I’m convinced that the universe is conspiring against me. The day I first found there was a problem with my pregnancy my doctor was delivering babies. The day I didn’t see a heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, my doctor was on vacation and my husband was en route to San Francisco for a business event. The day I actually had the miscarriage, my hubby was in Washington, DC. When the nurse called to schedule my two-week follow up appointment, it made sense that she said, ‘Ohhh. Gosh. The week we need to get you in is the week the doctor is scheduled for jury duty.” Come on universe! Really?
I digress, however. Today, I want to share my follow-up appointment saga.
Because my doctor was out fulfilling her civic responsibilities (and for the record, “I have to deliver babies” is not a valid reason to be excused from jury duty in the great State of Ohio), I had to select, from among more than a dozen, another doctor in the practice. “Do you have a preference?” the scheduling nurse asked.
I requested the doctor a friend recommended and didn’t hold my breath for anything special. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by the women who walked in the room and said, “It’s hard coming to our offices and seeing so many pregnant women and babies, isn’t it?”
Let me be really honest here. Her compassion wasn’t unprovoked. The nurse who called me in from the waiting room had the gall to ask “How are you?”
Well, after sitting in a waiting room full of glowing women in various stages of pregnancy, I was undeniably not OK. Through gritted teeth, I basically told the nurse about how sucky my life is right now. She was lucky to walk away without bruised shins.
I guess my reaction was a bit startling because she led me to a room right away and the doctor was knocking on my door within a matter of seconds. I can only imagine what the nurse must have said. Probably something along the lines of “We’ve got a situation in Room 2. Take your tranq gun.”
Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand and uncurling my lower lip, I nodded in acknowledgement of the doctor’s question and thought about apologizing for my emotional behavior. I decided against it and let her make the next move.
The doctor was blessedly calm. She’s what my friend would call ‘granola.’ You know. The type of person to wear Birkenstocks with socks and play an acoustic guitar after dinner and before reading Organic Gardening on her soy sheet set. In other words, exactly what I needed. (By the way, I have no idea if this doctor wears Birkenstocks or gardens organically but I would be willing to bet yes.)
We chatted for a bit and she jotted down notes as I recounted the events that landed me in that room on that day. She answered all of my questions, did an internal exam, ordered blood work and said, “There’s no reason to wait if you want to try again. You can start with your next cycle.”
“Let me clarify,” I said. “You mean, as soon as I get my period, I can stop using protection?”
Nodding, she said, “Yes. Your next cycle.”
For the first time in weeks I smiled. I was overjoyed. “Thank you. Thank you for your time and your patience.” I hurried out of the room nearly knocking over the nurse I initially almost knocked out. I went to the lab to have my HCG (the pregnancy hormone) draw and then made the good news call to my husband.
The excitement of that visit lasted just over 24 hours. I got a call the next day from my doctor’s nurse. “Your HCG is still at 13. We need to make sure it gets to zero. Can you come back for more blood work in two weeks?”
I was devastated. I am devastated. How can this be? I’m not pregnant but the pregnancy hormone is still in my blood?
“It can take some women a long time to drop to zero,” the nurse explained over the phone.
“Well, what if it doesn’t drop?” I asked.
“We have no reason to believe it won’t,” she said. “We just like to make sure it gets to zero.”
Through more probing I was able to find out that some women require an “intervention” if the numbers don’t continue to fall. The nurse didn’t care to elaborate on what exactly an intervention entails. Left to my own imagination, I pictured a cold hospital room and machines that beep. I hope I don’t have to find out.
It was a long cold winter and everyone must have been baby-dancing at the same time because there are pregnant women everywhere! And Facebook posts and e-mails announcing pregnancies. And baby showers (I personally witnessed three in the past week). It’s an epidemic.
There are reminders everywhere of what we’ve lost. The reality of miscarriage is that even after the physical process ends, the emotional recovery goes on. Every time I see a pregnant woman, or hear a commercial on the radio for daycare, or read an e-mail from a friend announcing her pregnancy, I’m sad. I think, “That should be me.”
I’ve erased what milestones I had marked in pencil on my calendars and scratched through the ones in pen. Remarkably, the dates are still in my head. I wish my brain were like a VCR tape so I could take a gigantic magnet to my head and erase my memory from the past couple of months.
My mom suggested I set new milestones even if they’re just daily or weekly ones like one week without crying or two weeks without bleeding. In case you’re curious, I’ve only ever made it to three days without crying. Happily though, I’ve graduated to panty-liners instead of pads so I think I’m on my way to reaching at least one milestone.
Then there are the milestones set by my doctor: “We always recommend you have three normal cycles before trying again.” Note she didn’t say three months. It could be four or five or six months before I have three normal cycles.
From chatting with women on pregnancy loss message boards, opinions on when to conceive after a miscarriage are varied and dependent on each woman’s unique loss experience. The reason my doctor recommended waiting three months is to give my body time to reset its hormones and to allow my uterus to fully recover. She said there is a slightly higher risk of a miscarriage because of my last experience and that waiting will give me a better chance of having an uncomplicated pregnancy the next time.
So when should we try again? We’re undecided about whether to take the doctor’s advice or throw caution to the wind and see what happens. It’s an impossible choice really. If we take the doctor’s advice and I have another miscarriage, I’ll think, “We waited and it happened again. What was the point?” And if we don’t wait and have another miscarriage I’ll think, “We should have waited! We ignored the doctor’s advice and look what happened!”
Yes, a truly impossible choice and one I hope I won’t dwell on. I hope that when the time is right, we’ll know in our hearts. That means I’m going to have to turn off my brain and trust my body, trust God, and trust the process. It’s like contemporary philosopher Alexandra Stoddard says, “Slow down; calm down. Don’t worry. Don’t hurry. Trust the process.”