The waiting room at a fertility clinic is never a place that anyone wants to be. It’s filled with men and women who feel broken, confused, and afraid of the future.

On February 8th, 2019, my husband, Kerry, and I sat in the waiting room waiting to hear our names called. We were there for a follow-up ultrasound because our first did not go as planned. This was our second pregnancy within four months after almost two years of infertility and we thought, for sure, this was our rainbow after the storm.

We were very wrong.

arden cartrette's hospital bracelet

As we sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor, we didn’t speak. The room felt cold, my legs were shaking (something that happens when I’m very anxious), and we were so afraid of another bad outcome. I kept telling Kerry that I couldn’t go through another miscarriage. The first one was traumatic and not something I wanted to experience again. Not only that, but having a D&C (dilation and curettage) would cost us thousands when we were already knee-deep in fertility bills, so it sadly wasn’t an option for us. I knew if we were given bad news again, I would have to swallow my fear and go through the trauma a second time.

A man that wasn’t our usual doctor came into the room to perform the scan and from the moment I saw the screen, I knew it was over. Instead of planning for a baby, we now had to plan our second miscarriage. Without really thinking about it, I told the doctor to prescribe me “the medicine.” The medicine I was referring to was Cytotec, also known as Misoprostol, which is a medication that is used to induce labor and miscarriage when the body is holding on to a pregnancy. I had heard horror stories about going this route, but at the moment I wasn’t thinking straight. I just wanted it all to end. I wanted to recover from this hell and move forward.

The following day was a Saturday, and I took the Cytotec around 3 pm. By dinner time the cramping and spotting had started, and by 8 pm what I thought was the worst of the miscarriage was happening. It was a lot like my first miscarriage, which happened naturally at home in the middle of the night. By 11 pm, I was able to lay down and get some sleep. It seemed like the worst was over and that I had made it through loss number two.

bottle of misoprostol

The following Monday I returned to work but had to leave early because it just wasn’t enough time to recover. I was physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Tuesday, I stayed in bed all day. At this time, I was recovering but had pretty painful cramps on and off throughout the day. I was also still bleeding, so I just didn’t feel like being out in public if I could help it.

On Wednesday, I decided to return to work because I was physically feeling able to do my daily duties. Everything was fine until about 3 pm when I went to the restroom and noticed that my bleeding had become much heavier.

One thing that I’ve learned from miscarriage is that every day is different. The recovery is not the same for everyone and a lot of things that seem abnormal are actually normal during the recovery phase. That being said, I thought that this was normal and that maybe I had overworked my body that day.

Kerry brought home dinner that night, and I couldn’t eat. I kept running to the bathroom because something just didn’t seem right to me. The pain was very intense and the bleeding just kept getting heavier. I remembered my doctor telling me if I had bleeding that filled three maxi pads within an hour to go to the hospital. I was definitely filling three pads in under an hour, and the bleeding was only getting worse. Around 8 pm, I made the decision to go to the emergency room.

The pain and bleeding only got worse on the 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital. I could tell that the adult diaper I put on before leaving the house was filling with blood. Even though I didn’t care at that moment, I couldn’t help but worry if there was blood on my sweatpants. Would everyone know what was happening to me when I got out of the car?

When we arrived at the hospital, I started to walk toward the front desk to check-in. While I was walking through the entrance, I passed something that was painful and felt big in size. I started to sob. Why was this happening to me?

After checking in, I went to the bathroom in the waiting room and sat on the toilet, put my head in my hands, and just sobbed. I couldn’t understand what I did to deserve this.  It was basically a third miscarriage. We left the house so quickly that I didn’t have time to grab extra clothes or diapers. I was low on supplies, and I was afraid that the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

One thing that I quickly learned was that the E.R. staff, doctors, and nurses had no idea what a miscarriage was really like. I kept telling them that I was passing lemon-sized clots (some larger than that) and filling my pad with blood at an alarming rate, but they didn’t seem to take me seriously. I could tell that they felt bad because I was obviously in pain, but no one could really help me. I felt alone even in a hospital filled with medical professionals.

arden cartrette and her husband

When I asked if they had extra pads, I was given the cheap thin pads that my school counselor would keep in her office for students. We were in a hospital, where babies are delivered every day; there had to be something better. I asked if this was the largest pad they had or if they could get something from labor & delivery, but I was told that those small pads were the same pads given to women after full-term childbirth. While I knew that couldn’t be true, I was in too much pain to push the issue. I just kept running to the bathroom to change the small pads as they filled with blood.

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After being put in an ER room and having an IV hooked up, I had to have a vaginal ultrasound. The technician performing the scan was probably the sweetest person that I came into contact with that day. She had not experienced miscarriage herself, but she shared with me that she had friends who had and she’s sadly seen it a lot at work. I was crying uncontrollably because I had to undress from the waist down for the ultrasound and the bleeding was so heavy that blood was getting everywhere. I was so embarrassed, but she assured me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about while she offered me warm, wet towels to wash off with. I never got her name, but I think of her often because of her compassion during such a traumatic moment for me.

Once the scan was complete I was given pain meds (which helped so much) and sat on the bed waiting on an OB staff member to come and talk to me about the findings of the scan. At that point, I didn’t know what was going on because according to what I experienced I had miscarried five days prior. When nurses would ask me to describe what I was in for that day I would say “I miscarried five days ago and today I am bleeding very, very heavily” because I didn't think that this was still the miscarriage happening.

At the five-hour mark of being at the hospital, the OB resident came to speak with me and Kerry. He said that what was happening was a complication (that apparently happens often) from taking Cytotec. Apparently, tissue was retained in my uterus and my body had no way of slowing down the bleeding. Because of my blood loss and the fact that the bleeding hadn’t slowed down since I got to the hospital, they recommended that I have a D&C to remove the remaining tissue. In the past, I haven’t agreed to a D&C because of cost but at that point, I just wanted the whole thing to be over. I was emotionally and physically drained and couldn’t do it anymore.

By the time we left the hospital, it was 4:30 am and we were exhausted. We went home to recover and collect ourselves after such a traumatic night.

My reason for telling my story is not to scare you. When we learned that we were probably going to miscarry for a second time, I did as much research as I could, but no one warned me about the possibility of this happening on Cytotec. I hope that by sharing my experience, I can help women become more educated on the side effects and what can go wrong so that they can be better prepared than I was.

When you go through a miscarriage, whether you see it coming or not, it can feel so isolating. Please remember that it’s okay to feel how you are feeling. So many women experience pregnancy loss, and there are resources to help you through this. You are seen, and you are not alone.

arden cartrette

Arden Cartrette is a bereavement doula who offers miscarriage support. She holds space for women who have experienced pregnancy loss and supports them as they navigate what comes next. Learn more about her services at The Miscarriage Doula and follow her on Instagram here.