Seeing a pregnancy test turn positive was the most joyful moment of my life. Months prior to that day, my husband and I had begun understanding how conception works. It sounds so basic, but to be honest, other than how babies are made, we didn’t know much about the whole experience of conceiving (tracking my cycle, peak fertility, basal temperature…). We also visited a genetic expert who ran a carrier test on both of us, and we thought we were ready to be parents right after learning we were a “good” match. Naively, we started organizing our agendas for when the baby would come because we thought we could plan the perfect time of the year to be pregnant; I wanted to be pregnant in the Fall so that our newborn could enjoy the perks of the Summer. The doctor told me, “start taking good care of yourself, there isn’t much you can do after you’re pregnant.” I remember this bothered me, but deep down, I thought she was probably right.
When I didn’t get pregnant the first few tries, I started to feel anxious that something was wrong with my body, though my insecurities lessened each month of reading stories in blogs like this one – I ascertained it is perfectly normal to take time to conceive. I also realized my husband didn’t carry any of these feelings and thoughts following a conversation with him about how disappointing it feels to get your period when you’re trying to conceive; I saw the blood as a painful reminder of my non-motherhood and inability to conceive a child. I was unconsciously bearing a fictitious responsibility as if I was in it alone. In hindsight of my doctor’s recommendation, I reflected on how reinforcing the idea that women and their bodies are more involved was hurtful now and for our future journey as parents.
After all of this, a positive pregnancy test was a thrill. We were over the moon and celebrated the news with family and relatives close to us. I never really expected a miscarriage would happen to us, yet we were cautious about telling too many people. Two days before our first scan, I woke up angsty from a nightmare. I told my husband I thought something was wrong, but I calmed down after he comforted me. Arriving at the scan, I forgot about the incident and we were both excited, smiling ear to ear. The doctor asked all the routine questions, commenting that she thought this would be an easy pregnancy because I was healthy, had no bleeding at all, and was experiencing normal symptoms.
“Oh…”, my gynecologist whispered. She remained silent for a few seconds while moving the transducer all around my uterus. “I’m really sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat”, she said. She continued looking until she repeated that she was sorry and explained this is called a silent miscarriage. We were both in shock, heartbroken.
After a second scan, we were sent home and asked to come back in a week to confirm the diagnosis. Neither my husband or I knew how to deal with this, so we researched to at least feel ready to confront our following appointment; it didn’t take away the sadness but it helped to normalize our experience, and for me, to hear other women’s physical experiences and how they coped with it.
It took a second and third appointments for our doctor to suggest I should take medication to manage the miscarriage. My doctor gave her condolences again and sent us home to terminate the pregnancy. Ending this process with those pills was a whole other challenge, as they accelerated the passing of tissue that had formed during the pregnancy, which was extremely painful for me (I’ve read this does not happen to everyone), graphic and emotional. My husband was there, available but discrete and respectful of my process. After the miscarriage was over, I felt relieved that my body was ready to start healing, hungry, and then ready to sleep. If it hadn’t been for prior research, I wouldn’t have known what to expect without completely freaking out.
Still, I felt that everything was unnatural, from continuing to be pregnant without having a viable pregnancy, to swallowing pills that I knew accelerated my miscarriage. All of this made me feel again that my body was faulty, and almost certainly, that it was me who had done something to cause the miscarriage. The voices of others who were trying to support me mostly heightened my guilt (“Maybe you walked and traveled too much,” “You will get pregnant again,” “Aren’t you concerned this could cause an infection?”). And, despite the doctor’s reassurance that miscarriages are the body’s natural way of preventing an unviable birth, I wondered what part I had played.
But bodies are resilient –my ability to get pregnant, even with the miscarriage, has unexpectedly empowered me to be more attuned, curious, patient, respectful, and proud of my body. I also feel bold to challenge set standards around pregnancy and conception. Why are miscarriages so silenced and uncomfortable if they are so common? With a couple months of reflection, grief, and professional support, I have started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, if this sounds as endearing to anybody going through this as it did to me, I recently learned that babies who are born after a miscarriage are known as rainbow babies – who knew?
Story by Luisa Marino, Washington, D.C.