A Failing Pregnancy

I’ve been staring at a sign that says Statuary Teak Decor for several minutes trying to figure out how to start writing this. I’m in the Jeep waiting on my husband to come back with a lavender latte from the coffee shop next door. He did one better and got me a pity pastry to boot. I need comfort food at the moment. I just lost a baby.

I don’t write as much as I used to. So you may not know that I fell in love and promptly ran off to the mountains to go get married. This is important context, because after a very short month of trying, I got pregnant. And now I’m not pregnant anymore. I don’t usually write about sad things either, so consider this a departure from my normal vibe. I’ve been reading a lot of Joan Didion lately, so I’m sure that’s also taking its toll.

Denial

It all happened so quickly that it doesn’t even feel real yet — the pregnancy part at least. The love and the marriage feels like it always has to us — like we hold the key to a secret the rest of the world doesn’t understand. I realize that that can sound very hollow, like the kind of HGTV-branded bullshit you’d find on a journal at Michael’s next to a sign in the bargain bin that says Live Laugh Love. But for some people it’s just all over the moment you meet. You’re just goners. You hit an outta’ the park home run. Ruined for all others. I-only-have-eyes-for-you level smacked by the smitten stick. And for us, yeah… it’s like that. La passión, the fiyah, that good good lovin’. Whatever you want to call it, we got it, and we gross people out, and I love that. I could not imagine a better partner to do life with than my husband, and I would not be handling this nearly as well as I am without him right now. For us, the love and marriage came quickly and easily, and the baby carriage started to look like it was going to go the same way, but it just… didn’t work out like that.

One of the main reasons I knew I was pregnant early on was boob pain, as odd as it sounds. Breasts get bigger during pregnancy. It’s just a thing that happens as your body starts to prepare for milk and breastfeeding. And as soon as my OB uttered the words, “failing pregnancy,” my boob pain just vanished, as if my ta-ta’s somehow heard her and answered in the affirmative, “yeah you’re not anymore.”

The miscarriage didn’t happen to me like it happens in the movies, and I didn’t know that it could happen other ways. I wasn’t woken up in the middle of the night with bloody bedsheets and rushed off to the hospital. My husband and I went in for our first ultrasound excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat and were met with uncertainty when it was measuring two weeks small and there was no heartbeat to be heard. We would come to find out that our baby stopped growing at around 6 weeks.

“Failing pregnancy,” are the words my OB-GYN used to describe it. Which, to me, as a former straight-A student, just seems so much worse than the word “miscarriage.” Miscarriage sounds like an accident. A failure seems like my fault. And my OB, and my husband, and everyone who knows about this failing — failed — pregnancy, has reiterated to me that it’s not my fault. Chromosomal abnormalities. Unpreventable. Nothing you can do or could have done. Completely normal. 1 in 5 pregnancies, statistically it is likely that if you get pregnant enough times, it will happen to you. And it happened to me. It’s happening. I’ve never felt so betrayed by my own body, and there isn’t a goddamn thing I can do about it.

I did all the things I was supposed to do when you’re pregnant. I cut caffeine, I didn’t eat processed meats or unpasteurized cheeses, I gave up alcohol and sushi. I rested because I was ridiculously tired all the time and I took care of my body. I got excited about baby names and colors to paint the nursery. I made a private Pinterest board, and started an Amazon list for baby things I knew we’d need. I told my family I was pregnant.

Anger

I live in Texas, and you might’ve heard about the abortion ban bill that restricts pregnant women’s rights to abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. It’s also known as the 6 week abortion ban, which is a slight misnomer, because it’s based on fetal cardiac activity. If there is no fetal heartbeat, the bill doesn’t apply, and it doesn’t in my case, as my baby’s heart never actually began beating. You see, the bill doesn’t account for cases of rape or miscarriage. If I’d failed at pregnancy a few weeks later after a heartbeat was detected, my doctor could technically be sued for doing a D&C surgery to remove the tissue.

