By: Autumn Purdy
The first time I miscarried, I was at the tail end of my eleventh week of pregnancy and 900 miles from home. It started with a shocking jolt, a sharp pain directly below my belly button, my skin flushing, and a wave of nausea before I felt the hot gush of blood between my thighs. An immediate ER visit was warranted, and a subsequent visit to my obstetrician confirmed my horrors: no heartbeat, fetal demise, miscarriage. It was my husband’s thirtieth birthday. We had only shared the news with our extended family on Easter Sunday the weekend before. It was not supposed to be this way.
At age 16, I had the first of many ER visits and pelvic exams in my lifetime due to menstrual cycle complications and irregularity, heavy bleeding, and debilitating cramps and back pain. My older sister had found me passed out on the floor of the bathroom we shared, my slim body wedged between the wall and the toilet, lying in a pool of my own blood. During the messy internal exam, I squeezed my eyes shut and crushed my mother’s hand inside my own. As I focused on slowing down my shallow breath as clots pushed through me soaking the paper-lined table below my bottom, the gentle and kind doctor remarked to my mother, “When the time comes and she is ready to get pregnant, I’m afraid she’s going to have a difficult time.”
The treatment team would discharge me with no diagnosis I was aware of, a prescription for Ibuprofen and rest, and a doctor’s note excusing me from school three days a month, every month, for the rest of my high school days for “menstrual cycle irregularity and excessive flow.” It would take fifteen more years of agonizing period complications, infertility, and repeat miscarriages before I was properly diagnosed with Stage III Endometriosis, luteal phase deficiency, uterine fibroids, and perpetuating hormone imbalances.
Achieving pregnancy after my first miscarriage wasn’t easy. After a year of trying to conceive, I had a positive home test. Two weeks later, the bleeding began.
I called my obstetrician and explained what was happening. She offered little consolation and expressed confusion by my emotional reaction to “barely a pregnancy.” At my courtesy check-up where I received confirmation of my second child’s dead-still heartbeat, I cut ties with that doctor and began my search for a more compassionate practitioner, concrete answers, and the meaning behind the suffering I was enduring.
Through friends, I found the caring OB/GYN I was seeking. An attentive listener from the initial consultation, he showed remorse for my losses and took copious notes on my entire medical history. He wasted no time in sharing he believed all signs pointed to Endometriosis, and devised an intricate plan for helping us achieve again and maintain pregnancy beyond the first trimester. Once certain my husband’s fertility wasn’t in question, I underwent the first of the four surgeries I would trust my new doctor to perform on my abdomen in nine years’ time. The laparoscopy would reveal his assumptions were true, and he proceeded to remove 90% of the Endometriosis wrecking my female organs, though, needing to leave the cysts and lesions on other internal organs he wasn’t trained to excise.
For eighteen months following my laparoscopy, I would attempt to reduce stress, shunned lattes and alcohol, switched to gentler forms of exercise, swallowed high doses of folic acid and vitamins, and ingested Clomid pills as my husband injected hCG into the back of my arms and in a circle formation around my stomach to jump-start my fertility into action. Under this time-consuming and often painful program, my slender physique would swell up like a balloon from retention. I formed tender and unsightly black and blue marks on my arms and stomach, and above my hips from countless hormone boosters. The crooks of my arms would remain permanently bruised and red-marked from frequent blood draws to measure my body’s levels. And I would become pregnant three more times, miscarry twice, and my doctor would successfully deliver my first-born son by caesarean section.
After my son’s surgical birth, my husband and I would have little trouble conceiving my daughter when we were ready to grow our family. The day I held the positive pregnancy test in my hand, I would see my doctor for blood work to measure my baseline hormone levels, and start progesterone support. Despite experiencing early contractions at 30 weeks along, my daughter was born a healthy, full-term baby by caesarean section at the skilled hands of my adept physician.
After her birth, I had a moment of respite; actually, thought my pregnancy troubles were a thing of the past.
Sadly, this belief would prove untrue as our doctor would see me through another stretch of infertility and two more, quite traumatic, miscarriages before my husband and I conceived our youngest son. At age 39, I was automatically categorized as “high risk,” and was prescribed hormone support through the second trimester. I’d never lost a pregnancy past twelve weeks, so panic ensued when at 15 ½ weeks along, I suddenly started bleeding profusely. Because my doctor was at the hospital delivering another mother’s child, an unfamiliar practitioner would examine me. He plopped cold, blue gel on my rounded belly as I failed to hold back tears, and he stated plainly, “You know, there’s nothing we can do for you now if I can’t find the heartbeat.” My trusted OB/GYN would call me at home to say he had ordered a repeat ultrasound for the next day when he’d be back in the office. This successive appointment would expose my son’s wiggling form in 3-D and a strong heartbeat, as well as the diagnosis: placenta previa.
Six years have passed since my last miscarriage.
Five years have gone by since the caesarean birth of my son. Three years have elapsed since I held a child to my breast. Now in my mid-forties and perimenopausal, I’m beginning to let go of the trauma of early pregnancy loss and recurrent miscarriage. Despite the harrowing climb, I can honestly recount I would travel that treacherous road repeatedly for what I gained: the discovery of my inner-resolve and endurance; a definitive diagnosis of my menstrual cycle and fertility woes; ample opportunity to strengthen my marriage in the face of adversity; the eternal joys of building a family; and after an impressive feat, finally, being allowed to cherish the beautiful sound of the words I longed to hear for so long: “Mommy. Mama. Mom.”
About Autumn Purdy
Autumn Purdy earned a B.A. in English from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and is a Reviews Editor for Literary Mama. Currently writing her first book about the path to motherhood and her experience with recurrent miscarriage, she lives in Westerville, Ohio with her family. You can read more of her writing at https://asadsongbetter.com/ and https://bookjoy.blog/ and find her on Instagram and Twitter at @purdywords.