'Shawn I'm losing the baby' was Elizabeth's cry, waking me. I turned on the bedside light, whipped off the covers, and there was blood, on Elizabeth's legs, her nightgown drenched, on Evelynn who was sleeping beside her, and all over her side of the bed. Elizabeth had been asleep and felt this massive gush of blood. It was 1:02 a.m. on Friday, March 28th and Elizabeth was at 13 weeks, 2 days gestation.
I jumped up, grabbed some towels and put then on and around Elizabeth to sop up the blood. Then I went to the kitchen to page our midwife Barbara Ray who called us within 2 minutes. I explained the situation; she said it was a miscarriage and that we need to go to the hospital. I passed the phone to Elizabeth and I recall her saying 'I really wanted this baby'. I woke up Jessica to tell her that her mother was bleeding, was probably losing the baby and that I was taking her to the hospital. As Elizabeth dressed, Jessica dressed Evelynn. We had to bring her to the hospital with us because she was too attached to her mother to be apart from her for hours.
As I took the bloody sheets off the bed, so our other children wouldn't see them, I examined the clots of blood looking for signs of the fetus. I didn't find any. I got Elizabeth and Evelynn into the car, said goodbye to Jessica, and took Elizabeth to the hospital. Caitlin woke up shortly after we left and Jessica told her what happened. She went in our bedroom, moved the covers, and looked at all the blood that had stained the bed. Then Caitlin went back to her bed and cried most of the night.
This pregnancy had started January 8th, and carried on uneventfully and hopefully for her parents and sisters. We met with our midwife, Barbara Ray, who was involved with the birth of three of our other children. Given the larger size of Elizabeth's uterus, there was a possibility of twins. After we had one of only two planed ultrasounds, which revealed one fetus and perhaps a fibroid, the larger uterus was attributed to being an 'experienced' uterus (after 4 kids it knew what to do) and the fibroid. We merrily went through names and planned another home birth. Caitlin was excited because the due date was October 2nd, close to her birthday of October 15th. She felt rather alone as the rest of us have March, April, May and June cornered with birthdays, with Caitlin's all alone at the end. Finally to have a sibling with a birthday close to hers!
At the hospital, after a two-hour wait in the emergency room, we were brought into a room where Elizabeth laid down, was questioned and examined, and we were told that she was having a miscarriage. Given the massive bleeding, and contractions, that is a strong indicator of a miscarriage. A D&C (cleaning of the uterus - a routine procedure after a miscarriage) along with a pre-D&C ultrasound was scheduled for 10:30 in the morning. Elizabeth was offered some medication for the pain and the process. She refused because she was concerned it would get into her breastmilk and have a negative effect on Evelynn.
Since there was nothing more to do but wait for the cramping and eventual ejection of the remains of the fetus to start, and/or the D&C I went home with Evelynn. Later in the morning I woke up Caitlin, told her I had bad news, and she told me she knew. She spent most of the morning locked in the bathroom crying. Arianne was also very upset and spent most of the morning crying in her bed.
All the kids decided they wanted to be at the hospital with their mother, so we all got ready to go. It took longer than expected, as we weren't used to getting ready without Elizabeth. We left late. When we got to the hospital at exactly 10:30 I dropped Jessica off and told her how to get to the emergency room where her mother was, and I went to park the car and bring everyone else. Jessica got there as her mother was being brought to the ultrasound room. The ultrasound began and it revealed the baby, and some movement, a beating heart. Elizabeth got very upset. In most miscarriages something is wrong with the fetus, which dies and within a few days cramping and contractions expel it from the body. What upset us was to realize that the baby was still alive. It meant something else had gone wrong. It also meant that a seemingly healthy fetus was going to be miscarried.
The Obstetrician/Gynaecologist on call, Dr. Ridyard, told us that the placenta was tearing away from the uterus. Elizabeth was admitted to the hospital, the Ob/Gyn ward, to await the complete tearing away of the placenta, which would result in the death and the expulsion of the fetus. There was no more cramping or contractions. The odds of the fetus staying attached were put at 25%. Given the 13-week gestation there was nothing more to do.
With Elizabeth in the hospital, I and our other children took over the care of Evelynn, who, at the time 21 months old, was used to frequent nighttime breastfeedings. Those two nights were pretty rough. I could get her to sleep all right, but she'd wake up and start screaming, as her mother wasn't around.
On Sunday since Elizabeth was still pregnant, not much bleeding, and really nothing more for the hospital staff to do, she was sent home to await the eventual miscarriage. The doctor advised going on bed rest, not doing anything, but staying in bed and resting. Her condition was termed a 'threatened miscarriage'. So Elizabeth went on bed rest. The bleeding continued every day, sometimes red and fresh, most often brown and old. She stayed in bed and only got up to go to the washroom. She continued to nurse Evelynn when she was able to. This was a debateable course of action, as research and consulting revealed that there was nothing definite either way about whether she should nurse or not. We tried weaning Evelynn from the night feedings and continued the day feedings, but those piercing screams at 3 am were unbearable. I slept with my headset on a few nights. We realized she was hungry at night, so the night feedings resumed. I didn't seem right that, since we were losing an unborn baby, to put our other baby through so much stress.
Our children grew up. Caitlin started doing most of the cooking, often without my help. Jessica too, and most mornings' they made their mother's breakfast, and looked after their sisters.
On April 1st Elizabeth celebrated her 37th birthday - in bed. On April 10th we celebrated Arianne's 6th birthday with a rare event - Elizabeth sitting at the kitchen table for cake and presents.
© 2003 Shawn O'Hara, all rights reserved.