The first time I was pregnant, I thought I was being cautious. After all, we had been trying to get pregnant for a year and a half, had been given a few reasons to worry (infertility, PCOS, less than ideal sperm), had been to an RE, and were using Clomid. So when I saw that positive pregnancy test after so many months of waiting, I wanted to feel pure joy/excitement/optimism, but I knew I should be cautious instead. We knew about things not working out the way we planned; why should this pregnancy be any different? I decided we couldn’t tell anyone but my parents until after the first trimester. I avoided thinking about nurseries or baby clothes. When I never experienced morning sickness, I worried a lot, despite the fact that my doctor said that could be perfectly normal. Even though we saw a heartbeat at six weeks and the doctor was confident, I was just as nervous for our second (nine week) ultrasound appointment. And rightly so, because that’s when we heard those horrible words: “I’m not finding a heartbeat. It looks like you’re having a miscarriage.” And then our world fell apart, right there, with me lying on that table. I couldn’t breathe. I remember so clearly the way my mind struggled in those first moments to even conceive of the fact that we weren’t having a baby. I kept thinking “wait, no – this cannot be happening – they just need to look more carefully,” as if I could just think hard enough to change the horrible reality that was unfolding in front of us.
In the aftermath of that first miscarriage, it became clear to me that as cautious as I thought I was being during my short (but really long) five weeks of knowing I was pregnant, I wasn’t being cautious at all. I knitted things, for one: a little green baby bonnet with a button that looks like an orange (a favorite from my mom’s button jar since I was practically in kindergarten), a mobile with little bunnies in striped shirts….. I even started a baby blanket. What was I thinking? We talked about names. We engaged in those “this time next year….” conversations. In short? We were not being cautious. I thought we were, but I was wrong. Actually, that was the most innocent, joyful, optimistic pregnancy I would ever have. Until (of course) it wasn’t.
So when we started trying again afterward and I (completely shockingly given our history of not being able to get pregnant for nearly two years at a time) got pregnant that first month, we were truly cautious. I didn’t knit, we didn’t talk names, we told people (so that we’d have prearranged support if we had another miscarriage), and every statement we made about the future we wanted so badly began “If we really get a baby at the end of this….” or “If this all works out…..” or “Assuming this doesn’t just end in another miscarriage….” People we talked to thought we were being unnecessarily negative, but I knew we were just being cautious. When we saw the heartbeat at 6 weeks, I did my best to live in and enjoy that moment, but I didn’t allow it to lend any hope to the future. And when, after nearly three hours of waiting in the emergency room, it was confirmed that I was having a second miscarriage, my world didn’t fall apart. Don’t get me wrong – in the moment when the emergency room doctor confirmed what I already suspected from observing the ultrasound tech’s face as she searched the screen, I felt myself sink slowly into the deepest sadness I’ve ever experienced and I am not far removed from that place now. In most respects, a second miscarriage is very much worse than a first. After a first miscarriage, everyone tells you that you’re no more likely to have a second than any random woman is to have a miscarriage. After a second miscarriage, they don’t say much. My world, however, didn’t fall apart, because as awful as it was to hear those words, it was familiar. I knew what to expect physically, emotionally, practically, spiritually. I knew about stepping into that dark place. And about the loss of hope. About the blank slate that my life would become again, at least for a while. I don’t want to know those things, but I will never not know them again.