Love, Miscarriage, Growth, and Optimism
To listen Andrew's take, listen here:
It’s crazy how fast a positive pregnancy test shifts from a would-be nightmare to the most exciting time of my life.
When I was 16, I took my birth control a couple hours late one day and was convinced I instantly got pregnant. When I was half a day late, I screamed at my boyfriend, “If I’m pregnant, it would the worst thing that could ever, EVER happen!” Oh the naive, dramatic mind of a teenager.
Ok so maybe it wouldn’t have been the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, but certainly, pregnancy was to be avoided at all costs. Not only did I want to avoid it, I wasn’t even sure I ever even wanted to have kids. When I saw the negative result on the pregnancy test, I jumped, screamed and cried with joy and relief.
At 19, when I had surgery to remove an cancerous ovarian tumor from my ovary, I didn’t even think to worry about the possibility of having children of my own taken away from me. It wasn’t until the surgeon told me that he spared half of my left ovary in case I wanted to have children in the future that I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, that would be nice to have the option.”
As I got older, and after Andrew and I got married, my perspective shifted. After meeting the man of my dreams, I was sure that I wanted a family. I started to become fearful that because of that surgery, perhaps it’d be difficult or maybe impossible to have kids when the time came. Andrew always told me that no matter what, we’d be ok. We’d figure it out. Maybe we’d adopt.
Well, when I turned 30, I got baby fever like a mutha-f***er. Whether it was a ticking biological clock or because I was more in love with Andrew than ever, I started doing things my former self would never in hell be caught doing. I became the weirdo making funny faces and cooing at stranger’s babies. Oh and I was obsessed with holding my friend’s babies - GIMMEE GIMEEE GIMEE I’d scream, holding my arms straight out and jazz hands-ing like a maniac until they gave me their child.
Andrew was ready too. He’d been ready far longer than me. But still, we were in no rush. Late last winter, I stopped taking birth control. We weren’t trying, but we weren’t not, not trying either.
Seven months passed and even though that’s not an amount of time that should warrant worry, I did anyway. What if my lonely little half an ovary was out of good eggs? Or what if it didn’t take over the job of the right side? What if it shriveled up like a prune? (I know, my non-medical brain does a great job coming up with possible prognosis).
One of my BFF’s who’s actually a doctor just told me to just see a fertility specialist to check the status of my most likely perfectly functioning ovary and to explore options. I knew she was right, so I made an appointment. But first, Andrew and I were going to go on a 2.5 week adventure in an RV exploring the western coastline together.
From Vegas we headed to Yosemite, San Jose, the Redwoods, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone in a 24-foot Coachman. It was the most peaceful, stress-free, adventurous trip we’d ever had. Well, after we figured how work the damn RV and how to properly dispose of waste with poop tubes, THEN we were totally loving on each other.
I didn’t know it was possible to get to know Andrew more than I already did, but it was crazy how connected we became. By the end of the thrip, we didn’t even need to talk. A look, a nod, a half grunt and a smile would replace an entire conversation. I’m hungry-You?-Ya-Should I make something?-Sure-PBJ?-No, not again-Ok-Leftovers-Ya-Okay— would all be communicated without a word.
Also, we probably grabbed each other’s butt at least 867 times. Something about living with someone in a small, cramped space leads to a lot of bending over, crawling, and scooching by, all situations which illicit butt slaps/grabs, am I right?
The day we arrived back in Vegas, we went straight to our appointment with the fertility doctor. The doctor was kind, patient, and informative. He discussed many possible ways that pregnancy would be possible for us if we couldn’t conceive naturally. But first, we needed to do some testing. I was scheduled for tests beginning the third day of my next period.
On the day after I expected my next period to come, the thought of possibly being pregnant crossed my mind. Hmmm, we did wake up our RV neighbors a couple times during “prime fertile time” didn’t we? I did tap “dat ass” a bunch times, huh?
That next morning, at 5:30 a.m. I woke up from a dream telling me to take a pregnancy test. I instinctively turned to tell Andrew, but in my groggy state, I remembered that Andrew was in San Francisco to see Game 5 of the NBA Finals with a few of his friends. I shuffled to the bathroom and peed on a little paper tab and dove back into bed. With one tired eye open, I saw that second line. Holy balls I was pregnant.
I wanted to tell Andrew immediately, but I wasn’t going to tell him over the phone. I had until 8 p.m. that night to figure out the PERFECT way to tell him. After watching a million, “Dad baby reactions” on Youtube, I decided to make a highlight reel of our trip and include the announcement in the video.
