Author’s Note: This blog post is the story of my experience choosing and having a D&C (dilation and curettage) following a miscarriage. It may or may not be something everyone wants to read, and it’s perhaps a bit more graphic than some may feel comfortable reading. If you’re interested, read on. If not, scroll to the bottom for a link to the next part of the story.
When the doctor offered this outpatient surgery option as one of three possibilities the day we found no heartbeat, I immediately rejected it. Surgery is a scary thing anyway, but to imagine having surgery on one of the most private, miraculous parts of my body was absolutely out of the question.
I had originally opted for the Cytotec. At least then I’d be able to schedule the pain and bleeding and experience it in the comfort of my own home. But after hours of research and talking with other women who had gone that route–and learning that Cytotec was also called ‘the abortion drug’–I couldn’t do it. And I couldn’t just wait around for nature to run its course, either. Every day that went by with nothing happening my anxiety level grew. I hated not knowing. I hated that I was waiting on my body to do something it may or may not ever get around to doing. I hated the idea of having to flush my own baby down the toilet.
So I began to look again at the D&C option. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go this route, so I talked to Husband and on Sunday evening, lying together in the dark while he rubbed my back and ran his fingers through my hair, we decided to look into having the surgery.
It took two days of phone calls, figuring out insurance coverage, and playing the mediator between the clinic, the hospital, and my husband, trying to make sure I understood everything enough to communicate the facts so we could make an informed decision. Did I mention I was working full-time throughout all of this? I had plenty of distractions to keep me from feeling anything at this point.
On Tuesday afternoon the clinic called and told me my surgery was scheduled with the doctor I’d requested. I was to check in at the hospital’s outpatient surgery office at 8:30 Wednesday morning for a 10 a.m. surgery.
At 8:27 Wednesday morning Husband and I checked into the waiting room. A little after 9 a.m. a white-haired lady with big glasses and a sweet smile led me to my pre-op room.
It was cold. The thermostat said 70 degrees but I would’ve placed money on it being closer to 60. Or maybe it was just nerves. They gave me a plastic bag with handles that said “Patient Belongings” and told me to put all my clothes in there. I had to take off all my jewelry, including my wedding ring, and don the ever-loved hospital gown with the gape in the back. I laid on the bed and the nurse covered me with a heated blanket (I now want a blanket heater installed in any house I live in from here on out) while I settled in to watch “Dogs 101” on Animal Planet.
Two nurses came in a few minutes later to start my IV and get my electronic pre-operation paperwork done. She told me my doctor was running a bit behind because she’d been called in to deliver two babies already that morning. “Babies sure do have their own schedules!” the nurse cheerfully said as she tapped away on the computer. “They sure do…” I offered with a smile, thinking to myself that she probably didn’t really realize what she was saying to a patient who was about to have what should have been a baby sucked out of her like a dust bunny from under a bed.
Husband was escorted in and we waited. The anesthesiologist came to discuss procedure with us, answered questions, and left. Husband read Terry Pratchett in the corner while I tried to stay comfortable in the bed, now watching “Animal Cops: Houston.”
I was strangely calm. We were here, this was happening, and I didn’t have to worry about my body doing anything naturally, being caught off-guard with massive bleeding and cramps, and traumatizing my children with the whole experience. In a few short hours it would be done. This chapter would end and we could start the next part of the grieving process.
My doctor came in and did her thing on the computer, then explained exactly what was going to happen: They would put me under anesthesia, prop my legs up in stirrups, insert a speculum in my vagina, and use a tubular vacuum-like machine to suck out all the tissue from my uterus. Then she would gently scrape the walls of my uterus to make sure all the tissue was gone to avoid infection. The process of prepping me and then waking me up when it was over would take much longer than the actual procedure.
When the nurse came to wheel me to the operating room Husband kissed me and then we were off. It was kind of a fun ride, honestly. I mean, who doesn’t want to tour around a random building while reclining in a bed? Beats walking, that’s for sure. The huge door to the OR opened, the nurse tied her mask around her head, and pulled me into the room. I glanced around; the walls were grey, the floor was grey, the ceiling was grey. Large lights hovered above a tiny narrow bed and everyone in the room wore blue. All I could see was their eyes.
I joked with them that they needed some pictures or something, like at the dentist where they have nature photos pinned to the ceiling. They laughed and agreed as I scooted onto the tiny operating table. The room was freezing. Even more than the pre-op room. I saw the leg props with stirrups where they’d place my feet for surgery. If I thought too much about the room and how cold and unwelcoming it was, and what exactly was about to happen, I’d panic. So I ignored it. They covered me with another heated blanket and put the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. “Deep, slow breaths,” they said, then they explained they were administering the anesthesia.
My legs were tingling. I heard muted voices and soft sounds of people walking down a hallway and opening and closing cupboards. Someone was next to me. I forced my eyes open but they would only stay open for a moment. This happened several times before I could keep them open long enough to see where I was. My throat was parched. Outside my room a clock on the wall said 12:20. There was a vase of daffodils on the desk where a nurse sat at a computer. Another nurse with dark hair and beautiful, friendly eyes, smiled at me from my bedside.
Every five minutes or so I opened my eyes again and looked at the clock. All I wanted to do was sleep but I felt the need to force myself awake. With my eyes half-open I mumbled something to the nurse about what was on my legs. She explained what they were called (three letters, but I don’t remember what they were) and that they were to keep blood clots from forming. I don’t know how much time passed before I said, “I already asked about what’s on my legs, didn’t I?” She kindly explained again and I said, “That’s what I thought you said.”
I asked for a drink and the nurse offered me ice chips, then spoon fed me a few times. I enjoyed them with my eyes closed. I felt like I could sleep for a year. At some point Husband came in.
The nurse helped me into the chair next to my bed where I rested and sipped some cranberry juice. I could keep my eyes open now, but I felt like they had not only taken the contents of my uterus during surgery, but somehow also my entire supply of energy.
When I finally felt up to getting dressed and going home, someone told me it was 2:00. I was incredulous. I felt like I’d just woken up. I think the combination of extremely low blood sugar (I hadn’t eaten since 8:45 the night before) and the after-effects of the anesthesia were contributing heavily to my lack of energy or alertness.
The nurse helped me into the wheelchair and together she and Husband walked me down to the hospital entrance. Husband went to get the car and the nurse and I chatted about how beautiful the building is. I asked her about her shift length and she shared she enjoyed having weekends off. I climbed into the car, the nurse wished us well, and then we left.
For the rest of the afternoon I sat on the couch in an exhausted daze; we ate our Taco Bell food and watched an episode of “Psych” during which I fell asleep on Husband’s shoulder. I felt nothing. Just exhaustion.
After sleeping the afternoon away I felt fine all evening. My brain and body were a little more sluggish than usual, but overall I felt good. There was no cramping, no bleeding (I hadn’t bled at all since leaving the hospital), no pain at all…and emotionally I felt completely normal. The relief of knowing I didn’t have to sit around unknowing and unprepared anymore was immense, and I reveled in it. That night I went to bed telling myself they’d taken all my hormones, too, so the crazy emotions of pregnancy wouldn’t contribute to sudden outbursts of tears anymore. I could control myself and my emotions again. I was moving on.
Even so, a few hot tears squeezed beneath my lashes as I pressed my head into my pillow. I wasn’t even sure why.