When my doctor told me, "You're pregnant, but the pregnancy can't continue," they weren't exactly the words I was expecting to hear on an otherwise normal Wednesday morning. He confirmed I had an ectopic pregnancy, which meant a fertilized egg had attached itself to my fallopian tube. If the pregnancy continued, the tube would burst and I would bleed out and die. So, a procedure was scheduled and the pregnancy was ended. It was all surprising, sure, but not as surprising as the things I felt after my pregnancy loss that I didn't want to say out loud. Things that society has taught me I can't say out loud, unless I want to be at the receiving end of an endless stream of judgment, shame, and criticism.
I've experienced miscarriages before, and like anything else in life, each pregnancy loss has affected me a little differently. After my son turned 1, my partner and I started discussing the possibility of another baby, and what adding another human being to our family might look like. We spoke logistics, working arrangements, finances, you name it. Then, after weighing our options, we decided, "Eh, why not?" Admittedly, my partner is more excited to have another baby than I am. My first pregnancy was difficult and riddled with complications, so the idea of going through another 40 or so weeks of potential heartache and physical pain wasn't really high on my priority list. So while we are "trying," I'm not tracking ovulation cycles. If it happens, it happens. To date, it hasn't happened yet. We've been trying for a year and instead of a positive, I've had two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy.
I'm sure some will claim I'm cold. That perhaps my reactions to these losses are a byproduct of my hesitation to be a mother of two. Maybe that's the case. Maybe it's not. To be honest, there's no "right" way to feel or heal or get through a loss, which is why I shouldn't be afraid to admit to the following things after going through yet another pregnancy loss.
I Felt Disconnected
I'm sure I could blame growing up in a physically abusive home for my ability to disconnect from heartbreaking situations. I wouldn't necessarily call it a "gift," but it's my way of dealing when something less than ideal happens to me. So when I was told this pregnancy couldn't continue, I felt a palpable separation between myself and what was happening. I can't tell you why, or how — I can only say it's my way of dealing with what's in front of me in a way that ensures my mental health remains in tact.
I Felt Relieved
I know this is the one thing a woman isn't "supposed" to admit to feeling when she realizes she's experienced a pregnancy loss. I know the reaction that has been prescribed by society is one of immense sadness, because women are supposed to want to be pregnant whenever they find out they're pregnant.
I don't think being horribly sad is a "bad" or "unnecessary" reaction to a pregnancy loss. I think that's normal and every woman deserves to feel whatever she's feeling during a time of loss or trauma. However, I don't think it's "bad" or "unnecessary" to feel relieved, either. I think that's a normal reaction, too.
I'm a working mother who loves her job, and has a 2-year-old toddler who has recently learned the word "no." My days are long, exhausting, fulfilling, and wonderful. I love my life the way it is, and the idea of that life changing is a pretty terrifying prospect, I'll admit. So while I in no way wanted to experience a pregnancy loss, or set out to do so in any capacity, I'd be lying if I said a little rush of relief didn't wash over me when the doctor said this pregnancy couldn't continue. Women need to be granted the permission to feel whatever it is they're feeling without judgment or shame. No one can tell you how to react to a loss — you just do what feels right.
I Felt Stoic
When I told my boss I was going to need to take a day for the procedure to end my pregnancy, I felt my lip quiver slightly and my eyes water. I didn't cry though, and my lip calmed down after only a second or two. Other than that small moment where an emotional reaction threatened to take over, I remained pretty aloof throughout the entire loss. It was my reality, I couldn't escape it; what had to happen happened, and that was the end of it.
I Felt Centered
It's strange, but sometimes an unexpected loss or situation makes me feel more centered. While I didn't necessarily feel at home in my body (which was currently growing something which, if it continued to grow, would kill me), I felt a kind of peace wash over me. After all, the entire situation was out of my control. There was nothing I could do except control my reaction to it, so that's what I did. I found that place inside myself where I could remember that everything would be OK, and that's where I've remained.
I Felt Calm
Weird how a metaphorical sucker punch to the chin can make you feel calm, cool, and collected, right? It's not always the case (trust me, I don't react calmly to all life throws my way) but when it's something completely out of my control I tend to just roll with the punches. I don't know if it was a defense mechanism (probably) or the only reaction that would keep me from emotionally crumbling (maybe), but the calmness I felt as I realized this pregnancy was another pregnancy lost was a welcome surprise.
I Felt Very Matter-Of-Fact
All of a sudden, I was a doctor. I mean, I wasn't, but I was very technical when it came to discussing the pregnancy and what had to happen next. When I spoke about options with my partner, I used the correct medical terminology for what may or may not happen. When I told a (small) number of friends, I was matter of fact about the entire situation.
I know that at first this upset my partner and my friends were somewhat confused. But I'm thankful that the support system I've surrounded myself with knows the best way to help me is to let me deal with things the way I deal with things. They didn't push me to be more emotional, or ask me non-technical questions in the hopes of evoking a different response from me. Instead, they listened and offered to help anyway they could.
I Felt Determined
Leading up to the moment I found out I had an ectopic pregnancy, I was exhausted. I guess the small amount of pregnancy hormones surging through my body were to blame, but I was also overwhelmed with work and my toddler and my partnership and the various responsibilities that come with being a 30 year old that getting up every morning was a little bit of a struggle.
However, when I found out I was going to lose another pregnancy, I felt this sudden bolt of determination tinge the nerve endings in my entire body. I couldn't control this, but there were so many other things I could control. I could re-focus and re-distribute my work load. I could spend more one-on-one time with my son. I could start making my relationship a priority again. Those were the things I had control over so I decided to re-focus and remain steadfast in being the best human being I could be to those who matter most (including myself).
I Felt Thankful
I wouldn't say I was thankful to go through another loss. But this is where I am now, so I will say I feel thankful for the science that saved my life. I feel thankful for the son I have, and the partner who is nothing but supportive. I feel very thankful for the understanding work environment I visit five days a week, and the bosses who are kind, considerate, and more than happy to give me as much time as I need.
Rarely is pregnancy loss talked about openly. Usually, it's a whispered conversation shared amongst friends and close family members and medical practitioners. It's the Thing You Don't Talk About. So even though I don't think any woman should share a story about her life she isn't comfortable sharing, I do think there's power in being unapologetic about the good, bad, happy, and horrible things that happen to us and the ways we react to them. Pregnancy loss is complicated and it brings out even more complicated emotions. There's no right way to react to it, and it's wrong to tell women how they should react to a loss in order for those women to "prove" they're "good" or "decent" or "maternal" or whatever else society thinks they should be.
I suffered a loss and I reacted. It doesn't make me a bad mom or a bad woman. It just makes me human.