The husband and I, having spent more than four years utterly content not to be parents, had a long and serious discussion in the basement of a brewery one afternoon in October about changing our minds. Though we had always thought we’d eventually have kids, it wasn’t until this day we had seriously broached the subject. We both feared how parenthood might drive a wedge between us, as so many couples find. We wondered how we could afford children, and how it would affect both our careers.
But in the end, we knew we wanted to be parents eventually, and as I approached my 29th birthday I argued that if there ever were a sweet spot, it was around this time — the most favorable combination of energy, health and finances that we could hope to have all at the same time. And we trusted that we’d be able to make it through the rocky parts together.
So in November of 2014, we started, “Not not trying” to conceive, if you catch my meaning.
In early December, I went away for a work trip came back with a terrible cold, so I took the Monday before my 29th birthday off and stayed home sick. I realized that I might be a day or two overdue for my period (which would not be weird, considering I had just gone off birth control), but I was feeling a little strange beyond just having a cold, so I walked to the drug store to buy a pregnancy test.
To my shock, and soon to my delight, it was positive.
I waited on pins and needles for The Husband to come home. I was going to do something cute and announcement-y to tell him the news, but I was too anxious and just blurted it out. He wasn’t upset but I think the speed with which we had gotten me in the family way took him aback.
Because I’m a neurotic planner and obsessive daydreamer, I almost immediately calculated my due date: August 24, 2015. I called to schedule an appointment with the OB/GYN my friend had recommended — I would see him in about a month, since I was only four weeks along.
I started to deal with the early pregnancy symptoms, like getting up 200 times at night to pee, and sore boobs, and fatigue like none I had ever felt before. It felt surreal and wonderful and exciting, even if it was uncomfortable.
Because of our social habits, we told a few of our closest friends, since we knew they’d suspect anyway as soon as I said, “I’ll just stick with water, thanks.”
We spent Christmas with both our families, and though a small part of me was desperate to announce the news, we both agreed it was better to wait until I had at least gone to the doctor. So I pretended to have a few cocktails and tried to seem alert.
On New Year’s Day, we joined some friends for a meal at a Chinese restaurant (a long-standing family tradition of mine, the history of which I won’t get into right now.)
The most important part of this tradition is the reading of your fortune, after you’ve finished eating the cookie. It’s our family superstition that your New Year’s fortune predicts how your whole year will go. Mine said, “Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences lead to growth.”
Can you guess where this is going?
I got home and noticed I was spotting. I also felt a little crampy. I began frantically searching Google and trying to reassure myself that it was something called “implantation bleeding.”
We went out for dinner later that night with a friend, still working hard to convince ourselves everything was fine. We came home and I went to bed, tried to sleep. I got up to pee a few hours later and discovered I was bleeding more heavily. I returned to bed, choked out, “It’s happening,” and cried into The Husband’s shoulder until I fell back asleep.
The next morning, we walked over to the doctor’s office I was supposed to see in a few weeks to ask if they could see me. The receptionist told me with a regretful look that I would have to go to the emergency room.
It seemed silly to go to the hospital for what physically just felt like a heavy period and what otherwise was clearly a foregone conclusion: I may have been pregnant for a few weeks, but I wasn’t anymore.
But just in case there was something that could be done, or any complications, we went.
After an initial urine test and internal exam, we waited for what felt like many hours to get an ultrasound. The technician was a kind woman who told me she had three children and had also had three miscarriages. While she was preparing the ultrasound equipment, she told me she wasn’t allowed to interpret anything, and I asked her if it was difficult to keep a poker face when she knew what was happening. She told me she just tried to make small talk and keep it positive. Once the wand was in place and her gaze were fixed on the monitor, despite her best efforts I could see the light go out of her eyes a little bit. It was the last shred of hope I held onto and it was gone.
I waited, vulnerable and pantsless sitting on a big absorbent paper pad in a hospital gown, waiting for the ER doctor to confirm what I already knew. I didn’t want to sob in front of him, so I instructed The Husband to take on the persona of tough-love coach — to tell me to buck up, and try to be funny. I knew any sympathy right now would break me down. That morning before we had gone to the hospital, my dog walked into the living room, sat down and ripped a huge, noisy fart. It had made me burst out laughing even as I was preparing to go to the hospital. I replayed that ridiculous scene in my head as the ER doctor confirmed I was miscarrying.
“Dog farts. Dog farts. Dog farts.” I thought, as he explained what would happen in the coming days.
“Dog farts.” I thought, as the nurse pointed to the printed word “miscarriage” rather than saying it aloud on my after visit summary.
“Dogfartsdogfartsdogfarts” I thought as I took my prescription for heavy-duty painkillers and walked out of the hospital.
I held it together long enough for The Husband to pay for parking and then sobbed all the way to the pharmacy.
* * * * *
I also know that as miscarriages go, mine was pretty easy. I was only about 7 weeks along. I didn’t have to have any procedures or deliver a recognizable fetus or un-announce my pregnancy to all but a handful of people. I was back at work two days later and had an office door I could close if I needed to cry.
But even the easiest miscarriage felt like a body blow. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. It took away the shell of naivete and invincibility I had felt, and although the ER doctor first and my OB subsequently gently explained that it was extremely likely I would get pregnant again with ease, my miscarriage planted seeds of doubt and worry and made me know that my body was fallible and that hope can sometimes lead to unimaginable disappointment.
I felt emptied out in so many ways and desperate to conceive again, as though if I got pregnant again fast enough I could forget what had happened.
Just as my doctor told me I would, I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test just three months later. But I will always carry with me the sadness surrounding that few weeks during which I first fell in love with the idea of motherhood and then grieved the baby who wouldn’t be.