I think it’s safe to say that we all know that while our situations may be similar, they are not the same. If you are reading this in hope of finding answers or comfort, I am so glad you’re here. I am glad we can be in community with one another and love on each other through a really dark time. That being said, I am not a doctor. My story is my own. My symptoms are my own. My diagnosis is my own. Please do not take my words as medical advice or diagnosis. Please, please, please schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately if you think you are pregnant and think something is not right. Bleeding and cramping during early pregnancy are common, but not normal. If you are worried something is wrong, do not ask Google, speak with your doctor!
Because I have never been good at “long story short,” and because I feel like the tiniest detail in our story might be what helps another woman or couple wade through their own story, this is the first part of our loooooong story leading up to where we are today. It was my intention to write more frequently, and as things happened, but life has been similar to the scene in Moana where she falls out of her boat, gets her foot caught in the coral, and the waves keep pushing her under. I’m Moana when the waves won’t give her a chance to breathe, except I don’t have a beautiful tan and I’ve never been on an adventure with The Rock (but I wouldn’t mind if I had to!). So I’m playing a bit of catchup now, and sharing our story that started on April 14, when I found out I was pregnant. I’m not one to steer away from topics that might be uncomfortable, or unsavory for those with delicate constitutions, because this is how life happens, and this is what bodies do. I am choosing to speak out about a topic that is painful, and heartbreaking, and still a bit taboo in our culture. If you can’t stomach a little blood and guts, then you might want to avert your eyes now…
Women try for months, years, lifetimes to get pregnant. They chart their cycles, check their basal body temperature, give up caffeine, pray to fertility goddesses and sway rings back and forth on strings. I hadn’t done any of that, not to mention the fact that it was still too early to accurately test (at least, according to my crude remembrance of my last period, and the claim on the test’s box of being able to tell “6 days sooner than your missed period”), and I had some minor spotting the day before. But there it was, a little plus sign. I was stunned. I was pregnant.
Bryan was coming off shift that Friday morning, so I threw the test away and told myself I would take another one tomorrow, but not to get my hopes up. The test couldn’t be right. Not already. I spent all day trying not to think about the plus sign I saw earlier, but my Grinch heart was swelling by the hour, and I had already thought of all the books little Baby DiNunzio would need on their baby bookshelves, and all the baby names we could choose from, and all the weird things my body would do to nurture this little creature, and the nursery that we don’t even have room for in our home was already completely decorated in my head. There was no hope. I was attached, no matter how hard I tried not to be.
But as quickly as I found out I was pregnant, I started realizing something was very wrong. That night, I woke up in excruciating pain. Cramps like I have never felt before, and the spotting had turned into bleeding much heavier than any period I’ve ever had. I laid there all night, trying not to panic. Bryan didn’t even know yet, and I wasn’t ready to tell him I was pregnant. What if it turns out it was a false positive – it wouldn’t be worth telling him and ruining that exciting moment between a husband and wife when they find out they’re going to be parents together. I would wait the night out.
He wasn’t scheduled to work Saturday, but he had traded shifts with another fireman so he could be home with us Sunday for Easter. As soon as I woke up Saturday morning, I took another test. Positive. But the cramps continued, and the bleeding worsened. I turned to the most reliable source I know for help – Google. I asked Dr. Google about “early pregnancy,” “bleeding,” and “cramps.” Most of what I found was baby loss forums – women who have banded together to share their stories of loss and complications. Their combined knowledge made them a dangerous group. They were so confident in their experiences that they would tell women in situations like mine that it was “just implantation bleeding,” “cramps are your body’s normal way of adjusting to pregnancy,” “don’t worry or stress because it’s not good for the baby.” “You’re preggers, Mama! Congratulations!”
But then I found scholarly articles and medical websites that would diagnose my symptoms as a “chemical pregnancy.” A what? According to HealthLine.com, “A chemical pregnancy is an early pregnancy loss that occurs shortly after implantation.” They are very common, accounting for as many as 50-75% of first pregnancies, and most women don’t even know it’s happening. It typically occurs at the same time a woman would start her period, so they never know anything different is happening. Except I did know, because I took a test, and it was positive, and I was pregnant.
