This isn’t a blog post I ever thought I’d be writing. Not that I was oblivious to miscarriage or infertility (I was prepared for both, mentally, as an adult of childbearing age), but I didn’t think I would be sharing like this. Sure, I share almost everything on social media, and no one is surprised that I want to share the ups, but the downs are a little different.
Because I felt so alone throughout the whole process, I started to crave hearing other peoples’ experiences, just because I didn’t want to feel like “the odd man out” or the rare freak that this happens to… It turns out a lot of people experience this, and I always heard that, but it truly does feel so deafeningly alone when you’re going through it.
If you’re going through this, or something similar, please know that you’re not alone. I am always here if you need someone on the outside to share with. Send me an email, or an Instagram DM, or whatever. I know how hard it is to question what’s happening, and not be able to talk to friends or even family about it. To feel like no one you know has been through this before, or that you’re the only one you know who is struggling. You’re not.
Finding Out I Was Pregnant
We were not trying, tracking, or praying to get pregnant. We have been letting nature decide if/when we get pregnant, so this was pretty unexpected. With everything going on this year (new jobs for both of us, moving, stress of work and a new house, the whole COVID thing) we definitely were not actively planning on getting pregnant. “If it happens, it happens” has been our mentality.
I started to feel a little different physically when I was working out around 3-4 weeks. I had been going to Orange Theory intermittently in October and noticed that my heart rate was spiking a lot, putting me in the “red zone” on the TV screen with less effort put forth than usual. This definitely had me questioning what was wrong with me, because while I do have a really elevated heart rate naturally, it wasn’t natural for it to be so high without me feeling over-exerted. When my heart rate would spike, I felt completely fine, just a little flushed, so my numbers didn’t make sense and even my coaches were concerned.
I also noticed that I was a little more emotional than usual, which I chalked up to stress and the upcoming election. I remember watching a video about a dog crying at a photo of another dog and I started crying and couldn’t stop thinking about that video. And I could smell everything. Usually Andy has the better nose, but this time I’d smell the dogs before they even walked inside.
While we found out early that we were pregnant, we also found out very early (within a week) that there was probably something wrong. I’m, at the least, grateful that we were able to find out early before things had progressed.
When I Realized Something Was Wrong
I have a bit of anxiety around health. (That’s probably putting it lightly.) I guess it’s normal now for pregnant people to wait a whole 8 weeks before their first doctor’s appointment?! That seems crazy to me. After getting so many positive at-home pregnancy tests, I begged my doctor’s office to give me a blood test appointment at what would be 4 weeks pregnant. I got the blood work done on a Thursday to confirm my Beta hormone levels, but didn’t receive the results right away.
I was in Athens, Georgia for a solo weekend getaway a week after getting my first positive pregnancy test. I had gone back to the hotel room to pack it up on my second day there, around 11am, and noticed a little bit of spotting. I was so looking forward to the plans I had made for the full Saturday in Athens, but I immediately panicked and just wanted to be home with Andy. I tried to tell myself it was normal (after reading all the book chapters and all the message boards). I tried to distract myself by shopping, but I made it to one store before I almost had a physical panic attack and I knew I just had to go home. Andy knew spotting isn’t typically a very good sign, but I tried to tell him I wasn’t worried about it and I tried to relax the rest of the weekend.
I continued to spot through the weekend and the following Monday the nurse called to tell me that the numbers on my blood test were very, very low. She said that either it was too early, or this wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy. Due to the low numbers, she asked if I’d had any spotting that may indicate an unsuccessful pregnancy already and I told her that I’d started to spot a little bit. We scheduled a follow up blood test. That evening, I started bleeding a lot more than what’s normal, had very painful cramping, and felt really bad all around. (I’ll save you a lot of the symptoms.) I’m very lucky that we are friends with one of the doctors at my OBGYN and Andy called her to see if I should go to the emergency room. She said that based on my blood work, I was probably starting to miscarry. She scheduled an immediate doctors appointment for me to get an ultrasound and more bloodwork the next morning. I was very uncomfortable all night, but luckily things didn’t get worse and the next morning I felt better.
At my first ultrasound (I would have been a very early 5 weeks), there was nothing to see. The ultrasound tech actually said “No sign of pregnancy.” and I knew this wasn’t good, but I also knew that with my last hormone levels, it was too low/early to see development anyways, which is why they make pregnant ladies wait 8 weeks for the first appointment typically. The doctor explained that based on my bleeding and pain, I’d likely started a natural miscarriage but that they needed to monitor my blood work weekly to be sure.
After that first appointment, I had blood work done twice every week. Your HCG levels are supposed to double every couple days. After that appointment, the first time the nurse called with my bloodwork results I was expecting them to say they’d dropped and I was no longer pregnant, so I was shocked to hear that while they were still low, they were doubling, but barely. I started to think maybe I was one of those rare cases that got their period during pregnancy, or that I had ovulated 2 weeks late and just happened to be 2 weeks later along and showing symptoms super early. I started to have a little bit of hope with each week passing and my levels getting higher, even though they were not getting high enough quick enough.
