I am a childfree woman. This means I do not want children. I’ve never wanted children, although for a while in my teens I assumed they were part of my inevitable future because that’s what humans do. As it turns out, I am lucky enough to live at a time when I get to make my own reproductive choices and be married to a man who not only supports my decision, but agreed with it from a very early point in our relationship. We also agreed that in the very unlikely situation that we change our minds, we would adopt, as I have a visceral reaction to the idea of pregnancy.
Which is why the events of November 2015 were a bit of a shock. I have been on some form of birth control since the age of 18, with the exception of a year and a half stint after having a hormonal IUD removed. I had a terrible reaction to it and after its removal, decided to give my body a break from all the hormones. This break went well for a little while, until unexplained and rather annoying symptoms began to present themselves. Asymmetrical sweating and flushing, cold spells, night sweats, mood swings, thinning hair, acne, painful irregular periods, and more. I went for blood-work, met with endocrinologists and reproductive specialists, but everyone kept saying I was fine. There was no apparent cause, and no race against time to have a baby, so I guess this is just how I am. My gynecologist suggested going back on the pill to alleviate the symptoms, so we decided to try Lo Loestrin Fe, the lowest dose of estrogen on the market.
It was ok. No major complaints other than some bloating and breakthrough bleeding between periods. Then in the beginning of October, my husband and I went to New York Comic Con. We were staying with a cousin in New York for a few nights and I, of course, forgot to pack my pills. After 3 days of missing the pill I started spotting and figured I’d just give it a few more days and start the next pack. Lesson learned, moving on. Except NYCC always falls right around our anniversary and we like to celebrate. I had already started the next pack and figured we were good to go. Perhaps if it weren’t the lowest dose form of birth control, we would have been. Lesson learned, indeed.
If we pretend I hadn’t forgotten my pills and look at the calendar, the week that I would have gotten my period came and went with nothing. That didn’t worry me though because I did forget them and started a new pack. My cycle was thrown off so I figured it would come in about 2 weeks. It didn’t, but I was feeling bloated, tender, and very tired so I figured it was coming soon. I also didn’t think much of the lack of actual bleeding since one of the benefits to Lo Loestrin Fe is that your periods can be so light you barely get them at all. But then the cramping started.
I was at work, and this dull ache in my lower back was getting progressively worse, until it met up with the sharp cramps that were occurring in my abdomen, and I felt like I was wearing a belt of pain. I went to the bathroom to find I had begun bleeding heavily. I waddled back to my purse to retrieve a pad (thank goodness), and was now getting hit with what I can only describe as muscle spasms in my uterus. It felt like nothing I had ever experienced, but closest to the cramping I had after the IUD insertion. It was like my body was actively rejecting something. Back in the bathroom, I noticed the blood was thick, almost chunky. My periods were never like this, and certainly not on this pill. I took two Advil and went back to work. On my lunch break, I looked up the tell-tale signs of a miscarriage.
I told my husband about it. We agreed that was the most likely thing. I think our exchange went mostly like this:
Me: So yeah…
Him: Are you okay?
Me: Yeah I guess. Are you okay?
Him: Why would you be worried if I was okay?
Me: I don’t know. Because I was most likely pregnant and now I’m not and I don’t really know how we’re supposed to feel about that. Aren’t we supposed to be sad or something?
Him: Well, we don’t want kids, and now we’re still not having any, so yay?
Me: Okay, yeah that’s pretty much how I feel about it, too. Just making sure. Can you hand me the heating pad, please?
And that was that. I spent about a week and a half bleeding with the heating pad on my lap. My gynecologist said with the timing there was really no way to know for sure, but agreed that everything I was describing was likely the result of a miscarriage and she’d switch me to a higher dose pill. I still went to my Running Club meetup that weekend, which was really dumb because every time my foot hit the pavement sharp pain radiated through my body. I blamed my poor time on the wind. Afterward, I met up with a friend and as her toddler sat on my lap I thought, “Could I have done this?” Then he farted on me and laughed and I promptly handed him back to his mother. About a week later, I started to notice tiny bald spots at the front of my hairline. I went to the dermatologist who confirmed that the alopecia areata was most likely a side effect of the rapid shift in hormones in my body. I spent the next six months getting cortisone shots in my head to regrow my hair.
I didn’t tell anyone except my husband and my doctors what had happened. Not because I was too sad or scared to talk about it, but because I just didn’t know what to say. Women have miscarriages all the time, but usually it is met with great sorrow. I wasn’t sad. I don’t want children and now I wasn’t pregnant anymore, so Mother Nature had done me a favor in my book. I felt like a fraud because you’re supposed to be upset about it, and for some reason, ashamed. Ladies, let me tell you right now, if you’ve had a miscarriage do not feel ashamed. You are no less of a woman, you did not do anything wrong, and you did not fail anyone. They happen, quite often, and maybe women would feel a lot better if they felt comfortable talking about it. Maybe if we acknowledge just how common they are, I wouldn’t have felt the need to keep mine to myself because I didn’t fit the mold of someone who had miscarried. I felt fine, but it was still a thing that I experienced and I should have felt free to express my feelings on the subject. Instead I moved along. I figured that was the end of it.