When people hear about my infertility diagnosis and all the problems my husband and I had trying to conceive, the subject of my miscarriages usually comes up. People are curious and sometimes they ask questions they don’t really want to know the answer to. When it happens, I usually get one of four standard reactions:
(1) The Ignore: What infertility? What miscarriages? “Hey, did you hear about what happened on Real Housewives of D.C.?”
(2) The Stumble: “Um, um, I’m so sorry. But it all turned out alright? I mean you had more kids, so those miscarriages can’t be important anymore, right? Hey, look! Is that Kourtney Kardashian?”
(3) The Sympathetic: “I’m so sorry for your losses. That must have been so hard for you.”
(4) The Blunt: “How did you get through it? What was it like? How do you pick yourself up?”
I brush off reactions 1 and 2. They usually come from people who’ve never been there and are uncomfortable with naked pain. I get that. Reaction 3 is always nice. This is the reaction I usually get from close friends, people who know someone dealing with infertility or those who are just generally empathetic anyway.
The fourth reaction is the one I pay closest attention to. Anyone who asks me how I get through infertility and miscarriages has either been there and done that or is dealing with it right now. Everyone deals with grief and loss in their own way, but I began writing about some of my experiences because it helped me to share them with others who’ve been there. Along the way I also discovered that writing about infertility and loss helped some of my friends, family and other readers become more comfortable with talking about my infertility and specifically, my miscarriages.
For all of those people – friends, family, co-workers and those currently dealing with infertility and loss, I wrote this piece about a dilation and curettage I had after one of my miscarriages. A d&c is a procedure to dilate the cervix and scrape away the uterine lining and the products of conception that haven’t left the uterus naturally after a miscarriage. It’s scary and not a whole lot of fun. Nonetheless, I wrote this post to help my friends and family understand what I experienced and how I felt.
She sat slouching in the hard plastic chair, the nausea rolling in her stomach and burning her throat. He sat beside her, scratching away at the clipboard, asking occasional questions, “When was that last D&C?” “Is your name hyphenated on your health insurance card?” “What year were you born again? Never mind. I can figure it out.”
She answered with brevity, staring at the black and white clock on the wall wondering, inanely, “Why do all institutions everywhere have that same black and white clock?”
She heard her name, the first name stumbled over, the last name butchered as always, “Mister Stephan ___.” She stood up, moved toward the indifferent woman in the faded green scrubs who couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge the mistaken gender. She remembered, hesitated, looked back at him.
“He’ll need to stay there for now. We’ll bring him back later.”
“Oh no, it’s OK. He’s going to work. He’ll be back to get me later.”
Green scrubs looked at her with kinder eyes and turned to lead her inside.
The rows of curtained cubicles, tubes, and beeping machines were frightening. As she followed the green scrubs through the room, she saw some of the patients were asleep. “Or maybe unconscious,” she thought, before pushing the thought from her mind. At her blue curtained cell, she listened to perfunctory instructions regarding her clothes, jewelry, hospital gown.
The smell was cold, antiseptic, with a whiff of plastic.
“Do you need a pad?” the green scrubs asked.
Startled, she looked up, questioning.
“Are you bleeding?”
“No, um, no. No bleeding.”
She carefully folded her red sweatsuit, gray shirt, panties, and bra. Comfortable clothing, as if it would help. She packed her comfort away in the brown grocery bag with her name labeled in thick, black magic marker. She donned the tissue thin gown and sat on the edge of the bed, covered her legs with the blanket and waited, staring at the clock on the wall.
Green scrubs flung the curtain aside and began efficiently preparing for an IV.
“Lie down on the bed.”
The sting was quick, but it burned.
Left alone, she wrapped her arms around chest, careful not to hit the bandage on her arm. She saw the goosebumps and realized she was shivering. Her feet and hands were ice cold.
Again, she stared at the ubiquitous clock on the wall opposite her curtained rectangle.
Dr. M came, the sight of his familiar face flooding her with unexpected relief. All too quickly he was gone. She watched him at the nurses’ station in the middle of the pre-op room, joking with the nurses and greeting doctors with small talk. As if this was any other day.
“Hi. I’m Dr. A. I’ll be the anesthesiologist for your procedure.”
“Why does everyone here call it a procedure?” she wondered. “Is it easier than remembering to insert the name of each surgery while he goes through his spiel 8 times a day?”
“Are you all right?”
“What? Oh, yes, what was that?”
“Can you tell me why you’re having this procedure today?”
“Is he checking to see if I’m lucid? Or just making sure I’m not slipping in an optional procedure?” she thought.
“Missed miscarriage. Blighted ovum,” she said out loud.
Dr. A left and again she was alone, with a dozen people in sight.
He appeared in the doorway, following green scrubs.
She simply said, “You’re here.”
“I couldn’t leave.”
“I’m glad,” she sighed and closed her eyes, her cold hand in his warm fingers.
They wheeled her out of the room and into an operating room. The lights hurt her eyes. Now she was scared.
It was cold. She shivered. Unseen hands piled warmed blankets on her. There was a burning in her arm.
“Count backwards from ten for me.”