April 18, 2013 by Katia
I am so excited to kick off the guest posts with one of my absolute favourite mommy bloggers, Stephanie from Mommy, for Real. Whenever I read her posts I feel like she stole the words out of my mouth, except she’d arranged them in a much better way than I ever would. I am grateful for her contribution to Donate a Post today.
I have been pregnant five times. I am very fortunate to have two young daughters, but I have also had two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. Both of my miscarriages were extremely early, considered to be chemical pregnancies in which the fertilized egg never implants. When I had my ectopic pregnancy, I thought I was having another miscarriage at five weeks, and as it turns out, the undetectable egg never went away, and six weeks later, I found out that I was still technically “pregnant.” The doctors couldn’t find anything- not in my uterus and not in my fallopian tube. After having had no clue that the pregnancy hadn’t dissolved, at 11 weeks, I was given an injection of Methotrexate to help break up the pregnancy tissue. The drug would cause the tissue to shed, wherever the hell it was hiding in my bewildered reproductive system, which was unknowingly aiding and abetting an outlaw egg on the lam.
It should come as no surprise that none of these losses were pleasant experiences. I have known many women who have had miscarriages at various stages of pregnancy. Many of them even count them amongst their children, referring to them as angel babies. Most of these mothers equate their miscarriages as having lost a baby.
I do not feel that I lost any babies. Bear with me here- I am not criticizing women who feel that they lost children when they miscarried. If my pregnancies had lasted longer, maybe even just another week or two, I would probably be among them. I never felt that I was carrying a baby, a child of mine, and then lost it.
But I do feel that I lost something. The first time I miscarried, I had only three days to process my positive test result. When I started bleeding, I was bewildered, angry, devastated, and frightened that I would not be able to have a healthy pregnancy. I felt like I had been ripped off- of course I had promptly purchased the requisite copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting and I had the sensation that I had just been kicked out of The Baby Club.
The second time I miscarried, I had a four year old daughter, and was extremely cautious about the pregnancy. I waited a few days, had some bloodwork done that was less than optimistic, and was not surprised when I started to bleed by the end of the week.
The ectopic pregnancy followed shortly on the heels of the second loss, and it was disorienting, terrifying, and seemed to fly in the face of traditional medical insight. Nobody could tell me exactly what had happened. Being a Medical Mystery is not exactly what one aspires to become when conceiving.
With each of these losses, and perhaps more accurately with the sum of all three, I felt that I lost confidence in my body. I felt defective. I think all women would like to believe that their bodies, perfectly designed to conceive and carry babies, are fully capable of this biological task. To discover that your body didn’t get the memo on how to get or stay pregnant is beyond disheartening. It is humiliating. It is scary.
Perhaps more than other people, I have always had a complex about my body not being “adequate”. From having my gallbladder removed at age seventeen to being diagnosed with a rare swallowing disorder in my thirties, I have often worried that my body was not my friend. Pregnancy loss epitomizes the notion that you cannot trust your body- almost like when your immune system turns against you, turning the vessel that is supposed to be supporting you into an enemy.
In addition to having lost trust in my body’s ability to reproduce, I also lost my innocence in some ways. After that first miscarriage, each conception was approached somewhat gingerly rather than joyfully. Should my husband and I decide to have another child, the moment my pregnancy test turns pink, the initial flush of excitement will be immediately followed by a grim resignation to the unknown. I was never able to, nor will I ever again be able to, receive the news of a pregnancy with complete optimism and confidence. I lost my ability to have a carefree pregnancy. Of course, nobody is given any guarantees when they conceive, and miscarriage is unfortunately quite common. But until you have experienced a pregnancy loss, you cannot quite grasp the sense of dread and the attempt to prepare yourself for disappointment that is mixed in with the excitement of new pregnancy.
I had my redemptive experience when I gave birth to my second daughter. I wanted to try to make it through as much of my labor as possible without pain medication, though I was not closed off to the possibility of getting an epidural at some point should I need it. My labor was induced with my first child, I received an epidural before my first contraction started, and my primary complaint about my 12 hour labor was that I was bored and hungry. With my second delivery, I wanted to test the limits of this body that I felt I could not fully trust. I wanted to see exactly what it was capable of.
After four and a half hours of contractions without drugs, my body began to push the baby out; it did so without my conscious authority, as I was standing in the bathroom when I felt the urge to push. My body, wise and intelligent beyond my comprehension, had taken the wheel. I began to panic when the overpowering contractions and need to push came over me, and my doula repeated over and over, “Your body was made to do this. Your body was made to do this.” Fifteen minutes later my daughter came into the world, and I was flooded with emotion and euphoria as the realization hit me- my body did something right.
I am grateful that I do not count myself among the many women who have lost babies. And perhaps with time, the grief I experienced over the loss of my pregnancy innocence and the lack of trust in my body will be burned away by the memories of my healthy children and the moments in which my body did not let me down.
Stephanie Sprenger is a music therapist, teacher, writer, blogger, and mother of two girls. Her writing has been featured on BlogHer, Mamapedia, and Power of Moms. You can find her singing at the piano while being climbed on by a toddler, drinking wine or coffee depending on what time it is, practicing yoga often enough to make her yoga pant collection relevant, or spewing parental angst on her personal blog, Mommy, for Real.
If you would like to contribute to the series, please email me at iamthemilkblog (at) gmail (dot) com.