So… just to describe my own experience thus far and hoping it might help someone else. Cross-posted this in a thread about natural m/c, here: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/184910/my-gawd-how-long-does-it-take-to-have-a-natrual-m-c
I am 42, one healthy child, this was a surprise pregnancy. No complications, I am in good health and all of my initial prenatal testing came back with flying colors. I had one TV ultrasound to date the pregnancy at 6.5 weeks and everything looked normal and healthy, a singleton.
At about eight or nine weeks into the pregnancy, I remember remarking to my DH that, despite my nausea and exhaustion, there were definitely times where I "didn't feel pregnant" over the last few days. I could sense a sort of vitality missing from my uterus, and I felt oddly detached from my baby. I would try to talk to my little bean, and there was no response, in the sense that there wasn't the feeling that there was a being there. And there had been, before. It wasn't the same absolute definitive feeling that I've had with knowing I had become pregnant, but it was different. I had been preoccupied with health insurance coverage problems and having to switch providers, so I chalked it up to tiredness and worry.
At 10 weeks into the pregnancy, on the day that my menstrual flow would normally have started if I were not pregnant, I began spotting in the morning. It was barely noticeable, light brown to pink, but continued throughout the day with a couple of small clots. I felt sad and panicked but also resigned to whatever process was going to happen.
That evening, when I stood up from the dinner table, I had a severe cramp in my mid-upper outer thigh. It felt like a bone-deep pulled muscle. It was very odd, and I did not think it was related to the spotting. Along with the pain in my leg came a sense of dread and mortality, and a lot of hypochondriac thoughts that I was dying or had cancer or had a fatal blood clot in my leg.
The second day, I felt two bouts of lightheadedness in the morning and cancelled my work plans. The strong cramp feeling in my thigh was severe enough that I went to urgent care, where a physician who knows my medical history reassured me that it was nothing serious. I twice passed a few small clots and a little bit of bright red blood, perhaps a quarter teaspoon each time. I prayed that it was some kind of minor hematoma and not the end of the pregnancy.
By dinner time that evening, I had developed "period" cramps in my lower back, glutes and perineal area that eventually became severe enough that I could not eat dinner. Some of the cramping could only be relieved through labor type meditation on the sensation. My DH gave me some labor type massaging and that helped. I also took a 10 minute walk outside, and that helped me to stay calm and relieved some of the stronger sensations. I had a sense of resignation. I struggled to find a comfortable position, often curled up in child's pose with back rounded and a pillow under my belly.
After an hour or so, essentially there was a mini contraction and it felt like water breaking. I spent the next several hours - basically the entire night - in the bathroom with more mild contractions, and expelled over several hours probably about 1 to 2 cups of bright red fluids, and tissue that looked much like my placenta from my 1st birth. It did not smell offensive, but the volume was incredible. It would come in waves at pretty regular intervals of several minutes, and then slow down. I didn't think to time it. At some points I tried moving the process along by bearing down and pushing a little bit, and would pass more tissue.
Eventually I brought a garbage bag into the bathroom, a roll of paper towels, and went through at least three rolls of toilet paper and five or six maxipads through the process.
I tried occasionally to read, to keep myself distracted from very painful cramping, but it was extremely difficult to concentrate. I had a sense that I was in "laborland" mentally.
It occurred to me a couple of times through the night that it might be helpful to try and pass the tissue into a collection bowl rather than the toilet, to be able to inspect it more carefully, but I didn't have the energy. I did, as others have mentioned, occasionally scoop some of the solid tissue out of the toilet by hand to inspect it. The placenta-like material was very firm and seemed to have a thick rounded lip on it. One particularly firm and large piece seem to have the shape of the fetus inside it. It was about an inch long with a longer tail-like strip along the back of it. I found myself marveling at the health of all this material. It felt like such a waste, my body had grown this huge healthy organ and it was being shed. I had vague thoughts of examining the material and the fetus-like mass further or trying to save it to bury, but I didn't feel the attachment strongly enough and didn't have the energy to figure it out logistically. I gave it my respect and my acknowledgment, we forgave each other, and I let it go.
