pregnancy & parenting

Early Pregnancy Loss: In a Sunshine State of Confusion

by Lem — March 19, 2019
miscarriage, pregnancy loss, period, pregnancy

Are we allowed to be sad about early pregnancy loss? And is there a reason we don’t share news of our pregnancies & discuss miscarriages freely?

Full disclaimer: this one’s bloody.

I had a little big internal debate whether or not I should actually blog about this, but hey, let’s just get it over with. Hi there, dear reader. Lovely to meet you. How are you doing today? Great? Super! Me too, thanks for asking. Well, to be honest, not too great. I had a miscarriage.

But let’s start from the beginning, right?

I’m currently in Miami, Florida, enjoying a lovely vacation. We’re staying at my best friend’s apartment near the super chic Design District. The air condition is set to “kill females”: meaning very cold for me, super nice for the boys. All around us, new high-rise buildings are in different states of completion despite the fact that some say Miami could be easily under water in about 80 years. But well, let’s enjoy a sunset poké bowl while it lasts.

When I checked my period app, I was actually thrilled to see that shark week was due one week before boarding the plane. I am not kidding: when Aunt Flo nocks, I’m out for the count. Those extra large size tampons? I go through them like nothing. My period has always been on the very heavy flow side. The thought of having to deal with the crimson tide while being locked in a plane for some time (oh, and let’s add some heavy cramps, too), was not how I wanted to start my vacation. So yes, everything seemed to fall into place nicely and I was looking forward to beaches, beers and BBQs. I don’t have to tell you that to my dismay, Aunt Flo did not knock. Neither did any of the other symptoms that usually announce her visit. And she’s usually right on time, give or take a day.

Are you really positive…?

What happened instead is that I had dizzy spells and nausea so bad I had a hard time not puking during my morning commute. This wasn’t Aunt Flo. With her being suspiciously late, I immediately knew something was up. I still had some pregnancy tests left at home from the time we were treating family planning like a strategic military exercise, which later on progressed into a more relaxed “que sera, sera” arrangement with my husband. And there it was, lo and behold, a very faint second line. I had to squint, but it was definitely there. Bingo. And holy f*ck. To be honest, I was more or less in shock, and asked my husband if I had now ruined the vacation. Instead of cramps and the monthly joyful shedding of uterine lining, I had hit the “you’re going to puke all vacation long instead” jackpot. I was not mentally prepared for this.

Since the first test had revealed a line too faint for my liking, I tested again two days later. My stomach was constantly queasy with bouts of heavy nausea, so I was pretty sure that this test would show a more pronounced line. According to every information I found online about the kind of tests I was using, I was now well into the “reliable” days regarding to the amount of detectable hCG hormone. But. Nothing. When I re-tested, the second line was just… gone. I first thought that the test might be faulty, or that I did something wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have tested in the afternoon, was my first thought. I was just going to try tomorrow, after we had landed in Florida.

On the flight to Miami I strategically placed the barf bag right where I could easily grab it, just in case. I was not looking forward to the first instance of “puking on a plane” in my life, but it couldn’t be helped if it happened, right? 11 hours and lots of ginger ale later, we touched down in the sunshine state. I immediately had to break the first rule about early pregnancies: don’t jinx it and tell a lot of people because there are still so many things that could go wrong. My best friend offered me a beer – knowing that I love that stuff – and I declined. So I felt like I owed him a reasonable explanation: I was kind of pregnant. And yet again, not. Hello Schrödinger’s baby.

I felt betrayed by my stupid body. Why the heck was the test negative when it was kind of positive before…? I just wanted real, solid confirmation, not to be left in limbo. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor for the week after we would be back, just to calm my nerves. She anyhow told me not to come in right too early after a missed period. I figured three weeks would be a perfectly reasonable waiting time. And by now, I was starting to look forward to the upcoming change. Unlike the first days when I was way too overwhelmed with the whole situation to feel any kind of happiness.

Schrödinger’s baby, meet Occam’s razor.

By the time that the third (Or was it the fourth? The fifth?) pregnancy test was still not reverting back to a positive result, I had googled every possible combination of search keywords that I could think of. So maybe I could be one of these women that had a weird combination of hCG hormones that regular tests don’t really pick up? Or maybe something else was wrong. Or I did something wrong. Google kindly offered unhelpful explanations ranging from stupidly simple to unbelievably rare and possibly deadly.

I calculated dates and came to the conclusion if Schrödinger’s baby was indeed alive, I should be six weeks pregnant. I settled for not stressing myself out anymore and seeing my doc as soon as possible. Somehow made peace with my confused biological state and for the moment just focused on enjoying things. Taking deeper breaths and regaining my inner balance.

But when the heavy cramps and bleeding started I knew that this was it. I would not hit week seven. Something on chromosomal level must have gone wrong ,and my body was going to get rid of it, gory splatter movie style. The bathroom turned into a crime scene, physically and mentally. Just as I had panicked at the beginning, I was now falling into another deep hole that felt even stranger and emptier than before. For lack of better words, I was disappointed. And asked myself just… why? The whole pregnancy had barely just begun, and now it was already over.

No free hugs on the web

When I was looking into early pregnancy loss, I found it strange that a lot of opinions voiced were in the “if you hadn’t tested so early, you wouldn’t have known anyway” category. As if the grief after an early loss is somehow the woman’s own fault because if she hadn’t tested, she wouldn’t have known anyway. There was a lot of clinical talk about how insignificant the damaged little bundle of cells was anyway, and that a pregnancy loss that early hardly counts as a loss at all. The internet is often times a cold, inhuman space, but nonetheless I was shocked that instead of understanding and space to grieve, a lot of these women are given the “don’t test too early” and “you’re lucky it was so early” treatment. Not only from the medical field but also from other women. Although the women who test early, receiving a positive result, became mothers to something tiny but definitely not insignificant to them. However, their grief upon their loss is somehow not acknowledged, and even goes so far as to imply that they don’t deserve to be sad in the first place. Like I, also, do not deserve to be sad.

Reaching out in unlucky times

Perhaps we need to cancel this rule about not telling your friends about being pregnant right away. When I finally reached out to my female friends to just get the bloody episode off my chest and rant about my seemingly broken body, I heard a lot of “yeah, me too”s. I was surprised, because although we are close, we never really talked about this. Everyone would focus on the happy pregnancies, with healthy babies as the outcome. But nobody mentioned the countless losses in between that often times went unnoticed or barely noticed. Not only did I realize just how common early pregnancy loss is – I also feel that in order to provide emotional help for each other, we should have shared these things sooner.

We were all unlucky, and sometimes it’s really hard to focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. On this kind of emotional roller coaster we should offer each other empathy, strength, and maybe insights into previous experiences instead of wondering for quite a while about misleading signs and symptoms, only to suffer the sad finale alone and confused. Because sometimes the odds are stacked against you, and what what you really need is somebody who tells you that it’s okay to be sad. That you’re not damaged goods. That you didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re definitely not alone.

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