I called my OB who said to go to the ER.
Josh signed me in and we waited. There was only one other person there.
When the nurse called me over and asked me what was going on, I barely said the words “pregnant” and “bleeding” before she produced a wheelchair. The nurse apologized to me and told me that I’d be able to lie down soon.
We finished the admittance routine and I was taken to an exam room. I was told to put on a gown and a pair of gauze underwear with a very thick pad in the crotch.
I lied on the bed. I cramped and bled a lot.
Josh sat next to me and we held hands. Occasionally I said something about how I knew there was something wrong with me.
“No, honey,” he’d say, frowning.
Someone came and drew blood. Vital signs were taken.
Eventually, an ultrasound tech came to get me. She wheeled me down a maze of hallways and into a different exam room. An abdominal ultrasound revealed nothing, so she administered a transvaginal ultrasound.
“How far along were you?” she asked.
“Seven weeks,” I said.
She was silent for a long time. I was uncomfortable and sad and it was very cold in the room. My teeth chattered, but probably not because of the cold.
“Have you ever heard of polycystic ovaries?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Why?”
She was silent for a minute.
”I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m very sorry for your loss,” she said.
Neither of us spoke as she wheeled me back to the ER exam room.
The doctor and a nurse were waiting for me.
The doctor was enormous. He looked like a retired NFL player. The last thing I wanted in this situation was an unfamiliar OB/GYN, but he had the softest hands and the gentlest demeanor. I felt instantly at ease.
“We got your blood results back. Had you had this pregnancy confirmed by your OB yet?” he asked.
“No, the appointment is for next week,” I said.
“Well, this is rather puzzling then. Your hCG levels are not consistent with being seven weeks pregnant.”
“So… what -“
“This could mean that you were pregnant for less time than that. Or it could mean that your body was trying to hold onto a pregnancy that wasn’t developing.”
I asked him about the cysts that the ultrasound tech mentioned and he said that the body sometimes makes cysts during pregnancy and that it might not be anything. He seemed completely unconcerned.
He examined me and told me that there weren’t any tissues evident. He asked if I’d seen anything grey or beige streaks in the blood I’d passed and I told him I hadn’t. He told me to follow up with my regular OB/GYN and to take it easy for awhile.
I cleaned up and was discharged.
We went home.
That spring, the large coffee chain I worked for closed my store for a rebuild and I was transferred to another store. I hated it.
I hated it before the miscarriage. But after the miscarriage, I needed to take a few days off work – doctor’s orders. My manager was a very nice and understanding person, but I was anxious about returning to my temporary store. It was a stressful work situation. The customers were less friendly, my coworkers less professional, and it would be months before my store would reopen. Plus, I missed the consistency of my previous store. We were all friends. There were plenty of days that barely felt like work at all.
So, Josh convinced me to quit my job. He thought that the time off would be good for me, that I could relax and regroup.
I would’ve done just about anything at that point. I was depressed. I lacked will. I was a hormonal bundle of raw emotions.
I quit my job.
You can’t try to conceive for at least one cycle following a miscarriage. (Depending on the pregnancy length, sometimes you’ll be told to wait three months.) But I still tracked my body’s every shift and symptom.
I had to get a new OB-GYN because mine was retiring. Ever since the ultrasound tech said the phrase “polycystic ovaries” I’d been researching it, so I had all sorts of questions for my new doctor.
The day of our first appointment, I went through my story and told her how I’d charted everything. She looked over the dates and the details she’d written down.
“Do you work in the medical field,” she asked.
“No, I just like to read.”
“You’re reading too much,” she said.
“Do you have a history of blood clots, stroke, anything like that?”
“What about anyone in your family?”
I told her that my mom had a blood clot once, following a medical procedure, and that her mom had mini-strokes. And that a maternal great-grandfather died from a stroke. She took notes.
“Here’s what we’re going to do, if it sounds okay to you. After your next period you are free to start trying to conceive again. Until then, use condoms.”
“If we hit the year mark and you still haven’t had a successful pregnancy, we can talk about other options. Has your husband had a sperm count?”
“Let’s wait on that. Since you two have conceived at least once, for now I’ll assume it’s not him.”
“I don’t think it’s him either,” I said.
“Try to look on the bright side of this,” she said. “You actually conceived. I’m very sorry that you didn’t stay pregnant, but some women – no matter how much medical intervention they get – will never conceive.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said. Then I brought up what the ultrasound tech said about cysts and asked her if she thought I had PCOS. I mean, I did have some of the symptoms. She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“First, that tech shouldn’t have said anything to you. That is not her job. Second, no.” She shook her head. “I don’t think you have PCOS, but that’s just a hunch right now. Let’s give this until a year, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
“And stop reading medical journals! Just stay off the internet.”
I kept reading.
In May 2008, our apartment building was sold. The new owners were making lots of changes, taking away basement storage, and jacking up the rent. We decided to move.
The move was abrupt and frustrating. I wanted to throw things away as we packed. I wanted to thoroughly clean the new place before we started moving our belongings there.
Instead, Josh and his brother did everything the way they wanted to. I was overruled on nearly every matter. Plus, Josh took off just enough work to haphazardly pack and move us.
All the unpacking was left to me.
I was pissed off. I was alone in a place that wasn’t my home yet, in a body that kept betraying me. I had nightmares about being raped. I had dreams about broken eggs and dead ladybugs floating in my cats’ water dish. Eventually, I didn’t want to sleep anymore. I struggled with insomnia for the first time since I was a teenager.
I probably should’ve gotten help. I was completely overwhelmed and felt unequipped to deal with any of it.
Meanwhile, we kept trying to conceive.
My first period following the miscarriage didn’t show up for almost seven weeks.
In July, I suffered a two week stretch of low back pain, nausea and heartburn, sore breasts, hot flashes, and extreme exhaustion. My body was completely out of whack.
August and September were uneventful.
In October, at the request of my OB/GYN, I started taking ovulation tests. Basically, I peed on a stick. I started testing nineteen days into my cycle because, at this point, we knew (thanks to my obsessive spreadsheet!) that my cycles were typically 38 days long. I peed on a stick every day for two weeks. Not one of these tests was positive.
My doctor sent me to a lab for blood-work. She wanted to test me for a genetic defect on the MTHFR gene.
Five days after I’d had my blood drawn, a nurse from the OB/GYN called me late on Halloween and told me that I’d tested positive* for the defect. Fortunately, I only had it on one of my genes.
I took notes. Then I went home and looked it up.
(To be continued…)
*Specifically, I am MTHFR heterozygous C677T if you want to nerd out on infertility research.
The short version as explained by my OB: MTHFR defects act as a microscopic blood-clotting disorder due to the gene’s inability to properly process folic acid.
Apparently, there is some debate over whether or not MTHFR defects truly cause chronic miscarriage. I only have my situation on which to base my opinion.