Friday, September 18, 2009

Pregnancy and Miscarriage - My Joy, My Pain

This past week, our blogosphere has been filled with horrible news about miscarriages. Reading about them makes my heart ache, and feelings of my own tragic loss have been flooding back to me. My own loss happened in March this year. I have never been able to write about it, but I realise that I needed some closure. And by coming to terms with it in writing, perhaps I will be able to close that chapter of my life.

I will always remember March 2009 as one of the most intensely joyous and painful times of my life, for it was then that I discovered I was pregnant for the first time in my life, after having been infertile for four years, and then having lost it all in a matter of weeks - all while I was on one of the biggest vacations of my life.

My husband and I had planned a super vacation that would last 6 weeks. We would traverse across 3 states - California, Utah and Arizona, skiing and visiting some of the most gorgeous landscapes. It was possibly THE LAST vacation we would enjoy as a couple before embarking on a journey towards parenthood. We had been struggling with infertility but with our new found treatment, we were quite hopeful. I had expected my period on the first day of our vacation, but I was not worried about the debilitating pain, simply because my TCM treatment had "cured" me. My period never came and I didn't think much of it because they were always irregular anyway. We were enjoying our days skiing, but even though I trained for it, I found myself unusually unfit and tired. After a week had passed I suggested to DH that I could be pregnant. He laughed it off - I mean we always joked about being pregnant for years whenever my period was late (as it was often unpredictable) but it was always a Big Fat Negative! So he thought it was probably just another one of those. He told me to wait another week before testing. But after a few days, I just had to know! I couldn't stand the suspense any longer. I remember going to Target and spending a good half hour looking at all the different pregnancy test kits - it was all so new to me!

The next morning, I saw two pink POSITIVE lines! I was in a daze! And so surprised! I woke DH up from his sleep straight away and told him the news. We were so happy but we both just sat on the motel bed, dazed! I mean - it was hard to believe - after 4 years of trying! We had taken a break from TTC and the only infertility treatment we had was natural chinese herbs and acupuncture for 4 months prior to that! And what was even more amazing was that we only started trying to conceive the month before! Talk about Traditional Chinese Medicine being super effective-at least for me!

And then horror struck me - I had taken a tumble while skiing the day before. We had some of the biggest snowstorms of the year and had deep powder. Not knowing how to ski in deep powder, I had fallen something like 3 times within the first 100 yards down the mountain. Luckily it was a pretty soft landing. We didn't know what quite to do next about the pregnancy, but as we had planned our itinerary to the minutest detail and booked all our hotels already, we decided to continue on with our vacation. I knew that many women were able to continue on with an active life with their pregnancy and I promised myself that I would not get paranoid over the baby's safety. I would continue skiing but decided to take it easy and try my damnedest not to fall!

That week of skiing was rather uneventful, thankfully, but it was very hard being pregnant, for the first time, away from home, from any medical care or access to information. Eating healthily while on a budget and on vacation was tough too. And all I wanted to do was learn what my body was going through and what I ought to do. Thank god for all the free wi-fi that came with our hotel rooms. Google was our only source information!

As days passed, I had started to spot. I started to stress out and fear for the baby. What compounded my fear was that I had no access to my regular care provider. I was so far away from home - from any support. Google had become my pregnancy bible and that was the only place I was able to search for answers. I had read that some women continued having a successful pregnancy even though they bled heavily. That gave me hope. I had also read that miscarriage was usually caused by genetic problems in the conception, not physical activity because it was still very tiny and very well protected by the uterus. So it was unlikely that my skiing had caused danger to my baby. By that time our skiing trip was over, but I continued to spot off and on, and sometimes with quite a bit of blood. I had fantasised about telling our friends and family about our pregnancy, and seeing the joy on their faces, but now I was in danger of losing it all. For the first time in my life, I had wished my vacation was over.

But hotels were already booked and our friends had already made plans to join us for part of our vacation. So many things were at stake. But I also knew that if I were to miscarry, it would likely be nature's way of terminating a bad conception, and chances of stopping it were slim. Even progesterone supplements do not always work. I was prepared to accept my fate whatever the outcome.

By that time I was somewhere out in the middle of nowhere in Utah. We had planned to visit all the great National Parks of the Southwest. So there was no medical care around. Not even a clinic in the small towns we stayed in. The spotting did not cease. Scared and stressed as I was, I just had to wait and let my body sort itself out.

We continued sightseeing, visiting amazing places like Zion NP and Antelope Canyon, and I continued to spot. I was having so much fun but I was also having the worst time of my life. I didn't know if I was having a missed miscarriage. And then it finally happened. I will never forget the day I had the true miscarriage - We had gone on a hike at Bryce Canyon that had some of the most amazing scenery ever. It was freezing cold and I pretty much wore most of my ski stuff - ski pants and jacket! The trail was a loop that started at the top, and took us down into the canyon floor and then back up again. I was really enjoying myself. The views were fascinating and breath-taking!

And then the cramps started. I felt a humungous rush of blood soaking up my pad. I believed it must have soaked through my underwear and if not for the black waterproof ski pants I had on, it probably would have shown through. I knew something was very wrong. The cramps got worse and F**K! I was only half way through the trail. There was no elevator or stretcher or ambulance - There was just no way out except to hike back up. I thought I had never felt so miserable in my life! I just had to trudge on.