I took periodic breaks when the flow seemed to cessate a little, and found that stretching out my hips on a yoga mat was really helpful at relieving the cramping. At one point, when I thought I was safely between contractions, I tried moving around the bathroom for a few minutes without a maxipad in place to get in the shower and clean up, and it was an absolute horror movie mess. Other than the appearance, the blood spatter on the floor caused a strong smell of blood.
I became extremely fatigued about halfway through the process, around 2am, when I tried cleaning up the sticky, scary mess on the floor. Bending down, combined with the now powerful smell of blood, caused me to feel nauseous and lightheaded. I took a break and drank some electrolytes, finished cleaning and got some sleep on the yoga mat.
I got up at 4:30 PM, needing to pee, and passed a very small additional amount of tissue. At that point, it seemed to me that it was finished. I felt an urge to "work" and "finish" the miscarriage.
Throughout the third day I experienced moderate bleeding (bright red fluid), much like a period, with more cramping that was uncomfortable but milder than many of my periods, which tend to be very heavy and severe. I probably went through 3 maxi pads. I tried to limit my activity, but still had to drive the car and run a few errands. Being on my feet was particularly exhausting. But the bone deep pain in my thigh that had preceded the m/c had completely resolved.
I contacted the very few people who knew about the pregnancy and let them know that it had ended. When they responded with kindness and sympathy it made me cry. It was as if I needed the confirmation of others to admit the pregnancy was over and grieve. I could feel my "happy" pregnancy hormones waning and my heart felt very heavy. At the same time, I felt so grateful that my body was rejecting what surely must have been an unviable fetus, and I felt a sense of connection to other women who have lost a pregnancy. This mix of upward release and downward loss, combined with needing to put a brave face on for most of the rest of the world, including my 1st grader, and employees and visiting family stopping in and out of my space, made it really hard to truly process or grieve, or express the deep and conflicted feelings. I actually curled up for a good cry a few times and like clockwork someone would show up other than my DH and I would have to put a brave face on things. Due to my age, and the early stage of the pregnancy, we had told few people about it, and particularly not some of our more gossipy friends, employees and relatives who had consistently expressed judgmental views to us about older women having "deformed babies" etc.
The following evening at around the same time, more severe cramps began again. I was awoken by a contraction in the wee hours of the morning and passed a bit more placental tissue, perhaps a tablespoon or two worth. Some of the contractions also yielded a clear slippery mucus.
The fourth day was easier, but I still felt quite sore with the need to rest. I could feel that my uterine and lower back muscles were exhausted. I spent most of the day sitting sort of balled up on the couch catching up with visiting family members, and occasionally passed a bit more tissue with frequent trips to the bathroom. The tissue was becoming less and less "alive" looking, instead they were 2-4" strips of brownish red tissue that appeared more broken down. Each time, there would be a sudden rush of flow that would send me running to the bathroom. I was at the end of the box of maxi pads, using about three but not 'filling' them. The flow was still bright red, with some small dark purple clots and some more clear mucus.
Later in the day, while running the afternoon errands, the opportunity finally arose for me to tell the visiting family what had happened, to explain my unusual lack of activity and ability to carry heavy items. They were kind and sympathetic. This brought a sense of a bit more emotional relief, but not release.
On the fourth evening, I experienced cramps higher up on my back, from below the shoulder blades to the top of the hips. A massage from DH did not help relieve it, and it was extremely uncomfortable but not sharp. Stretching helped a little, but it was a difficult area to stretch. After falling asleep exhausted, I was awoken again by a contraction at 3AM. I passed another piece of tissue on the toilet, this time something slippery, small and hard. It occurred to me that this may have been the sac with the fetus but I was too sore and tired to examine it, and thought that surely after a few weeks it would have been disintegrated. After another hour, the back pain stopped.
I have been drinking red raspberry leaf tea, trying to eat iron rich foods, and resting as much as possible while maintaining my routine of regular light, non-work activities such as shuttling my child to school and light house chores. My feeling of depression makes me want to exercise, but I feel like my physical body isn't ready to do that. I feel weak and anemic.
The one thing I am a little worried about is an infection. My home is --not-- a sterile environment. but, I am guessing that infections would be pretty rare, and perhaps more likely if you are in the hospital.