I wasn’t ready for that. I plan to return to teaching my classes this week, and I’m hopeful it will go okay.
Here’s what my recover really looked like day by day:
- Day 1: (Day of surgery) Terrible cramping, heavy bleeding, tons of fatigue, laid on the couch all day and napped, didn’t sleep well from cramps
- Day 2: Moderate cramping, moderate bleeding, fatigue, went to the grocery store and school pick-up, and that was about it, slept okay
- Day 3: Light cramping, light bleeding, moderate fatigue, went on a short walk, but mostly took it easy, didn’t sleep well
- Day 4: Light cramping, light bleeding, not as much fatigue, went on a short walk, but mostly took it easy, slept a little better
- Day 5: (Day of publishing this post) Minimal cramping, light bleeding, much more energy, went on a short walk, overall feeling a lot of improvement
While I’m doing a lot better, I can’t say that I’m back to normal emotionally yet, and I don’t think I will be very soon. I’m scheduled for a post-op with my OB/GYN in two weeks, and until then, I’m supposed to be on pelvic rest. More on the emotional recovery later …
Because I had kept my pregnancy a secret from everyone at this point, I didn’t tell anyone about my D&E until after the surgery (except for my group fitness manager, because I had to reach out to her to help me get my classes covered with short notice, and she was amazing about it). So right after my surgery, I told a handful of close friends and family. And a few of them sent me the best care packages, including an edible arrangement, flowers and even some Crumbl cookies and more. Those little gestures meant a lot to me. And it reminded me that doing little things for people handling loss or grief never goes unnoticed. Having the passing of my dad and this in less than a year has certainly let me experience how it feels on the receiving end first-hand.
What it felt like those first few weeks of pregnancy in real time, before the miscarriage
I know this is extremely strange to do, but below I’m sharing the weekly pregnancy updates I had been writing in real time. I did this with my last pregnancy and eventually published it as a first trimester recap. While I won’t be writing one of those, clearly, I still wanted to share how I really felt. Here we go …
Week-by-week recap that I wrote in real time
- Week 4: I just found out I was pregnant at four weeks and two days into the actual pregnancy, and that came after taking three pregnancy tests that were negative leading up to the positive test. I took the test first thing in the morning on a Wednesday, and this was the first full day after Dave left for a work trip to London. I wanted to be able to tell him in person, and I knew that I didn’t want to share the news with anyone until Dave knew, so I also knew I would be waiting a full week keeping it to myself. I didn’t love that feeling. I also felt a little bad about eating sushi, drinking wine, getting a spray tan and doing those types of non-pregnancy-friendly things the first four weeks, before I knew I was pregnant. I mean, I can’t believe I’m pregnant. The first signs of pregnancy were actually much like the first signs of a pending period, but they were longer lasting. Bloating. Sore chest. Fatigue. Minor cramping. Had it all. Feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, as I’m nervous about how it all will go this second time around. (Baby is as big as a poppyseed.)
- Week 5: The fatigue and the moodiness is real. Also, so is the bloating. I was finally able to tell Dave after he came back from his trip, and it took a weight off my shoulders. I also told my mom, and she cried with happiness, and it feels amazing to have them both be in this with me now. I actually felt mostly normal this week outside of bloating and fatigue. I already felt a little winded earlier in my workouts, which is not a good thing, knowing that I want to keep teaching my classes as long as possible and potentially even longer than I did during my last pregnancy. I had a doctor’s appointment this week to confirm the pregnancy too, and my doctor let me know I was of “advanced maternal age” being over 35. Yuck hehehe. (Baby is as big as an appleseed.)
- Week 6: Once again, the fatigue, moodiness and bloating are real. I feel like my pants are already really tight in the waist, which is a little concerning. But I know I’m in for it, as this is my second pregnancy. The first week I had the news to myself and it was a lot, then the second week I was excited to share in the happiness with Dave and my mom. But then at the start of the sixth week, I started to feel dread for the whole pregnancy process, because I didn’t exactly love it the first time around. I had to keep reminding myself how lucky I was to be in this position though. Definitely missing wine and sushi, because Dave had both of those over the weekend and I just watched him enjoy it all, as I drank water and ate cooked food. I didn’t have any major nausea or food aversions or cravings yet (just mild nausea), which I know I had by this time during my last pregnancy, which of course had me going down a Google rabbit-hole feeling very fearful for the outcome. (Baby is as big as a sweet pea.)
- Week 7: I started out this week feeling tired in the afternoons, bloated all day and quite moody, but that’s it other than some mild nausea. I started feeling major nerves about the viability of the pregnancy due to my minimal pregnancy symptoms. I also realized that a lot of my clothing was not going to work for this pregnancy, and due to the pending fall and winter season, I was going to need a lot of stuff. I went ahead and ordered some loose workout tank tops from Old Navy to cover my bloated belly for the next few weeks while teaching classes, knowing that people will probably already be wondering about the expansion in my mid-section. It’s hard to hide when you stand on a stage in front of 30+ people live three times a week. Oh well. (Baby is as big as a blueberry.)
I decided not to start a recap of my eighth week, because by that time, I already knew that things were not going well. But as you see, I was feeling a mix of things, and clearly I had the foresight that all was not well.
Coping with pregnancy loss and moving forward
I’m someone who processes grief in a delayed manner. While I’ve felt a ton of emotions these past couple of weeks, I truly don’t feel like I’ve felt the pain I will really feel because of this loss. And while I won’t easily forget it, I will move forward.
Will I try to get pregnant again? I don’t know for sure, and certainly it won’t be right away. But I do know that I’m grateful to have my little family that took such good care of me during such a hard time. And I will hold them close. Because it would be a lot harder to cope, if I didn’t already have Brady in my arms and feel his love.
When Dave and my mom asked me last week whether I would talk about this experience on the blog, I said, “absolutely.” Too often, people keep their miscarriages a secret. And that can make the pain feel even more heavy. I’m glad I’ve opened up to share this with you. And if you know someone who has had this happen to them, or if this has happened to you, I encourage you to talk about it. Because there should be no shame in this situation. Share your pain. Talk about your feelings. Express your emotions. And know that you are totally not alone.
I’m going to close this post on my miscarriage and D&E for now, because I’ve covered what I wanted to cover. And I am still in the midst of this journey, so this may not be the last you hear of it. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know I wanted to say what I know right now has been said.
I’m not going to share any recommended other posts or ask any questions today. I just had to spend this time writing out and sharing this experience. Thank you for reading. Be well, my friends. Hug your people.