Romper's Trying project follows five women with very different stories through a year of trying to conceive. Where discussions about fertility often focus on the end goal, they'll document what it's like emotionally, physically, and spiritually before you get there — the anxiety, the hope, the ovulation kits, the tests. How do you function when getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term isn't a given? Read on for one woman's answer to that question.
Alyssa experienced a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, and she and her husband are still trying. This is the ninth installment of her Trying diary. You can read the previous entry here.
Keeping a monumental secret is an impossible feat for someone like me, an open book. We’ve been socially and culturally conditioned to wait until week 13 to announce a pregnancy — this is when the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically; week 13 and on is considered to be the “safe zone” to announce. But after being open about our experiences with strangers and friends alike, it’s safe to assume that most people in our lives know we’ve been trying, which adds another layer of pressure and scrutiny in certain social settings. Attending a birthday party, a happy hour, a sporting event… eyes dart to me as if I’m a lab rat, and I am ogled and analyzed over my decision whether to drink or not.
Not being able to share this news is depressing, isolating and anxiety-inducing. Somewhere along the lonely road, I decide to tell people on my own terms, when I deem it appropriate, “safe zone” be damned.
I am only six weeks pregnant and sharing that is OK.
Should this pregnancy ago awry like the first (and my sanity remains intact), I’ve established a kind and empathetic support system to deal with it, anyway — another advantage of being an open book. I pride myself on imperfections. Not to mention, it’s often easier to connect, beyond the surface-level, when I share and receive personal things. Life is better lived open.
I am only six weeks pregnant and sharing that is OK. This time, though, the announcement of the news seems much more downplayed. I feel increasingly relieved the more I say “I’m pregnant” aloud. The expectation in my workplace is to not skip a beat, and constant anxiety and relentless nausea are hard things to keep bottled up. Pretending that everything is ordinary when it's not goes completely against my grain.
Though it’s early, nausea has already become damn near constant — my only pregnancy side-effect to date. Whenever I am not eating, it rears its ugly head (give me all of the carbs). My emergency trips to the McDonalds drive-thru for a medium fries have become frequent (yeah, yeah, they’re not what they used to be. I know.). But I prayed for this, longed for this, so to complain about even one symptom makes me feel horribly selfish and ungrateful. I'm reminding myself how lucky I am that our trying period wasn’t even a fraction of what some couples go through… and there I go again with the evil comparison game.
Sitting at my desk, I start having awful cramps. I immediately rush to the bathroom, but see nothing there. I instinctively start to catastrophize, expecting the worst. How could I not given my fertility résumé? An hour goes by and I still have menstruation-like cramps, so I call my doctor. Given that I miscarried a few months ago, she instructs me to come into the office for an ultrasound within the next few hours. Ultrasounds normally aren’t done this early on in pregnancy at this particular office; the doctors feel they can’t get an accurate look at the embryo until between 8-10 weeks gestation.
My husband meets me at the clinic. We both sit silently in the waiting room. We stare at each other, the unspoken fear a dull roar in my head. He tells me it will be OK, maybe telling himself, too, and we wait for the technician. I’m overwhelmed with flashbacks. They flood my consciousness: us in the empty room with blank stares after the technician said, “I have to call the doctor.”
Any element of excitement anticipating our baby’s heartbeat has been taken from us. If we go on to have children in the future, I imagine it will be the same then, too. In the ultrasound room, only when my husband takes my hand do I realize I’ve been holding my breath. A few minutes go by and we see a flicker on the screen. The tech confirms a heartbeat of 127 beats per minute, normal for six weeks, three days gestation.
She points out that my pain was likely a burst ovarian cyst which caused the cramping. This is nothing that can harm the baby or anything to worry about. The baby is OK, I say the words aloud, barely believing them. I know that our chances of miscarrying again have dropped significantly after a strong heartbeat is present, and I begin to exhale. For the first time in a while we have a glimmer of hope. Our rainbow baby is developing.