Back in December of 2016, I went off my birth control pills because Bearded Wonder Husband (truly his beard is the stuff of legends) and I were ready to start trying for a baby. Imagine our shock/surprise/excitement when I got pregnant immediately.
I’d been feeling exceptionally exhausted in the first couple weeks of January. My birthday is at the end of January and Momma likes to drink (miss you, champagne), so I figured I should take a pregnancy test juuuust in case before things got lit. Yep—it was positive. I spent the celebration drinking virgin cosmos and pretend whisky ginger ales with the help of a friend who was keeping my secret.
But the whole time after the elation of seeing a “pregnant” on my digital pee stick was spent with me wondering if every twinge of even the slightest pain was the end. One of my cousins has endured some heartbreaking miscarriages, still births, and a very premature delivery that allowed her little one to live less than a week, though she does have two beautiful teenage daughters despite all the heartache. I think about her and those babies all the time and even more once I became pregnant the first time. I’ve never talked to her about any of what she’s experienced because I can barely form words about it and I don’t want to dredge up any painful memories for her, but her experiences stay with me. I couldn’t help but wonder if her story was going to become my story. At one point early in my first pregnancy, I felt a sharp pain in my side as I was climbing into bed that didn’t last more than a second and it turned me into a crumpled sobbing heap. While Bearded Wonder rubbed my back, I cried and said I couldn’t live like this in so much fear all the time.
I went to the OB/GYN for my first 10 week appointment and everything seemed fine. They said the baby was measuring a little small in the sonogram and told me to come back in two weeks. They asked me if I was sure about the date of my last period. I was. Looking back on it, I realize that they probably figured I was miscarrying but didn’t want to worry me.
When I came back two weeks later on a Friday afternoon, the sonographer asked me how I felt. Had I experienced any cramping? No. Any bleeding or spotting? No. Back pain? No. Nausea? No. Bearded Wonder hadn’t come with me because it was just a run-of-the-mill appointment and we didn’t think anything of it. He’d be able to come to the next one; no big deal. Then she squeezed the gel onto my stomach and started moving the probe around.
“Well, shoot,” she said.
I blinked. I thought she messed something up on the machine. Maybe hit a wrong button. Spilled her water bottle. Dropped her car keys. It did not occur to me that anything was wrong.
“Was this your first pregnancy?” she asked.
I started to cry. She patted my knee and got me a tissue and asked if there was someone I could call. Bearded Wonder’s workplace was a half hour drive away so while the OB/GYN met with me and said things like “silent miscarriage,” “not your fault,” “did nothing wrong,” I clasped my hands together and wished I could just go back in time even an hour to still feel that excitement and hopefulness over my baby for just a little longer.
I scheduled my D&C for the following Tuesday, but I ended up spending the weekend bleeding a lot (side note: how come nobody tells us just how much blood there is in a miscarriage? I didn’t think my body could expel that much blood and I’d still be alive) and having contractions. My D&C was moved up to Monday when I called the doctor first thing and that was it.
I’ve never felt as hollow and just empty as I did in the weeks that followed. I hope I never feel that way again.
I gained weight through the end of spring and into the summer. A lot of it. Sadness has a way of changing you mentally and physically.
From March to August, I wondered if my negative thoughts had made the miscarriage happen. If I didn’t eat right. If I didn’t want it bad enough. So many things that the logical part of my brain all says are ridiculous. I still struggle with these thoughts sometimes.
A friend mentioned that perhaps we should start exercising together, if I wanted to.
“Maybe if you got your weight down just a little, this won’t happen again,” she offered.
“What won’t happen again?”
“Another miscarriage,” she said.
I told her I would let her know about getting together to work out (I didn’t), but it was like all the blame I had been putting on myself for the miscarriage had doubled.
Before you say “But studies show…” lemme just stop you right there. I’ve read all the studies on miscarriage. All of ‘em. The ones about fat women, the ones about skinny women, the ones about what week, day, trimester, etc. that someone miscarried…all of them.
It. Just. Happens.
And can we talk about that term for a second? “Miscarriage.” Here’s the thing: I hate it.
To me, the term “miscarriage” makes me feel that blame even more because it seems to indicate that something about me or my body isn’t/wasn’t right for carrying a baby. Like if that one thing about me was a little different, it wouldn’t have happened. Like a woman’s body is surely only meant for carrying babies and if she can’t even do THAT right… Like “Whoops, my body made a mistake and oopsie! Couldn’t figure out how to carry a baby in my womb properly so byyyeee!”
When I talk about what happened, I say “miscarriage” sometimes, but it has never tasted right on my tongue. I just think “There was a baby that we didn’t get to keep.” No amount of my heart wanting it was going to let it happen. That feels more right to me than “miscarriage.”
A few months ago, I was asking my dad questions about his mother, who passed away many years ago. She had eleven children.
“Do you think she ever had a miscarriage or a stillbirth or anything like that?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “She was healthy, so none of that.”
“But I was healthy and I miscarried,” I said.
He didn’t say anything to my point and instead pivoted back to the topic of his mother.
It stung because it made me think “Does he think what happened to me and First Baby was my fault?” While I still think about that conversation sometimes, I care less and less about whether he or anyone thinks that my weight made it my fault. My dad and I have a good relationship and though I heartily disagree with him on many things—perhaps this topic included—I still love him. But what I do care about is changing the narrative about fat pregnant women’s bodies (and women’s bodies in general). Let’s all do this together, shall we?