“On April 10th, 2018, my life changed forever.
It had been a week since I’d returned from Nashville where I was visiting my long-distance fiancé, Stephen. I had an incredible two weeks, but at this point it was back to reality. Everything was going as usual until that morning. I had a weird feeling I might be pregnant. I had no actual reason to believe I was – I had a hormonal IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device) – but I went and bought a test, figuring it would calm my anxious mind. Once I know for sure I’m not pregnant, I can just relax.
However, as I waited in the bathroom for that test to develop, I saw something that shocked me. A faint plus sign appeared – very faint, enough for me to question it. I called my roommate into the bathroom. ‘That doesn’t look positive to you, right?’
She took a look at the test and said ‘Um, I’ve never gotten that. I’m not telling you to freak out, but if it were me, I’d be freaking out.’
And freak out, I did. At least a little. I started googling what could cause a false positive on a pregnancy test – after all, it had to be a mistake, right? (The answer is that it’s extremely rare to get a false positive.) Next, I went to the walk-in clinic in the building where I also see my GP.
‘What’s the reason for your visit today?’
‘I think I’m pregnant.’
I was in panic mode by now. At 26, I was not at an unreasonable age to have a child, and Stephen and I have always wanted children, but we were separated by about 800 miles of distance. I was jobless (having been on a temporary layoff) and low on funds, not at all prepared, and I knew an IUD pregnancy would be a high-risk situation. My IUD was already a week late in getting replaced because of how the strings were positioned. So when I saw the doctor, she requested bloodwork, then asked me what I would do if I were pregnant. I blurted out what first came to mind.
‘I would have an abortion.’
As I went for the bloodwork, I started to cry. I explained to the phlebotomist that the pregnancy was very unexpected, probably high-risk, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. She was very sympathetic, and told me not to cry. ‘It’s a blessing.’ I didn’t feel blessed.
The lab called me back the next day and gave me my HCG (pregnancy hormone) measurement. It was 79, a very low positive but a positive nonetheless. They explained that I was pregnant, but they assumed it was quite early.
As the days went on, I started to reconsider my response, though I fought it. I grew deeply attached to the baby growing inside of me. I cried on and off – mostly on – for days. I mentally named them the ‘Little Bean’, and after several days of suppressing our feelings and avoiding mentions of ‘the baby,’ I broke and told Stephen just how attached I was to this baby. To our baby.
Stephen and I would spend hours talking and singing to our baby, the Bean. He was wonderful and supportive and always there over the phone to try and dry my tears, but the pain was too deep to do that completely. I was 800 miles away from my love, scared, and knew I wanted this baby but didn’t know how I would rearrange my life. My early fears were still real. IUD pregnancies come with a high risk of miscarriage and other complications. The risk is lower if the IUD is removed early, but as the strings were in an awkward place, I didn’t even know if that was possible.
One thing was for sure. My first impulse hadn’t been what I actually felt. I wanted this baby. I wanted them all along. I started to think about how I’d do it. Ask to move in with my dad for the pregnancy and a few months after, until my immigration to the US went through. Work until I was a whale and then go on maternity leave. And it wouldn’t be easy, but it was a plan, and we’d make it work, somehow. I finally decided to go to the doctor to see what repeat bloodwork and an ultrasound said – and to figure out a way to safely continue the pregnancy.
The night before I went to the doctor, I started to feel really sick. I was hot and cold and started throwing up. I was scared. I tried to tell myself it was mild food poisoning, maybe morning sickness, but I think I knew something was wrong.
Before my appointment the next day, I went to Shoppers Drug Mart and got the fanciest pregnancy test I could find, the one that tells you how many weeks it’s been since conception. I stopped into a nearby Starbucks and made a beeline for their bathroom.
At that point, the test should have definitely said 3+ weeks. It said ‘Pregnant – 1-2 weeks’. My hands were shaking so hard at this point that I almost dropped the test.
I messaged Stephen. ‘Babe. I think something’s wrong.’ He called me on his break and we both cried. When I finally made it to the doctor’s office, I was nearly hysterical. The walk-in clinic doctor who saw me that day – my GP was not available – said that I might be having a miscarriage, but urged me to stay calm and see what the bloodwork and ultrasound said.
