We’re told not to publicize our pregnancies before the second trimester for our sake as mothers. “It’s to protect you,” they say. “So you don’t have to talk about it.” But they don’t realize that it actually sounds like, “Please, just keep it to yourself.”
It wouldn’t have been unusual for my cycle to be late. I had recently moved back to California from Texas, so it would have made sense that my body clock hadn’t caught up. But I figured I’d take a test to set my mind at ease.
At the grocery store across the street, I casually walked over to the aisle with the hcg tests. I rolled my eyes at how expensive the one-set boxes were, but I tossed it into my bag anyway. I also grabbed some menstrual items, just in case. Waiting in line for the cashier, I had a story lined up in the event that someone gave me a look of concern because of the pregnancy test. In my story, it was for my sister whom I would say was 21. I imagined that she met some guy at a kombucha bar. They had one night of fermented love, and now she’s worried that she won’t be able to travel to Machu Picchu before it closes down if she’s pregnant. We’d all help her out, of course, but she’d have to bring me back souvenirs. No one asked, so I never got the chance to tell it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .
Once I got home, I opened the box and figured I’d test right then and there – why wait to ease my mind? Hold on, I thought. Should I wait to finish my glass of wine once I know for sure I’m not pregnant? I decided that if I had to ask, then yes, I should wait. No biggie. I’d down it all in a few minutes, anyway. Then, I’d order pizza.
At this point, you get it. You can imagine how surprised I was when I saw the faint line – that super tiny, really hard to see blue faint line. It was barely there! You could hardly see it! So that means no, right? I ran back to the same store to buy a much more costly box with a set of two tests. I thought to myself, at this point I better be pregnant for a test this expensive! Both me and the cashier knew that my life was about to change, but I didn’t yet know how.
Weeks of surprise, excitement, baby reveal planning, posting in pregnancy forums, and secrecy passed. I shared the news only with close friends and family because I didn’t want to be at risk for that dreaded M word. I couldn’t get a prenatal appointment until at least 8 weeks of pregnancy. So ‘until then, I’d have to trust my body — whatever that meant.
A few days before my very first doctor’s appointment, I was with my partner back in Texas for the weekend. I was hell-bent on getting at least 10,000 steps a day because, labor. We walked around the mall a few times. Seven thousand steps. Not too bad. I had a sharp pain in my lower back that I attributed to the walking. With more walking, it felt more painful. We decided to catch a movie in hopes that the rest would ease the cramps. I had already been experiencing some light cramping for about a week or so leading up to that day, but I heard from friends, family, and pregnancy podcasts that this was normal — as long as you weren’t bleeding.
Half way through the movie and a bowl full of queso, the sharp pain made it’s way to my abdomen, and it hit hard. A few more gut-wrenching stabs to the lower stomach, and I was literally hurling over in pain. My partner knew I was trying to hide the severity, probably because Usher was on screen (we were watching Hands of Stone — good movie!) He insisted we leave. The short walk from the movie theatre to the car accelerated the pain. Everything in my body was now telling me to panic.
On the way to the Emergency Room, the only thing playing in the car was the sound of my crying. My boyfriend tried to console me, but I knew what was happening. I felt it. Something wasn’t right. I wailed for twenty minutes straight. What did I do? How could I have done this to myself and to my family? Somehow, I was responsible.
After hours of poking and prodding, the doctor couldn’t tell me much. This was especially frustrating because at this point, the pain was accompanied by bleeding. It hurt – it hurt a lot. I had multiple pain medications injected just so that I could bare it. But at the end of it all, no one would say for sure if I had miscarried. I was given a piece of paper that said “Patient diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage,” and I was instructed to return a few days later to follow up with another doctor.
For some reason, I went back to work a day later. I think I wanted to be distracted. Despite the E.R doctor insisting that “anything could happen” and that maybe nothing was wrong, I knew that she was wrong. But still, I went to work. Sort of. Not even five minutes after arriving, I couldn’t keep my shit together. I cried to my boss in a room full of fluorescent lights (it makes your crying face look even more awful), and he sent me home — back to Texas (I work in San Francisco). I was exhausted, I was scared, and I still really wanted pizza.
