April 4, 2013 by bestdayevar
Well, it turned out that all my reproductive doomsday prepping wasn’t for nought.
I finally feel ready to write out the story of this pregnancy that was and then wasn’t, so if stories of loss are a trigger for you, maybe skip this one. This might be a long post, because I’m going to start at the top.
When I got that first BFP, and truthfully even before, I knew that this first pregnancy wasn’t going to stick. I realize that sounds really defeatist, and that’s not how I mean it. I’m an optimist to the bone, and I generally have a positive attitude about everything. I just felt in the deepest part of me, in a very matter-of-fact way, that I was destined to experience a loss on this journey.
Of course when you are pregnant, you can’t go around telling everyone that it’s not going to last, especially when you have no real reason to say that. It’s kind of morbid and frowned upon. So I couldn’t really say any of this at the time, but I was thinking it.
I already wrote about my immediate reaction to my BFP and my disbelief, which I think was connected to the fact that I knew it wasn’t going to last. Here’s what happened next.
You might remember that the first person I told, even before my husband, was my dear Austin TTC buddy who is also one of my best friends. I texted her a picture of the test to make sure I wasn’t crazy, and she convinced me I wasn’t (crazy). Two days later, she and I had lunch together. She was the first person besides my husband who knew and that I was actually seeing in person, and I told her how weird and surreal the whole thing felt. I told her I couldn’t wait until she got her BFP so she would know what I meant.
The very next morning, I got a text from that friend with a picture of a Wondfo with 2 lines on it. She had just gotten her very first BFP, 3 days after I had gotten mine. My brain has short-circuited on an almost hourly basis over how unbelievable this turn of events is. I feel like this sort of thing only happens in rom coms; it doesn’t happen in real life.
(As I sit here typing this, and remembering all of the details, I am amazed anew that all of this is really happening. It just doesn’t seem possible.)
I had so many feelings all at once when I found out my friend’s news. Along with my complete excitement for her, one of my first thoughts was, “Ohhhhh nooo, but I’m going to lose this pregnancy and this is going to make it so much harder.” But I also thought, “If somehow I don’t lose this pregnancy, this is going to make it so much more awesome.” Obviously, I had to go with the latter thought publicly and just for the sake of being positive about the whole thing, just in case it did work out.
So last Friday night, we made plans for a celebratory double date with our husbands. I was the one who suggested it, and before I did, I checked myself: When my pregnancy doesn’t work out, will I look back at this dinner and feel stupid for celebrating something fraught with so much potential heartache? But I decided, no. Regardless of whether it stuck, that first pregnancy was absolutely worth celebrating for as long as I had it. It was a huge milestone for me, and I felt very lucky to have gotten pregnant at all. And I was right — I absolutely have no regrets about that celebratory dinner. It is a happy memory that I will keep in the midst of all of this.
For the first 3 or 4 days after my BFP and a couple of days before, I had been feeling a slight but unmistakable nausea, and extreme fatigue by the end of the day. My breasts hurt so badly that even walking 3 steps was painful. But after the first 4 or 5 days, those symptoms were fading. On Monday morning, my temperature dropped a lot. On Monday evening, I started to feel the tell-tale stiffness in my lower back that always precedes PMS cramps for me.
And when I had that moment of clarity on Monday night about loving that little seahorse for as long as I had it, I knew that was a necessary step in the process. I had to say “I love you” before I could say “good-bye.”
The next morning, my temperature dropped all the way to the coverline and I had started spotting and cramping. I was still getting (very faint) positive pregnancy tests, but when the doctor’s office called shortly after they opened and the nurse gave me my beta number from the day before — 18 — I knew it was only a matter of time before I started bleeding in earnest. The nurse said to call them back if I bled so much I soaked a pad in an hour, if I passed something the size of a golf ball, or if I was doubled over in pain or fainted.
I didn’t know if it would be that day or the next day or when, but I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting at my desk at work waiting for my miscarriage to start, so I emailed work and told them I had woken up feeling terrible and would need to work from home.
I showered, put my pajamas back on, forced myself to eat something, and laid down on the couch to wait.
Now, around the same time that I got my BFP, I started to notice a spot at the edge of my right breast, right on the seam of my bra. It kind of hurt and kind of itched, and I assumed that the seam of my bra had rubbed me the wrong way and the skin was irritated. I tried hydrocortisone cream and I tried a different bra. But after a week, it seemed to be spreading and more itchy and more painful.
So, since I was already home on Tuesday, just sitting around in hole-y gray sweatpants and a pantyliner, I figured that I might as well get my weird rash checked out. I went to a walk-in clinic and pulled up my shirt, apologizing for the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra on account of the lovely rash that made bra-wearing too painful. The nurse practitioner took one glance and said, “Oh, you have shingles.”
To which I replied, out loud, “Fuck. Really?” And in my head, OF COURSE I HAVE FUCKING SHINGLES, TOO!
“Oh yup, definitely shingles.”
So I said, “Well, I guess I should mention that I’m pregnant. Though I’m about to miscarry.”
