CW: This article is about pregnancy loss
“You were never really pregnant, though. It wasn’t a real pregnancy.”
But it was.
I was pregnant.
I was feeling off and my period was a little late. I decided to take a pregnancy test before I had a glass of wine. It was the last Sunday in August and my daughter was running around in the backyard with her cousins. I watched the girls as they squealed and laughed, alternating between playing on the swing set and chasing the monarch butterflies. I held the developing test and saw the very faint second line appear. I couldn’t believe it! Our second baby was in there, my daughter was going to be a big sister!
Later that night I told my husband about the happy surprise. Instantly our lives were transformed. We were going to be parents of two. Suddenly we had to think about questions like: Where would the baby sleep? Could we afford daycare for two? Was our small city condo big enough for a four-person family? What theme would the new nursery be? We planned, we worried, and we got excited. The next morning I called my doctor and got the first ultrasound booked for when I would be seven weeks along.
The three weeks leading up to the ultrasound moved slowly. I avoided alcohol, soft cheeses, and sushi. I dealt with morning sickness, food aversions, headaches, and extreme fatigue. Most days I felt like I was doing the bare minimum and begging the clock to move faster so that I could crawl into bed and sleep.
“At least there was never a real baby in there.”
When the day of the ultrasound finally came, my stomach sank. Since we were in the middle of the pandemic, I wasn’t allowed to have anyone there with me for support. I’d be doing it alone. As I was leaving I turned to my husband and said, “But what if there’s something wrong? I can’t do this alone.” He kissed me, reassured me, and I took a deep breath and drove to my appointment.
When I arrived at the clinic they checked me in and brought me to the examination room. I laid down and lifted up my shirt and lowered my leggings. The ultrasound technician put some jelly on my stomach and began moving the wand around looking for the baby. I couldn’t see the screen. I watched the technician’s face trying to read her eyes and expressions. It was agonizing! I held my breath and tried to stay as still as possible, waiting for the technician to tell me anything. Finally she turned the screen to me and said “I don’t see a heartbeat, but there is a gestational sac, a yolk sac and this circle here could be the start of the embryo. Is there a possibility that your dates are off? You could just be not as far along as you think you are.”
They said they would send the results to my doctor and recommended that I came back for another ultrasound in a week to see if the pregnancy continued to develop. I walked to the car, got in the driver’s seat, shut the door, and bawled. I called my husband. I knew my dates were correct, there should’ve been a heartbeat, but there wasn’t and I had no idea what was going to happen next. I was so confused. I drove home alone trying to focus on the road and see through the hot tears that ran down my face.
“There was most likely a chromosomal or other abnormality. You’re so lucky your pregnancy stopped developing on its own or else you would’ve had to raise a baby with serious problems.”
My doctor called me that evening and I told her there was no way my dates were off. She told me to wait a week for the next ultrasound and we would see if anything changed. I asked for her to be blunt with me and tell me the worst-case scenario. If there was no baby, what would that mean? She said it could be a Blighted Ovum, a term I would spend multiple hours a day for the next five weeks researching. The sperm entered the egg, but one of them was damaged or there were chromosomal abnormalities. The fertilized egg still makes its way down the fallopian tube, it still implants in the uterus, you still have all of the early pregnancy symptoms, but at some point the embryo stops developing. If this was the case I would either wait for the miscarriage to begin naturally, or take medication to end the pregnancy.
The next week I went for my second ultrasound and bloodwork appointment. My hormone levels were still rising, but the circle that was the beginning of the embryo was gone leaving a lonely yolk sac in a growing embryonic sac. I asked for a photo of my little yolk sac. Even though it was clear that the pregnancy wasn’t going well I wanted a reminder, a keepsake, proof. This photo represented all of the hope I had the moment I found out I was pregnant and all of the plans I had made for the baby that would never be. Even though the baby wasn’t there, I had still already envisioned an entire life with them. I had imagined bringing them home for the first time, the sleepless nights with a newborn, their first steps, I had bought a onesie and little slippers. I felt like my dreams were being ripped apart, my heart was shattered. I was told to come back again the next week to do it all over again.
Another week went by and I had to go in for another ultrasound and bloodwork appointment. My hormone levels were going down, the embryonic sac was shrinking. My yolk sac was gone. Since the pregnancy didn’t progress, each week my abdominal ultrasound was also accompanied by an internal ultrasound. Every week I had to do the same appointments, every week I was violated by the internal ultrasound wand, and every week at the end of the appointments the doctor hit me with worsening results which broke my heart even further. It was a torture I wouldn’t wish on anyone. After all of this, my diagnosis was confirmed. It was a blighted ovum.
“You’re not the first person to go through a miscarriage and you won’t be the last. It’s a common part of life.”
The three weeks following my last ultrasound appointment I still had to go get blood drawn each week until my hormone levels were low enough that I could take the medication to end the pregnancy. Every day I carried around my empty gestational sac feeling like I had failed. I couldn’t move forward, we couldn’t start trying again, there was no closure. I was stuck in limbo never knowing if the miscarriage was about to start on its own. I didn’t know if I would begin bleeding while buying groceries, cooking dinner, or while putting my daughter to bed. When the hormones were finally low enough I was twelve weeks pregnant. The stage in the pregnancy when I would be getting my first trimester screening ultrasound. I would have seen my baby’s face for the first time, I would have seen them dancing around, and heard their galloping heartbeat. Instead the pharmacy dropped off my medication with instructions on how to take it. The pain was horrible, the cramps were intense — like labour. I had no nurses to help me. I miscarried alone in our ensuite bathroom while my husband watched our daughter. I looked in the toilet at what used to be my intact gestational sac with a flood of tears washing over my face and feelings of absolute inadequacy as a woman taking over my body.
“You guys are young.
You can just try again!”
Talking about my loss to those closest to me was a kind of therapy. I usually received what I was looking for, an ear to listen and acknowledgement that they were there for me. Other times I received words that ripped the scabs of my pain right open again. I knew most of these people did not mean to hurt me, but they did. Their words felt like they were dismissing the pregnancy and my feelings entirely. Sometimes I would be met with stories of how other’s miscarriages were worse than mine and told that I should be grateful. I wasn’t.
We need to remember that every loss is a loss. It has the power to split a mother’s heart right open, to make her feel like she failed at the one thing she was biologically meant to do. A loss should never be compared to another or ranked. Every mother deserves to feel her pain in its entirety. Her pain is justified. It took a lot of time and many tear-filled nights until I began to feel like I could move forward, but eventually I did. I redirected all of my energy and love in my heart, and poured it into my family. We tried again and were lucky enough to see those two pink lines again on a different pregnancy test.
Although I know very well that pregnancy is unpredictable and we can never know how it will result, I feel thankful for every symptom I suffer and the chance to see my body change and grow. I feel thankful for every single day that I get to carry this new little life inside of me, and hope that one day I have the chance to hold this baby in my arms.