I finally got back up and out of the trail, and rushed straight to the public restrooms. When I pulled down my underwear I saw a big solid mass. It was the placenta. I broke down and cried uncontrollably. For the first time, I had undeniable proof that I WAS pregnant, and that I had lost it. All I had before were 2 pink lines on a stick. No doctor, no blood test, no ultrasound and no heartbeat to confirm if a baby was really growing inside of me. With visual proof now, it hit me hard. And I was devastated that I had to find out like this. I cried and cried in that toilet stall. There were masses of tourists going in and out of the restrooms, but I never felt so alone. I finally picked myself up. I wrapped the placenta in tissue, placed it on my pocket and walked to the car where my husband was waiting for me. My poor husband was shocked to see me burst into tears. It was a while before I could bring myself to actually utter the words of what I had just experienced. I am so grateful my husband was there for me, but that was only just the beginning of the pain.

The next few days was hell for me. The emotional pain was completely taken over by physical pain. I was lying in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere and I had extremely bad cramps. I did not know what to do. I decided I had better abstain from taking painkillers because the cramping was there for a reason -to expel whatever remains there were of the pregnancy. After 6 hours, I couldn't take it anymore- I gave in and took my usual pain meds. And then came the worst attack of gastritis I ever had. I was completely bed ridden. I had excruciating pain in the uterus and the stomach. It was utter hell! My dear, dear husband took care of me as I was completely dependent on him. The next morning, it snowed and we had to check out and move to another town. It was agony trying to get dressed and move and even sit in the car. There wasn't a clinic there, and there wasn't even a pharmacy in the next town to get something for the gastric attack. Hell continued. I was bedridden in the next town. The pain was so bad, I was gasping for air and hyperventilating. Every movement - even to roll onto my side was excruciating, like a knife cutting thru me. I had never felt so scared or so much agony. I was afraid that a bleeding ulcer was forming, and worse, my stomach was perforated. I feared for my life. I think we were at Capital Reef Park at that time, hundreds of miles from the next biggest town. We had to make a decision whether to rush to a hospital and abandon our trip all together. I was stubborn, and waited for my breaking point.

I don't know how but by the grace of god, I made it through with my beloved husband at my side every step of the way. I remember my husband driving me around through the parks and I watched the scenery go by as I recovered. I could hardly walk - every step felt like a pounding that reverberated through my sore stomach and uterus painfully. I had to hang on to my husband and it took me 10 times longer than normal for me to get anywhere. Old people were whizzing past me on foot. I was reminded how ill I really was. By the 5th day after my miscarriage, I had managed to hike a 3 mile trek with a 500-foot elevation to see Delicate Arch. I hadn't intended to do that in my condition, but I couldn't stand to see my husband looking so disappointed. He would have had to miss out on Utah's most famous and iconic monument as he would never leave me on my own, with the state of health I was in. It was already 5pm that day, and I thought what the hell, we should just go for it! I managed to summon my strength and made it there and back safely. It was worth the trip!

Although I was recovering, I was still very scared. I had no medical care since it all happened, and there was the possibility of infection. I wasn't out of the woods yet. The stress just kept going, from one thing to another. Some women miscarry completely on their own with no complications. I was praying that I would be one of them. The bleeding continued for what seemed like forever. It finally stopped after two weeks. I had no fever and no weird symptoms. Just a very broken heart and weakened body.

We had kept the placenta with us all that time. I was surprised how "attached" my husband also was to it. It just felt wrong to throw it in the bin or flush it down the toilet. I didn't see a foetus-it may have been there, but to me, that placenta, represented the baby I had always wanted. The one that came into our lives briefly. We decided we would bury it in a special place. We found a spot under a juniper tree in the "Valley of the Gods", near Monument Valley. It just felt like the right place. And that's where we left our "baby".

We did accomplish everything we wanted to do on our vacation and after that, I finally had a check up with a gynae. That in itself was another ordeal as the gynae I was with was an ass of a doctor! I decided to go with another gynae. He was very understanding and he had thought it would be a good idea for me to continue with the herbs and acupuncture since it had helped me conceive. I have his support and after an ultrasound, he gave me the all clear. I didn't need a D&C - everything seemed to have been expelled naturally. And I resumed treatment with my TCM doctor a week after that.

This has to be one of the most painful and testing experiences in my life. I had never known such pain, nor stress nor guilt. I still don't know if I am to blame for the miscarriage - Was I not careful enough? Was it something I did or didn't do? Would I have been able to save the baby if I had seeked medical treatment? My TCM doctor had warned me before about going to the mountains because of the altitude and lack of oxygen (incase I was pregnant), and I defied his "orders". And I miscarried. I just have so much guilt in me. It is not good for me to harbour so much negativity inside me, so I know I have to stop blaming myself. But it is difficult. I have never been able to get over it completely because of this guilt. I feel like my heart has been darkened with a stain that cannot be removed. It is still a process.

But as agonizing and difficult this whole experience was for me, I came out of it with 2 greatly positive things:
I CAN get pregnant! And I have discovered a strength I never knew I had. And it is this hope and strength that carries me through my journey towards motherhood everyday.


Andrea said...

I am so sorry about your loss and continued struggles. I just wanted to let you know that there are a few other blogger/IF ladies out there who have turned to TCM to help with IF. Jenny's blog might be helpful to you (, she just had her son, so you might have to go back to last year's posts, but I know she blogged a lot about it. GL!

zengirl said...

Thanks Andrea for taking the time out to comment here and for leaving me the link to Jenny's blog! It's wonderful to know that someone has succeeded in having a baby thru TCM. It has given me hope! I hope you find some relief during your pregnancy too through acupuncture.