One afternoon in May of 2011, one of my friends and I decided to take our two little girls to get frozen yogurt.
I had been having stomach cramps all morning and had some spotting in my underwear. The bleeding was not alarming to me because I had grown used to spotting since giving birth the previous year. I often wore panty liners or thin maxi pads every day because I never knew what to expect. I assumed my body was adjusting to not breastfeeding anymore and my menstrual cycle was having a hard time returning to normal.
We had only been sitting for a few minutes when I felt the cramps in my abdomen intensify and the blood that had been trickling into my panty liner became a full stream. I asked my friend to watch my daughter while I went to the bathroom. I took out a super long maxi pad from my purse and pulled my pants down slowly. I quickly took off the panty liner and put the thick maxi pad into my underwear. I pulled up my pants and washed my hands. Suddenly I could feel the blood spilling out from the sides of my underwear and start to trickle down my legs. I paced around the bathroom in a frenzy. My heart was racing. The maxi pad was full of blood in under a minute. I had been warned by my doctor to call him immediately if a maxi pad ever filled up this quickly. I changed the pad again. That one filled up faster than the first. There was a huge roll of paper towels on the counter. I ripped off about half the roll and stuffed my panties with it, and ran out of the bathroom.
My doctor's office was just two blocks up the street from the yogurt shop. I tried my best to remain calm for the sake of my infant daughter, who was 13-months-old at the time. I raced up the street as fast as I could, pushing her stroller as blood seeped through all of the paper towels and began to form an outline around my crotch and create long stains down the front of my pants, and pool in my shoes.
When I arrived at my doctor's office, I was quickly placed in an examination room and evaluated, while a nurse called 911.
I called my husband and told him that I was bleeding and that I was going to the emergency room. He left work immediately but it was almost rush hour, so it would take him about an hour to get there.
By the time I arrived to the emergency room, my pants and the bed I was transported there in were soaking wet. The exposed parts of my legs and feet were encrusted with a thick, bloody coating. I touched my knees and the dried blood was so thick that it fell off in huge, thick flakes. Between my legs I felt a warm surge followed by a huge blood clot that oozed its way out into my underwear. Next, I felt pressure building in my vagina and another clot start to push its way out. I held my legs together, afraid that if I pushed this one out, the blood would gush out at an even faster rate. My stomach pulsated in constant waves of pain. Finally the ER doctor arrived. He was so impersonal--there was barely a greeting, let alone any sense of compassion or sensitivity to my situation. He asked the nurses to remove my pants and underwear. He then asked me to spread my legs so he could examine me. I knew that as soon as I opened my legs the blood clot would come bursting out. He used some sort of stick like instrument to examine me and sure enough the blood clot came rushing out along with a huge amount of blood. He looked disgusted, wrote some notes down on my chart and told me that I would get my lab results in a couple of hours.
After getting our daughter settled at my friend's home for the evening, my husband arrived at the hospital. I lifted the sheets, so he could see my body and all of the blood. He sat next to me and held my hand while I cried.
It seemed like an eternity before we received any information on my condition. Finally, a different doctor came into our room, greeted us and sat down in a chair next to my bed. He delivered some unexpected bad news.
"I'm sorry to tell you that you lost the baby."
I started crying and shaking hysterically. My husband's eyes filled with tears. We had no idea. I also couldn't remember when the last time we had sex was. After a few minutes, it hit me. We had recently moved and "christened" our new apartment sometime in March.
Later that evening I had a procedure called dilation and curettage (known as a D and C). When I awoke from the surgery I was groggy and sore. I spent the night in the hospital and was discharged the next afternoon.
I was only about five or six weeks pregnant, but the loss was still devastating to me. We already had a beautiful daughter and I remembered seeing her first sonogram when I was only about five weeks pregnant with her. That little egg sac was now a beautiful, energetic and fun toddler. I wondered who was this person that I had just lost.
Was it a girl or a boy? Was this miscarriage my fault? What did I do wrong?
After telling a few friends what had happened, many of them shared that they had also suffered a miscarriage. Some had several, yet no one had ever talked about it. There is a misconception that miscarriages are rare, when the reality is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I would later learn that although common causes of a miscarriage are stress or a stressful event and lifting heavy objects -- the main cause for over 60 percent of miscarriages is a chromosomal abnormality in the fetus.
Many women keep the trauma of having a miscarriage to themselves because they feel guilty and isolated in their experience. Although my friends and family meant well, I was often told things like "don't dwell on it," "relax" or "move on." Another common response was telling me that something was wrong with my baby, so my body rejected it. None of this advice was helpful to me. Not only was my miscarriage traumatic because I had lost a child, I had also been publicly humiliated and embarrassed. One minute I was enjoying frozen yogurt and the next I was running up the street to my doctor's office in blood soaked clothes while strangers gawked at me.
If you have read my first piece for The Huffington Post, you know that I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage requiring alife-saving surgery and was later diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Although a year had passed by, I was still haunted by how painful that experience was. I tried seeing a psychiatrist, but quit after three months because she wasn't able to connect to me like I needed and I often left her office feeling upset and aggravated. I was still replaying the events of my first birth but found myself temporarily healing the wounds from the previous year by joining a new mothers support group and taking mommy and me classes with my daughter.
The public miscarriage was another traumatic situation that caused me great anguish. After the miscarriage, I found myself angry at the circumstances and began replaying the events over and over again, constantly asking myself questions like "Why did this happen to me?" and "Will I ever be able to have another baby?"
Although I was hesitant because my prior experience had such an effect on me, I decided to search for a new therapist. This time I searched for one who specialized in PTSD and treating mothers who had experienced birth trauma. A few months later, I was lucky to find Rachael Benjamin at Tribeca Therapy in New York. Tribeca Therapy specializes in helping people with PTSD. I found Rachael to be compassionate, sympathetic and accessible. She is very knowledgeable about birth trauma and was able to connect to me in a way I desperately needed.
If you have experienced trauma related to birth, fertility, or of any kind, please know that you are not alone. Most important, please express your feelings to a friend, family member or health care provider and seek help. If you find that your doctor or therapist is not a good match for you, find a new one. The feelings you have about your experience deserve to be acknowledged and validated. It wasn't easy to go back to therapy, but I committed myself to doing the work to recover from my traumatic experiences because I did not want my family life to be affected negatively by what happened to me. Rachael, my therapist, became my partner on the road to healing and helped me acquire the necessary tools to recover.
I am happy to tell you that I am now pregnant again and we are looking forward to welcoming a new addition to our family in March.
Read more about Timoria on her blog: www.timoriamcqueen.com
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