• Jamie Sculley, ND

My Experience, Recovery and Lessons Learned After Having Two Miscarriages

a wicker crib for a baby

I don’t even know if I’m going to post this but I’ve had this in my head for about the last 6 months to write this. I’ve put it off for a number of reasons. I thought no one would want to read it. I’m scared of people thinking that I’m doing it for attention, pity or to capitalize on my experience. I’m scared that I’m making something that “should be” private, public. But I’m not doing it for any of these reasons.

What’s motivating me the most is the desire to help other women who are going through this experience. When I was going through it I read countless articles and watched so many YouTube videos of women sharing their stories and each one helped me feel less alone and less scared. I was grateful that they had the courage to share their experiences and so I want to do the same for someone else.

It's becoming easier to find personal experiences about miscarriage and recurrent miscarriage but it still feels like a taboo subject. We think it’s rare, but miscarriage isn’t as rare as you might think. And because we don’t talk about it, I think there are misconceptions about how profound of an experience it can be.

I never thought it would happen to me and then it did, twice. It’s emotionally and physically the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. It changed me as a person, changed how I view the world and altered me on a fundamental level. I think that such a life changing experience should be talked about more.

I’ve also procrastinated on writing this because, although I’m doing fine now, reliving these memories is uncomfortable. I’m truly doing fine now and I want you to know that you will get through this and you’ll be ok again, too.

I’m going to get TMI in this post because I think that’s the best way to do this. When I was reading and watching any content I could find, the content that was brutally honest and detailed helped me the most. I felt alone, scared, hurt, heartbroken and wanted to know that other women knew exactly what I was going through. I also wanted to see that they survived such a difficult time because it gave me hope that I would too.

Before I dive into the stories of my two miscarriages, I want to start out by saying I am so sorry for what you’re going through right now. It is truly an awful, heartbreaking experience. You’re not alone and everything you’re feeling is normal. What happened is not your fault. I know you’re blaming yourself and wondering if there’s anything you could have done differently, but it’s not your fault. Most miscarriages happen due to chromosomal abnormalities where something goes wrong at the cellular level and the pregnancy isn’t viable.

This turned into a very long read so here's what I talk about in this post:

  • The first miscarriage experience and what recovery was like

  • The second miscarriage experience and what recovery was like

  • What it's like being pregnant after a miscarriage

  • Lessons I learned from these experiences

  • Practical tips if you're going through a miscarriage

  • Closing thoughts

The First Miscarriage

I had two miscarriages in 2019, one in April 2019 and one in August 2019. My boyfriend and I had been trying to conceive, it had taken a while because we were just letting it happen when it happened. Trying to conceive can quickly become stressful and full of pressure and we didn’t want that.

My periods can be irregular but I remember thinking that my period probably should have started so I took a pregnancy test and was shocked that it was positive. I remember feeling shocked, happy, and scared. We were both really happy about the news.

Once I found out, I did all the things I thought I should do and got on prenatal vitamins, drank more water, cut down on caffeine, ate healthier, and set up my appointments. It’s amazing to me how when you get that positive test, you immediately start mothering. We decided not to tell anyone until the 12 week mark just in case.

Because my cycle was irregular and I had the miscarriage before I was able to be seen for a dating ultrasound, I estimate that I was about 6 or 7 weeks. The miscarriage started with light bleeding. It started out like spotting and was so light that I didn’t think too much of it. I knew that bleeding could be part of early pregnancy so I just waited to see if it went away or not. I tried to be calm but, of course, I was worried about the worst case scenario.

Over the course of a few days the bleeding got heavier and more red. It was like my period was starting. I remember being at work and seeing the blood on my pad and just knowing that this was bad. This was a miscarriage. I was still in denial, but I was starting to accept what was really going on.

I had no idea what to expect because women never talk about this stuff. Even as a doctor, I had no idea what a miscarriage would be like. I’m going to be honest, a miscarriage is a traumatic experience whether you’re going through it for the first time or not.

It started as really intense cramping around 2AM one night that woke me out of sleep. These cramps wrapped around my abdomen and back and I was writhing in bed because I couldn’t find a comfortable position. They came in waves and were painful enough that I had to make myself breathe through them. They were more painful than any period cramps I've ever had.

