At 34, I got pregnant. We weren’t planning it. We were a little freaked out. But, what the heck.
Everyone always told me that you couldn’t really plan for these things. It will work out. It always does. So we went to the doctor, started wrapping our head around the idea, and began to get really excited. Then had a miscarriage.
It was really early on in the pregnancy — I think I was only six weeks along. That is the curse of being so in tune with your body, I guess. My OB told me that a lot of women have early miscarriages, and never even detect them — they just think they’re late. Late followed by a heavy period. But we knew we were pregnant, and when that “heavy period” came, I knew I was miscarrying.
Flash forward three months. I’m pregnant again. Back to the doctor.
Early blood tests seem normal, then I start having some really intense, weird pains and bleeding. A trip to the ER confirms that it’s ectopic, which means the embryo has implanted in my fallopian tube and cannot go to term. It also means that we have to get it out of the fallopian tube before it grows, ruptures the tube, and I bleed to death.
It’s early on and small enough that I have the option of not having my fallopian tube removed. They administer a cancer drug called Methotrexate, which stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells — like cancer cells… and embryos. They administer the shot. It’s intramuscular and hurts- a lot. Then they send me off with a don’t get pregnant again in the next couple months or your child could have birth defects warning.
About a year goes by. I’m 35. We start trying again. Month after month of pregnancy tests and no luck. I’m beginning to think this Methotrexate thing has totally fucked my chances of conceiving. Then it finally happens — positive pregnancy test.
Getting pregnant again after you’ve had miscarriages is stressful. It sucks. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so of course I was apprehensive about my first few doctor appointments. We finally saw a heartbeat, and I started to relax — a little.
A milestone for women, and why they generally wait three months to tell people they are pregnant, is the 12 week ultrasound. Once you get past that,you are pretty much considered home free. So I hadn’t told a lot of people I was pregnant, just my family and a few close friends.
Exactly one day before my 12 week ultrasound, I started bleeding, heavily. Another trip to the ER confirms I’m miscarrying again. This time it’s not early, and it’s nothing like a heavy period. I am bleeding. A lot. We’re in the ER waiting room, waiting to be checked into triage. Something feels really weird. We get into triage, I get a huge cramp and grab my abdomen. It’s winter, so I’m wearing sweats, a long sleeve shirt, and a really thick sweatshirt. The cramp stops, I pull my hand away, and it’s covered in blood. I have bled completely through three thick layers of clothes, and am now sitting in a puddle of blood.
They send us off to a private room with a bed. We are alone, and my husband is trying to help me remove my clothes. His arms are now covered in blood, as is the floor around me. This can’t be right. The room is starting to look like a war zone. Am I dying? I actually, literally think I am dying. We’re still alone. My husband runs for help.
A nurse returns with my husband. He’s clearly terrified. She’s clearly not. Don’t worry ma’am. This is totally normal. This is what happens.
What? This is totally normal? Are you fucking serious?
It turns out she is fucking serious. The statistics are crazy: one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. In the US that is roughly 500,000 miscarriages a year. Now, I generally consider myself to be pretty in tune with women’s health issues. Why didn’t I know that this is what a miscarriage was like? I mean, one in four means that I definitely know women who have gone through it. Why haven’t I ever heard any stories?
There are several reasons.
First of all, it’s depressing. It’s clinical. It’s no fun. I guess no one really likes to share these types of details about their lives. Honestly, it was hard for me to even get these few paragraphs out without deleting them, because frankly, I like to be entertaining. This definitely isn’t. But I believe it’s more than that. It feels like failure. When I was going through this, I felt like a giant failure.
I mean, I’m a woman. I was made to do this. But I can’t.
It’s really hard to describe how awful that feels. Oh, and all the hormones crashing down around you, don’t really help the situation either. Then there’s also the detail that you’ve just lost a child. But don’t expect anyone to really acknowledge that. No one treats a woman that has miscarried as a mother who has lost a child. But, you are. You are.
Did I emphasize the pain, and the bleeding, and the loss? And then, the return to your life, as if nothing has happened? As if you didn’t just spend the last three months talking to this little being you were creating, imagining what she will look like, and picturing your life as mom? As if you didn’t already love this being, and the new life that would be coming along because of it?
If you’re going through this, right now — and I know some of you must be — I just want to tell you one thing; You will survive this.
You will survive this because you are a woman, and women are fucking amazing. And clearly, as the statistics say, we endure this, and go on with our lives. And many of us go on to conceive children eventually. I will tell you that after two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, I went on to give birth to two of the most beautiful babies ever, at age 38 and 40.
Try to talk to your friends about it. We aren’t doing each other any favors by keeping this stuff to ourselves. These are our narratives, that should be shared. They are distinctly female experiences — and very common ones at that. If you are miscarrying at three months you will bleed a lot. You are not dying. What a revelation. We need to share these details — don’t you think?