Can a miscarriage be misdiagnosed?
It was April 24, 2015, my 26th birthday! I am a BIG TIME celebrator, so in our house we celebrate everything, from half-birthdays to half-anniversaries, to just ordinary, random days that I feel is worth a celebration! My 26th birthday was extra special this year though, because I had a sweet little peanut growing in my tummy, and I was about to see that little miracle for the first time at my 8-week OB appointment.
I arrived at the Women’s Health Clinic over an hour early because waiting at home was just too painful as I watched my clock tick every second. The lobby was packed with pregnant women of all stages. Some looked so overjoyed, just couldn’t stop smiling and rubbing their tummy to feel that moving miracle growing inside of them, and some looked miserable from being overdue, just ready to pop. I picked a chair and sat down with my 14-month-old, still not losing hope that maybe my doctor would be able to see me just a few minutes early. Ava and I played pat-a-cake, watched a few episodes of Barney, and ate lots of snacks. I remember looking at her and thinking You’re about to be a big sister! You two will be best friends. My heart was so full.
“Mrs. Bishop” the nurse finally called. Ava and I quickly hopped out of our chair and headed back. When we stepped in the room, the nurse had me hop on the scale, then checked my vitals and asked a few standard questions about how I was feeling. “I’m feeling good! It’s my birthday and I get to see my baby for the first time! I have some bad morning/all-day-long sickness but this is nothing new for me in pregnancy.”
I sat back on the exam table and relaxed as I glanced over at the nurse preparing and sterilizing the equipment my doctor would be using for the ultrasound. I started wondering What if it’s two babies? How will I react? I have to keep my cool. I can handle two. It’s probably just one though. It’s definitely just one.
“Hi Mrs. Bishop!” my doctor said as he swung the door open, “It’s nice to meet you. Today we’ll be seeing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.” My baby’s heartbeat. What a beautiful sight. “Just lean back and relax and let’s take a look.” He positioned the probe and we both looked to the screen. He started nervously moving the probe all around, and my heart sunk before he ever even spoke a word.
“Mrs. Bishop, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but there is no heartbeat. You have miscarried and what we are seeing right here is just the left-behind tissue.”
My heart stopped and my head started spinning, then I began sobbing, as any mother would. I was crying so hard that the nurse had to put Ava back in her stroller. How did this happen? What did I do wrong? This was my fault. My precious baby was gone.
“PLEASE CHECK AGAIN! PLEASE LOOK ONE MORE TIME! PLEASE JUST LOOK!” I cried out, begging for a different outcome.
“Mrs. Bishop, your baby is gone. Please get dressed and follow the nurse to my office so we can schedule your D&C.” Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated and a special instrument is used to scrape the uterine lining. The main goal of treatment during or after a miscarriage is to prevent hemorrhaging and/or infection from left behind tissue.
I stumbled into his office, and truthfully I don’t even remember how I made it out of the exam room. The doctor dialed my husband’s number and handed his office phone to me. “Trey, I miscarried and I need you here now. Right now.”
“Okay, it looks like we have an opening for your operation on Monday, April 27. I’ll schedule you for 8 AM, but he sure to arrive here 45 minutes early for paperwork.”
The only words that came out of my mouth in his office were “Is there any way my baby could still be alive? Is it possible? Has it ever happened before?”
“No Mrs. Bishop. It has never happened before. I am 99.9% sure your baby is gone.”
My husband helped me get to my car, and I followed him home with the most painful, gut-wrenching emptiness inside of me. I had no idea the anguish one would feel from miscarrying so early in pregnancy.
When I pulled in the driveway, I called my mom and just sobbed- I let it all out. If you know my mom, you know the amazing woman she is, so she immediately hopped in her car and picked up my sweet Rickey B (my stepdad) and they headed to our house in Killeen from Houston (a 3 hour drive). For the rest of the day, this little voice inside of me kept asking: Why am I not showing any signs of miscarriage? Why am I still feeling sick?
My husband, who had missed the actual ultrasound due to meetings at work, wanted closure by seeing for himself that the baby was in fact gone, so he saw to it that we get a second opinion before any procedure be done. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but radiology is always booked at least 3 months out at the hospital we were assigned to, and I know that ultrasounds are very rarely scheduled on Saturdays for outside patients– only those in the ER experiencing life-threatening emergencies, but it just so happened to be that there had been a technician who worked Friday night into Saturday morning with a 5:45 AM appointment cancellation.
We checked in with radiology at 5:15 AM, and they took us right back to the room. The ultrasound technician was very grouchy, probably because it was so early and he worked all night. He told me to sit still so he could confirm the miscarriage. How dare he be so confident in my miscarriage before he’s even performed the ultrasound. He grabbed the probe, and placed it on my stomach. “Holy Cow!, go drink a bunch of water, wait 10 minutes, and come back”, he shouted. “I can’t tell you anything but to go drink water and come back.”
I listened. I drank so much water I almost vomited. Once 10 minutes had passed, I was back in the room and propping my shirt up so he could perform the ultrasound.
“Congratulations, Mom! 160 beats per minute!”
My baby was ALIVE. Praise God! My baby was ALIVE! I watched this miracle’s little heart beat, and beat, and beat and I sobbed tears of joy with each throb. The technician performed all of the measurements that my doctor was supposed to be performing at the appointment the day prior, and the baby measured perfectly. Everything was normal and right on track for my 8 week old embryo.
I now have a happy, healthy 13-month-old who is just the sweetest little boy in the entire world. He is right on track, developmentally. So, can a miscarriage be misdiagnosed?
I believe that my baby was always alive. To this day, I don’t know why we didn’t see a heartbeat at that first appointment. Maybe my doctor just made a mistake, and it was a misdiagnosed miscarriage. Or maybe his little heart didn’t beat until after that appointment, just a late bloomer in the heart-beating department. But I tell this story to explain that no doctor on the planet is right 100% of the time, or 99.9% for that matter, so when your mommy intuition tells you otherwise, you should listen to it. It’s sad to think about how many women this same thing might have happened to. Please share this story to help prevent these things from happening in the future!