This won't be an easy post to write. It wasn't an easy thing to experience, but I thought, perhaps, sharing my experience might help someone else who may need to go through it in the future feel more prepared. I know that for me, having some idea of what to expect from an experience can help me feel less afraid.
This won't be a pleasant story, so for those who are not looking for grim details, I suggest you skip this one.
Unfortunately, I don't think I was terribly well prepared for what the last few days would be like. After going through two other recent miscarriages, one much later in the pregnancy than this, I thought that opting for a D&C would save me from some of the physical pain and limited mobility I'd experienced in the past. I hoped at the very least that I would be able to recover quickly and get back to normal physically, if not mentally, quicker than before.
I also felt like there would a sense of finality to having the procedure. It would be over all at once, rather than over the course of days or weeks. For this one part of it, I think I was right. Knowing that the baby was gone when I woke up after the operation did give me a sense of closure, but there was a price. Not having much time to process between finding out the pregnancy had failed and having the D&C made for a rather traumatic 24 hours.
Anyway, here's how it went, from then until now, for anyone who might need to go through it too. A quick note before I get started - I have realized from reading other women's stories that the recovery experience can vary from person to person pretty dramatically. In hindsight, I think my doctor's prepared me for the best case scenario, but I would have preferred to go into it with a broader view of what was possible. While I may not have been spared pain, I might have been spared fear.
MY D&C Story
Our procedure was scheduled for noon on the day after we'd found out about losing the baby. The pregnancy was about 9 weeks along, the baby should have measured at 8 weeks according to expectations, but the scan showed that she had faded away just two days after our last checkup, at 6 weeks and 2 days. Since hearing the news, and consciously saying goodbye to the baby the night before, my body had begun the very early stages of letting go of the pregnancy. By the time we reached the hospital to check in at 10am, I had passed a few small clots of old blood, and had a small bit of light spotting, as well as some mild cramping. I'd been asked to fast since midnight and hadn't had anything to eat or drink (including water) since bed time the night before.
Scott and I spent the time waiting to be checked in going over and over our situation from a medical point of view. Why had the medications not worked? What would we try next? Were we willing to consider experimental treatments if they might pose any risk to the baby? Formulating a battle plan is something I tend to use as a coping strategy, and I was in full swing.
Registration called us in and we sat down to sign paperwork and make payment arrangements. Since this is the very beginning of the year, we had not made any payments toward our deductible yet. With the deductible to cover and a 30% co-insurance cost, our total came to a little over $1750. We were asked to put down around 25% (nearly $450) and signed up to make monthly payments to pay off the rest.
A short while later a lab worker came out and asked for me by my registration number. She did not tell me where we were going or why, only that my husband had to stay behind and that I would return in a few minutes. Scott had not left my side up to this point, so I was shaken to have to go alone. She ended up drawing some blood, and quickly sending me back out into the lobby. I cried a little, quietly, as what was happening became a little more real.
It wasn't long before two nurses arrived, both cheerful and giggling. The younger of the two explained that she was new in the department and asked the other nurse to stay and help make sure she did everything the right way. They led me into a small room where I was given a gown, cap, and socks to wear. I asked for a pad and they gave me one along with a pair of gauze underwear. Scott helped me change and I deposited all of my clothes and belongings into a tote bag.
The nurses went through my medical history and had me sign more paperwork. This was mostly easy to navigate, until they presented me with the question of how to handle the baby's remains after the procedure was over. Because the pregnancy was less than twelve weeks along I was able to choose whether to send the remains to a private funeral home or have the hospital take care of things. They explained that the hospital keeps a memorial area and gives a service I will have the option of attending later in the year.
Texas recently passed a law that takes this option away from mother's who miscarry or abort pregnancies after twelve weeks - meaning that they will be forced to pay for and deal with funeral arrangements. As someone who has lost a pregnancy at twelve weeks I have a lot of feelings about that, but we can hash those out another time.