I was able to set up a heating pad and that helped, but I eventually made my way out to my living room couch because I didn’t want to keep my boyfriend awake. The rest of the night is honestly kind of a blur of cramping and pain, but I eventually fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up the next morning I was in a lot of pain. It felt like my whole abdomen and back were just stuck in a cramp that wouldn’t let up. I tried to take some ibuprofen to get some relief but ended up throwing it up. I think I threw up two or three times in all.

When I sat on the toilet there was a lot of blood and then I passed what felt like a really large clot, which was the sac. That was why the cramping had been so intense. I will never forget how uncomfortable and unsettling that felt. Once the sac passed, the pain subsided to what I’d consider more like normal period cramps.

That morning was scary and I almost woke up my boyfriend to take me to the hospital. I was scared because I didn’t know what was normal. There seemed to be a lot of blood, clots and pain and I didn’t know if this was happening like it should. But things ended up going fine and with his help, I was able to eat something, drink some water, take ibuprofen and go to bed and sleep.

Recovery After the First Miscarriage

After the miscarriage I called the women’s clinic where I had my first prenatal appointment set up. It was really hard to make that call because I didn’t want to have to tell the receptionist why I was cancelling my appointment. Saying it out loud was difficult. I ended up keeping the appointment and speaking with the midwife. I’m grateful that I went in to see her because I needed to hear that what happened actually was a miscarriage and ask her what to expect going forward. She was so supportive and listened with compassion. It really helped having someone listen and tell me “I’m so sorry.”

I learned that miscarriage recovery involves both physical and emotional healing. I obviously bled a lot. The bleeding was like a long, heavy period. I bled for about 4 weeks off and on with some of it being heavy, some light and some spotting.

The bleeding wasn’t the hardest part for me. The emotional heartbreak was the hardest. I was angry, sad, depressed and grieving. The baby hadn’t been fully real in my mind because it had been so early in the pregnancy so it wasn’t the loss of the baby that I was grieving, it was the loss of everything that would have come along in my life because of a baby.

I want to stress here that just because someone loses a baby that early in the pregnancy doesn’t mean that they don’t grieve. I’ve heard people say “well, at least it was only 6 weeks.” There’s no “good” or “better” time to have a miscarriage. When that pregnancy test comes back positive you become a mother. All of a sudden, your future looks very different. You start living in a different way and preparing to be pregnant and have a family. So the loss of all of those dreams is absolutely heartbreaking.

I laid on the couch for three days after it happened. I cried, slept, and distracted myself. I did the bare minimum and my boyfriend took care of me. I feel emotional and grateful thinking about that time because he really did take care of me even though he had lost too. All I can say about getting through it is to allow yourself to feel all the emotions. For me, by the third day of laying on that couch, I just felt like I had to get up and start moving on. I just didn’t feel like I needed to stay in that place anymore. I think that’s because I allowed myself to feel all the feelings. Not to say they were gone and I was myself again, but it wasn’t as sharp and I wanted to get back to life again.

The most prominent feeling I remember from that time was feeling alone. We had chosen not to tell anyone about the pregnancy so it felt awkward to tell anyone about the miscarriage. I didn’t want to come out and say “hey, I was pregnant but I’m not anymore.” But that also made it really hard to be around my family because I felt like I was hiding a huge secret. I also had to pretend to be happy even though I wasn’t. This experience was why I chose to tell my family about my second pregnancy. I wanted to have their support no matter what happened.

The Second Miscarriage

My period came back within a couple months after my first miscarriage and I got pregnant in July, about 3 months after the first pregnancy. I was happy, of course, but it was different because the fear of miscarriage is always in the back of your mind. I told my family because I wanted to share the good news. I also told them about my previous miscarriage because it just felt right and I’m glad I did because it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I worried the whole time about miscarriage. It was hard not to. I made my prenatal appointments and ended up having an ultrasound where I saw the baby and saw its heartbeat. It was dated at 6 weeks 1 day. That was really special and made it real to me.

