‘My pregnancy was real. Really brief. Really scary. Really exciting. Really hopeful. Really exhausting.’

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“My pregnancy was real. Really brief. Really scary. Really exciting. Really surprising. Really sad. Really hopeful. Really exhausting.

There were three emotional weeks between the moment I saw two lines on a pregnancy test in my bathroom at 4 a.m. and the moment an ultrasound confirmed we’d lost it. This wasn’t our first pregnancy, but it was our first since knowing the pain of losing one. We were scared and sad from the start that we might lose it, yet hopeful this might finally be our time.

Three weeks of knowing I was pregnant. Six weeks and change gestation, as the doctors in the USA calculate these things in terms of one’s last menstrual period. We were excited and surprised – it had taken us two long years to get pregnant again. When I woke up early that morning to use the bathroom and decided to take a pregnancy test, I assumed it would be negative. I figured I’d just be getting confirmation that I could prepare for my period. Instead, I was shocked to see two lines. I woke my husband to confirm I wasn’t imagining it. We both stared down and confirmed it was real. I was pregnant. It was a moment of shear elation. The ecstasy we felt thinking we were going to have a baby was immediately followed by fear of knowing that’s not always how pregnancies end. Still, I took to Google to calculate my due date and started envisioning our future as a family of three. Needless to say, I did not fall back to sleep that morning.

For the last couple of years, not conceiving had become our status quo. Sure, not getting pregnant was disappointing, but it was also predictable. I could indeed plan for it by buying tampons; washing my Diva cup, stocking up on naproxen sodium. As much as we wanted a baby, there was some comfort in not being pregnant. It was familiar territory. For us, not conceiving was far less devastating then having a miscarriage. I know for some struggling to conceive, seeing others pregnant can be triggering. For me, being pregnant was triggering.

Being pregnant triggered sadness. Sadness that we couldn’t predict the future; grief for the baby we should already have with us. That was real. I cried a lot the first couple of days. Maybe it was the hormones, the same ones that gave me nausea and night sweats?

The hormones, those were real. When it ended, my doctor would call my loss a biochemical pregnancy. Yes, blood tests and my doctor had confirmed that my levels of the hCG hormone had risen initially, indicating that I WAS pregnant. But since I can’t conclusively say that I passed a gestational sac and none appeared on the ultrasound, I didn’t fall into the category of what is medically called a clinical pregnancy. It felt like a cruel trick to hear this. The last time I miscarried, the process was long, painful, and involved an IV and prescription pain meds. This time felt like a period. Had I really been pregnant? Could I really grieve?

My pregnancy was real. Despite my fears, I tried to embrace it. I envisioned the joy that I hoped would enter our life in 9 months; I considered how the growing of my belly would affect my ski season. I reasoned that even if my pregnancy was short lived, or perhaps especially if it was short lived, I needed to enjoy the moments while I could.

Woman takes a photo of a bunch of hiking shoes
Kae Crowley

I read pregnancy books from the library, looked at baby things on Craigslist and joked that my husband could ‘hear the cells dividing’ if he put his ear to my belly. And those cells were growing, if only briefly. Just because they were never seen doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Just because it was a biochemical pregnancy doesn’t mean my womb was always empty.

Woman takes photo of pregnancy books
Kae Crowley

We named my womb’s latest resident ‘Lil Presi’ since I was hiking in the Presidential Range of the White Mountain for most of his short life. I like to think he loved all those hikes and passed peacefully in the mountains. I may never have been able to confidently believe it was real that we’d have a baby at the end of this pregnancy, but I sure was able to believe that this pregnancy was real. So was our love for Lil Presi and our sadness when we lost him.

Woman smiles for a photo while hiking in a forest
Kae Crowley

When I began to suspect something might be wrong, I drove to the White Mountain National Forest ranger station to get cell service to call my doctor. I went in to use the bathroom and almost burst into tears when I saw the cute stuffed animals in the gift shop. How could anything possibly be cute right then? A week later, I returned and bought Presi the raccoon, who has kept me company on subsequent hiking trips since losing our Lil Presi.

Woman takes a photo of a raccoon stuffed animal
Kae Crowley

Even if we hadn’t had long to get to know Lil Presi, we were crushed to hear my doctor say ‘unfortunately, I’m not seeing anything’ on the ultrasound. We knew it was a possibility since we’d come in because I’d had some cramping and bleeding. But we wanted so badly to believe the assurance we initially got that such symptoms could occur in a viable pregnancy. For me, that was not the case. I laid there on the ultrasound table as the news sank in and knotted and unknotted the hair elastic secured to my wrist. My body was full of energy with nowhere to go. My heart was full of love with no baby to nurture. We were crushed. As much as we wanted to deny it, this ending, too, was real. We’d drive home in a daze. Eventually the daze would lift, and I’d bury my face into my blankets and cry. Those tears were real.

I want others facing early pregnancy and/or early loss to know – it IS real. And so are all the emotions that go with it. Our society may shy away from discussing early pregnancy and loss but that doesn’t make it any less real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kae Crowley. Have you struggled with infertility or miscarriage? We’d love to hear about your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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