I panicked a bit over this issue, partly because I hadn't considered how I would want to deal with this, and because my doctor was supposed to be collecting the remains for chromosomal testing. I don't have a very trusting relationship with my OBGYN. So far, my experience with her and her office has been rocky at best, so I felt alarmed that the nurses weren't already aware of the situation. They decided not to push the issue for the moment, and tidied the paperwork away under my chart, explaining that we could come back to it later.
I had expected some down time between my arrival and my operation, but that never really came. As soon as the first nurses left, an OR nurse arrived with more questions. Then the anesthesiologist came in and tried to explain his part in the day's plan. He was nice enough but when he told me that the day's procedure was going to be "short and sweet" my feelings cracked a little. Sweet wasn't a word I would choose for losing a baby or having one's uterus scraped and suctioned. But I suppose he may have just mean that the anesthesia would be easy to handle.
He told me that the nurses were about to give me an IV with some fluids and something to quell anxiety. "Sort of like such-and such medication, only BETTER", he grinned. I don't get wildly excited about medications on a good day so again, his enthusiasm left me feeling a little ill.
What really broke me was what happened next. I had spent the majority of my time in this room wide-eyed and blank, in what I think was my brain's last feeble attempt at self protection. It was like being in a full blown state of alarm but also somewhat comatose. Detached, I suppose is the right word.
My veins are very sensitive, and have a tendency to either wiggle away or "blow out" (as the nurse put it) when approached by needles. This issue gets much worse when I am pregnant, and even a simple blood draw can be a painful and bruise-inducing experience. To make a long story short, the younger nurse came in to give me an IV and missed the vein. She must have thought that she could fix the situation with sheer force and will because she started to jam the device into my hand over and over, even though it was obviously painful and upsetting for me.
She chastised me for pulling away, then jammed some more, muttering about valves and veins. White faced and panting, I suggested she take a break and try my other hand. No hint taken, the jamming continued and suddenly every wall I had left up just crumbled. I fell into a full on panic attack, sobbing, gasping for breath, and wailing in tears. I was toast. Something about the pain and the loss of control just triggered every horrible emotion that had been bottling up over the last 24 hours - and it exploded in a torrential downpour of grief.
It took me at least ten minutes to calm down to the point where the second nurse could even attempt another IV. She calmly attempted to get the IV into my hand and failed, but thankfully moved on as soon as the vein broke open. She ended up getting it into a vein in my forearm instead. She explained that the spot was not ideal for the delivery of medication, but that it would have to do.
Then we were back to paperwork. The nurses explained that the remains would be sent to pathology as confirmed by my OBGYN, but that I would still have to choose how they were disposed of after that. For a moment I craved the idea of keeping the physical remains of my baby, however small, but ultimately chose to let the hospital handle it. I couldn't afford to spend another thousand dollars and as I had no physical relic of my other lost pregnancies... I chose to let it go.
The other tricky area of questioning had to do with pain management. I generally have a high threshold for pain, but when I'm emotionally raw my tolerance for any kind of discomfort plummets considerably. I just didn't know how to answer their questions. First they wanted to know on a scale of 1-10 how much pain I was currently in. That was easy, but then they wanted to know what number I would need to get to before wanting medication. I prattled on and on while trying to work it out in my head but ultimately gave no answer, instead just standing by the fact that I just couldn't answer that question.
My OBGYN came in after that and went over what would happen next, what I would need to take for medication following the operation, and what kind of physical restrictions I should keep in mind afterward. She prescribed something called methergine to help contract my uterus over the next day or so, and advised me to take ibuprofen as needed for any pain. She told me that I would have bleeding similar to that of a period. When I asked how long that would last she suggested that it would be similar to bleeding after giving birth. That didn't sound right, considering you can bleed for up to 6 weeks following childbirth, which I said. She then changed her answer to a week and a half.
I was instructed not to shower for 24 hours, and not to bathe or swim for several weeks. I asked her about pelvic rest and intercourse and she puffed out a breath, as if to scoff, and told me two weeks. Obviously I would be in no mood to have sex for a while but I did think it was a reasonable question. I guess not.
