with twins. What!?! yes.
And, then, one IUD removal, many weeks, one emergency room visit and a whole lotta awkward Spanglish later, we weren’t pregnant any more.
This really happened, although it’s kinda hard to believe. Even for me. And it happened to me. Well, it happened (and is still happening) to us, the crew of Mother Jones.
While this post isn’t the usual sailing or travel post, it is about what really happens to real people (us), who happen to live on a boat in foreign waters (yep, still us). Because even though it might seem sometimes that we live in a postcard, it’s not every day that “life’s a beach”.
I’ve struggled with whether to share this info as it’s, clearly, highly personal. I realize the way I’ve chosen to write this (my) story may seem flip at times. And, I understand many folks may know someone or be someone who has experienced loss. Everyone has a way of dealing with it. This is my way (goofy syntax and all).
Additionally, as the title might imply, this post does contain discussion of lady parts, bodily fluids and other potential TMI moments. So, if that freaks you out, just come back later. We’ll return to our normal programming of sunsets and wacky stories (sans lady parts) soon enough.
Still with me? Great, I knew you could do it. Welcome aboard, strap in and get ready for one hell of a ride, y’all. Hell, if we can do it, so can you. This:
At the end of February, we arrived in Guatemala. Shortly after settling into our new home on the Rio Dulce, Damon and his brother Dylan took off on a four-day overland adventure: taking the long way across Guatemala to visit Tikal on Dylan’s way to the airport in Guatemala City. While the guys were gone I stretched out on a tidy, man-free boat, treated myself to a home sparty (that’s spa-party for the layman), played “I wanna dance with somebody” way too loud and generally enjoyed my alone time. And, I got my period – or so I thought . . .
It was weird: Aunt Flo was super-duper light, with no cramps – and my boobs had been sore for a couple of weeks prior . . . hmmmm. Given I had an IUD (for the past 8 years), this felt unusual (copper IUDs tend to make periods and cramping heavy, and this has been my experience). But, given I had an IUD, I just rolled with it – it’s not like I could be pregnant or anything—the possibility didn’t even cross my mind.
But, a few days later, while talking to Damon after he got back from his short trip, about my “weird period this month”, I started listening more carefully to my body. Yep, you got it, I was talking and listening at the same time. It was like one of those movie scenes where the actor is talking, but it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher (“waa waa waa waa”) and the actor’s thoughts become visible and start to add up like some ethereal arithmetic problem:
Hmmm, couldn’t be, right? I mean, my breasts are tender, my “period” is not really like any period I’ve ever had – in fact, it’s more like spotting. Wait a second. Maybe I’m pregnant . . . nah, that would be crazy! I mean what are the odds of that!?!* Wha? Really? Nah! I’m being dramatic. But, just in case, let’s go get a pregnancy test just to rule it out from whatever is going on.
*apparently the odds are .06% - as in decimal POINT 06% not even whole number six percent, but less than 1/10th of 1%! Here on S/V Mother Jones, we really know how to beat the odds, eh!?!
So, off we went, in a taxi to a pharmacy. Like two skippidy-doo-dah lovers playing “pregnancy test”. I mean it was sooo unlikely that it was kinda fun to “just see”. (nevermind any thoughts about what could be going on if I wasn’t just having a “weird period” or was pregnant; I mean really? me pregnant? no way – I have an IUD, as in all-CAPS, FOOL-PROOF IUD).
I remember feeling a bit embarrassed talking to the taxi driver and the abuelita behind the pharmacy counter about my need for a pregnancy test. I mean it was proof: we do it – *IT* people! – and, people know. Yes, I know I worked in sexual health for.ev.er but that was *other people* right? And, I know I’m talking to the whole world of strangers three people who read this blog about my ‘gina but that doesn’t change the squeelly-feeling I had about other people’s thoughts of what was going on with me and D – like I could tell our taxi driver was excited for us, but was also being super polite and respecting my “privacy”.
Anywho, here comes more stuff that’s totally not private any more:
We got back to the boat with *the* pregnancy test (*the* as in *one* because there was no way I was pregnant so it was really silly I even got *one* to begin with) and I promptly went to the head to dispel the silliness. D stood in the doorway while we watched the little line on the stick go from one to TWO (as in TWO = pregnant) and then the WTFs and OMGs started. Our eyes were as big as saucers and we just kept nervously laughing – I mean, come on, really?
