(My) Miscarriage: What It Taught Me and What It Can Teach Us
“I didn’t get to meet you. I didn’t even get to see you. All I had were two simple lines… And they meant the world to me.”
To this day I still imagine what could have been. I would be six months with a swelling belly on this very day in which I publish this piece. I would know if I’m having a girl or a boy. I would have baby clothes, toys, and bottles riddled around the house, unsure of where I would store them away in our tiny duplex. All these things I almost had, but lost.
I think back to the first month when two simple lines brought us so much unbelievably joy. I remember how big my husband smiled while pulling me into his embrace, giving me a kiss and saying, “Oh my gosh, yes!” I think about how he placed his hand onto my stomach, excited and eager to feel a baby kick inside in the coming months. I think about how I would stand by the door to send my husband off to work and when we gave our usual good-bye kiss I’d say, “And kiss baby too!” So he’d lean down and kiss my belly and say, “Good bye, baby.”
As many ways that I imagined how I might soon become a mother I, too, knew that my husband did the same thing about being a father. Still to this day, though, I wonder if forming such an early and strong attachment to something the size of a grain of rice was a good or bad idea.
Our month of joy came to an end with a five minute phone call in which the midwife solemnly relayed that my HCG levels had dropped. I cried endlessly into my husband’s embrace, the same arms and chest that once celebrated joyous news. In the coming weeks I braced myself for the mental, emotional, and physical turmoil of miscarriage. I tried to be gentle with myself. I consoled my grief with dark optimism: at least I was very early in my pregnancy and wouldn’t have to experience a lot of pain.
Oh, how wrong I was.
A week passed by. Then suddenly one day I felt cramp-like pains. I figured that it might be normal for a miscarriage. Maybe my uterus was contracting in order to release whatever was inside. I suffered pain all day and at night took Tylenol before bed. I slept through the night thinking that the brunt of the experience was over.
The next morning I woke up and felt the urge to poo. I honestly can’t remember if I pushed anything out because all I recall is feeling too much pain to wipe myself. I tried, anyway, and cleaned myself as much as I could and then slowly limped my way out of the bathroom to the medicine cabinet in the kitchen. I took more Tylenol and then slumped into the dining chair while holding my head between my hands.
Something’s not right, I thought to myself.
Hunched over with pain I made my way to the bedroom where my husband was asleep. He had just came home at 6AM from his 3rd shift job and had only been asleep for four hours. He was still working that night too. I woke him up and said, “I think you need to take me to the hospital. I don’t feel right.”
The ultrasound technician rolled me into an exam room. He asked me to empty my bladder before we began.
“Can you walk? Do you need help?” he asked kindly. Despite the pain I could still manage to walk. He let me know that if I needed anything while inside the bathroom I could pull an assistance string and someone would come help me.
While in the bathroom I started feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and my hearing was fading. I peed, wiped myself, and flushed the toilet before trying to make my way out of the bathroom. The only thought on my mind was how embarrassing it’d be to leave my pee in the toilet, and not the possible reality that I could faint.
I made it out of the bathroom and collapsed onto a gurney that was fortunately in front of me. A womxn in scrubs happened to turn the corner, spotting me, and asked “Are you ok,” while I heard the ultrasound technician say “Uh oh,” and ran over to me. They both helped me onto the gurney before triple checking if I was really ok.
After my ultrasound exam and talking to more nurses, PAs, OBs, and other doctors I finally got the results. I was having an ectopic pregnancy. My right fallopian tube had burst and blood was filling into my abdomen.
I was both surprised and not surprised. I was surprised because I didn’t think that I’d experience one of the plenty traumatic forms of miscarriage. You always think that it happens to others and not yourself. However, I wasn’t surprised because I had been feeling slight pain on my right side but my high pain tolerance and my fear of speaking up for myself and my pain put me in that situation.
I called my husband and told him the news. We cried for our losses, of everything that we thought would be our happy reality, and we cried for our fears of surgery. While I prepared for surgery my husband broke the horrible news to both of our families. Neither of these experiences will ever be easy or forgotten.
After a miscarriage people don’t talk about how sad you might feel when hearing or seeing those around you announce their pregnancy or have their gender reveal parties. They don’t talk about how bittersweet it is to celebrate pregnancy news with others — knowing well their elated feelings and also praying that they have a healthy pregnancy — while also feeling a tinge of jealousy and hopelessness.
Knowing what I know, it is because society doesn’t know how to respond to complex emotions. That’s something that we will all have to continue working on.
At the very least I know myself well enough, and I know how lucky I am to have supportive people online and offline around me, that I can process my emotions healthily and without malice. I feel the utmost pure excitement and joy for Hmong sisters who find out that they are pregnant; I once embodied those emotions. And then I think about how that could’ve been me… how it might still can be me some day… maybe.
And even if it isn’t me someday, or it can’t be me for health reasons, I’ll still be ok. And if I’m ever not, I’ll work towards being ok.
All I wish for is that our community continues to talk about how pregnancy and trying to conceive is vastly different for everyone. That making a baby is not easy — physically, mentally, or emotionally. That sometimes it can be annoying or painful to ask a womxn when she will have a child because we don’t know what troubles she and her partner have already experienced or currently are.
I want our community to not base a womxn’s worth on if she can birth children or not. Or if she did give birth, I don’t want us to base her strength on if she did it natural, or with an epidural, or through C-section. I want our community to not assign success or failure, happiness or regret, and value or worthlessness towards a couple based on having children or the number of children they have.
I want our community to learn how to love and care for one another without the pressure and threat of biology and bloodlines. That is how we can truly transform and heal our communities.