The doctor wanted me to come back for another ultrasound in 2 weeks because the baby’s heartbeat had been low and she wanted to check it again. When I went back for this ultrasound I just felt that something was wrong. It was just me and the tech in the room but I felt a feeling come over me. I was waiting for the tech to show me the baby on the screen and it felt like it was taking a long time. Then she said that there was no heartbeat and the baby had not grown past the previous measurements. I felt numb but I got dressed and drove home.

I got a call from the women’s clinic that they wanted to see me later that day to discuss the ultrasound. I don’t think they knew that the tech had told me what she found. I don’t know if the techs are supposed to tell you, but I’m glad she did. And really, how could she not say something without it being awkward? I expected to see the baby and would have worried all day had she just stopped the examination without saying something. Looking back, I’m also grateful that I was able to see the ultrasound screen with my own eyes and that there really was no heartbeat.

I really don’t know how I got through that day and went to the appointment without breaking down. I was numb all day until the end of the appointment when I went to drive home. I remember the drive home because I just couldn’t hold myself together emotionally anymore. I was exhausted from doing it all day. I was so sad and angry that this had happened twice. I really had no idea that the baby had died two weeks previously. I really thought I was pregnant and was going to the ultrasound to see my baby again.

I had had what’s called a “missed miscarriage.” My options were to either wait it out for 2 weeks and see if my body got rid of it on its own or do a D&C. If my body didn’t start the process in 2 weeks or if I chose to sooner, I could initiate it on my own with a medication called Cytotec. I opted to wait it out. I really thought my body would miscarry on its own.

That was a hard two weeks that stretched on forever. I waited for 2 weeks and nothing happened. In that two weeks I became really mad at my body for “failing” again and not even doing the right thing in inducing a miscarriage on its own. I became uncomfortable with knowing I had a dead baby in my body and just wanted to get it out. Also, waiting like that delayed me from starting the grieving process. It also allowed me to stay in denial, which wasn’t good for me. When you’re in pain and you want so desperately for something to not be true, your mind will make up any story it can to give yourself hope. In hindsight, I should have chosen D&C or the medication right away. That two weeks was really hard in a lot of ways.

When it became clear that I’d have to intervene, I went back and forth so many times on whether I wanted to choose a D&C or the medication. Because I knew what a miscarriage felt like and wanted to get it over with quickly, I wanted a D&C. But then I also didn’t want to go to the hospital and wanted to do this in my home where I felt comfortable so I ended up choosing the medication. I researched other womens’ experiences using this medication. I was scared to try it and really didn’t like the fact that I’d have to initiate a miscarriage myself. I didn’t know if I could actually bring myself to do it.

My doctor prescribed Cytotec to be administered vaginally. I waited for a day where I was off work and would have a couple days to recover. The first dose didn’t work. I think I bled a bit, but then nothing happened. She had put in 1 refill for this reason so I refilled it and tried again. It wasn’t easy to insert it because of what I knew was going to happen, but you just make yourself do it. By that time I was also ready to have this all be over.

The second dose worked. My boyfriend and mom knew I was going to take it that day. I felt comforted by the fact that I could call either one of them if I needed. I wasn’t sure what to expect based on the varied experiences of other women. I set myself up on the couch with ibuprofen, water, snacks, and watched TV until it started. I tried to stay ahead of the pain with ibuprofen, but wasn’t able to. Looking back, I might have underdosed the ibuprofen, thinking that I didn’t need that much, but more likely, the cramping really was just too painful for the ibuprofen to handle.

The cramps started within about 5 or 6 hours and they were strong. The thing I remember the most about this experience is how painful the cramps were. I really think they were much worse with the medication compared to my first miscarriage. They were exhausting. My whole body tensed up with each cramp and they literally brought me to my knees. I pretty much stayed in the bathroom either on the toilet because of the bleeding or laid on the floor between cramps. I knew a clot was going to pass because the cramping would get worse. I remember reading one woman’s account where she said when the cramps get really bad, it means the sac is about to pass and that’s exactly what happened to me. The pain got so bad I thought I was going to either pass out or throw up. Then the sac passed and almost immediately it got less painful. Afterward, I think I threw up and I just sat on my bathroom floor for a while, exhausted.

