Wednesday, March 31, 2010


About a month ago, I got two lines on the pee stick. For the second time, it seemed, I got pregnant the first cycle of trying.

Yesterday I went for the dating ultrasound and discovered I had what's called a blighted ovum, which means the fetal pole (thus the embryo itself) never developed: I had a fetal sac and a yolk, but no fetus.

It's too soon to know exactly how I feel about this. I mean: I feel what I feel now, but who knows what I'll feel about it next week or next month or next year. Mostly, at this point, I'm surprised by how not surprised I am. On some level, I knew it. I had a bad feeling about this pregnancy, and some part of me is relieved to know for sure that it went wrong, to be able to move on rather than continue to worry about it. Of course, if the ultrasound had showed a squirmy little proto-human with a solid heartbeat, I probably would have shaken off the bad feeling and chalked it up to second-time-around jitters. You don't tend to know a lot about what can go wrong your first time. But then the second time, you know more mothers, and you've heard more stories.

I find myself comforted by the fact that an embryo never developed. There's something less tragic about a lost possibility than a heart that stopped beating.

It drives me crazy that there's no way to phrase it that doesn't lay the blame, at least grammatically, on me. I miscarried, or I had a miscarriage, or I lost the pregnancy. There's no the pregnancy failed, or the embryo lost itself. Even the word "miscarriage" tells you it was the carrier who fucked it up. English language FAIL.

I find myself dwelling on some really stupid details. Like: hey, now I can clean out the room where the cat boxes are so Andy doesn't have to do it. (Andy hates the cats, and I forgot to set him up with a minimally gross set-up to take over catbox tending while I was pregnant -- pregnant women aren't supposed to mess with kitty litter because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.) Like: crap, now if I get pregnant again ASAP, I'll end up delivering and racking up hospital bills on next year's deductible instead of this year's.

B., my nurse practitioner, said in terms of my health and well-being and future ability to conceive, it's about six of one, half dozen the other between letting nature take its course and having a D&C. In both cases, the risk of infection is around 7-9%. Which surprised me: that's a pretty high risk for a thing that happens so frequently. And this kind of infection can be extremely dangerous. The temptation to do the surgery is to have it all over with sooner and to skip the worst of the gore, though even with a D&C, you still have some bleeding and cramping. For now, though, I'm planning to let things just happen, with an option, of course, to go for the surgery if it's not happening fast enough or if it's too unpleasant. There's a considerable gross-out factor to the mechanics of miscarriage. B. said that because there's no fetus, for me it's likely to be more like a very heavy period. Let's hope so.

People who mean to be sympathetic and kind tend to say things about how nature gets rid of its mistakes or something, how miscarriage happens because the fetus wasn't good enough. I understand this impulse, and I certainly appreciate that it's kindly meant. But it's pretty stupid, and I wish people would think it through. Would you say that to someone mourning a person who died from a genetic disease? That it's somehow less sad because the person obviously wasn't made very well? Yes, it's true that many miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities. But that's not particularly comforting, especially because with current technology, some would-be mothers may actually know for a fact that that's not what caused their loss. They may have very strong, very complicated feelings about what did cause their loss, whether it's genetic abnormalities or something else. Plus, honestly, what seems comforting to one person may seem like minimizing to someone else, like: you shouldn't be so upset, because here's this information. In my opinion, the thing to say is the same thing you'd say to someone mourning any other loss: "I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

I cried on the table at the ultrasound. I cried in B.'s office. I cried in the car. I've cried a little here and there since. But mostly, so far, I'm ok. I know that I have physical discomfort and unsettling gore to look forward to, plus the hormone crash at the end. But for me, mostly, this feels like a very annoying roadblock between us and the next wonderful member of our family.

(One quick request: I'm going to link this post at Facebook, but I'd really prefer that people not comment about my miscarriage on my Facebook page. Comments here are fine, or feel free to contact me some other way.)


another Sassy! product said...

I am so sorry, Holly. If there is anything I can do from this distance, please know I am willing.

Phantom Scribbler said...

This happened to me, in more or less exactly the same way, when we started trying for a second child. (Though I was lucky, I guess, in that the very heavy period started within 48 hours of the telltale nausea disappearing.) I was surprised by how deeply I grieved it, and how long it took me to move on, even though I got pregnant with my daughter just two cycles later. I thought a successful pregnancy was supposed to magically erase those kind of losses. It was another surprise to discover that it didn't, not for me, not entirely.

I know everyone processes differently, and what works or matters to one woman might be pointless to someone else. But I was comforted by Peggy Orenstein's essay, "Mourning My Miscarriage," which ran in the NYT years ago, and is now posted on her website.

Chris R. said...

I'm so sorry H.

Shopkeeper said...

Perhaps I don't understand the word "closure" but I can tell you that it doesn't mean "forget" or "get over". Don't underestimate mourning and missing.

I like to remember those who've gone. Of course that can make me sad, but they were and are an important part of me, and I respect them and myself by keeping them in my life.

Even so, I've always been able to focus on "what's next"; but that's so much harder to do when you've lost as colossal an embodiment of hope and promise as even the dream of a child.

o said...

Holly, I'm sorry for your loss. Wishing you calm between storms.

VIX Emporium said...

Holly, I am so sorry. I am glad you are OK, or will be.

The same thing happened to me before I became a mother and before I knew what was happening to me. I remember feeling more annoyance at medical practitioners than grief or loss. I went in to get checked out when my period wouldn't stop. I was asked "Are you pregnant?" to which I replied No, of course, I've got my period! Duh! No one did a pregnancy test. A week later it was worse, so I called back and they told me to go to the ER. They checked me out and while I was waiting for them to get back to me, the STUDENT NURSE popped in and said, "So you're a little bit pregnant? How's that feel?" Angry, that's how! She's learning how to take people's temperatures, not in charge of delivering life-changing news in the form of a flip remark! Grrr...

Anyway, that was then. Now that I have been through a complete pregnancy, I don't know how I would feel. Sad, I'm sure, although we're not "trying". My deepest sympathies to you, and I wish you better luck next time, God willing.

Alan_Deborah said...

Honey, honey, honey -- damn it and blessings. I'll call & hope to talk to you soon. Now & then, I send the sweetest, softest love to you, dear Holly.

msrevolution said...

this is such a wonderful and honest post. i love that, even in your grief, you are able to challenge the insufficient and sometimes harmful language our society has set up around these sorts of experiences.