I had bloodwork that day, but couldn’t get in to get an ultrasound until the next Thursday. The lab I used posts bloodwork results confidentially online, and I saw the results early the next morning, which was a Saturday. My HCG had dropped by nearly half. I knew it was over. I cried for hours. I couldn’t even hear definitively from my doctor until Monday. Stephen and I spent the weekend saying goodbye to our Bean.
On Monday, I saw my GP, and she explained to me that I’d had a miscarriage. As soon as I heard that word, my heart sank. I knew that was what had happened, but hearing it spoken out loud felt like an incredible weight had been dropped on me.
She was unsure if it was a ‘chemical pregnancy’, where no embryo forms at all, or whether something had started to physically form and then died. Either way, she said that miscarriages that happen this early (I was 6-7 weeks) are usually the result of a catastrophic genetic error – ‘incompatible with life’, she said. But no matter how many times she explained that it wasn’t my fault, and likely not because of the IUD, even, I still felt responsible.
The ultrasound showed that it was not a chemical pregnancy, but what was there hadn’t formed properly. ‘Irregular cystic mass. Questionable fetal pole. No yolk sac. No heartbeat.’ My doctor called the next morning and explained what had happened. I cried again. She referred me to an Early Pregnancy Clinic at a local hospital renowned for its OBGYN department.
I was booked for a D+C (dilatation and curettage) procedure to remove the fetal tissue my body wasn’t expelling. On May 8th, 2018, I had my procedure. Right before the anaesthetist put me under, I started to panic and cry. I was scared of the surgery itself, but I was more scared to let go of my baby, even if they weren’t alive anymore. The surgical team reassured me and told me they were going to give me a sedative before anything else. There was a cold shot through my veins as they put it in my IV, and soon I was asleep.
After the procedure, the reality of not being pregnant anymore began to set in. As I physically recovered, I felt stronger every day, but also empty and lonely. Stephen took the first couple days after the surgery off work just to keep me company over the phone. Even though I slept most of the time, he was happy to do it.
Eventually I got back to life (with the urging of a wise friend who told me that taking it easy was not helping me) but grief comes in waves. I struggled, and still do, with an immense amount of guilt for considering terminating the pregnancy. Is it my fault? Did I somehow make it happen with my thoughts? Was I an ungrateful jerk for not appreciating the pregnancy at first?
Stephen and many kind friends reassured me I didn’t do anything to cause this, that it wasn’t karma or anything like that. Stephen thinks I changed my mind about the pregnancy earlier than I realized and that there was no way I would’ve followed through with terminating. And he’s right. I was scared in the beginning, and through the whole process, but I loved our baby and wanted them here.
In talking to other people who’ve had miscarriages, I learned that my feelings were not at all unusual. Many people struggle with guilt and shame in the aftermath of a miscarriage. Not only that, but that miscarriage is far more common than I would have thought – one in four pregnancies. And so many suffer in silence. We’re told not even to announce pregnancies until the three-month mark, should something go wrong. So the grief is kept hidden when it does. I found a local support group and recently attended a memorial butterfly release. I FaceTimed Stephen for it, and we watched our butterfly kind of stumble around a bit, until we said, ‘Mommy loves you,’ and ‘Daddy loves you’ The butterfly flew away into an overcast sky.
The incredible thing to me is that I only knew about my baby’s presence for 10 days before finding out they had left us. And those 10 days changed me forever. I never knew how much I could love a child, even though they were only with me for a few weeks. Stephen and I plan to try to have a kid in the next few years, once we’re settled with our lives together. I’ll probably be terrified through most of that pregnancy, but I’m hopeful we’ll find our rainbow baby, which is what babies who are born after miscarriages are called. Any kid of ours was going to be incredibly loved and appreciated regardless, but after this experience, that’s truer than ever.”
Read more stories about surviving infertility here:
‘You dig pregnancy tests out of the trash, just to make sure. You plan cute announcements, only for your period to show. You cry tears behind closed doors.’: Woman battling infertility says ‘I see you, I am you’
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