I’ve typed, deleted, and re-typed the opening sentence so many times. I guess I just don’t know what to say. Or more specifically, how to start. Where to start.
My Second Pregnancy Loss
I guess it starts with our spontaneous choice to go to Africa, South Africa and Botswana, specifically. We told everyone close to us that we were going to take the month off from trying, but ended up going in for an IUI after all.
There was something sweet and exciting about having it be just us. There was a relief in not having to answer the texts and questions from my friends and family on the marker days of tests, anxiously awaiting the results with us.
Look, I’m grateful for the support. And I know the questions are coming from a good place of people wanting the best for us, but the truth is that it’s exhausting. Getting through the two week wait is tough. You’re already thinking about all of the phantom symptoms and questions all on your own, and you don’t really need a bunch of other people chiming in. You just don’t.
So, we decided to do it our way. Just us.
We both knew it was going to work. It’s weird how that happens, when you just know things without any rhyme or reason why. You just know. It’s a feeling.
Alix looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes, and said it with a laugh:
“It’s going to work.”
“I know,” I whispered back. I was still too nervous to hope so naively again. But I still felt it. I still knew.
Luckily, the two week wait was a cake walk compared to what it normally is, because we were on the trip of a lifetime. We were busy and jet lagged and seeing freaking lions every day, so I didn’t really have the brain capacity to obsess over what changes my body might be making.
While we’ve only been in Africa for two and half weeks, in some ways it feels like we’ve been here for a lifetime. In those 18 days I found out I was pregnant, and I also found out that I was not.
My blood pregnancy test was ordered during the time we were in the bush in Botswana. And when I say in the bush, I mean we were so remote that we had zero service, we couldn’t walk to rooms alone due to lions and elephants, and we had to fly from camp to camp- because the roads were….unreliable to say the least.
Needless to say, there wasn’t a place to do a blood pregnancy test. But I wasn’t worried, I knew we’d be able to do it once we got back to Cape Town. And I figured, hey if I’m pregnant then I’ll still be pregnant by the time we get to Cape Town anyways.
Towards the end of the time in Botswana, I started feeling similar symptoms to past pregnancies. However, I was still scared to hope after what happened in April. And, truthfully, early pregnancy symptoms can also be extremely similar to period symptoms- so it can be hard to tell between the two.
But then my period didn’t come.
I tried justifying it, saying maybe it was the time change and my body was just delayed.
But it never came.
And my boobs, ugh, my boobs felt like they doubled overnight- which was definitely not a typical PMS symptom for me. They were so sore that I had to hold my chest along the bumpy safari drives, because the bounce made me want to cry.
Speaking of crying- everything made me cry. Every. Single. Day.
I know this might be normal for some of you, and honestly I’m a little jealous. Because as someone who’s chronically emotionally constipated, there’s something liberating about that shit just flowing right through you on a daily basis.
But I kept making excuses.
I was scared to hope.
We encountered some *troubles* when we tried to fly out of Botswana.
Long story short, they wouldn’t let us leave the country due to passport issues. We had to drive 10 hours to the capital to go to the embassy (which didn’t open for two more days thanks to the weekend), get an emergency passport, and then we could go back to South Africa.
Just trying to get the hell out of the county took up most of our bandwidth in the next few days, so by the time I finally got the blood test, it was almost a week later than I was meant to.
I was on the phone with the airline trying to get our international flights changed so that we could stay a bit longer to make up for the lost time in Botswana when the results came back.
It was one of those hour long calls with an airline where you’re oscillating between talking to a human and being on hold for ages. So, I did what anyone would do in that situation- and tried to multitask by checking social media and emails when I was bored.
The email wasn’t even supposed to come to me, by the way. It was meant to go to my doctor, and then the doctor would call me.
I didn’t even mean to open it, but when I did, I couldn’t unsee it.
It felt like the world stopped. You know when you get that whooshing sound in your ears before you pass out, and you know someone is talking to you, but you can’t really see or hear anything? It was like that.
I was pregnant.
I looked down and somehow my hand was already on my stomach, like it somehow knew before I did.
“Ma’am, is that alright?”
Her voice sounded fuzzy, but I could still very much hear her asking approval for payment.
“Yes, of course,” I replied, although I had no idea what I just agreed to.
In fact, I was worried I might have just charged $10k on the credit card, but at the same time I didn’t even care because I was pregnant.
Alix was out running errands, but I already had tears in my eyes at the thought of telling her.
“Why do you look like you did something sneaky?” She asked when she walked in a few minutes later.
“Is it because you’re wearing my shirt?” She probed.
I opened my mouth to tell her, but also felt like I needed to bottle up this moment and save it forever. We would tell them about this one day. I needed to etch in every detail.
