For as long as I’ve known about my PCOS, my greatest fear has been miscarriage. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than struggling to get pregnant, finally succeeding, and then having it all go away in the blink of an eye. So it’s really weird that I’m sitting here right now hoping to have one.
Because I did get pregnant. Sort of. But it didn’t go as planned. I successfully grew a gestational sac, but my 7 week ultrasound revealed that there’s nothing growing in it. Simply put: The lights are on, but no one’s home.
So, here I sit. Facing my greatest fear and just wanting to be done with it already.
I know. It sounds horrible, but a natural miscarriage is the best possible outcome after what I’ve come to understand as a biological fuck up. The failure of the collection of cells to grow into an embryo is most likely to do with a chromosomal abnormality. The whole thing was doomed from the start. It’s a common sucky thing that happens sometimes. The fertilized egg didn’t have the right combination of things to develop, so it didn’t. No harm, no foul.
In January, before I went into surgery to get my uterus cleaned out, I wrote about my reproduction-related anxiety. I compared the feeling of approaching mommyhood to starting a race but not knowing if it’s going to be a 5K or a marathon. Turns out it was more like a 50-yard dash with a twist ending. A month post-surgery, my cycle shocked me by doing exactly what it was supposed to do. I ovulated right on schedule, and boom. Hole in one.
I was told that the best time for PCOSers to get knocked up is the first month after going off of the pill—we even have friends whose child supports that data—but part of me refused to accept that it could be true. After a decade spent truly believing that my reproductive system didn’t work, it seemed impossible that it could be so easy. I was so flummoxed by the world’s faintest positive on the pregnancy test I took, I made Scott double check it to rule out a desire-induced hallucination. Days passed, and I kept testing. The line got darker and more defined, and I slowly began to believe that we’d done it.
I had braced myself so much for disappointment. I didn’t know what to do with a miracle.
But, despite achieving something that I believed was impossible, neither one of us had a jumping-up-and-down kind of joy. We were hopeful, but something didn’t feel right about it. I don’t know if it all just felt too easy, or if we were using denial to protect our hearts in the event of disaster, but either way, the whole thing had an air of “Hello, I am a Nigerian prince, and I would like to share my fortune with you.” Yeah, sure you do, pal.
In the first couple of days after the positive result, I started to feel normal pregnancy symptoms. For starters, I could smell everything in the tri-state area. I discovered that first trimester exhaustion and insomnia are very real things. Most tellingly, the new shooting pain in my boobs was so intense that I kept half expecting a creature to burst out of them Alien-style. Not being able to deny such real physical proof, we decided to tell our parents about the development. It was nice to be able to share good news, but I was also hoping that saying it out loud would help make this pregnancy, which still felt more like an elaborate prank than anything else, seem more real to us.
But then, at 6 weeks, when I was supposed to be feeling even more tender and start dealing with the effects of morning sickness, the opposite happened. Slowly but surely, my symptoms started going away. There was no cramping or blood, but I was feeling less pregnant with every passing day. It didn’t matter how many stories of “symptomless pregnancies” I’d read online. I knew that something wasn’t right. Having no symptoms is very different from having Alien breasts and then watching them shrink back to their normal size. One day last week, I purposely flicked myself in what used to be a very sore nipple, felt nothing, and said to my mirror self, “And that’s the end of that chapter.”
And it was.
As my new OB scanned my uterus, he got very quiet, and I knew for sure. Afterward, he said sadly, “Well, it’s not good,” and I almost laughed. I’d always expected to feel heartbroken at such news, but I wasn’t. As much as I want to become a mother, I knew that something wasn’t right. I knew that whatever was happening inside my body, that wasn’t our baby. Every time I’d said the word “pregnant” since my symptoms started dissipating, it felt more and more like a lie. I honestly would have been more surprised if he had found a growing embryo inside me. So when he showed me the scan of the empty sac in my uterus, most of what I felt was straight-up relief that I wasn’t being dramatic or pessimistic. I was right. Goddamn it.
While driving home from the appointment, I called my parents. My dad told me that it is okay to be feel upset about the loss. I know it is. But, truthfully, this doesn’t really feel like a true loss. By the time I got home, Scott and I were already making jokes about it, laughing about the image of tumbleweeds in the ultrasound photo or hearing the sound of crickets instead of a heartbeat. (Yes, we are terrible people. It’s a good thing we found each other.) We would never make such callous jokes about someone else’s loss, but since we were talking about our own nonstarter group of cells, laughing about it made us feel better. Making terrible jokes has always been my go-to coping strategy. It’s possible that the bad news just hasn’t sunk in it. But if I’m being really honest, it’s more like the pregnancy itself hadn’t sunk in, so the news that it was all a biological fuck up just makes more sense.
When all is said and done, this whole episode feels most like a first pancake. We put the batter on the griddle, but it failed to cook properly, as first pancakes are wont to do. If nothing else, it was a good learning experience. I got to see what early pregnancy actually feels like, and most importantly, I learned that, despite what the scary doctors told me 10 years ago, I CAN get pregnant. That is the biggest relief of all.
Yes, it’s a disappointment. But it’s made me oddly hopeful. This misstep won’t affect the possibility of future pregnancies, so now I’m more certain than ever that our time may actually come. In the meantime, though, I have to deal with the aftermath. That’s the only part I’m upset about.
If this failure doesn’t clear itself from my system via a natural miscarriage, then we’ll have to intervene medically. There’s a medicine I can take that will hopefully move things along, but if that doesn’t work, then I’ll have to have another D&C, which means more time off work and more expense. It’s sort of an “adding insult to injury” situation. So, if it’s all the same to the universe, I’d rather things work themselves out on their own. This leaves me in the extremely ironic predicament of praying that my own worst fear comes true.
When I ask the next fertilized egg to hold on, to burrow in and grab onto that uterine lining for dear life, I’ll have to remember to be more specific. Next time, my future collection of cells, I’ll tell you to dig in and grow.
We’ll be waiting for you when you do.