Two weeks ago, I was pregnant. I was happy and healthy and pregnant. I ate well, took my vitamins, got nauseous at the sight of avocado, and did all the pregnant things that pregnant people do when they’re pregnant. Because I was pregnant. Then one evening, I was on the toilet when I noticed blood. Not the usual pregnancy spotting blood, but blood blood. I freaked out. I called my doula, I called my midwife, I called my mom. I didn’t know what was going on.
I got an ultrasound the next morning and while nobody could tell me why the hell I was bleeding, there was an embryo and a heartbeat. I was relieved. I still wanted to know why I was bleeding so much, but I was relieved. I got my ultrasound picture and went home. Then I started cramping and bleeding a lot. A lot a lot. The next morning I got a phone call from my midwife. My blood work came back and it was not good. My body wasn’t producing progesterone and was in the process of a miscarriage. A miscarriage of the embryo whose heartbeat I had just heard 24 hours ago.
I got a prescription for progesterone pills and started taking them in an attempt to stop a miscarriage from happening. Despite that, things went downhill fast. The next day I was in the emergency room with even more cramping and bleeding.
I got another ultrasound, and the embryo heart rate was only half of what it was just a couple of days before. My pregnancy hormones (all of them, not just the progesterone) were extremely low for how far along I was. For whatever reason the placenta wasn’t functioning and I wasn’t producing the necessary hormones to keep everything going.
I was in pain. I was bleeding. I was told that this process could take weeks. There was nothing that could be done. This pregnancy was failing, and failing fast. Even after the embryo’s heartbeat stopped, I could be in pain and bleeding for weeks after.
I have a child to take care of. I have work to do. I can’t stay in bed for a month in pain. I can’t spend a month in a fog unable to function because I’m high on Vicodin either. I didn’t have time for this miscarriage to play out slowly. I also didn’t have time for the infections I was exposing myself to by having it happen slowly.
So after crying, talking to my healthcare providers, talking to a rabbi, and crying some more, I decided to stop trying to save the pregnancy. I also decided to end it. Granted, it was all ending whether I wanted it to or not, but I decided to take some medications (and an herbal concoction from my friendly neighborhood botanica) to help my body along in ending it a little faster.
I ended up having three transvaginal ultrasounds. I had blood tests. I took hormones. I was on bed rest. There was nothing I could do to change things.
For the sake of the child I already had – and myself – I had to let go.
I sent my daughter to stay with my parents, I popped some pills that are illegal in countries (and a couple of red states) with poor women’s rights records, drank the most disgusting tasting tea I have ever had, and watched every single episode of Parks and Recreation available on Netflix. My body expelled everything it needed to expel and I got back to life and a family that needed me.
It’s crazy. I only wanted one child. When this second pregnancy happened it took me a while to be okay with it. After I became okay with it, I became excited about it. Then I became happy about it. And then, at 6 and a half weeks, I lost it.
My midwife told me that I should wait a couple of cycles before trying to conceive again. My first reaction was to laugh, because not that long ago the words “conceive” and “again” would have never been in the same sentence with me.
I’m the kind of person who always needs to know what happens next. I’m happiest when I can predict the next 5 moves. Right now I can’t predict anything. Even if I decide to conceive again who knows if I’ll also miscarry again? I don’t want to go through all this again. But what if the idea of another child that wormed its way into my head doesn’t go away?
I understand that I come to this experience from a place of privilege. I live in a place - New York City – where I have reproductive options. There are places where I could not have done this. There are places where even after the heartbeat has stopped and there’s nothing left you are still forced to have a miscarriage naturally without any help from surgery or medications. If I was somewhere else I would still be stuck in bed from pain and bleeding unable to work or take care of my child.
I can afford to pay for the medications I needed to get this done. My husband works for a company that gives him family sick leave. My husband literally stayed with me every day for a week instead of going to work, and his company supported that. Aside from the emotional scars I’m walking away with (and the harsh realization that sometimes things just don’t go my way no matter what I do), I’m fine.
I’m so lucky that I live in a time and a place where my biggest problem after all this is an existential reproductive crisis.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.