“What did you do?” She asked playfully, plopping down on the couch next to me.
“I got the results back,” I started.
“I knew it!!!” She yelled, and leaned in to hug me.
My insides were excited, my hands were shaky, and there were tears in my eyes.
I was scared to hope, but the hope was already there. It was already happening. I was still scared to allow it, though.
“I still need to take another test in two days, we can’t get too excited yet,” I said cautiously. Like excitement might kill the baby.
“Yeah, yeah,” she said with a knowing grin. She knew I was just trying to protect myself. But I could tell by the look on her face that she thought we were fine. She thought it was safe to be happy again.
As much as I tried not to let that test change me, it did.
I wanted to stay reserved, I wanted to stay away from hope, because where there’s hope there’s also the pain of disappointment. I didn’t want to touch that again.
But I did.
Little things like when we walked to the store, and Alix insisted I walk on the inside section away from the cars, because I was “with child” as she said jokingly.
Bigger things like calculating the due date, figuring out when we wanted to tell people, confirming the name.
It was only 4 weeks, that’s too early to be thinking about the color of their eyes or the sound of their laugh- but that’s what that damn test will do to you.
I’d catch myself with those thoughts, and try to bring myself back to reality. I’d try to catch those fantasies and put them in my back pocket until we could rely on them to be real and true. But they slipped out of my grip, and made their way into my heart, filling it up like a balloon.
I was so hopeful.
I was so excited.
I was so happy.
We’d sent the results to the doctor back in the States, but due to the time difference and weekend hours we didn’t hear back right away.
I slept for 10 hours straight the night we arrived back in South Africa after a brutal trip back into the country. When I opened my eyes, there was sunshine streaming through the windows for the first time since we’d been in Cape Town. It was raining every other day.
We’d finally made it back. I was finally going to have a good meal. I was in a gloriously comfortable bed, with a hotel robe waiting for me. And I was pregnant. It had finally worked.
Alix was crouching next to me on the side of the bed, petting my head and smiling as she said:
“The doctor’s office said congratulations, they just wanted to confirm the results on their end.”
It was supposed to be the perfect day.
The perfect end to the trip.
And the perfect start to the new chapter of our lives.
I stumbled out of bed with blurry eyes, and made my way to the bathroom where Alix was fiddling around at the sink and still chattering to me about something. I don’t know what, because when I wiped there was blood. A lot of it.
“Can you leave, please?” I asked her, which usually just means I’m going to poop. And, I don’t care how solid your marriage is, that’s still not really something I feel the need to do in front of my wife, okay?
I sat there for a moment, took a deep breath, and then wiped again. Implantation bleeding is normal, after all.
A lot of it.
I looked in the toilet, and there was what felt like gallons of blood coming out of me. Obviously that’s not accurate, but the water had completely turned red.
This wasn’t implantation bleeding, I knew that.
I looked down, and again my damn hand was on my stomach. How did it always know things before I did?
I was gone.
With one wipe, it was all gone.
I came back into the room in a daze, Alix was still talking. Asking when I wanted to get the second test, and what hike I wanted to do that day.
“I’m bleeding,” I managed to get out.
Then I collapsed back in the bed, covered my head with the covers and cried for an hour straight.
Eventually, I pried myself out of bed to go outside. I knew moving my body would help. I knew that being outside would help. And I knew that nature would help.
But I was also still so angry that nothing looked beautiful, nothing felt good.
I was mad at myself for those thoughts that fell out of my hand and into my heart. I was mad that I knew the due date. I was mad that I knew the name. I was mad that I allowed myself to be happy, to be hopeful. I was mad that I was so stupid to believe it was true.
I was mad at Alix, because I needed to direct the anger somewhere else.
I was mad that we were here, instead of being home with my dog.
I was mad that no one knew, but I also didn’t want to talk to anyone.
I was just mad.
I practically ran up the mountain, the strain on my muscles felt good. The cold air in my lungs burned. The cramps in my stomach were muted by the white hot pain of anger. I didn’t speak for hours.
Once the anger passed, I was sad.
Every time the clots fell out of me, soaking through another tampon or liner, I felt like I was losing all that could have been.
Sadness crashed through me like a tidal wave, as uncontrollable tears came in spurts. My logical mind would try to remind myself that it’s just the hormones regulating and changing again, but logic wouldn’t silence the sadness.
It was too big.
I never understood why people say, “it’s not your fault” when bad things happen.
Whether it’s to a kid whose parents just got divorced, or to someone whose loved one just died.
“It’s not your fault.”
