“How many lines do you see?” I asked my husband as we both stood staring down at the stick on the sink. “Two,” he answered without hesitation. I knew there were two lines but I was a bit surprised at what I was seeing. We hadn’t exactly planned to be here at this point and yet – here we were. We had been seriously discussing whether or not we wanted to have children together for the last few months and we were never completely on the same page. He was unsure and I was feeling like I wanted to have a baby. We finally agreed that we would maybe try for a baby at the beginning of the new year. It was the end of summer when we reached that agreement so that seemed like a good amount of time to fully wrap our heads around this huge decision. I discussed our plans with my OB-GYN who suggested giving my body at least two months off the pill to have two unregulated cycles before we started trying for a baby. So we decided not to renew my prescription and for the first time in years, I was off birth control.
And there we stood. A positive pregnancy test before us not even two months later. While we weren’t completely surprised, we were a little bit shocked. I wanted to be excited but I couldn’t quite get there knowing that my husband was probably flipping out inside. He was the one who really needed the time to mentally prepare and this was about to happen much sooner than we planned for. We silently embraced each other, both knowing what the other was thinking but daring not speak it. We exchanged masking smiles and parted to head to work. On the drive to work my excitement began to build. I started daydreaming. I calculated my due date. July 22. Thank goodness I wouldn’t have to be pregnant all through summer like I was with my October baby. That was brutal. What about a Christmas baby announcement? That would be when I cleared the first trimester. I designed the cards in my head. Then my thoughts went left. What about my job? I haven’t even been in this role for a year and now I’ll be going on leave. I’m not ready to take a break from working – I love my job and I’m killing it there. And why was that second line so light? Am I imagining this all? I mean it was only that one slip-up – what are the odds that this is actually happening? I needed to get out of my own head so I texted my bestie a pic of the test and asked her what she saw. She about exploded and assured me that there were definitely two lines and reminded me that even a faint line was a positive. She convinced me to leave my office and walk to the drug store for another test if I really wanted to be sure. Yep. Two more lines. We started imagining the playdates our kids would have – she was pregnant too! Only about 2 months ahead of me. I decided that although the timing wasn’t what we had in mind, it was perfect. It would be perfect. I couldn’t wait to meet this little babe.
As the weeks went by, my husband and I had finally started coming to terms with our new life to be. I was experiencing some pretty intense symptoms like nausea, bloating and super tender breasts but he was taking great care of me. We were about to celebrate his 30th birthday and I was so happy to be able to give him the gift of his first child. I had to attend a training in New York the week of his birthday. We worked it out so that we would celebrate with family and friends the weekend before his birthday and he would come with me to New York so that we could be together on the actual day. That Saturday we hosted a small family gathering at our apartment to celebrate my husband’s birthday and headed out to play pool with friends later that night. His closest cousin insisted on driving us to the venue so that I could drink. “No, its okay. We have to drive to New York tomorrow so I don’t plan on drinking anyway,” I responded. I pictured us laughing about this in a few weeks when we told him why I really wasn’t drinking that night. All night long, I watched my husband with admiration. We were having a baby and only we knew it. I had never felt more in love with him.
We drove up to New York the next day. My husband had taken me to New York for my 25th birthday a few years ago – it was a special place for us. We checked into the hotel and got some much-needed rest after a long weekend of celebration and travel. The next morning, my husband’s birthday, I got ready for my training. “Hmph…that’s weird,” I thought when I realized I was spotting. “Its probably just implantation bleeding since it’s so light.” I mentioned it to my husband, seriously downplaying my nervousness so that he wouldn’t worry on his birthday. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” But I wasn’t sure it was nothing. I was trying to convince myself also. I struggled to focus in my class that morning. I kept going to the bathroom to see if the bleeding stopped. Nope. It’s getting heavier. “It’s okay, I’m not cramping. Every pregnancy is different. This never happened when I was pregnant with my daughter but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.” By the time I met my husband for lunch I was in a complete panic. I felt awful for being so checked out. He was getting call after call and text after text full of birthday wishes and I was sitting across from him silently Googling the closest hospital. We made plans to meet a couple of friends that night. I thought the distraction would help get my mind off whatever was happening with my body. When my class ended, we walked back to the hotel and I went straight to the bathroom. The bleeding showed no signs of stopping and now I was in pain. “I think we should go to the hospital,” I told my husband.
