Falling Off the Pregnancy Pedestal
There's something powerful about a first positive pregnancy test. If the pregnancy is wanted, it is a moment of awe, fear, and triumph. If the pregnancy is unwanted, it is a terrifying sword of Damocles hanging over your head. I've peed on many a stick in my day (my picture should be next to the words "pregnancy hypochondria" in the dictionary) and I've hoped for both results over the years. But at no point while waiting for the results do you expect the pregnancy to end in miscarriage. Most of us anticipate a live birth. Some of us start considering abortion. But we don’t expect this potential life to be taken from us without our consent—until it happens to us. I should know. Three years ago, it happened to me with my first pregnancy.
This is my story, written the day I knew my first pregnancy was not going have the end result my husband and I were hoping for: There would be no healthy baby the next spring.
On August 30th  I saw my first positive pregnancy test. I used the Clearblue Easy Digital Test, which is kind enough to just say "pregnant" or "not pregnant" instead of giving you lines or dots or some other arcane code. In the 30 seconds that followed I think I experienced at least 50 different individual emotions ranging from glee to terror. This pregnancy had been planned, but that didn’t make the reality any less scary or thrilling.
Underneath it all, though, was a uniquely feminine sort of pride. I had accomplished my biological imperative, my hypothetical biological destiny, and spawned. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that every woman get knocked up, but it is something that only we can do, and regardless of what the most stubborn person would say, it's a magical realization to know you've done it.
I felt more feminine than I ever had, even more than when I'd lived out my fairy tale princess fantasy on my wedding day. Becoming pregnant was a special sort of validation that I never knew existed. Unfortunately, that pride was exceptionally short lived.
I had my first cramps within a few days, and went in for a second blood test on September 3rd . (The first had confirmed the pregnancy and provided baseline hormone levels.) My hormone levels were shooting up, and the nurse reassured me that everything was fine, and that the pains I was feeling were probably just my uterus growing.
Within two weeks I was in the Emergency Room with pain and small patches of blood on my panties. Via ultrasound, baby was measuring a week and a half too small, but as I'm irregular we weren't too worried. Yet. Pregnancy Math is based on the faulty assumption that women have perfectly regular 28 day menstrual cycles, and that had never been true for me. A baby whose measurements didn’t line up exactly with where I was “supposed to be” was not a major source of concern, especially when you also factor in that early ultrasounds are not 100% reliable in dating a pregnancy.
Last Thursday [September 20, 2007] was the ultrasound that resulted in a negative prognosis: the baby still wasn’t growing appropriately. Only 48 or so hours ago [September 25, 2008] was the moment of hope-a heartbeat. But it was too slow, the baby was too small, and the pregnancy was moving down towards my cervix. This Thursday [September 27, 2007] the blood was soaking through my panties rather than merely staining it with dots. And with the blood came the end of our dreams for our first child.
The thing about miscarriage is how much it robs you of your femininity. You go from believing you're some kind of fertility sex goddess to a failed mother in an instant (or, in my case, over a few weeks). Regardless of how common miscarriage is, it's impossible for me not to take it personally, to grieve, and to hurt. I feel robbed of that special feminine power I'd tapped into.
No one needs to quote statistics at me. I know them. I know that 95% of all pregnancies that end in the first trimester (like mine did) are because of a bad sperm/egg match, or a glitch somewhere in the formation process. I know that more than 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. I know a number of women whose first pregnancies ended in miscarriage, and who have beautiful children today.
That doesn't make it easier.
For me, the prohibition on sex and orgasm that was put into place when I first had spotting made it all worse. I'm not just my sexuality, but it is a huge part of who I am and how I relate to the world around me. Losing that part of me, while I was losing my child too made me feel lost, isolated, and like I was locked outside in the middle of a blizzard. I remember putting on jeans, sneakers, a long-sleeve shirt, and a jacket, and stepping outside into our unseasonably warm weather. Feeling confused. How could it be warm and sunny -- hell, perfect beach weather -- when I felt so cold on the inside? It should be pouring, thundering, a hurricane, a blizzard outside; not this perfect blue sky and obscenely bright sun.
I'm angry. I come from a long line of fertile women, with the last miscarriage in my family belonging to my great grandmother over 60 years ago. Why the hell couldn't I pull this off?
I did everything right. I hadn't had a drink since our anniversary in July. I stopped drinking Diet Coke (my preferred source of caffeine) entirely, even though all I was supposed to do was cut back to like a can or two a day. I started eating vegetables, and I HATE vegetables. I drank enough water to fill an ocean. I walked every day. I started on pre-natal vitamins over a month before I got pregnant.
It wasn't enough.
I'm jealous of every pregnant woman I see. When I see a baby, a wave of intense longing and a small voice saying "I was supposed to have that" washes over me. I try to remind myself that I don't know how hard-won those pregnancies or children are, but it still hurts.