The nurse practitioner said, “Ahh, yeah, it’s actually really common in pregnancy to get shingles, because your immune system is down.” And then, hesitantly, “Why do you say you’re about to miscarry, did your doctor tell you that?” And I said no, but I was spotting and cramping and my hcg level was really low.
She said, “Well, even though you’re about to miscarry, I can’t treat you here because of the pregnancy. That makes your situation more complicated than we’re allowed to deal with here. Go to this urgent care clinic, it’s about 3 miles from here and they’re very nice — they’ll take good care of you.”
I got in the car and tried to stop myself from crying so that I didn’t end up in an upside-down ’94 Camry in a ditch on the side of the road in addition to miscarrying and having the shingles. The shingles. Which you get because you are pregnant, except I was about to not be pregnant at any second.
After I explained my situation, the very nice male nurse at the urgent care clinic tried to make me feel better by telling me that it took he and his wife a year to conceive their 3rd child, but I couldn’t really process that at the moment so I just said, “Oh.” Then the doctor came in and explained that they would usually prescribe Valtrex, the herpes medicine, to try and shorten the duration of the shingles. Nothing could cure it, because it’s a virus, but the Valtrex could at least cut it short. Except they weren’t sure whether Valtrex was safe in the first trimester of pregnancy, so since I was technically still pregnant, they wouldn’t prescribe it to me. I would just have to go home and take some Tylenol and wait for it to run its course. Oh, and by the way, I had to be careful not to rub my eyes because if I got my incurable armpit herpes in my eye, it could cause me to go blind. PERFECT, so while I hang out and wait to bleed a dead embryo out of my vag, I will sit on my hands to try and keep from blinding myself.
They recommended that I call my OB’s office and let them know I had shingles, and to see if there was anything they could do for me.
About 20 minutes after I left a message for the nurse at my OB’s office, she called back, and I could tell by now she was really starting to feel sorry for me. She said they had no problem prescribing Valtrex for me, but I needed to call the urgent care place and ask them to fax the diagnosis over to my OB’s office in the next 10 minutes before they closed. I was standing in the middle of the grocery store at the time, holding a pack of giant pads and a large bottle of Tylenol, both of which I stuck between my knees while I dug for the only thing in my purse I could find to write with, a red lip liner.
But I guess the receptionist at the urgent care clinic didn’t understand the meaning of ASAP, because my pharmacy never got the prescription that night. And around 5pm, after my OB’s office had already closed, I discovered that I had soaked straight through the pantyliner and undies I had on. Now I was miscarrying.
I texted my husband to tell him I had started bleeding, and he said he was on his way home. I had already cried pretty hard off and on throughout the day, so when he came home and scooped me up in his arms, all I could do was just bury my face in his neck and hold him. He looked at me with the question I could read on his face without him having to ask it, and I said, “I’m losing it.”
And we alternated between holding each other, and me crying and him looking like he was about to cry, and both of us joking about getting more cats.
I said, “Well, now we should get 16 more cats.”
He said, “Oh, I was going to say 800 more cats.”
And eventually we both fell asleep on the couch.
The next morning, I called my OB’s office again to ask about the missing prescription and to tell them I’d started bleeding. When the nurse called back, she said that since I’d been experiencing shingles symptoms for over a week already, the medication probably wouldn’t help me at all because the virus was too far along. AWESOME. But I should just take it anyway and see if it helped.
Also, she said that since I was bleeding heavily, the doctor wanted to see me this week to do an ultrasound and check everything out. But since my shingles were highly contagious to all the pregnant ladies in their office, they weren’t sure they could see me because they didn’t want to put anyone at risk. After conferring with the doctor for a while about it, they decided to have me come in, but I would have to wrap the parts of my body that are covered in singles in seran wrap and medical tape and wear long sleeves over that so I don’t risk infecting anyone.
She was looking up the doctor’s schedule for Friday when I said, “Well, I’m actually supposed to leave for the airport at 2pm on Friday.” I had a flight booked to LA to see my family and my best girlfriends this weekend. In a tone of sheer horror she responded, “And you were still planning on going???” To which I said, “Uhhh, yes, I was planning on it?”
“Oh no. That’s really not a good idea. You’re very contagious, and you could infect anyone who hasn’t had chicken pox or been vaccinated for chicken pox. People on the plane, or your family members, especially if any of them have a compromised immune system. Also, if something goes badly with your miscarriage, it would be better if you were here where we could see you, and not an ER in LA where they would have to repeat tests,” said the nurse.
More disbelief. I hadn’t considered any of this, but she was making a lot of sense. “Actually,” I said, “my mom is going through breast cancer treatment, so I know her immune system is really low.” (Miscarriage! Shingles! Cancer! This is like the everything bagel of sob stories, isn’t it?)
“Yeah,” she said, “you really don’t want to risk it.” And then, with great compassion in her voice, “I’m sorry. You just… you really seem to have a lot going on this week.”
I hung up the phone and laughed and wept at the same time at how completely unfair it all was and how utterly defeated I felt. Even though I’d had a premonition that I would lose this pregnancy, it in no way made the situation any more bearable.