As soon as he walked through the door, I shouted, “HEY GOOD TO SEE YOU WATCH THIS VIDEO I MADE OMG.” haha, he definitely should have been suspicious but he wasn’t.
He sat down and watched clip after clip of our trip with Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop This Feeling” as the soundtrack with a big grin on his face. Then, at the end of the video, I flash some text at the bottom of the screen:
“In 17 days we…
traveled more than 4,000
passed through 9 states
visited 4 national parks
saw one bear
MADE A BABY!”
Then boom, blank screen, video was over. (View the video here).
Andrew’s face was shocked and confused, “Whaddya mean?” he asked with a smile. Confused because we’d just seen a specialist, he wasn’t sure what to think until I showed him the test that said PREGNANT.
We cried and laughed together. His reaction was beautiful. Everything I’d hoped for. But I could feel his fear of getting too excited.
Knowing that miscarriage was a possibility we both held or excitement in contempt in the beginning. But every day and week that passed, we allowed it more and more. We decided we would wait a few more weeks before telling everyone, but it seemed like everyday that went by, we “accidentally” told more and more people. We were just so damned excited.
I was in love immediately. All I had to do was think about a small, adorable human that was half me and half of my favorite person in the world. I love Andrew so much that sometimes, I just watch him do stuff and think to myself, “Why is he the cutest human ever?” When he’s sitting at a poker table (probably bluffing someone), deciding what clothes to wear, or eating his oatmeal always looking like he’d rather be eating bacon, my heart swells.
I wanted to meet the baby more than I ever wanted anything before.
I did all the things.
I took the prenatal vitamins and fish oil. I ate only organic and green juice almost everyday. I curbed my workouts to only 3 or 4 times a week, all low-impact. I got strict about my meditation to make sure I did it daily. I read all the books, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Better Baby Book, Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth, and The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I watched all the shows and documentaries, The Business of Being Born, More Business of Being Born, Bringing Up Baby. Shit man, I even started watching the OG episodes of Teen Mom. I carried a water bottle with me at all times. I had four pregnancy apps on my phone that I opened everyday to see what tips I might need to know. I quit playing poker tournaments and $5-$10 because I didn't want to stress. Anything I thought was good for the baby, I was all about it.
I loved being pregnant. I loved eating extra (obviously). I loved the responsibility of it all. I love the changes my body was going through (especially my boobs. Andrew started calling them his Bazookas because they got so big). I took pictures every week to track my progress. I couldn’t wait to show and wear funny shirts like, “Don’t eat watermelon seeds!” I loved imagining Andrew as a dad. I even got him a Father's Day present.
But it was equal parts excitement, equal parts worry. First, I worried about getting morning sickness because I heard it could be really severe. When I didn’t get morning sickness I worried that it meant something was wrong. I worried about going to the the a check up at 7-weeks and finding out that the baby didn’t have a heartbeat, which happened to a good friend of mine. A blighted ovum they called it. I thought, “If I can just see that it has a heartbeat, I won’t worry so much.” When we went to the doctors, and she said, “The baby is measuring 6 weeks and 4 days with a heartbeat at 135,” all I did was worry that it was measuring behind a few days. When I started spotting, I worried. When the doctor said some spotting is quite common and nothing to be worried about, I still worried.
Then, I worried about worrying too much.
Andrew and I talked about it though, and we thought it felt wrong to hide our excitement out of fear. From what I read, the chances of miscarriage after finding a heartbeat greatly decreased so we decided to tell our families before the standard 12 weeks. At 8 weeks, we went home and showed the RV video at Andrew’s dad’s surprise 60th birthday family. Everyone was so happy and excited for us. We took my family out to lunch, and immediately, my mom said, “I hope it’s a boy!” It felt so good to finally be able to share with everyone.
At 9 weeks 6 days, in the middle of the night, I began cramping. Of course, I looked on the internet. Cramping at this time is also quite normal as the uterus is stretching. But it also could be a possible sign of miscarriage. Eventually the cramps got stronger and I started to bleed. I knew it wasn’t good, so I woke up Andrew.
“It’s ok my love. Whatever happens is meant to be,” he said, and pulled me close. I miscarried into the morning with dull cramps that came in waves. In a moment of non-pain, I passed the insides of my uterus while I was walking.
To confirm my body had done all the was necessary, Andrew and I went to the ER. An ultrasound confirmed that my uterus was empty, so I could go home without any procedures. Everyday for the past week, my body ached. Sometimes worse than others, but it was all totally bearable. I was grateful that I didn’t go through extreme pain, sweat, and prolonged agony most women have with miscarriage. It was a very quiet experience.
