I showed this image to my husband and it triggered a completely different set of feelings for him than it had for me when I drew it.
He thought about times like our second pregnancy when, over the course of a week, we were told that my hormones were too low and things didn’t look good, then, after seeing a heartbeat on the ultrasound, told to progress as if things were normal, and ultimately told we lost it a few days later.
For him, this represents the emotional roller coaster between hope and fear, excitement and dread. For others, I imagine it speaks to the anticipation and anxiety of the terrible “two-week wait.”
To me, it’s more about the in-between. The long periods of uncertainty when I struggled with a lack of definitions or control. I used to think that a person was either pregnant or not pregnant, but it is not that black and white.
The thing about miscarriages that people who haven’t had one don’t realize is that they don’t happen all at once like they do in the movies. Or at least, this was not the case for me. Instead there is waiting; instead there is testing. And during the waiting and the testing, there is the hoping… Maybe my doctor is wrong. Maybe I just naturally have low hCG levels. Maybe I’m just one of those people who doesn’t experience normal pregnancy symptoms…
It’s so easy to hope, because as any mother of multiple children will tell you, every pregnancy is different. And the things that indicate you may be miscarrying are, diabolically, the same things you might experience if the pregnancy is going well. I can’t tell you how many times doctors and nurses told me that bleeding was “very common” in early pregnancy or that cramping was “totally normal.” There are hundreds of online accounts of women who experienced bizarre, seemingly catastrophic symptoms and then went on to have perfectly healthy babies. Again, this was not the case for me.
In my reality, it was more like that scene in “He’s Just Not That Into You” when Ginnifer Goodwin comes into the office and talks about being the rule instead of the exception. My rule was this: if it looks like you’re having a miscarriage, you probably are.
But my doctors didn’t want to be wrong, they needed empirical tests. So, I waited another week in case my dating was wrong. I went in for that extra ultrasound. I came back for just one more blood test. Even though I knew the truth in my heart, I hoped right along with them until the scientific bitter end.
And, during this time, what was I? During those endless weeks when I was “waiting to see,” when I was pretty sure it was bad news but still couldn’t bring myself to drink the large glass of wine I so desperately wanted, what was I? I wasn’t pregnant, or at least I didn’t have a viable pregnancy. But I wasn’t not pregnant either. I was neither and both, a terrible happening that was not yet over.
Darker still, what about the weeks after, when all the “products of conception” had been successfully removed from my body but it was still teeming with all manner of pregnancy hormones? I was definitely not pregnant, but my body still thought I was. I didn’t know how to name it and that made me feel “other” and alone.
This is not uncommon. One of the predominant feelings for women who have miscarried is one of isolation. To the rest of the world, our pregnancies were black and white. They were, and then they weren’t. To me (and maybe to them), there was quite a bit of grey in between.
One a lighter note, currently, my husband and I are embarking on a journey of surrogacy. We will hopefully be expecting, but will not be pregnant. Now, what shade of grey is that?