A few weeks ago my period was late. I took a pregnancy test and there were two lines. I took three more tests and they all read the same. I couldn’t believe it, so I sent a picture to a friend who jubilantly confirmed what the tests were trying to say. I was pregnant. I was nervous and excited. I continually tried to temper my excitement, reminding myself of my age (36 is rather old in the reproductive sense) and that it was early yet. Four weeks by my calculation. Many people don’t even suspect pregnancy before six-eight weeks. My dates were secure- I keep close track of my cycle using the fertility awareness method, and my partner had recently temporarily relocated.
When I was ten years old my period started and wouldn’t stop. My mother and doctors were worried that I was at risk for anemia, and I was a child who was super upset and confused about what my body was doing. The easiest fix that modern medicine had to offer was to put me on hormonal birth control to regulate my cycle. That worked like a charm, and for the next decade, I complacently remained on the pill. In my early twenties, I had unprotected sex with my partner at the time after forgetting to take the pill the night before. Twice. I was fortunate and aware enough to access Plan B, though the scares were enough to jolt me to the realization that the Pill wasn’t the right method for me anymore. In comes the Mirena, an IUD that relies on a low dose of slow release of hormones to prevent pregnancy. I loved it! As with many women, my period became a thing of the past. Nearly thirteen years of no period whatsoever, I considered myself a poster child for the success of the Mirena. I never experienced unwanted side effects- mood swings, depression, weight gain, absolutely nothing unwanted that I could attribute to the method. Best of all, I felt like I had autonomy over my body. Several of my friends became pregnant in this time, one elected to have the child and give it up for adoption, and another had several abortions before ultimately deciding to bring the final unplanned pregnancy to term and raised the child. I stood by as a supportive observer, steadfast in knowing that I wasn’t ready to become pregnant at that point in my life. I don’t regret my choice to not have children in this timeframe. I wasn’t ready and that is enough.
Fast forward to quarantine. Along with many other people on the planet, I was contemplating the meaning of life, and how I was living mine. At 34 years old I finally felt like I was entering my maiden to motherhood journey. As a single person, I wasn’t confident that actual motherhood would be on the table for me, but I wanted to prepare my body if the occasion should arise. I knew then and still feel now that I would really like to experience creating a whole new being inside my body and to share a special bond with a human that only that circumstance can create. I had a rather jarring experience at the Planned Parenthood in New Orleans while having my IUD removed in a way that honestly felt invasive, violating, cold, and unheld. I was prepared for such an experience mentally, which is a hard thing to tell your body when it feels violated. In spite of my upset, almost immediately my senses were overwhelmed in a way reminiscent of tripping on mushrooms. Colors were more vibrant, smells more aromatic, I felt sound in my body in a new way, and everything I tasted was more complex than I could ever remember. My upset from the procedure became overshadowed by the anger I felt at the hold of a vice grip that a small inter uterine device had over my sensory ability to fully experience existence. It was as though my life had been in black and white, then suddenly, technicolor.
There was no man in my life, and no candidates on the horizon- it felt like a great opportunity to get to know my body on my own terms. Month after month I eagerly awaited my period. I wanted to reclaim my power as a woman and both physically and spiritually connect more fully to the earth and moon. Four months later I went to a full moon circle and I swear it was the power of those women and the pull of the moon that finally brought my blood.
My partner and I have been together in earnest for just over a year now, though we had been seeing each other casually when my blood finally came back. He’s been with me through this transition that has brought me into not only a new chapter of my life but what feels like an entirely new book. Without going too far into that, I am no longer a fancy-free bartender in New Orleans but a level-headed homesteader herbalist in Vermont. Before I departed New Orleans last January he helped me take an at-home fertility test from Modern Fertility. I’m not great with blood (funny as it is to say in this context) and he diligently pricked my finger for me and encouraged the few drops necessary to check my levels. It was a sweet and intimate experience, and Modern Fertility’s comprehensive results showed that my egg count was a little low- but everything else seemed to be in order. To anyone considering conceiving now or in the future, the more you know about your body, the better you’ll be able to care for yourself and make a plan.
We weren’t trying to conceive with great intention, but we also weren’t actively avoiding it. Perhaps that is how the universe got confused and attached the group of cells that might have been our baby to my right fallopian tube instead of my uterus where it belonged. I was elated at the idea of finally starting a family, and devastated by the news that the pregnancy was ectopic. I’ve been grieving now heavily for two weeks. In that time I’ve had countless vials of blood taken for testing and for several days was even given hope that perhaps the pregnancy could be viable after all. Of course, it wasn’t, and the mourning deepened. The sadness has been greatly potentiated by the loneliness I’ve felt in the absence of my partner and the presence of an already tense roommate situation. I am fortunate to have a very supportive family that has helped to lift the cloud in part, but this has felt like such a black hole- as though my womb is sucking my soul through it into a darkness I never imagined possible.
Writing this is motivated by several factors. First, I truly believe it to be better out than in. Every time I’ve journaled about parts of this experience it helps me to be better in touch with my feelings, even when it hurts it is healing.
Second, I’d like people to know how I would have liked to have been supported. I am notoriously bad at asking for help, and this has been largely a solitary mourning process by both circumstance and necessity. Perhaps you may find yourself or a loved one in this situation, this journey is different for everyone, but perhaps this can offer some guidance. I did and do still need quite a lot of space. Driving myself to the hospital for tests and appointments has not been great. If I had a community in closer proximity I might have felt more confident asking friends to take me, but being rather remote it felt like a big burden to impose upon others. I did ask my mother to take me to the methotrexate injection appointment, and I am so grateful that she was able to do that for me. Having her there helped a lot, and not doing that big step alone helped a lot. When I felt like the depression was starting to win I invited a friend for a sleepover and she came. We drank too much. I cried. I wasn’t alone, and that important reminder was enough. Empathy is all I wanted, and all this situation really called for.
Things that have not been helpful to me in this process are reminders that if I wanted to start a family I “should have done so earlier” and fictional facts about miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Often people think they are helping by volunteering their thoughts and feelings when what people need in times of grief is simply to be heard and held. Please read that last sentence again, because it is applicable in a lot of interpersonal communications. It is perfectly ok to sit in silence without filling it. Looking to the future and planning to try for a family with intention have been restorative. It might not be easy, and might not go according to plan, but having something to hope for helps. A concept that is constantly present on the wellness journey is the idea that the past is a valuable tool for learning, yet it is so very important to leave it behind while carrying its lessons into the future.
Lastly, I’d like to talk about this experience in the context of current events. Chemically I was pregnant. If I had not had access to proper medical intervention or had been forced to continue this pregnancy the ectopic cell growth would have ruptured my fallopian tube. The consequences of that could have rendered me fertile at best, or dead at worst. There is no way to successfully carry a child to term if implantation occurs outside the uterus. Methotrexate is a drug used to stop cellular growth, most often seen used for chemotherapy or rheumatoid arthritis. The dose given to stop the cellular growth of an ectopic pregnancy is much lower but is still considered an abortion procedure. A lot of so-called “pro-life” people would rather see a childbearing person dead than allow proper medical intervention. This instance is simply one example of a time when pregnancy can be dangerous to the person carrying it. Mine was a routine case that was resolved quickly and safely, not without physical discomfort and emotional trauma, but with two simple shots in my butt and one million ongoing blood tests. I am constantly triggered by the debate of access to pregnancy release and am in disbelief that we are in 2022 and this subject is even on the table.
Please vote tomorrow. Vote as if every person that can bear children’s life depends upon the people that you are electing to office and the measures on your ballot surrounding the subject fucking matter.