pregnancy

"I'm sorry we have to ask you that": What it's like having a D&C after a missed miscarriage.

Content warning: This post deals with themes around missed miscarriage and may be triggering for some readers. 

My husband and I arrived at the hospital day procedure centre early in the morning.

There weren’t many words to be said between us, it was a mutual silence, a mutual time of mourning for the baby we had lost but was still inside me.

Today was the day that it would finally leave the body that was meant to have carried it for another seven months, the one that had failed.

Around me were many other people, men and women, old and young, arriving at the hospital for mostly minor procedures that would see them in and out in the same day. Technically mine was the same, I would be put under a general anaesthetic, operated on, ‘recover’ and return home in just hours.

For me though, this day felt much longer because unlike many of those around me. I was here to have a part of me removed that I had wanted to stay with me. A part of me that I wanted to grow, that was there because I had wanted it to be and that I was completely devastated about the prospect of losing.

Tina Arena speaks to Mia Freedman about her miscarriage. Post continues after video. 

My baby’s heart stopped beating eight weeks into my pregnancy but I didn’t miscarry it, the foetus stayed within my body. This is technically called an ‘incomplete abortion’ or a ‘missed miscarriage.’

Because of this, my obstetrician booked me in to have a dilation and curettage (also known as a D&C) where the foetus is removed surgically.

The procedure, which is also used to perform surgical abortions and to remove polyps among other things, scrapes away the lining of the womb. The cervix is dilated and the lining of the womb is scraped by an instrument called a curette.

In this case, it wasn’t just the lining of my womb being scraped away but also my baby. The thought of that was shattering and not how I had imagined or ever wanted my first baby to leave me.

After waiting what seemed like hours, my name was called by the anaesthetist.

“Why are you here?” he asked me.

It was one of those questions they already know the answer to but have to ask anyway, one of those horrible formalities that are seemingly there to make you feel worse that you already do. Although I knew the answer to this question I didn’t know how to actually put it into words.

“I was pregnant but now I am not but my baby is still in there,” I replied, a complete jumble of words.

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“I was pregnant but now I am not but my baby is still in there,” I replied, a complete jumble of words. Image: Getty.

“I’m sorry and I am sorry we have to ask you that,” he replied.

I didn’t say anything back to him, all my concentration was on preventing the tears from starting in this stranger’s office. He weighed me, asked me a few more questions, popped a wrist band on my arm and sent me back out to the waiting room.

I waited again until eventually my name was called, this time it was my time to go in and officially end what was left of my first pregnancy.

Before the procedure my obstetrician reminded me of how the D&C worked and that my baby would be sent off for testing afterwards to determine if there was a reason it had happened, any reason that its little heart had stopped beating. He told me that afterwards, there could be bleeding and possibly cramping.

Another reminder of what had just happened I thought. Then it was time.

As the anaesthetic was administered and I closed my eyes there was a tear that rolled down the side of my face. When I woke it had dried, but I could feel where it had been.

As I physically recovered from the procedure, I experienced some cramping and bleeding but no complications or anything unexpected. I went home and slept through the night and through most of the next day.

As I recovered emotionally, I struggled. I had countless questions that I would never have answers to, I was filled with anxiety that I may never be pregnant again or that if I was, that it too would suffer the same fate.

In my follow up appointment a few weeks later my obstetrician told me that the tests showed nothing, there was no cause as to why it had happened.

Although this was a relief in some ways, it was infuriating in others because it couldn’t rectify the loss of my first baby and the experience of going through the procedure of having to someone I already loved taken so unlovingly from my body.

If this post has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

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