I made curry from scratch, lit some candles, and laid our silver-and-turquoise tablecloth on the dining room table. I thought my husband would know something was up as soon as he walked in the door, and he did. “Wait … what … are you pregnant?” YES!
I had gotten my IUD out nine months earlier, and we were going with the “if it happens, it happens … but maybe we’ll actually try next month" approach. Meaning: The idea of having a baby was great, but the idea of trying and failing was too scary.
The next day I got a blood test that would tell me my HGC levels, which measure the amount of hormones being put out by your fertilized egg. Anything over 25 is considered pregnant, then you go up from there. Though my HGC levels were not super-high at 41, my doctor said they were typical this early in a pregnancy; I was calculated at five weeks and three days pregnant.
My husband and I agreed on one rule right away: Don’t get too excited. Everyone says that, right?
But by the time we arrived at the airport to fly to a wedding in Florida a day later, we were already goners. Red meat for breakfast? Why not, Lindsay needs the iron! Carry my own suitcase? Dear Lord no, there's a baby in there!
At the wedding, when the groom (my closest friend from high school) demanded I take a shot with him, I whispered that I was pregnant. Flying back from Jacksonville, we stopped to buy baby books at the airport.
Back in New York, I went for another blood test; my HCG levels were now at 100.3. HGC levels are supposed to double every 48-72 hours, so it seemed like we were on track.
Then I got a call from my doctor’s office to come in for another blood test. I was suspicious, and, being your average overachieving 30-something spaz, I dove headfirst into the deep, dark hole that is fertility blogs.
Obviously I had nothing to worry about. I mean, just listen to these experts: Mommyof3TX said she had a super-low HGC level at DPO 21, and now her DS is six months old and PERFECTLY HEALTHY, HE IS PRACTICALLY TALKING! Parkmomnyc12 said that the doctor TOLD HER that she might have a miscarriage, but they DO NOT understand women’s bodies because WESTERN MEDICINE! JUST GO TO A MIDWIFE.
I was optimistic. Until my doctor called at 8:30 pm on a Friday to say that things did not look good. I needed another test Monday morning. Over the weekend I remained confident -- no bleeding, no pain. I'd read many articles about miscarriage leading up to my pregnancy, and a couple friends had miscarried. All of them had a common story: There was pain and bleeding, then there was a miscarriage. It took place quickly, over a few hours. The aftermath could take weeks, but the miscarriage itself fell upon you like a piano on an empty sidewalk.
At my next consultation, the mood changed. My doctor looked me right in the eye and said, “I believe the fetus is unviable. We are going to do an ultrasound, but I don't think we'll see anything here, since our equipment isn't strong enough to detect such an early pregnancy.”
I looked at the ground. Everything got very fuzzy. Waves of emotions rushed through me; I did my best to stop them. Breathe, I thought, breathe. It didn’t work. I burst into tears and buried the heels of my hands over my eyes. I started shaking my head, desperate to stop myself from crying. Why was I so upset? I had only known I was pregnant for ten stupid days. Why hadn’t I seen this coming?
I was incredibly embarrassed for crying in front of the doctor and nurse. I felt weak for not swallowing the news and dealing with my emotions later.
The room was silent -- the nurse and the doctor stayed exactly where they were, saying nothing, waiting for me to compose myself. It only took about 30 seconds, but it felt like forever.
When I stopped crying, the doctor did the ultrasound and couldn’t find the fetus, but we hoped a more advanced ultrasound would prove her wrong. I still felt pregnant: no pain, no blood, my breasts still hurt, I was exhausted.
I was scheduled for another ultrasound at 3:30, and instead of going in to work I wandered around downtown Manhattan. I went to Potbelly, then Century 21. I bought a sundress for my vacation in Mexico ten days later.
Eventually I found myself at my next appointment, waiting for my husband. I had explained the gist of everything to him over the phone, and when he showed up he looked a little grey. We sat hand in hand in the waiting room, surrounded by extremely pregnant women who only got up to waddle over to the water cooler.
We were called into the most calm, relaxing doctor’s office I have ever seen. It was very dim, with only the faint glow of the medical equipment keeping it lit. I explained to the technician why we were there, and she cheerfully said that she was sure everything would be fine.