Eventually I got up, got dressed and made my way to the couch. For the rest of the night I had cramps and had to go to the toilet as I passed blood and clots. Thankfully, my doctor had also prescribed pain medication. I used it and was so grateful for it because it allowed me to get some distance from the pain. The residual cramps were painful and I was so exhausted from being in pain all day. The medication gave me needed relief so I could rest. Even the next day my whole body was sore like I had done an intense workout.

Recovery After the Second Miscarriage

I remember more clots after this miscarriage. I also bled for a long time. I went to an appointment with my doctor at the women’s clinic because I was still bleeding weeks later. I had started passing large clots too. The doctor examined me and found that there was tissue in my cervix and ended up manually removing much of it.

The bleeding continued for weeks and weeks, and looking back, I should have contacted my doctor about it, but I just kept thinking that it would stop on its own. It had decreased to spotting so I kept thinking that it was about to stop any day. During this time, I became really angry at my body and at my uterus for not only miscarrying but also for not "healing correctly."

In total, the bleeding went on for 12 weeks. This was incredibly difficult to endure and I became so tired of needing to wear a pad everyday, but I eventually found out that there had been remaining tissue in my uterus and that’s why it had lasted so long.

I’d say, without a doubt, that my second miscarriage was harder than my first. It was more physically and emotionally painful and the recovery was longer and harder. After my second one I made the decision to actively avoid getting pregnant for a few months. I track my cycles and know when I’m ovulating so I knew when I was fertile and not. I needed a break from thinking about pregnancy, from being pregnant, and from the possibility of going through another miscarriage. I needed a break for my mental health because I knew I couldn’t go through another miscarriage so soon if I happened to get pregnant again.

A Few Lessons I Learned

Reconnecting With My Body

After my second one I was really angry with my body for “failing” me again. I also had to reconnect with my sexuality. I remember reading this article about reconnecting with your sexuality after miscarriage and it really holds true. Miscarriage brings up a lot of emotions around how we feel about our bodies, our uterus and our vagina. These reproductive organs can seem “dysfunctional” and it can be hard to see them as good and pleasurable when you’re so angry and disappointed in them. You need some time to reconnect with yourself and find pleasure in your body after feeling so much pain.

We’re Not Guaranteed Anything

My second one also taught me that we aren’t guaranteed anything in this life. I took it for granted that I would get pregnant and have a baby. I thought the process would be easy like it appeared to be for others I knew. I felt like it wasn’t fair that it was hard for me to do this. Growing up we get the impression that getting pregnant is so easy and you have to constantly protect yourself against it if you don’t want to be pregnant. All my life, even when using birth control, I’ve been scared of getting pregnant before I was ready, but now here I am in my 30s and finding that actually, getting pregnant is really difficult.

I learned that just because we want something doesn’t mean we get it. I’m not saying we don’t deserve it, but we may not get it right away just because we want it. We’re not entitled to anything. I used to feel entitled to getting pregnant and starting a family in this way and this experience has humbled me.

You Can't Protect Yourself From Pain

Being pregnant after having a miscarriage is tough because you are always worrying about it happening again. Miscarriage can leave you feeling helpless. You don’t know why things are happening the way they are and you want to cling to something that makes you feel in control. I hadn’t realized that I was looking for some kind of guarantee of a healthy pregnancy until I came across a video where a woman talked about this. She had experienced 4 miscarriages and was in the last trimester of pregnancy at the time of filming. She talked about this concept of how worrying about the outcome steals your joy. I tried to find the video so you could hear how she explains this, but couldn't. What she said really comforted me although it may sound dark, but I’ll try to explain it anyway.

There is no guarantee on the number of days that you get to be with your child. You could have your child for 6 weeks, 6 years or 60 years. You never know how long you’ll get to be with them. After having a miscarriage and feeling so helpless, you want some certainty, but there is none. You don’t know what will happen. Things might go wrong. But worrying about having another miscarriage will steal your joy. You will miss out on all the happy feelings that a pregnancy can give you. Worrying doesn’t protect you from pain if another miscarriage happens. We think we’re protecting ourselves, but we’re not. All we’re doing is preventing ourselves from feeling happy about something that can be truly joyful.