At this point, my parents had no idea that I had been pregnant. Since I was already scheduled to see them tomorrow, my original plan before everything started going south was to wait and tell them the good news in person. I don’t see them that often, and it seemed like perfect timing that I was going out there so soon after I’d found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait to sit down for dinner at the kitschy little airport restaurant in Long Beach and say, “Well, I have some good news… I’m pregnant!” All week I had been imagining them just flipping their shit in happiness.
Now that the news was not so good, I had been debating whether to call my mom ahead of time and let her know what had happened, or to tell her once they had picked me up from the airport and we had gotten back to their house. Either way, I was really, really looking forward to sitting in her lap and letting her rock me while I cried, just like I had done when I was a little girl. But now I was going to have to call and tell her that I couldn’t come this weekend after all. And I had to tell her why.
She was holding it together really well for the first few minutes of the conversation, so much so that I started to think, “Is she understanding what I’m saying? Why isn’t she sad?” But then I heard her end of the line go silent, and I knew she had started to cry. And I started to cry. And after a few seconds, she said, “I’m just so sorry. I can’t believe it. You must have been so excited. And you must have been dreading having this conversation.” To which I said, “Ohhh momma, well, I was definitely much more excited about the other conversation I thought we were going to get to have.” She tried to convince me I should still come out, but I just had to promise I would try and reschedule my flight for as soon as I could.
Then we hung up and I spent the rest of the day watching back-to-back movies on TV and making my mind blank. Though I had to get off the couch 3 times to answer the door — 2 of my girlfriends and my office had all sent beautiful bouquets in sympathy. One friend left soup in the mailbox, another left cookies on the doorstep. One nice thing about times of crisis is the outpouring of love from your support network. My heart breaks for the girls who go through this without strong support from friends and family.
And while that is all really nice, I don’t actually want to see anybody. That is the one nice benefit of having shingles; I have a really good excuse to stay at home and be a recluse. Friends keep offering to come by and keep me company, but I’m like, “NOPE SHINGLES SORRY!” I might have to have shingles for a few weeks, I don’t know yet.
Plus, there are those well-meaning people who think they are being helpful but are just being infuriating. A very, very sweet guy from work texted me to say he was sorry, and when I texted back to say “thanks, that’s really nice,” he replied that while they never dealt with miscarriage, most of their friends had. And I should “try not to get too down.”
So, let me get this straight… you, a dude whose wife never experienced miscarriage, are telling me not to get too down. There are probably a few things in the world sadder than losing a pregnancy, but I can’t think of any of them right now, except losing a child who’s already been born. So if I can’t get down about this, I’m not sure what is worthy of being “down” about. But I can’t be too much of a dick about comments like this, because I’ve been on the other side and I know how impossible it is to know what to say. That’s probably because there are just no good things to say except, “I don’t know what to say.”
I know I shouldn’t be borrowing problems from the future, but I’m already nervous about seeing my Austin TTC buddy’s first ultrasound and her growing bump and thinking, “That’s what my baby would look like right now, too.” We had joked that our babies were going to be “friend twins.” But now there will just be one.
I am still excited for her, wholly and completely, but how do you deal with that? I guess I will deal with it in the way I’ve dealt with friends who’ve gotten pregnant and had babies while I’ve been struggling with infertility, which is not to think about myself while I’m around them. And then when I am alone, later on, take a moment to feel sorry for myself, cry a little, and move on.
As for the physical side of this miscarriage, I feel a little cheated that it hasn’t been worse, which is probably a ridiculous way to feel. As soon as I knew for sure that I was going to miscarry, I decided I had to buy some pads. I usually use a menstrual cup, which allows me to completely forget about my period for most of the day and dump it all out at the end of the day without any fuss at all. But for whatever weird, creepy reason, I wanted to really experience this miscarriage. I wanted to see and feel the blood. I wanted cramps. While the bleeding and cramps have been a little more than usual, it hasn’t been that bad. And it seems to be tapering off. This is the third day of bleeding, and it’s nowhere near as heavy as the first day.
I guess I wanted this to feel like a legitimate miscarriage. (OH GREAT, now I’m the Todd Akin of miscarriages). I worry that because it happened so early, people will think it wasn’t that big of a deal. But I want it to be a big deal. And I don’t want anyone to be able to dispute that. And it’s insulting that when you have a miscarriage this early, they call it a “chemical pregnancy,” which feels about the same as calling it a mirage or a hallucination or a figment of the imagination. And it’s absurd that when you mark a miscarriage on your chart on Fertility Friend, they take your green lines away, which feels like another way of saying “NEVERMIND, THIS WAS ALL MADE UP!”
But it wasn’t made up. It was REAL. And it was MINE. And even though I knew it wasn’t destined to stay, it was a possibility. A possibility that I am sad to say goodbye to.
Thank you so much to all of you who have left sweet, smart, supportive, and insightful comments here and over on FertilityFriend. You girls are making it possible to handle what might otherwise be an unbearable thing. I’m sending my love to all of you.