3 weeks later I had a second ultrasound right before what would have been my first, 8 week appointment. Because the hormone levels were rising so slowly, the doctor expected that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This means that you have a pregnancy growing somewhere other than the uterus, and this isn’t a viable pregnancy, nor is it healthy to continue. If the pregnancy is growing in one of your tubes (or anywhere else), it is severely life threatening if untreated and requires surgery, sometimes even removing a tube. So I was really in a lose-lose situation – either I was still miscarrying or I had an ectopic pregnancy and would possibly need surgery. Either way, the pregnancy would be unsuccessful.
I was so nervous, and I wanted to see something, anything on the ultrasound screen. There was nothing, again. There was no more hope that maybe I was just too early. But there was also no sign of pregnancy whatsoever, so the possible ectopic pregnancy was not in any of my reproductive organs, and it didn’t appear that I’d need emergency surgery. That was the positive. The doctor then told me that if that day’s blood test came back higher or the same level than the one earlier that week, I would need to be treated for an ectopic pregnancy and receive the Methotextrate injection, which causes all cell regeneration and further growth to stop. I knew at this point that I’d be getting the shot, because it would be life threatening to me to allow growth in an unknown location. Plus, the doctor said that because there was no visible embryo or even a sac in my uterus, that it’s likely I’d already naturally started miscarrying.
The doctor’s office called me the next morning to schedule the treatment immediately for that afternoon. It was 2 shots total, one in each of the glutes, and was a very quick, and honestly sterile, process. I didn’t have many physical symptoms except for extreme exhaustion in the first week and some random moments of sudden nausea and overall yuckiness. My hormone levels dropped pretty immediately within 2.5 weeks and they’re now entirely negative.
How It Feels Afterward
The tough physical moments (the bleeding, the pain, the general weird physical symptoms) I kept entirely to myself. Throughout the whole process, it felt so up and down not knowing how it would turn out. Some days were easier than others, but I felt entirely all-consumed with planning for a baby during the first week and then wondering what would happen the next few weeks following. It was difficult to process that I might be miscarrying, but I was busy at work and busy planning for the holidays so I mostly shut it out of my mind.
Once I received the official treatment to stop all growth, I felt it hard. Driving home (alone) after the shot was really emotional for me. The whole weekend after was really difficult, and it was all I could think about. I remember that we just laid around and didn’t do much at all. Sort of a grieving period but we didn’t talk about it much.
Having to do all of it — the twice weekly appointments and the cold ultrasounds, all of the blood draws when I HATE blood and needles — alone, because only patients are allowed in the office — was very, very, very hard. I had to process a lot on my own, and so did Andy. I’m so thankful for how supportive and caring he has been for me. Our last ultrasound was on his birthday (what a gift) and he came home from work with presents for me. Even though he did all of his research based on what I told him from our appointments, and he worked from home to stay with me when I wasn’t feeling well, and he followed me to the doctor when it was possible I’d need surgery, I still felt like I had to do it on my own. We had only told my mom and one of our couple friends at this point, so I couldn’t talk about it with anyone else.
I’m grateful that I am still able to feel happy and excited for my friends who are pregnant. Not to mention that it seems like every other influencer is constantly announcing a pregnancy! I know many do, but I haven’t felt the need to unfollow anyone who is pregnant or recently gave birth. Instead of feeling jealous or unhappy, I feel hopeful, though sometimes I just feel inadequate. I’ll wonder “why not me?” when it seems so many other people have such an easy time.
Telling Other People
Some of the hardest moments were telling other people. I hated that I had to tell my friends and family that I’d been suffering without telling them what was going on, I felt guilty that they would feel bad that they couldn’t help (always the people pleaser) and I hated to feel that someone else was pitying me. Saying “I’m sorry” is a gut reaction to this kind of news, but in that moment I didn’t want to hear it. “I’m sorry” felt so overwhelming, although I know that people said it from a meaningful place. I almost just wanted to tell people with no reaction, and then move on. But then in the same instant, I wanted to grieve and be sad and be comforted. It was confusing.
The most natural and comfortable reaction I received was from my best friend who had just lost her mother to cancer a couple weeks prior and a close friend from high school. I told them, sort of naturally in conversation which made it easier, and they let me talk and asked me questions and cried with me. I’ll always remember the simple, tender shoulder touch and hand grab, which to me was so much better than “I’m sorry” even though I’m sorrys were said and they didn’t bother me. They allowed me to be honest and raw and I am so thankful for that moment, because I think it’s when I really started to heal and get it off my chest.
Now that I’ve told my closest friends and my family, most days go by without thinking about it. Granted, it’s been almost 2 months. I’m not emotional about it anymore, and the whole process has really made think about what’s really important in life. It’s made me love Andy so much more. It’s made me prioritize thoughts around my health, how I spend my free time, and living life to the fullest.
I wish I had started journaling when everything started happening, from the first pregnancy test. When I was in Athens, I actually bought a journal to start writing in for the baby that weekend, but when I started spotting, everything changed. Looking back, I wish I would have still documented everything since it is a part of the journey.
I’m choosing to post this for my own healing process, and to help others find comfort in knowing that they’re not alone. I know it’s cliche, but if by me sharing, I help one person grieve or feel normal or feel less alone, then that’s all I wanted. There is strength in being there for each other, and whether you’re grieving your own pregnancy loss, or any other kind of loss, I hope you know I am here for you, I see you, I feel for you.