This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As many of you know I have experienced two losses and now our Rainbow Baby is on the way. Because of this I would like to share some resources I created at the time I was going through my losses in 2019.
When becoming pregnant, I knew there was a risk I could have a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester. However, I thought chances were quite slim. Both my husband and I are in pretty good health. There are no miscarriages that run in my family, and I was doing everything I could physically and mentally to take care of my growing baby. I am also well educated with an Associate’s in General Studies, an Associate’s in Early Childhood Education and on my way to getting a Bachelor’s in Child and Family Development. Even though I didn’t have the experience of being a mommy yet, I did have the experience and a well rounded education of working with children.
Throughout my pregnancy I researched and familiarized myself with the signs and symptoms of miscarriage. The most common signs are cramping, bleeding and spotting, back pain, headache and nausea. In all my research, I had never found anything that said you could have a miscarriage and not even know it. So, when I went to my 11 week ultrasound, I was completely blindsided. I didn’t have any symptoms, I just had common pregnancy symptoms.
After having my D & C, I was given some basic instructions of recovery and post-op care. However, there were many things I experienced after my miscarriage and D & C that my doctors failed to tell me about. The following are a list of things I wish I had known after my miscarriage. Plus, some of these are a bit TMI, so if you are at all squeamish… you may want to skip ahead.
1. It’s Important to be Consistent With Your Pain Meds and other Post-Op Care.
After my D & C I was pretty doped up on pain and anxiety meds. Once I went to my parent’s house to recover, I rotated between Ibprophen and Tylenol. Make sure to talk with your doctor and follow the instructions on the medication bottle before taking anything. I remember having cramps off and on for the next several days. There were some nights I would wake up in pain. It wasn’t excruciating pain but enough to be uncomfortable and wake me up. I set my alarm every 6 to 8 hours to remind myself to take something.
It was also important for me to stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids.
Lastly, I used a lot of hot and cold pads. I was given some from the hospital, but they are also available at various stores including Target, Meijer and Walgreens. I put these anywhere it hurt.
2. What Bleeding is “Normal” and What Bleeding is Concerning.
At the hospital I was told that I could bleed after my D & C for up to 2 weeks. However, if I was bleeding enough to fill a pad within an hour, I needed to go to the ER because I could be losing too much blood and hemorrhaging. Now the consistency in bleeding really depends on the person. For me, It was relatively light but if I was more active, or emotional I would start to bleed heavier. Also the color of blood was all over the place. Sometimes it was bright red while other times it was light brown.
3. It’s Possible to Start Lactating After a Miscarriage or D & C.
About three days post surgery my breast were very tender and just felt full. I didn’t know what was happening. I assumed it was just my hormones dropping in my body… but I wasn’t totally sure. I had my surgery on a Thursday and that following Sunday morning I woke up wet. My chest and whole top half of my shirt was soaked. I really wasn’t sure what was going on. I got up to change my shirt and as I was changing I realized exactly what was happening… I was lactating.
That afternoon I called my doctor and asked if it was normal or at all concerning. I spoke with a nurse and apparently lactating does occur in some women after a miscarriage. Since my pregnancy body was nearing towards the end of the first trimester, I guess my body had enough hormone to produce milk… at least that’s how I understood it. I spoke to a friend who recently had a baby and she said that normally your milk doesn’t fully come in until three or so days after you give birth. If that is the case and my milk came in three days after my surgery, then that would mean my body thought I had had a baby. This sent me into a spiraling emotional mess. Not only was I upset that my doctor didn’t tell me I could start lactating, but I was also upset my body was making milk for a baby I no longer had. This just rubbed salt in my very raw wounds.
So, if you recently had a miscarriage and begin lactating, I do highly suggest a few things to try.
– Call your doctor and ask for their advice. My doctor told me I could lactate for 1 – 2 weeks… I ended up lactating for 5ish weeks but everyone is different.
– Wearing a super supportive bra can be very helpful… I even wore it when I slept.
– Wearing nursing pads are great and super absorbent.
– Using ice or cabbage can actually give you a lot of relief… just not heat because that could cause you to produce more milk.
4. Loss of Pregnancy Symptoms.
I think part of the reason my doctors didn’t tell me about this is because it truly depends on the person. I was told that my hormones would likely drop within a few weeks. However, I wasn’t told or truly prepared for the emotional toll it would take on me. I can imagine that after you give birth, you feel your hormones drop and no longer feel pregnant, however you do have a baby. Whereas, when you have a miscarriage and you slowly start to stop feeling pregnant, it feels like just another thing to lose. As much as I complained about being pregnant, I loved it and would truly give anything to still be pregnant.
5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
I think it is absolutely incredible that just within the last 15 years we have learned so much about PTSD. For the longest time it was known as, the disorder soldiers get after war. But, through a lot of research and awareness of mental health, our society has discovered truly what PTSD is and how anyone can get it after suffering a traumatic event. I talked about this with my counselor, and she said although she wasn’t diagnosing me with PTSD she did say I had some symptoms of it including insomnia, flashbacks and night terrors.
If you feel you are experiencing any symptoms of PTSD, I strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor, seek out a support group, or get into counseling.
Since I am a peer educator for survivors of sexual assault, I knew about triggers. I know there are many events, words and things that can trigger a survivor of a past assault. However, since having a miscarriage I also discovered my own personal challenges and specific things that would trigger me and remind me of my loss.
Some of my personal triggers include…..
– Babies crying
– The baby aisle at the store
– Pickles (My pregnancy craving)
– Young children playing, laughing and with their parents
– Pregnancy Announcements
– Seeing Pregnant women
– Discussions of Abortion
After having a miscarriage, I had no idea how many things and how easily I could be set off and start crying. I remember about two weeks after my surgery I walked past a daycare with children playing, and I lost it. I just stood there paralyzed and sobbing watching the kids play, devastated my baby was gone. It’s a good thing I was a safe distance away and the kids didn’t notice… otherwise they would have probably been really concerned.
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that after having a miscarriage…. or a traumatic event for that matter, you will likely be triggered from time to time. It is helpful to try and take care of yourself, and prevent yourself from being triggered, like getting off social media to avoid pregnancy announcements. But just keep in mind you will likely not be able to avoid everything. It is a process.
7. Emotions and Hormones
The hardest thing after my miscarriage, was dealing with my hormones and emotions. I was a bundle of emotions. One minute I was angry. One minute I was sad. One minute I was depressed. One minute I couldn’t sleep. One minute I was numb and the list goes on and on. Not only was I grieving over the loss of my baby but I was also angry and hating my body for failing me. On top of that my hormones were dropping like I was on constant PMS. It was horrible.
If you are experiencing these symptoms following a miscarriage, there are some things I want you to know. First off, its okay to not be okay for awhile. It’s okay to feel unstable and even a little crazy. It’s okay to feel every emotion you’re feeling. In this moment it absolutely sucks, but just know it won’t be like this forever. Secondly, please, please, please be gentle with yourself. As hard as it is to not blame yourself for what happen, please try to understand losing your baby was not your fault.
For the record, I am not an expert or doctor in anyway, but I have experienced a miscarriage and understand what it’s like to lose a baby. So I am always here to talk and to listen. The above advice is just something I have learned from my own personal experience.