An old friend told me that she was pregnant. After all the squealing and obnoxious questions were over, she also told me that she'd previously had a miscarriage. She found out that one in four women miscarry, and we agreed that was a shocking statistic. I mean, sure, I've had family members miscarry that I knew about, but one in four? She'd had no idea either, but once it happened to her, nearly everyone she told said it had happened to them, too. I thought, that is a dang shame. This is common, people should talk about it.
Well, here we are. Just so you know, there is going to be a lot of menstruation talk coming up.
In January, I took a pregnancy test. It came back negative. I shrugged and figured Aunt Flow would just show up eventually. I had been using a menstrual tracking app, and it said I was super late. But I've had this body a few years now, and I know that it works on some alternate definition of days. My cycle has never been predictable. Technically, I was bleeding, or rather spotting. It was weird and brown (told you this would be gross), but I've had that before, too.
A week later, I took another test. This one had two blue lines. I took it on a Sunday morning, so that if I had to tell Josh something, he would have a whole church service to wrap his brain around it. This turned out to be a great idea. During the service, they have the big prayer in the middle, where they pray for those expecting a child in their lives, with the names of specific parishioners. I thought about how that meant us, even though our names weren't called out.
The next day, I called the doctor to...tell them? I dunno, that's what you do when you get pregnant. You tell the dude, and you tell the doctor. I don't know anything about babies. The nurse asked the date of my last period, and I was all ready with that information, thanks to my handy period tracking app. She told me based on that date that I was 8 weeks along. That did not seem right. I tried to explain to her about my cycle which does not respect numbers, but she murmured "mm-hmm" and scheduled me for a couple weeks from then.
There. I accomplished something. On my way to motherhood, with one thing already checked off. Well, two, if you count successfully combining sperm and egg. But I did not feel right. There was the spotting, which I'd researched and found was probably fine. My breasts were a bit sore in a new and weird way. And I'd had some very minor twingy cramping.
I did not feel pregnant. Not that I knew what I was supposed to be experiencing, but it seemed like something should be different. Some sort of indication that I was knitting a new person in my body. Seriously, that's a pretty big deal, shouldn't there be an indication? I'd heard that pregnant women glow, but I wasn't sure if that was an actual symptom or some kind of radiating happiness or just other people projecting their own radiating happiness. I did not appear to glow.
I did feel a sort of crushing ambivalence. Well. We did it. We knew this would happen if we went off the birth control, and here we are. In seven months or so, our lives will be radically changed forever! Okay then. So along with worrying about not feeling pregnant, I was worried about not feel ecstatic. Basically, I felt a lot of things about not feeling things.
The next day, I called the doctor again, explaining about the spotting and the not-feeling-pregnant-but-not-sure-if-I-should. They asked me to come in for bloodwork. The next morning, I got up early to drive twenty minutes to the doctor, spent ten minutes having my blood drawn, then drove back home to pick up Josh so he could drive me to work.
The day after that, the nurse called and said that I was a little bit pregnant. But they wanted me to come back in so they could draw my blood again.
They were checking for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is made by the placenta. It's what home pregnancy tests look for, too. In the beginning of the pregnancy, the hCG levels are supposed to grow very quickly. If they don't, then something is probably wrong. If they go down, then it's a miscarriage. A couple days later, I went back to have my blood drawn again. The numbers went up, but not fast enough, so I had to do it again. I read a lot of pregnancy forums that said this was worrisome, but possibly still okay. The ladies on the forums were all very emotionally invested in the numbers and they wished each other much luck and fat babies. I was fine with either outcome; I just wanted to know. This limbo was making me crazy.
This time, the numbers just went down. The nurse on the phone said she was very sorry, but there would not be a baby in September. I was relieved just to know. And, I admit, I am pretty comfortable in my life, and so if big changes are coming, it's alright if they are delayed. Babies seem like an awful lot of work, and I've got a lot of books to read yet.
Oh, and they wanted me to come back in for bloodwork. They wanted to make sure the hCG levels went all the way down to 0. In the meantime, I kept spotting. For a few days, it got heavy enough to call actual bleeding. There is a misogynist joke that says you shouldn't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die. I bled for six weeks. Did not die.
I heard and read a lot of terms. I didn't want to call it a miscarriage, mostly because I wasn't sad. I didn't know what to call it, and somehow things are easier to process when they have a name. Calling it a miscarriage would bring me a flurry of hugs and concern, and then I'd have to shock people with my indifference. One of the nurses used the term "chemical pregnancy," meaning you had the right chemicals flowing through your body, but there was not really a baby coming. I also came across the term "blighted ovum." I took to calling it our dud.
This happens a lot. If you were shocked by the number of miscarriages, check this out. Up to half of all pregnancies are just chemical. Sperm and egg meet, but chromosomally they don't add up to a baby. Sometimes it fails to implant, which makes me picture a cross-eyed and confused blighted ovum, trying and failing to meet up with the lining of my uterus, which, uh, is all around it. Sometimes the body recognizes that it's a ship that will never sail and just kicks it on out. A lot of women never even know they were pregnant. However, home pregnancy tests are now so sensitive that more and more women do know, especially if a baby is what they're looking and hoping for.
I went in for bloodwork twice more. After the last time, I started getting the bills for all this. It was not a lot per visit, but it was adding up. The nurse called again and said that my hCG levels were at 7. 7. But they still wanted to see a nice round zero, so could I come back in two weeks?
I said no, I am tired of paying you $12.50 for the inconvenience. If I don't have my period again in a couple of months, I'll come in for bloodwork. The nurse on the phone sounded uncomfortable. She'll get over it.
After I found out that I was chemically pregnant but not having a baby, I told my mom about the whole thing. She was very concerned. Miscarriages can be traumatic. The only part that was rough for me were those two weeks when I did not know. In a fit of frustration, I uninstalled the period tracking app. I did not want pop-up reminders when I was late. I did not want to know when I was ovulating. I did not want to mark the days I had sex with a little heart. My mother found out she was pregnant when she started heaving up breakfast every day, and that was going to have to be good enough for me. That way, if there were more of these duds, they'd work their way out of my system without me having to go to the doctor to find out just how not-exactly-pregnant I was.
So yeah. One in four. Now you know.