The next morning, my partner and I checked into our appointment with a different doctor. In the office, the young nurse took down my information. I told her that I was bleeding on and off, that I was still in pain, and that I was diagnosed with a “threatened miscarriage.” She assured me that the doctor will get to the bottom of it “and hopefully make us all feel better.” On her way out of the door, she quoted me with a due date. “Was this planned, or was this a surprise?” After a moment of wondering why tf she’d ask that after what I had just told her, I gently responded, “A surprise.” Her face lit up with a sweet, genuine smile. “Oh, wow! Are you excited?” She couldn’t have ran out of the office fast enough after my voice cracked with a “y-y-y-yes,” holding back the tears that exploded not a second later.
The doctor explained that he, too couldn’t confirm that it was a miscarriage just yet. What the hell? How could this be? Miscarriages can’t be a drawn-out thing, can it? I mean, that’s not how it works in the movies! The mother rushes to the hospital after a sharp pain, and then the film cuts to the silhouette of the doctor consoling his sobbing patient with the bad news. Could it have meant that maybe I was a rare circumstance?
He insisted that the lab take more blood samples that day, and then he’d follow up with me soon. Great. After drawing more blood, I demanded to pick up Chick-Fil-A, and my partner and I went back home to pretend like our lives weren’t completely hanging upside down. I watched a lot of Grace and Frankie while I hoped that the consistent bleeding and cramping wasn’t telling me the truth.
Two days later, I get the call. Yes, I was probably miscarrying. Agitated that no one would just say “listen lady, you’re officially womb-less,” I cried some more at the thought of how torturing this whole experience was. The nurse on the phone asked me to go back to draw more blood in a couple of days so that they could be sure, sure (my words, not hers). And thus, days later, I was finally told that I was 0% pregnant. After several silent moments filled with explosive emotions, I headed straight for a brewery (that had pizza!) and I reflected on how overwhelmed I felt.
I mentioned that on the way to the E.R, I felt guilty – and it’s true. I tried to justify the miscarriage. What did I do? Was it the decaf coffee? Did the embryo feel my anxiety over the pregnancy and decided to “Irish Goodbye” their way out?
I reminded myself about last July, when my fish became noticeably pregnant. I read up on their gestational process because I wanted to be an up-to-date-fishling-grandma. The article read that the mama fish can inadvertently abort her fish eggs if she feels that the world outside of the womb is too hostile. Was that me? Did I subconsciously stress my embryo to death? I really felt that it had to have been me. Because if not, then what?
A daughter of a woman who had been through two miscarriages and a stillbirth, I wondered if I was also guilty of premature mourning. Did I really have a right to cry over an eight week old embryo when there are women all over the world who have lost a baby in their second or third trimester? What about mothers who have had to grieve the passing of their infants? Their children? Their adult children?
I felt guilty for not showing enough excitement when I was pregnant, and I felt guilty for feeling sad when I miscarried. The responsibility of anything and everything weighed heavily on my shoulders.
The doctor explained that it was probably nature. Sometimes, chromosomes just don’t match up. I know — boring, right? But it’s true. Around 25% of pregnancies are miscarriages – a much bigger number than you might have guessed. Most miscarriages are first-time pregnancies, and though we don’t know why for sure, it’s likely that DNA just didn’t come together strong enough. That’s it. It wasn’t because I ate pizza, it wasn’t because I didn’t Pinterest enough nursery ideas, or because I work full time. And if it happened to you, it wasn’t your fault either.
Do you get that? Let me say it again: it wasn’t your fault.
It wasn’t your fault.
It wasn’t mine, and it’s not yours.
I know I’m Good Will Hunting you, but I need you to know that because I needed to know it, too. We’re not lesser women because we didn’t carry full term. We’re not drama queens because we’re mourning the loss of a first-trimester embryo. We’re not an embarrassment to society. We’re not needy, or “craving attention” because we want to talk about it. We miscarried – it’s okay to say it. If you don’t want to say it, then that’s okay, too. But if you feel like you have to suffer alone, you don’t.
I have a huge bone to pick with society’s prudeness regarding the miscarriage taboo. They tell us that they want to spare us by asking us not to share our experiences, but really, some of them just don’t know how to handle it. Do they fear that it’s contagious?
It makes them uncomfortable, but that should change. When we alienate women’s suffering, when we ask them to keep their pain to themselves, we’re telling them that it’s not our problem.
But what is humanity if we don’t want to carry each other through the hard times?
If you have experienced a miscarriage and you don’t know where to go next, you’re not alone. Seek out a close friend or family member who will listen to you. If you don’t have one available, call a helpline, get on a forum, and/or make an appointment with a doctor or therapist. Don’t feel helpless, there’s a community of women out there who want to help.