That day I sat at Chloë’s soccer game, trying to hold back tears and putting on a happy face as she grinned at me each time she ran by my chair, and as Coral hid from the sun under her chair, and as their mother played the role of Head Soccer Mom, while my body continued to churn and wretch and purge the little life living inside me. Everyone had not a care in the world. Every woman there was a mother, and I was just a stepmother, having a miscarriage at the soccer fields. For the rest of the day, all I could do was pray that I was wrong. That my body was just being dramatic and trying to prove a point after all the years of me swearing I never wanted children. “This is what you get, Kaylee,” it was telling me. That this is what pregnancy feels like at 31 (because 31 is soooooooo ooooold according to Coral). But I knew the truth.
Bryan came home Sunday morning thinking I would have the girls ready for church, the ham cooked, and Easter baskets done, all as I had promised. What he actually came home to was me scrambling for underwear that would not show through my skirt, Coral and Chloë still getting ready, and the ham in the fridge. (Real quick – let’s take a moment and recognize that sweet man – he really believed that I, Kaylee Dawn, would have the Easter ham ready for family dinner. That is faith and trust.) So he started scrambling, I continued scrambling, and the moods of everyone turned foul. After fighting over why the ham wasn’t done, and avoiding him for the next 30 minutes, I finally broke down and told him I was having a miscarriage. The poor man didn’t even know I was pregnant. He found out on Easter Sunday that I was pregnant and actively miscarrying our baby. It was his turn to be stunned. He quickly got the girls ready and distracted, the ham cooked, and me calm enough to explain what was happening. I gave him every gory detail. The amount of blood, Dr. Google’s diagnosis, every annoying thing everyone at the soccer game did, the hours I spent awake and feeling guilty that I hadn’t told him yet. He didn’t know what to say, so he hugged me, for a while and without letting go, and told me we would face it together, whatever happens.
We spent the day at my parents’ house, the house I grew up in. For the short time I have been dreaming of becoming a mother, I always thought of how we would make the grand announcement of my being pregnant. Being at my childhood home – where we celebrated every big moment of our lives growing up, where I rescued my brother from certain death after he slid down the neighbor’s flag pole and ripped a hole in his leg, where I learned each time that my sisters were pregnant and I was going to be an aunt again – while feeling the loss of life happening in my body was not how I imagined telling my family.
We tried to enjoy the day and let it be as normal as possible. I even allowed my family to take the traditional Easter Sasquatch photo that features me, making various terrible faces, wearing my dad’s lawn mowing shoes because I only had heels, while hiding Easter eggs.
We laughed, we ate, I bled through my beautiful Space 46 Boutique tutu. I started losing it, and I could’t hide it anymore. It was then that Bryan told me I should talk to my mom and sister. I thought they would sob, and caudle me, and stare at me with wide eyes, feeling as helpless as I did. But they didn’t. They hugged me, and told me they were going to be with us through this, and then began making plans. My mom has been a registered nurse since she was pregnant with me. Over the years, she has built a network of amazing professionals in the world of baby-making, baby-birthing, and baby-raising. After making a few calls to our family midwife, and to the folks she recommended, I was referred to the emergency room. A regular OBGYN’s office typically can’t do much in their office for an early miscarriage, because it’s too soon to see anything on an ultrasound. So to the ER we would go, despite my protestations. I was “barely pregnant” (a coping mechanism I used frequently), and the people in the ER would be annoyed with me for making such a big deal over such a common occurrence. But my more reasonable halves insisted, and reason prevailed eventually…
The next time we meet, we will dive into the chaotic world of pregnancy loss and infertility. Grab a snack, maybe some tissues, and I’ll see you there.
Just to reiterate – I am NOT a doctor. Please do not use my words as medical advice. These are my words as an emotional woman processing loss and heartbreak. They are not a diagnosis for your symptoms, and, as I learned over time, nor was my original Dr. Google diagnosis correct either. For your safety, please see your doctor immediately if you feel that something is wrong.