I always kind of thought: obviously it’s not their fault, why would you say that? And this is coming from someone who knows death well, and who has experienced hardship. I never assumed those things were my fault.
But in the wake of this loss, I found myself thinking about all of the bad things I’ve done in my life.
Did this happen because of that one time I lied to that one person?
Did this happen because I cheated on that guy a decade ago?
Did this happen because of the fight I’m in with my friend?
Was it because I lost my temper?
Was it because I didn’t meditate enough?
Or because I forgot to take my prenatals from time to time?
Is this because none of this is natural?
Getting a sperm donor and making a baby with another woman and all.
Were all of the naysayers and the homophobes right?
Do we not deserve a baby?
Did I not think happy enough thoughts?
Were my thoughts too happy?
Did I just not try hard enough?
Am I not enough?
Maybe I’m just not meant to be a mother.
I must not be good enough to be a mother.
I don’t deserve to be a mother.
It was my fault.
That’s exactly how it felt, and in that moment I even thought:
Is this happening because I didn’t have enough empathy or compassion for all those people who thought it was their fault when I actually thought that idea was really dumb.
I questioned everything from myself, to my relationship to my sexual orientation. But most of all, I questioned my worth.
I’ve felt all of it in the last few days. And I’m writing this one a lot more fresh than the first time I wrote about pregnancy loss.
I don’t know why, it’s just knowing that this is what I need to do right now. Just a knowing that I need to share it. To get it out of me.
Although it’s only been a few days, it already hurts less. I don’t know if it’s because the hormones have stabilized. Or if it’s because of the deep process I’ve been in.
I don’t know if it’s from the countless massages I’ve had where I sobbed for the entire hour that they touched me.
I don’t know if it’s from the hours of yoga where tears flowed alongside my movements.
It’s been pouring out of me.
I was silent for the entire first day. I couldn’t open my mouth with tears.
But as the days have gone on, I’ve managed to talk again. I’ve managed to reconnect with Alix. Even to laugh, to which I immediately feel guilty about after.
I’m still in the phase where too much joy isn’t okay.
I’ve felt trapped in this place of wanting to enjoy the last leg of our trip, while also only wanting to curl up in bed and sleep for the next 72 hours.
We’ve spent all this time and so much money to be here. Alix only gets two weeks off every YEAR, so we want to make the most of it. And yet, I also just feel so…done.
Guilt creeps in when I think about wasting our time here, so I slap on sunglasses to hide my puffy eyes, and wear period underwear with a super tampon to try to keep the blood at bay. But when I go out into the world, I feel like I’m just floating through it, rather than participating.
We’re on the other side of the world, who knows when we’ll be back here. We’re at the most beautiful hotel, or on a stunning hike- and my mind is telling me to take a photo, to get as much content as possible for the blog, for socials, for…life.
But my heart is literally like, who cares? Why would you want to remember this pain with a smile on your face? What’s the point of it all anyways.
It’s funny how life continues to move even as you’re frozen in your grief.
I’ve still sat on work calls, answered emails, and tried to get things done on my task list. I don’t remember half of what I read or write, let alone what the hell is said on a call.
I’m numb, moving through the motions without caring about them at all.
It’s so strange to watch the way life continues to move in a way that doesn’t recognize mine is- again- forever changed.
Mustering up the energy to take photos for the blog that were past due. Slipping into a fully spandex outfit when I’m still bleed profusely, bloated, and tender- and needing to do a fucking handstand with a smile on my face made me want to punch a wall. Just being honest.
How do women work and go through this?
Because I sure as hell know that I’m not the only one.
I don’t know what will happen from here, and I don’t know how long it will take for me to feel ready to try again. But I do know that this loss has changed me profoundly, even if that little clump of cells didn’t have a heartbeat yet. It still changed me.
I wish I had a nice tidy bow to end all of this, but that would imply I have some sort of answers for you- which is impossible, because I don’t have those answers yet for myself.
All I know is that while it still feels like I’m to blame, I know I’m not.
All I know is that we will try again when the time is right.
And all I know is that something has got to give when it comes to balancing work and this fertility journey.
I guess the thing I’ve leave you with is this:
Grief can be invisible, so do your best to be kind and understanding to one another.
And, I’m going to try to do the same, even when it’s really fucking hard.
Thank you to the women who have seen me crying, and haven’t asked me questions. Who just allowed me to be.
Thank you to the massage therapist for the beautiful body work, and for not saying a word as tears streamed down my face, and snot dripped without shame.
Thank you to my wife for letting me be mad, even when it didn’t make sense. For driving all around the city to get me food, for rubbing my back, and keeping it together so I can fall apart.
And thank you all for being here, and just…listening.
It feels good to get it out.