For two days, I cried. I was just so sad. But it was confusing - should I be this sad? Why am I this sad? It’s not like it was a person… or was it? Every cramp reminded me of the life I thought I was going to bring into the world. It was all so perfect - the way we got pregnant, the way we told people. How was I going to face everyone? Although there wasn't much physical pain, the emotional pain often made it difficult to breathe.
Andrew grieved in his own way, but for the most part, he remained strong for me. At times, I knew he didn’t want to be with me in my sadness because that meant he’d have to go there too. But that’s what I needed. I needed him to be in the dark with me. He couldn’t help me from an emotionally-cut off place. So he did. He held me and my pain in his arms and his soul.
No one knew what to say. Of course not, how could anyone know what to say in times like these? But I was in so much pain, I was angry. No matter what anyone did, it was wrong. If they hugged me, I was angry because I thought they felt sorry for me, so I cut them short. If they didn’t hug me, I thought they were insensitive. Whenever someone tried to bring up a reason this could be a good thing, I couldn’t see it. If they said, “Don’t blame yourself,” I thought, how could I not? And if they asked me if I worked out or stressed too much, I couldn’t believe someone could think it was my fault.
But as my body healed, so did my heart. As the cramps subsided so did my anger, and I began reflecting on the experience with immense gratitude. I looked at back at all the people who reached out to me and gave me hugs, they were just giving me love. I realized I was reflecting back at them the shame and embarrassment I felt for being what I considered weak. I think somewhere deep inside I felt like my body had failed. Like I failed. And on top of that, if I softened into people’s love and allowed myself to crumble into tears in their arms like I so often wanted to, they would think less of me.
The truth is that I needed every single hug, text and silly reason why this could be good thing. I needed to know I wasn’t alone, and that people were there for me. With clear eyes, it’s now easy to see that this situation is hard for everyone, and that every single word was meant with love.
It’s ok not to know what to say to someone who has had a miscarriage. You can say, “I love you and I’m here.” and that is enough. Also I want people to know that no matter how she reacts, with love or anger, it isn’t about what you said or didn’t say. She’s just doing her best in a really tough time.
One of the hardest parts about miscarriage is most that of the time, there is no answer. When it happened, it was all I wanted. I needed a reason, and not having one felt like torture. WHY DID IT HAPPEN??
A week later, I’ve come to terms with the uncertainty of it all. Doctors say that nearly all of miscarriages are due to the inability of the baby to grow healthily like abnormalities in the chromosomes. Miscarriages are so common (about 1 in 4 pregnancies) because of this reason in fact, that doctors will not even do further research until a woman has three miscarriages.
If you’re going through it or have before, please know you’re not alone. If you used your best judgement during the pregnancy, it’s NOT your fault. Take time to grieve. However you feel is ok. Try not to be hard on yourself. Rest. Ask for what you need. Maybe have a ceremony to celebrate the pregnancy and bring closure. Allow yourself to be sad, and when you’re ready, move out of it with gratitude, facts, and love. You will need that to get healed and strong enough to get back at it :)
Doctors have told me that more than 80% of women who have miscarriages go on to have healthy babies. Everyone I know that has reached out to me and said that they've gone through this too, now have kids. I’m very hopeful.
I’m amazed at how peacefully this soul came into my life and how peacefully it left. At how much joy and excitement we felt with it’s presence for such a short time. And at how much it taught me about life, love, acceptance and vulnerability.
When I get pregnant again, I want to again, fully wrap my arms around the happiness and excitement. Of course I’ll take all the precautions but I also want to surrender to all the possibilities. No amount worrying can stop a miscarriage, but that worry is the stealer of presence and joy. I could make up any story about this pregnancy not working out like, “It’s probably because my body sucks, something is wrong with me and maybe I’ll never be able to get pregnant again,” OR “It’s amazing that my recognized it wasn’t going to be a healthy pregnancy and it so efficiently knew what to do to get ready to try again.” Each are possible, the latter more likely, and also way better, so why not choose that one?
What I know for sure because of this experience, is that I am ready. Andrew is ready. And we are gonna keep trying SUPER HARD ;) ayyyyyy yooooooo. Bow chika bow wowww.
Andrew joined me on my podcast to share our story with listeners. We decided together that it was important we talk about our experience because so many people go through it. Below you can find the full episode:
If you want to know more about the podcast, check out Episode 000 - an introduction.