She and the anesthesiologist (who reappeared around this time) also told me that they would be giving me antibiotics through the IV, and that they would shortly be wheeling me to the operating room. He told me I may or may not remember making it to the room, but that I would be completely asleep by the time the procedure began. After that I would wake up in recovery and rest there for about an hour, during which time Scott would be allowed to join me.
At some point I remember the younger nurse fluttering in and asking me if I had a cold or if I were sick, as I had a temperature of 100.4 going. I told her I'd been having allergies and that seemed to satisfy her curiosity.
Scott kissed me and hugged me goodbye and was whisked away, given meal and coffee vouchers for the hospital cafeteria. Everyone seemed to think that was just wonderful. Lucky him.
I remember being wheeled out of the small room, and have a very foggy memory of reaching another larger room. After that, I just remember the feeling of deep, delicious sleep - the kind of sleep you don't want to climb back out of when it's over. I clung to that feeling for a few moments until I noticed that I was moving. I was being wheeled into recovery.
Groggy and parched, I was grateful when the nurse offered ice chips. She spooned them to me one at a time as I slowly woke up and began assessing my body. I could feel the emptiness in my uterus, and I could feel the dampness of blood beneath me. I shuddered a little and tried to relax - letting myself detach from reality as best I could.
Scott came back a little while later, and helped me get dressed. After that I don't remember too much. At some point I was given crackers and water. When it was time to go Scott went to get the car and a nurse pushed me in a wheelchair to the exit.
I was hungry but not in a big hurry to eat. We drove to the pharmacy to drop off my prescription. It was out of stock. We called the hospital who explained that I couldn't wait to have it. They told us to make the pharmacist find it at another place. We went inside and Scott pushed and prodded until the medication was located at a pharmacy in Buda, a town about 15 minutes south of Austin.
He offered to drop me at home, but I didn't want to be alone. We ordered takeout, picked it up, went home to eat, and then drove to Buda together. Of course, the pharmacy didn't have the prescription, so that took another 30 minutes or so to resolve. I sat in the car as he took care of things and stared into space.
After that we went to pick up CC at my sister's house. It was a very good hug that I got from my little one that afternoon.
We came home to food and flowers left on our doorstep by friends. It was nice to know people were thinking of us, but I couldn't really take much interest in anything. I asked Scott to call my Mom. I wanted her to come and take care of me but I didn't want to ask her to do it. I wanted my best friend too. I briefly considered getting on a plane and going to CT so I could be with her, but quickly remembered how expensive and difficult that would be.
We had a rough night with CC not being able to nurse, and a rough day after that as the pain started to arrive. I stopped bleeding almost completely, but my cramps just seemed to get worse and worse. I woke up this morning in pain so bad that I could barely walk. I was truly scared that something had gone wrong when I called the doctor. It had been almost 2 full days since the operation and my pain was getting worse, not better.
The doctor on call seemed to think that this was normal though and just prescribed a cocktail of pain killers and muscle relaxers to better manage the pain. The pills are making me feel groggy and I'm not sure how well they are managing the pain - as every twenty minutes or so I still feel like someone is stabbing me from the inside.
I went online and started reading stories from other women who'd had D&C's and quickly discovered that recovery can be both long and painful. Some women pass blood clots days after the operation. Considering I haven't seen a drop of blood in over a day, but my pain keeps ramping up I wonder if that's what I have in store.
For now, I'm keeping an eye on my temperature, praying for the pain to ease up soon, and hoping that I will be out of bed before depression has a chance to clamp down on me.
I have this persistent feeling that if I could just put my mind to something useful I could keep my mind healthy. Laying in bed in pain is just not what I need right now. If I had known I was going to be laid up like this I may not have chosen to have the D&C at all. Or maybe I would have? I just don't know.
I hope there will never be a next time to worry about, but if I want to keep trying (and right now I still do) there very well could be.
Anyway, I hope this helps shed some light on what it's like to have a D&C. Sufficed to say it isn't a pleasant experience, but nothing about miscarriage is pleasant, except perhaps being reminded that there are people out there who care about me and share in at least a small part of my sadness. I do appreciate that.