“What’s the reason for your visit?” the registrar asked. “I’m pregnant and I’m cramping and bleeding.” I hung my head and whispered my response. I was embarrassed and felt like I must have done something wrong. I had to say those words at least 10 more times that night. Every tech and nurse that entered the room with clipboards asked the same question. Haven’t they created some kind of chart for me by now? Why do I have to keep saying these words? Nobody was telling me anything. And I was too scared of what I might hear to ask what was happening. I was sent upstairs for an ultrasound. I watched the screen closely hoping to see that my baby was perfectly fine. I realized I had no idea what I was looking at so I decided to watch the sonographer’s face instead. I figured her face would tell me all I needed to know. Her face was blank. Why is this taking so long? If everything was fine, she would have been done by now. She said nothing. Finally she says “why don’t you go and empty your bladder and then we’ll try again.” Oh no. Try again? She started looking around again and then we heard a heartbeat. My husband and I looked at each other but there were no smiles. We both knew that the heartbeat we heard was way too slow to be a growing baby. It was either my own or a baby in distress. The sonographer still said nothing. Surely if everything was fine she would have said “here’s your beautiful baby – perfectly healthy – nothing to worry about.” But she said nothing and just sent us back downstairs.
At this point, the bleeding has really picked up. Finally a doctor comes in and I could tell by the look on her face that she had news. “So what brings you in tonight? Tell me what happened.” Are you kidding me? I managed to get the dreadful words out again: “I’m pregnant, this morning I started bleeding. It has been getting heavier throughout the day and I started cramping.” “Okay, well I’d like to do an exam,” the doctor responded. “Are you comfortable with your friend staying in for the exam?” “That is my husband – he’s staying” I say, completely infuriated. She performs a very uncomfortable cervical check – it brings back unpleasant memories of my pregnancy with my daughter. “Well the hCG levels being shown in your blood test are not where we expect them to be at this point in the pregnancy. We would like to see them triple what they are. Also, we weren’t able to detect a heart beat which we most likely would hear at this point. So it’s possible you are having a miscarriage.”
And the M word was finally uttered. The word I feared I would hear when I saw the first spot of blood that morning. The doctor went on to ask a series of questions that made me feel worse. “Was this a wanted pregnancy?” “Do you have any history of sexually transmitted disease?” “Do you have any health conditions?” Perhaps those were routine questions but in that moment it felt like a quest to blame me for what was happening. When the doctor finally left the room, I immediately broke down. I wanted to get so far from that hospital but I couldn’t believe what I just heard and I couldn’t move. A nurse came in with discharge papers and reiterated the worst. “So you have been diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage, there’s really nothing we can do and we suggest you follow-up with your doctor in a few days.” I have no words. I have no strength. I take the papers from the nurse who is staring at me with a puzzled face when she asks “do you need help getting up?” I was taking up a room that they needed. My world was ending and their night was continuing, business as usual.
I wanted to go home. I wanted to get out of New York and I never wanted to go back. Our special place lost its charm. My head was spinning, my heart was racing. I was crushed. I was already dreading the next time someone asked me “When are you guys going to have a baby?” or “Do you want more kids?” I was instantly so very sorry for every time I had asked another woman when she was going to have kids. I immediately realized how something that seemed so harmless and conversational was actually deeply personal and could be terribly painful and humiliating to discuss. I began to wonder if this was the beginning of a tough road. Will I ever be able to have another baby? Had I destroyed my chances of ever having a baby by taking birth control all those years? Did I skip too many meals while nauseous? I knew I should have lost a few pounds first. I desperately wanted to understand why this awful thing was happening to me. And in the wee morning hours, I sat quietly with my thoughts as we drove away from what quickly became the darkest place I knew. I had no idea that what I was feeling was only a preview of the pain to come in the weeks and months ahead.