Of Grapes and Champagne

Ever since we found out I was pregnant, I was bracing for the chance that I’d miscarry. During the first few weeks it seemed impossible that I’d be able to safely carry this tiny, tiny being, this cluster of cells, into fruition, like grasping a grain of sand while running on a windy shore. Nine months? A single week felt like eons. One day I’d want to tell everyone I came across, everyone I knew, and the next I’d desperately need to keep it deeply private and secret. I’d see a random pregnant woman in my office building and suddenly want to confide in her, but then come across a casual friend and conduct a vigorous internal debate whether or not they were someone I’d tell just yet. Just in case. That looming “if” that every text warned me about.

Before I was pregnant I had read about how common miscarriages were and how little they were discussed. “I’d tell everyone I was pregnant when I find out,” I thought at the time, “because miscarriage is so common and yet spoken about so rarely, and I’d want people to know why I was sad.” My feminist self wanted this woman’s issue to be discussed openly and forthrightly. However, the second I became pregnant, those thoughts changed, and that twelve week mark loomed ahead like twelve months.

Then I fell into a certain groove of early pregnancy. I experienced certain symptoms (fatigue, but no morning sickness, acne breakouts, but no extreme mood swings, random food aversions, but no weird cravings, boob pain, but only headaches when I kept to my normal low-carb diet) and somewhat gleefully chalked it up to that ol’ pregnancy. “I’ve been eating chocolate almost every day!” I’d joke to friends who knew of my previously super healthy eating habits. “I found a decent mocktail recipe!” as I jealously eyed someone’s alcoholic drink. But it was okay. I was healthy. I’d been taking prenatal vitamins for six months by the time we conceived. I’d been off the pill for four. I worked out at least four days a week. I was taking probiotics, fish oil, and vitamin D on top of the prenatals. I ate so many leafy greens. We’d had the names picked out since before we were engaged. I even had the baby’s room decor all planned out (partially because it’s my job and I love it, partially because certain close relatives wanted “our colors” to begin beautifully handmade quilts). I had read all immediately applicable information in my five books on various pregnancy related things, and was ready to read more as time progressed. In short, we were READY for this.

We’d get the same weekly updates that many expectant couples receive. “This week your baby is now the size of a blueberry and his or her eyes are developing!” We’d then affectionately refer to our blueberry for that week. “To the blueberry!” we’d toast when we shared the news with a few close friends. Every week we were closer to that twelve-week goal. Every week the odds were lessening. Then it was a week of praising a kidney bean. “Oh, little kidney bean,” I’d lament as I fell asleep at 8pm. After that, it was a grape.

We never moved past the grape stage.

According to the app, it was an inch long, had joints, a beating heart, developing finger pads. It no longer had an embryonic tail. It seemed to be… almost a tiny human. Still alien-ish looking, but definitely humanoid. There’s hope, I allowed.

Then I started bleeding. I called my sister, who is a doula, and she said spotting was common. I read half a dozen internet articles and entered at least as many search terms into Google. On the third bloody day, I knew for certain something was awry. I left work midday and bought a pregnancy test, which I took in the office bathroom. Pregnant, it said. I knew that with my symptoms, that wasn’t entirely conclusive. Calls were made, appointments were set, and I left work to head to my mom’s for a previously-scheduled family dinner. As I left the building, a baby spotted me from 20 feet away and pointed and waved. The adorably little pig-tailed thing stared and smiled and pointed and waved until I had walked past her. 10 feet later, another baby stared and smiled. What the fuck, world, I thought.

Cramps developed as I drove. After greeting my mom and visiting sister and nephew upon my arrival, I all-too-casually announced I thought I was miscarrying and shit slowly hit the fan. Everything– the cramps, the bleeding– got worse. The worst I’d ever had. I curled in the fetal position on my mom’s couch, a heating pad on my abdomen, as my nephew asked if his favorite auntie could play with him. “Not now, sweetie,” I’d try to chirp back semi-cheerfully. “Auntie has a bad tummy ache.”

The next morning tests and ultrasounds confirmed what we knew already. It was gone. Natural selection had likely determined it wasn’t ready for the world outside the womb, and poof, spontaneous miscarriage.

What’s left? Well, disappointment. I know I feel grief, but honestly my grief feels like numbness because in my beautifully sheltered and easy life, I’ve experienced grief very, very few times. People ask me questions and I have no answers. I shrug. I haven’t cried. I’ve teared up, but nothing beyond the welling of the eyes. I’m not sure if I have further grief with which to deal (probably), or if steeling myself for this possibility throughout these weeks has left me somewhat prepared for this loss. “You know the verb people always use for this?” I asked my husband. “Suffer. I suffered a miscarriage,” I intoned somewhat dramatically. I’m not sure what level of suffering this is. I’ve eaten a lot of junk food, mostly in the form of chocolate and potato chips. I’ve had one beer and a couple glasses of champagne. Eating and drinking my feelings, I joke.

I know we didn’t do anything wrong and that it isn’t our fault. I know it’s common. I know we can try again soon. I know there is still great potential for future babies. It’s just… well. A lot. It’s a lot. Many things have changed in the last few weeks, and many have changed in the last few days. This will take time to process and discuss and settle. A miscarriage is now on my life’s resume, and it’s something I never expected to find there. I’m hoping it’s the only one.

For now, my husband and I hold each other and kiss each other and watch things that make us laugh. We joke, because we always joke, and that’s how we both have learned to cope. I write this out because it helps me process the jumble in my head. And maybe, just maybe, that feminist ideal I had before ever getting pregnant, of talking about the common miscarriage, will help someone else who’s never openly discussed hers before. I toast my glass of champagne to you, my dear. You are so, so not alone.


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