I think this also applies to the common practice of waiting until week 12 to tell people about a pregnancy. Technically, miscarriage is less likely to happen after this point, but 12 weeks is no guarantee that a healthy, full-term pregnancy will happen. I know we wait until this point to tell people because we think it’ll be easier to deal with a miscarriage if no one knows, but that’s not true either, at least in my experience. It steals your happiness of getting to share the joy with other people. Whether miscarriage happens before or after you’ve told people about the pregnancy, it doesn’t make it any easier. There’s no avoiding the pain if it happens.

These thoughts comforted me because I realized that I should let go of control, there’s no way to protect myself from pain and I was robbing myself of feeling happiness. It made me see the futility of trying to protect myself from pain. Nothing can protect you. You simply have to feel it. But going through these two experiences taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was. I can get through incredible pain. I can come through it and be ok and feel like myself again. It made me less fearful of going through painful experiences in the future.

Her words felt like “tough love” but I needed to hear them. It may be hard to put into practice, but it’s simple. Nothing is guaranteed, stop worrying because it’s not protecting you from pain, and just let yourself feel happy about something as miraculous and joyful as being pregnant.

Practical Tips

One woman’s account of her miscarriage using Cytotec was particularly helpful because she included tips that helped her get through it. I thought this was a great idea and wanted to do the same.

  • If you can, clear your schedule. Take a few days off so you have time to recover. You may be sore, tired, and going through a range of emotions so if you can take some time for yourself, do it.

  • Set up somewhere to rest whether that’s a bed, couch or guest room. Get into comfortable clothes, have water, snacks, pain medication, phone, charger, heating pad, TV remote and whatever else you need nearby. Once the pain starts you won’t want to get up.

  • You’re going to spend a lot of time in the bathroom and on the toilet. I ended up just taking my pajama pants off because I just had to keep pulling them down anyway. Plus, I didn’t like having anything putting pressure on my abdomen. Have a towel on the floor in case you just want to sit or lay down. Sitting on the toilet for so long hurt my legs so being able to sit on the towel gave me some relief. You’re going to be doing a lot of wiping so have soft toilet paper and wet wipes to clean yourself.

  • You’re not supposed to use tampons or insert anything into your vagina for at least 2 weeks after a miscarriage so find pads or use washable period underwear. I usually hate using pads but found some that stick well and are actually long, thin and really absorbent. I still use them to this day because they're so comfortable and don’t leak. The ones I use are the Always Infinity Flex Foam pads and have recently found that they offer a 100% cotton pad free from dyes, bleaching and fragrance.

  • Ask your doctor if they will prescribe a stronger pain medication. Because I'd done some research online and had read other women’s posts, I decided that I wanted to have the option so I brought it up with the nurse. My doctor hadn’t offered it so I had to ask for it, but I was glad I did because it really helped.

  • This isn’t so much a tip for during a miscarriage, but was a book I read that I found to be really helpful afterwards. It’s called It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett. It’s easy to read because she writes in a practical and conversational style, her information is really well researched, and she summarizes the information at the end of the chapters and gives protocols to consider depending on your fertility issues. This is potentially useful for anyone who wants to get pregnant, whether you have fertility issues or not.

In Closing

I wish I could end this post by saying that everything worked out just fine and that I have a healthy baby, but I can’t. We’re still trying and still want a baby. I’d love to be pregnant again and I still believe that we will have one. I believe in a higher being and that it’ll happen at the right time. Maybe those times just weren’t the right times. Maybe I had to learn and grow through these experiences. When I meditated on why these things happened to me I received a few answers and they gave me some comfort. I heard “compassion,” “you’re stronger than you think,” and to “trust.”

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, I thank you. I sincerely hope this helped you in some way. You are not alone in what you’re going through. If you feel so inclined, please leave a comment and share your thoughts or your story so other women can benefit. I hope you have someone to talk to, and if you want someone to listen, please know that I’m here.

Please be well and take care of yourself,