It’s October 30th. In the background, “Chronic Sunshine” played as she waited for the result of the test. Her demeanor was eerily calm given the fact that the results of this test could permanently alter the course of her life. Her eyes were glued to the screen as the results loaded slowly. Gripping the test tightly, she waited for the last flickering block to become solid and display the answer to her lingering question. She had a feeling in her gut the entire weekend that something wasn’t right, but she needed the test to confirm her suspicions. Finally, the test displayed the results, confirming her beliefs.
She was pregnant.
Her first instinct was to flee — her flight response in overload. She flung the test down, sprinting out of her apartment as if she could run away from the results. Immediately she found herself calling her best friend, meeting him at his house right up the road. It didn’t feel real to her even as she was telling her best friend about the pregnancy test. She gave herself no time to process what was happening because she honestly didn’t want to think of the life that had been growing inside her. She was in utter denial, almost unwilling to believe the pregnancy test to be accurate.
So she went to Planned Parenthood with her best friend as support for a second opinion, praying it was a false positive. On the way she called the child’s father — a friend who’d been in her life since she was a freshman — who she was exploring her feelings for. Telling him over the phone was not the manner in which she had wanted the news to come out, but she felt he deserved to know as soon as possible.
It took a while for her to find the right words to let him know about the pregnancy test, however, once the words came out she braced herself for his reaction. She was expecting a troubled, frazzled response but instead, he kept his calm demeanor asking her what she wanted to do if Planned Parenthood confirms she was indeed pregnant.
The girl already decided within herself that they probably shouldn’t keep the child. Her response was due to her approaching the situation realistically, understanding that they were two college 21-year-olds still somewhat dependent on their own parents. How could they be ready to take of a child?
Planned Parenthood confirmed her suspicions. She had been 3 weeks, 6 days at the time of her finding out.
None of her knowledge of public health could prepare her for the overflow of information she got from the professionals on abortions and its process. Although she had been aware of the procedures beforehand, she became anxious at the idea of the procedures being performed on her after envisioning herself going through each process. The only thing that offered her some solace was that the child’s father promised to be there during the abortion.
However, she didn’t realize that in deciding to get one, it would take 3 visits before the procedure was even performed on her — one to assess her health (and the baby’s), one as a counseling session to make sure she was sure of her decision, and one for the actual procedure. She also didn’t realize her options for clinics that performed abortions in her area were scarce limiting her access to getting the procedure. It was a lot for the girl and the child’s father to fully process and grasp especially as they were in the middle of their senior year of college.
They decided to get the abortion as soon as they had the money to, before exams in December if possible. By then, she would’ve only been only 2 months pregnant. The pair continued life as normal, hustling between school, extracurriculars, and internships to make the money necessary. It wasn’t long, however, before the girl’s health began to decline the longer she remained pregnant. Navigating life became more strenuous for the girl, especially since she wanted to keep up the facade that she wasn’t pregnant to the outside world. The separation helped her because it created a space in her mind that the pregnancy wasn’t actually happening— that she was still just a 21-year-old, enjoying her last year of college.
That was until she began bleeding.
She ended up alone at the OB-GYN’s office believing she would receive news that she was miscarrying. It was then, 5 weeks into her pregnancy, that she saw the embryo for the first time. She displayed barely any emotion during the first half of her visit which consisted of questions and her body being prodded. Her stoic composure was unwavering until it came time for the ultrasound.
There it was on the ultrasound screen, just a tiny little thing. The world around her melted as her eyes fixated on the screen.
It was that moment she was afraid of because seeing the life she helped create would make her indecisive about having the abortion. Her obstetrician’s voice faded in the background as her eyes became fixed on the screen. She couldn’t look away as the obstetrician continued her examination. Her heart was heavy. It was the moment she began to finally come to terms with being pregnant. The separation she created within her mind to keep the pregnancy separate from her life was now dissolving. She was processing, but in doing that it made her unsure on where she stood on the abortion.
Her body continued to grow weaker and weaker as Thanksgiving drew near. Eating had became damn near unbearable by this point and she stopped going to class because her body was ravaged with pain. She began to feel isolated by her pregnancy — only having the strength to leave her apartment when it came to her jobs and her one class where attendance was mandatory. Her limited energy was restricted and had to be focused on working to save which in essence created distance between herself and the friends she used to see almost daily. As days progressed her bleeding was becoming more prevalent, despite the doctor’s assurance that she wasn’t miscarrying and her embryo was still healthy. However the girl knew something wasn’t right.
The week of Thanksgiving she went back to her OB-GYN for more answers. The same routine unfolded like her last visit only 10 days prior: questions, prodding, and ultrasound. Once again it was a visit she took alone, only adding more stress to her visit. Nervousness overtook her body once again unsure of how she would react to seeing the embryo a second time. This visit almost everything was the same, except this time the ultrasound lasted longer. Her physician’s were puzzled by a pool of blood near the back of her uterus that they believed was the source of bleeding, however they couldn’t determine where or why it was happening. Internally the girl was freaking out, afraid she would develop a more complicated medical problem due to the bleeding. Her doctors assured her she was okay and that they would monitor her through the week. As they moved the device within the uterus they found the embryo. It was slightly smaller than it should’ve been but it’s heartbeat was fast and strong. The girl couldn’t help but tear up. The doctor’s voices had faded by now and all the girl could focus on was the beat of its heart. She was 7 weeks pregnant.
Black Friday, only 4 days later, after being rushed to the hospital by her best friend she was told in the ER that had begun to miscarry. The entire process took 3 days to complete. She would’ve been 2 months pregnant.
This is my story of my pregnancy and miscarriage. As the one year anniversaries of both experiences creep up I can’t help but to still feel somber, guilt, and confusion over the entire process. One year later and I still haven’t found a way to move completely past it yet, mainly because I haven’t found a way to talk about both parts of the story in conjunction with one another.
The struggle of my pregnancy goes hand in hand with the grief and guilt that followed after I miscarried. Without one I couldn’t have the other. However this combination of grief and guilt created feelings of cognitive dissonance within me. How could I possibly grieve over a miscarriage when my plan was to get an abortion in the first place? To me, there was always going to be an element of grief. Had I gotten the abortion I still would’ve had to process its loss however it would’ve been on my terms, giving me time to mentally prepare for it. Unfortunately in reality, my miscarriage was so abrupt and violent I had no to time to process anything that was happening. All I could do was allow the process to happen to me.
If I’m being honest, the guilt wasn’t only because of that. It was also because I knew I was beginning to love it. Even before my first visit when I had my first ultrasound I felt bonded to the embryo. This was terrifying because a maternal force had awakened inside me however I knew it was premature. The longer I was pregnant, the more I knew wasn’t going to be pregnant for long. Despite the doctors telling me I’d be okay I had a feeling my body was rejecting the pregnancy. It’s why hearing its heartbeat was the most distressing part of my pregnancy, especially in hindsight because I didn’t realize the end of my pregnancy would be so near.
Continually I fight within myself for acceptance over the events of last October/November and grief that has shadowed me for the past year. First anniversaries of anything, especially a loss, are hard especially when you’re still coming to terms with what has happened. This anniversary for me has been excruciating. I lost a part of myself after the miscarriage, but from reading and hearing other women’s accounts who’ve had similar experiences I understand it’s part of the process. I share this story for other women who’ve suffered a miscarriage, in silence or otherwise. It’s important for others to understand how confusing of a process it can be afterwards, especially when miscarriages are always a solemn topic to bring into a conversation. However they must be had, and we must face them at some point.
Today I somberly reflect and allow myself to feel through all emotions as they come. Tomorrow I will continue practicing acceptance.