And not for any good reason. It’s been a while because, as you could probably guess from the last post, having a miscarriage in a pandemic was a pretty shitty thing to happen and even six months after the event, it wasn’t something I really wanted to dwell on or revisit. But equally, it feels — as I think I’ve said before — that all of this should be documented — for you, for me, for completeness. So here I am, ironically about nine months after the miscarriage, finally writing it down.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was really fucking grim. I took the same pills that a friend of mine who had accidentally got pregnant was prescribed when she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. She already has two children and she described the pain of those pills as being “worse than my second labour”.
The drug I used was called misoprostol. The clinic that prescribed them to me, as a matter of course, also prescribes anti-emetic pills (to stop you throwing up) and also dihydrocodeine (for the pain). I have a bit of a sickness phobia so I took the anti-emetics before taking the misoprostol as suggested. I didn’t take the codeine straight away, I thought I’d wait and see how bad the pain got. DO NOT BE LIKE ME. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. If you are EVER in the unfortunate position of having to take misoprostol, take the codeine at the same time.
Because dihydrocodeine can take up to TWO HOURS to fully kick in. So if you take it just when the pain starts to get quite bad and you are unaware of this, you can have an hour of feeling like you might actually die if it’s this bad with codeine and you have to feel like this for another four hours or so. (On the plus side, when the codeine does actually kick in, life will seem much rosier as you realise the whole ordeal might actually be bearable if you continue to take codeine religiously.)
There were many reasons why I didn’t want this to be the way my miscarriage was dealt with. Partly because I didn’t want to associate my home with something so grim, but also because I felt like the length of time it would take, as opposed to a surgical procedure, would give me more time to dwell on it, and that it would be upsetting. Don’t get me wrong, hemorrhaging what feels like gallons of blood and tissue is not pleasant. Having to wear massive pads that feel like adult nappies adds insult to injury. But the physicality of it, and the pain of it was so all-consuming that there was no space for the emotional side of things.
There’s part of me that feels that I shouldn’t write about this. That if you’ve stumbled across this blog because you’re taking misoprostol for some reason, that this might be a bit disturbing. But I feel like forewarned is forearmed. I was told it would be painful, and it’s not surprising that it is. The drug basically prompts contractions that encourage the lining of your uterus to separate from your body. It’s period cramps ratcheted up to the nth degree. I felt wretched. I was in a cold sweat because of the pain. When I crawled to the loo, I didn’t lock the door because I was scared I might pass out.
I felt so sorry for B having to witness this. Utterly helpless. Opening and closing doors depending on whether I was feverish or freezing, getting me water with ice, or blankets or hot water bottles. And, in his case, not being distracted by the physical pain, and having to deal with the emotional pain of knowing that all of this meant that this was not the pregnancy that was going to give us the child that we wanted.
But, you know, as the proverb goes, “This too shall pass” — and it did. And I feel like I got off quite luckily in many ways. The heavy bleeding didn’t go on for days. After about a week I felt close to being back to normal. I wasn’t, of course, I waited MONTHS for my next period. Became utterly convinced that the miscarriage hadn’t completely worked and that I would need a procedure anyway. And this wasn’t helped by the fact that because Covid, or cuts, or whatever, the NHS clinic I went to don’t routinely scan any more to check the pills have been effective. Instead they give you a pregnancy test and tell you to take it four weeks after the pills.
What they don’t tell you is that even if the miscarriage has been completely effective, the hormones can linger in your body, and a pregnancy test can show the faintest of faint positive lines for weeks afterwards. It doesn’t mean you’re pregnant, it doesn’t mean the pills haven’t worked, nothing means anything, remember. But eventually I had a scan that showed the pills had been effective, and eventually my periods went back to normal, and then it was like nothing had happened.
Except, of course it wasn’t. I can’t recall if I’ve talked about this before, but it’s one of those things that riles me about people saying that nothing changes you like having children. I haven’t had children yet, I can’t comment. But I’d argue that nothing changes you like not having children when you’ve tried to. Egg freezing, IVF, miscarriages — all these things leave their imprint on your mind and body. I’m not the same person I was before all this happened. (I’m probably nicer, more patient, more forgiving — and yes people who know me IRL who wouldn’t describe me as nice, patient or forgiving, I KNOW, imagine what a harridan I’d be now without all that.)
And so here we are. Nine or so months post-miscarriage. I can’t tell you exactly how long after the hypothetical due date, because I didn’t want to commit it to memory. From the first moment I discovered I was pregnant, although I did a rough and ready mental calculation (mostly to work out how much of the ski season I might miss – all of it, it turns out, just like everyone else in 20/21) I resisted calculating a “due date”. I knew how many dates and milestones I had to go through before I got to that point and so I never wanted to crystallise it in my mind in any way.
But then the clinic that gave me the miscarriage drugs handed me a letter with it printed on and, I’d read it before I’d realised and then immediately (and successfully I think) tried to ignore it. Because — and I know not everyone feels like this — I didn’t want to add a sad anniversary to my calendar. I didn’t want a day to dwell on what might have been. I didn’t want a non-birthday to commiserate over every year. B and I know it happened. Or didn’t. And maybe if we’d seen a heartbeat, or anything more than a collection of cells that had stopped growing, I’d feel differently. But we didn’t. So to me, it was a pregnancy that wasn’t.
I don’t need platitudes about how the experience showed that “at least” I could get pregnant. I don’t need a day a year to dedicate to it. What I need is clinics to think about whether, when you’re giving someone paperwork that tells them that they’re definitely not going to be seeing this pregnancy to term, they really want to see the words “due date”. What I need is what I’ve always needed from clinics: an understanding that while this might be all in a day’s work for them, that it might be “just the way the system prints it out”, for the person they’re dealing with, it’s probably the single most important thing in their life right now.