For those who cannot fathom what “pregnant” feels like: it felt like my pelvis framed a rising sun, and each new tingle became a circular halo around the disc.
Although I’d never been pregnant before, I knew I was pregnant even before I officially tested.
My first clue was implantation bleeding. A positive pregnancy test and a formal confirmation a few days later gave me the concrete evidence, but like other women I’d spoken with, I felt pregnant.
I experienced shortness of breath, seashell sounds in my ears and a pulsating belly (due to an increased heart rate), but no morning sickness. I felt pulling, stretching and cracking in my pelvis as relaxin flooded my body. I could smell when my neighbors cut a watermelon somewhere in our building. As a stomach sleeper, I couldn’t lie on my stomach in my fifth week of pregnancy. It felt like I had three baseballs underneath me, one for each boob and my uterus. My breasts started growing immediately, and I realized it’s never too early to start slathering them in coconut oil.
And boy was I tired.
It felt like sedative was being pumped consistently into my bloodstream.
The day Michael and I celebrated our pregnancy, his best friend’s girlfriend miscarried.
When I told Michael the home pregnancy test was positive, he couldn’t help thinking of our friend’s miscarriage.
The day after I tested, I awoke that morning with the word
prominently in my mind, but dismissed it as a demon I’d wrangle with. As if miscarriage could only be feared.
And then, the day after my 35th birthday, I woke up with spotting.
I described watery blood to a friend who worked once as a midwife or doula, and she urged me to go to Urgent Care.
I cried the whole way to the hospital. My parents met me there because Michael was working. In the medical room, I tried to answer the male nurse’s questions and pinched my sinuses with my hands in a futile attempt at keeping a deep sorrow from undercutting the practicalities of the moment.
My mom cried too. In the space of that room, I first learned the details of my mom’s first pregnancy, which also ended in miscarriage. The difference between us was that mom was 20 and then went on to have three children, also in her 20s.
Still, I was hopeful. The doctor told me that my cervix was still tightly closed, that my “uterus was beautiful,” but that there was a lot of dried blood.
I went home, still pregnant, with instructions to see a doctor within two to three days to “re-check symptoms.”
The blood stayed red and watery for two weeks.
Each day, relieved to still be pregnant, and each night afraid to fall asleep in case I woke up not pregnant, I had yet to find a doctor who would take my situation seriously. Once, Michael returned home to find me in a heap, depressed because I had no answers. And then one day the flow increased.
Cramps like the third day of a period followed. Scared, I called the doctor I had yet to see, but got an answering service. When my phone rang two hours later, I frantically dried my hands and yelled at my bewildered dad to get out of the way. I told the nurse that my blood had changed from red and watery to pink and mucus-y. She said that sounded like an improvement and to call her back or seek medical attention when I changed a pad every half hour and had cramps that couldn’t be contained by Tylenol.
Instead of what the nurse described, two days later, I held what may have been the life start of that baby in between my fingers.
A clot-like genetic failure the size of an apple seed, it was misshapen and heavy on one side where I imagine the head and heart would have formed, with a pointed tail on the other end. Maybe I had read too much about the experience, but I didn’t want to believe that I could pinch between my fingers what nature, or the super moon, had done away with.
I had been desperately pleading with multiple entities not to let me miscarry my first baby. I negotiated with myself that I could handle a second miscarriage if I could just have one healthy baby first.
Two days after I miscarried (though I didn’t know yet, for sure, that I had) and started to pass tissue, my mom had an appointment with her nurse practitioner. As Mom described my situation, the nurse said, “If that were my daughter, I would go home and bathe her in progesterone!”
Mom gave me her own dose of compounded progesterone—none of those mineral oil suppositories doctors give you. No, my mom has been bitten by the all natural, holistic bug. Desperation aside, I massaged some on the insides of my arms and messaged my yoga teacher for the number of her doula friend. The doula, upon hearing how long I’d been bleeding, how frustrating and futile my attempts to see a doctor were and how I (unfortunately, wrongly) felt this baby was still holding on, got me in to see a midwife by noon the next day.
Just as the right momentum started to gather force, it was too late.
The idea is to receive prenatal care as soon as there is a possibility of miscarriage. Any blood is a threatened miscarriage, and needs to be accounted for immediately. There are doulas, midwives and medical practitioners who understand the time sensitivity of such a situation—and while not every miscarriage can be prevented, not every threat has to end in miscarriage.
At one point during the pregnancy, I accidentally dropped a paring knife. As it fell, it almost pierced my lower abdomen, which I can’t say had ever happened before. I could stop the motion of the knife from drawing blood by a quick reflex…but I could not keep the blood from spilling at a time notorious for not bleeding.
I see that occurrence as symbolic, now.
Each of us has a miscarriage story, whether directly or indirectly. Alone, we can only do so much, but together we can help prenatal care take heed and maybe—just maybe—birth a world with fewer preventable miscarriages.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman