October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. In recognition of this month, many women are sharing stories of babies they loved and loss. I wrote this post last year, and wanted to share it again. . .
This is the one “pregnant” thing I will do. I thought.
I sat in my car in McDonald’s parking lot. I reached into a greasy bag, pulled out fistfulls of fries, and stuffed them into my face. I ate three cheese burgers and six chicken nuggets too.
I was pregnant and knew I was going to miscarry. For the past two weeks I was viciously sick, but my nausea suddenly stopped and I was ravenous. When I was pregnant with Jack, I used to sneak McDonald’s into my otherwise immaculate diet. So, for the one and only time, I did it with this. . .
It wasn’t a baby, or even an embryo.
At the eight week ultrasound that morning they stroked my stomach with the device, and even prodded me with the intra-vaginal “wand,” to search my uterus for a heartbeat. All their poking and prowling around revealed only emptiness.
It was like looking into a deserted room. There were signs someone had been there, a yolk sack cast off like a stray sock, and something else they called “implantation tissue.”
But there was no flicker of light. No one was home in that quaint, dark, little cabin inside of me.
This story takes place some years back, in between Jack and Emily. It was a warm, autumn day. I recall the morning glories were still using our sunflowers as a trellis. I had posted a photo of one on Facebook and a friend commented that if I believed in fate, that flower was heralding the coming of a baby girl. It was uncanny because no one knew I was pregnant besides my husband and best friend.
My husband had stayed home to watch Jack, and I was by myself at the clinic. The ultrasound tech fetched a doctor whom I’d never met. She too took a peek and confirmed, “Yup, there’s nothing in there.”
Confused, exhausted, and sick to my stomach, I started to cry. She gave me options of having the surgical process called a D and C, or getting a prescription of pills to insert in my vagina to start the miscarriage. “You don’t want to wait too long with these things,” she said when I asked why I couldn’t just wait for it to “pass” naturally.
This brings us up to me sitting and gorging on grease in McDonald’s parking lot. I was killing time waiting for that prescription to be filled, engaging in a ritual that felt almost sacred, which is maybe why I remember it so clearly these years later.
“I guess you could call it a blighted ovum,” the doctor had said, wrinkling up her nose, as though she was confused, but not really. I had asked her why there was nothing in there, when every test said I was pregnant, my aching breasts said I was pregnant, and the all-day-morning-sickness also confirmed a pregnancy. “Something probably went wrong with the implantation?” she offered quizzically.
According to Web MD, a blighted ovum “occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into an embryo.” Blighted ovums are usually the result of chromosomal issues with the pregnancy. It is cited as the leading cause of early miscarriage, therefore pretty common. However, until my miscarriage, I never heard of one.
Statistically, as many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.
So, I guess little Dr. Lady saw this type of thing all the time. For me, it was a brand-spanking-new experience.
I didn’t hide how annoyed I was with that doctor. We were in a room plastered with oversized ultrasound photos of beautiful, healthy babies. “You guys should really put up some photos in here of empty uteruses for the rest of us,” I snapped. She muttered something and bowed out of the room to write my prescription.
Recalling this conversation, I sipped on Diet Coke to wash down all that fat. I’m not really pregnant, I thought. Diet Coke is something I never would consume if I were really pregnant.
My emotions were mixed. It might surprise you that primarily I was stressed to be missing work, and uncertain how long it would take to empty the scant contents of my womb. The doctor said it would be “like a heavy period.” I had opted for the pills because I didn’t want to fork over a thousand dollar deductible for surgery.
Was I sad? Not really.
I was sick and tired and overwhelmed, but not sad.
I was crying to the point it was ugly, but I wasn’t really sad.
In my mind, it was science. Despite my irritation with that doctor’s lack of anything resembling bedside manner, I accepted her answer that something just went wrong with the implantation. It wasn’t a baby in there. It was a clump of cells that didn’t grow properly and never had a chance.
I had been happy and prepared to love another little human. I had stroked my stomach in the weeks since that positive pregnancy test, thought about baby names, and even fantasized it would be a girl, but my heart was not broken to discover it was a blighted ovum.
A few days later, after slipping those pills inside me, I hemorrhaged. Little Dr. Lady’s likening my miscarriage to “a heavy period” turned out to be the understatement of the year when my bathroom walls became splashed in blood as though someone had smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce. In the end, I had to cough up the deductible for emergency surgery to help me “complete the miscarriage.”
Then I was sad.
I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even miscarry properly.
In angry shock, images of the phsyical complications of my miscarriage intruded my thoughts. It was hard to forget the grapefruit-sized clots which poured out of me in line at the supermarket, blood dripping down my legs onto the checkered market floor. My blood count had dropped and I was too listless to play with Jack for days. I felt like my body betrayed me; everything I’d come to know and expect from my physical being was suspect.
Life goes on. I went back to work, took care of my family, and ate a ton of spinach to boost my iron. Eventually I recovered physically and emotionally. I swore off having more babies, yet five months later fell pregnant with my Emily. For that, I realize I was one of the lucky ones; my “miss” left me with no permanent damage and I was able to conceive once more. For that, I am grateful and terribly humble.
For a long time, I didn’t want anyone to know about my miscarriage. I didn’t tell people at work why I was out for nearly a month, and I didn’t care what dramas they concocted. Thinking I was in psychiatric hospital would be better than having them know I had a miscarriage. Eventually I got over that, and over time, I have shared my story.
I share this with you, at the risk of giving TMI and grossing you out, because maybe it happened to you too. I share this with you because so many of us have miscarriages and they are all different and they make us all feel differently. I share this with you because you are not alone, no matter what you are thinking or feeling about your miscarriage. I share this with you because your body is perfect and beautiful, and there is no shame in having a miscarriage.
Everyone handles miscarriage in a unique way. I read a book called “Unspeakable Losses,” which helped me understand the personal and profound nature of this loss, whether because it is the loss of a baby, or because of the physical issues involved, like mine. No one else in the world can know what a pregnancy means for a woman, because it is happening inside of HER.
I saved the morning glory photo. In my mind it represents that pregnancy, as well as the strength and tenacity of my body.
Having a private parking lot binge on fast food also validated that pregnancy. And gave me closure.
This post was originally published on Momaste on September 9, 2013.