By Brittany Wren
On the first of July, I had a miscarriage. It was the day after my 31st birthday. It was also the day we had chosen—under the guise of my birthday party—to announce to both of our families that we were pregnant with our second child.
It didn’t turn out the way we had planned.
We were in the middle of selling our house and moving to Kansas for my husband’s new job, so we took a week off work to get our house packed, doctors appointments complete and life in order. It was right after we gave our official notice to our current jobs that we took a pregnancy test. It was positive.
The ultrasound technician took a long time looking at the picture on the monitor. There was a little black bean, which she carefully pointed out was probably the placenta.
“How far along are you?”
“Eight weeks,” we said, all smiles.
“The reason I ask,” she explained, “is I can’t find a baby. And given how far along you are, that most likely means that you have already had or are going to have a miscarriage.” My smile froze. There must be a mistake, I thought. She doesn’t know. Except the thing was, I really didn’t feel pregnant. And I knew she was right.
I think back on this moment now and I still hate the word. Miscarriage. We had already picked out a name for the baby and were so excited to show the ultrasound pictures to our toddler son. We knew having a second baby (a girl, we were convinced) would rock our worlds, but we also felt prepared for anything.
The first time around, we had naively thought we would get pregnant as soon as we stopped using birth control. It took us six months to finally have a positive pregnancy test. During that time I thought I would unravel.
Now, I know a different unraveling. I know the numbness of losing something—someone—I never really had. I call my lost baby it sometimes. I hate that.
I press the small round indentation that my pants button has made in the soft flesh of my belly. I wonder, if my belly was round and full of baby, would I hate my body less? This body that betrayed me. This body that rejected the baby girl that I wanted, and then added a few extra pounds on top just because.
Because I’m not 18 anymore, and now periods don’t just signal being a woman in a coming-of-age type of way. It means being a woman who wakes up at 6am on a Monday with a pounding headache and the cries of my beautiful and relentless son. It means pulling on black slacks and sitting at a desk for the best parts of the day while my sweet son smiles at his daycare providers. Being a working mom means cramming in a few slices of carryout pizza before my son’s bath and bedtime. It means folding sheets and jeans and tiny socks at 11pm. It means work and weight and loss and being soft in so many ways.
The pain and the blood of the miscarriage surprised me. They told me it would happen naturally. It would be like a heavy period. I was soaking through a menstrual pad every hour. Then, after the bleeding subsided, the cramping came. It was like a hundred tiny fists pummeling my insides. We were out at the Amazing Pizza Machine with my husband and in-laws. My son and their children squealed and laughed together while they played in the arcade. I took six Advil and curled up on a bench for an hour.
Later that night while washing off in a hot shower, my hand brushed a jelly-like tentacle that was drooping out of my vagina. I screamed and called my doctor, thinking that the alien thing I was giving birth to was my dead baby. It wasn’t. It was, however, the remains of my baby’s placenta. After a few minutes on the toilet, I pushed out the alien like a big sad poop and flushed it down the toilet, together with the rest of the day’s waste.
Being a woman means doing grotesque things. And then you go about the day as if nothing happened.
Well-meaning people asked, “Do you know what caused it? Do you think it was maybe stress?”
And what then? Was my lifestyle as a working mom trying to make smart economic choices the cause of my miscarriage?
Later that week, I learned that my son and I would lose our health insurance effective July 11th, my last day of employment. The health insurance through my new job wouldn’t start until September 1st, and all health insurance plans on the Healthcare.gov marketplace wouldn’t start until August 1st at the earliest. So we bought a short-term catastrophic health insurance plan to bridge the gap between jobs. It cost $150 and carried a $10,000 deductible.
One of the questions the company asked before approving anyone for shoddy coverage is, “Are you pregnant?” Because in the non-ACA compliant short-term health insurance world, pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition and is uninsurable. I checked the box, “No.” I was un-pregnant.
Now I don’t have another baby on the way, but at least I can be insured.
Now when they hear my story people say to me, “You’ll meet your baby in heaven.” Which makes it worse, somehow. Because it means she wasn’t just almost a baby. She was a baby. And knowing what I do about a baby’s cries and giggles and cuddles, I wonder…did she feel any pain before leaving me?
She would have been over 20 weeks by now, and growing her own eggs in tiny little ovaries.
Brittany Wren lives in the Midwest with her husband and toddler son. By day she works in higher education and by night she peels Mandarin oranges and refills sippy cups. In her spare time she likes to…ha, she has no spare time.
Like what you are reading at Motherwell? Please consider supporting us here.