“I knew it,” I thought smugly.
After about ten minutes of her rotating the transvaginal wand this way and that, taking photos of my uterus and ovaries, she was done. She said very calmly, “I need to get the doctor, but please use the bathroom if you need to.”
I walked down the hall to the bathroom. All the other rooms had the same sounds coming out of them -- the “wah wah wah wah wah wah” of a baby’s heartbeat. Room after room; it felt like the green mile.
The doctor arrived and told me what I finally expected -- they couldn’t find the fetus (they had no idea where it was; my own little "Where’s Waldo"), but it definitely “wasn’t viable.” He didn't explain any further, but I knew from Googling that "nonviable" meant "unable to live or grow" as in, "your fetus will never be a baby."
I walked out of the office and swirled around to my husband. “If one more medical professional uses the phrase ‘nonviable fetus’ without saying ‘miscarriage,’ I am going to punch someone.”
“Wait,” he said, “did that guy tell us you were going to have a miscarriage?”
That is when I realized how confusing the entire situation was to him, and I had to explain that yes, the doctor was saying I would have a miscarriage, eventually.
That night my doctor called and reiterated the news. She confirmed that I was I going to miscarry, there was no doubt about that -- it was just a matter of when. She asked if I had started bleeding yet.
“No,” I said. "How long does this normally take?”
“Oh, it can take weeks, a month, six weeks. It just depends.”
I hung up, baffled. IT CAN TAKE SIX WEEKS TO HAVE A MISCARRIAGE EVEN IF THEY ALREADY KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE ONE? At that point I began to will myself to bleed; I wanted any hope I had left to permanently die. My body refused to oblige, and I had more blood taken on Thursday. My new HGC levels were 184. I was now told that my levels were going down, just not fast enough. In a mere seven days I would be in Mexico, and my body was moving so slowly that it was unlikely I would miscarry by then.
The idea of bleeding profusely in my resort room or a hospital in Mexico took my dread to a whole new level. On Friday I was reminded of my time limit -- I would have to get a shot of methotrexate to force my body to miscarry, and I had to get the shot THAT DAY to give it seven days to work.
If it did not work after seven days, I would need a second shot to make sure I fully miscarried AND DIDN’T END UP DEAD ON A GURNEY IN MEXICO (the last part I am exaggerating, but you get the idea).
At this point I was emotionally exhausted, and I agreed to the shot. FYI -- it hurts like a bitch.
The next morning, I woke up bleeding, writhing in pain, and incredibly sad. So this was my miscarriage. I took three sleeping pills and slept the day away, and by that night I'd stopped bleeding. The day before I left for Mexico I found out the shot was a success: I was no longer pregnant. Yay.
The aftermath was bleak. I was so, so sad, but I felt like I had no right to be. I had read so many stories about stillbirths and miscarriages in the second trimester, my grief just didn't feel valid in comparison. I was mad at myself for agreeing to the shot despite the fact that I didn't have much of a choice since I was going to Mexico. I really wanted a child, that child, and even though I knew intellectually that the fetus would never grow to be a baby, I felt horrible for forcing it out of my body.
I got even more upset when I found out that no one in my mother’s family of 30 or so women had ever had a miscarriage. I looked at my relatives, who had healthy babies after being on any number of hard drugs, and grew incredibly resentful. I thought about all the women I knew who had accidentally gotten pregnant, then had perfectly fine pregnancies, and wondered what was wrong with me.
Over time I told some people what had happened. It made me feel better, even when the conversations were awkward.
If I could go back in time and tell my pre-miscarriage self anything, it wouldn’t be to not get excited, or to stop being so optimistic. I would say it's OK to cry at the doctor’s office and read stupid reassuring things online until you know for sure. Also, I would loudly interject, “So you are saying I am going to have a M-I-S-C-A-R-R-I-A-G-E,” at various points throughout the ordeal, since doctors seem terrified of that term.
I am fine now. It has been a couple months. I feel closer to my husband, and much more confident that I can handle the little bumps life hands me (pun not intended, but you get it). Always have a sense of humor, I guess.