What is a Missed Miscarriage?

Two years ago this week, I got pregnant. Sometime that June, at my 9-week doctor’s appointment, I would find out that I had “a missed miscarriage.”

I had never heard of this term before except for a few days before the appointment. I was thumbing through my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book and found this description: “A missed miscarriage, which is very rare, is when the embryo or fetus dies but continues to stay in the uterus. Often the only signs of a missed miscarriage are the loss of all pregnancy symptoms. Confirmation of the miscarriage occurs when an ultrasound shows no fetal heartbeat.”

Some would say that I was intuitively picking up that something was wrong, but truth be told on a conscious level, I had no idea. A missed miscarriage is tricky because the placenta still thinks that you are pregnant. As a result, I had a voracious appetite up until the end.

Previous Pregnancy was Complicated

Heading into the doctor’s appointment for my first visit, I was already emotionally upset. The office was adjacent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. That’s where my family had spent a month of our lives just the year before when my son was born at 35 weeks.

Walking that same hallway, where I had gone through such a tumultuous time, wasn’t easy. I was crying as the technician began the ultrasound. Minutes later, those tears would take on a new reality — there was no heartbeat and that the pregnancy was not viable, a word that I would grow to disdain.

My husband and I were advised due to my advanced age to begin “trying” earlier that Winter. Truth be told, we were not ready to expand our family at that point. Our one-year-son was healthy, but we had just come off of the NICU and had hit some road bumps with him in the ensuing months.

The day that I found out that I was pregnant the second time, a nasty stomach flu hit our house. My husband was laid out on the couch, our son was asleep, and I who had not quite caught the bug yet got home from an acupuncture appointment and very flippantly took a pregnancy test. Much to my surprise, it was positive. I told my husband who could barely stand (due to the stomach bug), we hugged quickly, and then life moved on.

Less Excitement about Pregnancy

Maybe it was because of the aforementioned NICU trauma, but there was a lack of excitement about our pregnancy. Still, we were deeply saddened when we found out about the miscarriage. After confirming via blood work in the days after that my hormone levels were dropping, we opted to schedule a D & C in an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

From what I have heard, miscarriages can be extremely painful, and as summer vacation was just beginning, we thought that waiting for that pain to start and the miscarriage to pass was not the best option, so we decided that I would get the procedure.

In the days between finding out about the miscarriage and the D & C, I worked a bit, cried a little, and was mostly in a haze. One thing I felt compelled to do during that time was to take pen to paper and make a list. And so I listed all of the women who I had personally known and some celebrities as well who had endured this loss.

List of Missed Miscarriages

My first attempt at this list brought me twenty names. As the hours passed, I kept adding more. It’s not that their pain brought me relief, but knowing that others had gone through this made me feel less alone.

My husband was great as were both of our jobs. We had ample, generous time off and a lot of compassion. Still that list of other women carried me through those initial days of heartache and still does.

On the day of the procedure, we went to our original hospital (non-NICU related), where I had gone for my very first prenatal exam with my son. The nurse who had helped me on that long-ago October day, was the very one who would hold my hand during the D & C. I believe that she was an angel.

Procedure to End Miscarriage

Given the option of wearing earplugs and listening to music, I chose the Beatles but the pain proved to be worse than I anticipated even with the medication, so I just looked at my husband and prayed silently.

While my feet were in stirrups, the doctor let me know that we could begin trying to get pregnant very soon. Though his intent was pure, so began my pushing this experience under the rug. Meanwhile, I tried frantically to get pregnant for the next year and a half.

I don’t think any of you would’ve noticed this inner struggle. After all, during this time, I was working full time and caring for my toddler son. My husband was in graduate school and working full time as well. During this period we also lived 3,000 miles away from all of our family. In other words, I didn’t have time to process my sadness or grief. I had to show up for my
life and my life was very full!

Six months or so after the miscarriage, I began to get tested for fertility, and my husband did as well. Though at this point I was 41 and a half, I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Even at my age, I had a good supply of eggs. The quality of my eggs was in great shape too.

No Pregnancy after Missed Miscarriage

My husband’s tests all returned normal. We opted to do a few months of IUI (artificial insemination) accompanied by an ovulation stimulator Clomid. The Clomid gave me awful cysts which delayed menstruation and were also quite painful. Given that we got pregnant with our son after one week of trying and got pregnant with the miscarriage with only one try, I naively thought that pregnancy was looming and that I would, in fact, prove everyone wrong and give birth to another child in my forties.

I bought every ovulation test kit that’s ever been made, did acupuncture and yoga, and bought fertility crystals. But sadly it didn’t happen.

I wish with all of my being that the desire to procreate again would leave me. It has at times haunted me and it’s been the case for many years. I am seeking support to help me let go, not of the grief, but of my vision. There is resistance, at times a lack of acceptance, and in turn, pain, until it passes. And it
typically does.

To those who go through the 28-day cycle of engaging, waiting, dreaming, I am with you.

Colette Kenny Verdes

Colette Kenny Verdes is a licensed professional counselor and educator based in Pennsylania. Grief work is her passion. Miscarriage, perinatal loss, pregnancy complications, maternal health, and the NICU experience are issues that she cares deeply about. Colette is also a Compassionate Bereavement Care Certified Provider via the MISS Foundation, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Trust, and the Center for Loss and Trauma. She employs a mindfulness approach when working with grief. Colette’s background includes over two decades in the field of education. When she is not working she enjoys running, exploring spirituality, and spending time with her family, and two-year-old dog Carmella. Reach Colette at noesageinfo@gmail.com or 610-810-1742.

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