*Warning: This post contains graphic content.*
Tuesday, February 20th, 2018.
We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am, as requested, and headed up the elevator to the second floor: Maternity & Women’s Services. Yes, Cruel. The first desk was closed, but someone spoke to me through the intercom asking my name and why I’m here. I said, “Amanda Peterson, D&C.” Thanks for the reminder. The double doors opened, and we walked to the next desk where the receptionist was. She took my ID and insurance card to get my paperwork started, while another employee led me to my room, “Triage C.” I was extremely fortunate that they led me to a room right away. I was terrified I was going to be waiting in a waiting room with other pregnant women, and families celebrating new births. Once in the room, she gave me a gown, and instructed me to undress, though I could keep my bra on. Woohoo one spec of dignity I can keep to myself! Justin helped tie me into my gown, and I laid between the cold hospital sheets.
After a few minutes, they came in with paperwork to review and sign, and returned my cards. As quickly as they left, the anesthesiologist came in. His name was Dan, and he was super nice, and comforting. He first said that he was sorry for our loss, and asked how far along in the pregnancy we were. He explained that he would give me something to relax me as we were heading back to the OR, but I would still be awake. Once in the OR, I had to say hello to everyone in the room (which would be my nurse, a scrub nurse, himself, and my doctor) and state why I’m here: D&C. How many times must I say this?
The first nurse I saw was named Shannon. She was the “head nurse” if you will, and also the head of bereavement. She gave us a folder of information about grief and a list of support groups, and a little charm for remembrance. (Side note: It took me an entire week after we got home to be able to open that folder.) Nurse Shannon started the IV in my left hand and tried to take blood from it, but it wasn’t working. She left it be and hooked up my IV fluids. If you’ve never had an IV in your hand, it’s not comfortable. I have extremely tiny hands, but it felt like I could not move my wrist without feeling the needle stab me in the wrist. At one point, Justin had balled up his fist and placed it under my wrist for support, keeping it at an angle that didn’t hurt as much. She then poked my forearm of my other arm to try to get the blood samples, and again, no such luck, and also, the most painful. This was during the shift change, so as “my” nurse, Kaylyn, got her assignment, she then took over for Nurse Shannon and stuck me the third time in the crease of my arm (sorry, I have no idea what the medical term is!). All in all, they only managed to get two vials of blood when they needed four, but it would have to work because I was not letting them try again! And a week later, I still have giant bruises on my left hand and right forearm.
Justin and I then waited for about two hours. We watched HGTV while we waited. There really isn’t much on that early in the morning, and the TV was so small, I could barely see it. Honestly, I was anxious and agitated, and I couldn’t concentrate to watch for more than a couple minutes at a time anyway. Nurse Kaylyn came in multiple times to check my fluids. I had to pee at least 5 times before the surgery, and every time Justin would have to help me pull the IV from the corner behind him, around to the other side of the bed and into the bathroom behind me. Kaylyn said I would not need a catheter during surgery as long as I did not have a full bladder, so that just made me have to go even more often.
Also during this wait time, Nurse Kaylyn came in with one more form for us. A form which asked, “What would you like to do with the remains?” WHAT?! We were totally not prepared to answer this. There were four options: 1) Keep the remains for burial services 2) Keep the remains in the form of cremation 3) Issue a death certificate (this would then require another form, she said) and 4) The hospital can dispose of the remains. I began sobbing as soon as she set the clipboard in my lap. Justin and I held each other in silence for a few moments as we both tried to come up with the breath and the courage to speak. I started to say, “Well, I’ve already passed the baby… I don’t think we…” and Justin took the clipboard and checked option 4. I signed at the bottom. As horrible as it seemed, the fact was this is just an empty placenta. We saw that on the ultrasound just a week prior. There was no need to keep it. Had I not passed the baby, I think our decision would have been different. But again, this was a moment we were totally unprepared for.
Once more, Justin helped me wheel my IV tower into the bathroom, and while I was in there my doctor came in. She asked if we had any final questions, and said they would be ready for me soon. Surgery was scheduled for 8:30 am. It was 8:50 when Nurse Kaylyn and Anesthesiologist Dan came to get me. I kissed Justin, as tears started rolling down my face, and then continued as I was wheeled through a series of hallways and into the OR. I said hello to Kaylyn, Dan, and the scrub nurse (who I don’t believe told me her name, but I remember she had dark hair). My doctor wasn’t in there yet. Dan placed a sticky mask over my mouth and nose, and a heated (and possibly weighted) blanket over my chest and arms, and that’s the last I remember.
If you are unfamiliar with the surgical steps of a D&C, it’s two parts, dilation & curettage. 1) Dilation: widening the opening of the lower part of the cervix to allow insertion of an instrument. The doctor may insert a series of slender rods (this is what I had) into the opening OR use a seaweed medication before the procedure to soften the cervix and cause it to widen. 2) Curettage: scraping the lining and removing uterine contents with a long, spoon-shaped instrument. The doctor may also use a cannula to suction any remaining contents from the uterus. A tissue sample then goes to a lab for examination.
When I woke up, I was in a hallway just outside of the Operating Room. The first thing I remember was thanking Nurse Kaylyn for waiting until I fell asleep to put my legs in the awful stirrups. She said everything during surgery went just fine, and gave me ice chips (I was complaining of being thirsty all morning, and wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight) and I was feeling crampy. A few seconds later, Justin was by my side wearing the “bunny suit,” as the nurses called it. He asked how I felt and was texting updates to my mom & a couple friends who had asked how things went. We hung out here for an hour before they would let me go back to my room. Kaylyn offered me juice, and then crackers a few minutes later when she saw I could keep the juice down. I replied, “no thanks, just more juice!” The thirst was real.
Once back in the room, Nurse Kaylyn checked my bleeding, and said that I could get dressed when I was ready. She put something in the toilet to measure my urine – an essential step I had to perform before I could be released. I was laying on a giant pad, so she said to hold on to either end of it as I stood up (which is SO cute to do in front of your husband) because there would probably be a rush of blood. There was. She offered me pads, and I said no thanks I brought my own. I asked Justin to hand me my clothes which were folded on the floor next to him, and he offered to put a pad inside my underwear for me. I started cracking up, but he was so serious. It really was the sweetest thing, because he wanted to help me in any possible way he could, but I just laughed and said NO! Honestly, I needed that little burst of laughter to make this awful, heavy day feel just a tad lighter.
I called Nurse Kaylyn from the button on my bed after I had used the restroom and gotten dressed. We did not get to see my doctor after the surgery, but we were instructed to follow up with her in two weeks. I was not given any narcotics or antibiotics, I was just told to rotate ibuprofen and tylenol for the pain. The pain and bleeding could last anywhere from 2-10 days. I found that hard to believe. I didn’t bleed much when I was given the medicine to miscarry, and I’ve always had super light periods.
We left the hospital and stopped and got Steak n’ Shake on the way home. Justin was famished – he fasted right along with me! – and I wanted a milkshake. I loaded up on ibuprofen, and went upstairs to take a nap while Justin did some work. The cramps weren’t severe, just typical period-like cramps, but I was really tired. I couldn’t get comfortable – between the cramps and my hand and arm hurting – so I slept maybe an hour at most. Overall, I felt relieved for this “process” to be over.
I had no idea that this was about to feel endless.