Pregnant woman having an abortion or failing pregnancy can’t be sued themselves, but — regardless of whether the people having the baby wanted it or not — doctors, abortion funds, ride-share drivers, and even someone who intended to give money to an abortion fund can be sued. You could tweak a few details of my story and all of a sudden, in addition to the loss of a wanted baby, I could be the reason people who were trying to help me are being sued to the tune of 10K. From a mother of one, and one that almost was — I’ve never been more angry about anything in my life. SB-8 is an awful piece of poorly-thought-through legislation aimed at punishing women and profiting off the loss of others.

I’m no expert on what happens when we die, but I’d put a sizable wager down that taking advantage of this law has got to earn you a prime spot in hell… if you believe in that sort of thing. And I believe the people championing this bill largely do.

“All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun.” — Molly Ivins

Bargaining

I don’t know if the unjustifiable hope or the waiting is the worst part of finding out you might have a failing pregnancy.

At first we hoped that our math was wrong, and that the due date was just a miscalculation. That it was supposed to be 6 weeks, and not 8. And for a time, even though all signs pointed the opposite way after the first ultrasound, I thought maybe if I just flooded my body with nutrients, it would help the baby survive somehow. Classic bargaining part of the grief cycle. So I made green juices every day, and ate very healthy meals, and went for walks and bike rides with my husband, and got some sunshine. It doesn’t work like that though. You can’t fix it.

If the hope is your mind trying to protect you — trying to bargain on your behalf — illogical though that may be, it is at least less cruel than all the waiting. The waiting is excruciating. I don’t think our minds were built to stay in anxiety limbo for an extended period of time.

Depression

We had to wait to find out if my hormone levels were low (they were). We had to wait to find out if the baby was continuing to grow (it didn’t). We are still waiting to find out if my body will have a miscarriage naturally or if i’ll have to take medication to help induce it, or have a surgery known as a D&C (dilation and curettage) in order to remove the tissue. We waited in waiting rooms playing oddly cheerful music for such somber news as we received. We waited in patient exam rooms for the doctor to come in and tell us what we already sort of expected. My lovely husband, ever the greatest in a crisis, held me as we waited and whispered in my ear, “Do you remember when Eminem teamed up with Dido? That was weird,” because he knew it would make me laugh. In times of great distress, sometimes the best gift you can give is offering a bit of levity, and he’s great at that. We waited for the checkout clerk in the doctor’s office to take our sheet of paper and schedule our next appointment so I could find some other less public place to have my mental breakdown and cry my eyes out.

And the waiting doesn’t really stop. It’s relentless. I’m still waiting to see if I’ll have more “grief spasms,” where I tear up for no reason during a commercial for something benign like cars or AirPods, and break down under the weight of loss. I’m waiting to see how long we’ll experience the effects of this. I’m waiting to exhale. Sorry — cheap joke, had to. I’m waiting for Godot actually. I’ll let you know when he shows up.

Acceptance?

Writing has always been how I process. My husband is a verbal processor. He needs to talk things out. I have to sit in a room by myself with my thoughts and start writing things down before I really fully understand how I feel.

Mentally, I’m not really available right now. Emotionally, I go from feeling pretty wrecked to being generally okay. I can function normally for the most part. I wake, I shower, I eat, I sleep. But losing a child is both the worst and most surreal experience of my life.

I’m no stranger to loss, but I wouldn’t wish any part of how I feel right now on anyone.

I wanted to write this out while I’m feeling it in case anyone else is going through something similar and needs to hear it. Whether you’re having fertility or pregnancy-related complications — you are not a failure. You did not fail. It is not your fault. Even if all I can offer at the moment is a vacant-eyed condolence, some semblance of sisterhood or camaraderie, and a general “this is really fucked up” narrative — I hope that it can maybe provide someone somewhere some sort of peace, because you’re not alone.

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Jen Jarnefeldt

Jen Jarnefeldt

Decent as h*ck. @jenjarns on the Tweeters. I write the docs at AWS. Thoughts and opinions my own.