So, off to google we went to learn about the odds of pregnancy test false positives: apparently super low. So, having learned from google, a pregnancy test and more importantly, my body, that we were indeed pregnant (with an IUD in, to boot), D and I just kinda sat around the boat in excited disbelief, like this:
Given I’m 32, and he’s 39, and we’re not getting any younger, we had actually been talking a lot about getting my IUD out in the next couple of months in order to start trying* (*as in: won’t it be fun to get pregnant in the hypothetical “future”). But, I had also been going back and forth about getting on that rollercoaster – after all, it’s a HUGE decision to start a family. So, naturally, I was hemming and hawing, knowing I would eventually get on board, but definitely doing my best backpedal on the way. I even had an intentional conversation with a dear friend with two small kids about what it is *really* like; during which I actually uttered “You know, with this IUD I have to make a super-conscious choice to start. It’d almost be easier if I could just get pregnant ‘accidentally’”. Umm, be careful what you ask for!
So, here we were, with “the hypothetical future” upon us: excited but also 1,0000% shocked! We just kept looking at each other with stupid grins, saucer eyes and repeating: “.06%, huh?”.
I mean, it all made sense but it was sooo unlikely.
Like two generals caught completely off-guard in battle we grasped at a semblance of a plan to make some sense out of our *little chaos*:
- given it was about 7pm, we’d have to wait until morning to get a blood test at the local clinic our taxi driver mentioned;
- then, if we were “still” pregnant (ha!), we’d have to find a place with an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy was not ectopic* – which is a super serious concern, although not very likely (ha! like odds apply to us!);
- then, there was the *small matter* of what to do about the IUD.
*apparently women with IUDs experience more ectopic pregnancies than women without. As far as I can tell, it’s not causal, in that the IUD doesn’t make you have an ectopic pregnancy. But, rather, that the IUD prevents implantation in the uterus so if a pregnancy occurs, it’s more likely not to be in the uterus, but elsewhere (like in the fallopian tubes aka an ectopic pregnancy). Further, the risks of ectopic pregnancy include infertility and death (because once the pregnancy reaches a certain point too big for the tubes, it bursts and the woman can bleed to death). So, while I figured I was too early in the pregnancy to bleed out from the pregnancy burst, I knew I definitely had to figure this piece out. In other words, we were shy a couple of important hurdles before we could throw ourselves whist-fully into pregnant bliss.
I don’t remember how we got to sleep that night but soon enough morning came.
We got to the clinic before it even opened. Standing outside were four Guatemalan women in traditional clothes and next to them, a foot taller, was me and ginger-bearded Damon – the only man there. Needless to say, we were a curiosity. When the clinic finally opened, we entered a small waiting room with a paper-thin partition where they drew blood on the other side. It was simple and clean. From my background as a sexual-health educator, I was happy to see government posters eschewing the importance of getting tested for STDs and AIDS (SIDA en español). But, given the following practice of the administrator/nurse/super-nice woman responsible for both the front desk and the blood draws asking each of us publicly why we were there, I’m sad to bet not many folks get tested for SIDA, et al given the lack of HIPAA standards.
When it was ANNOUNCED that I was there for a pregnancy test, all of the other women looked at me and smiled; I blushed. They offered up joyful well-wishes but I wasn’t convinced.
I know pregnancy is (supposed to be) a blessing but I was still in shock and also nervous about the potential for serious health problems given my IUD. Self-consciously, I wondered if it seemed I wasn’t as excited as all the other women were for me. I caught myself chiding their blind faith ala “in a perfect world, yeah, I’d be totally excited. But, they don’t know the half of it. I mean, I have a few more hoops to jump before I can breathe easy”. Then, hot on my judgment’s heels came sobering assumptions about their circumstantial standing in Guatemala’s maternal-child mortality statistics. It was more than likely that these women had seen their fair share of pregnancies where blessings were in high demand.
Standing side by side, shoulder to (much shorter) shoulder with these women got me thinking that perhaps I should think twice about (dis)counting any of my own blessings (before they hatch). It was also the first moment of my pregnancy where I felt like I had joined The Club. An auxiliary to the global sisterhood of women, the Pregnancy & Motherhood Club felt similarly universal. And, here in this rural clinic in Guatemala, regardless of any superficial or significant differences, I was being welcomed.
The blood draw was simple enough and the administrator/nurse/super-nice woman advised us to return in 2 hours for the results. She also informed us of that there was an OB/GYN in town who could offer further medical services should I need them.
So we went to brunch. Again wide-eyed and seemingly walking on air, we stammered exclamations of “what if?”, “what THE!?!”, etc. for a very long 120 minutes.
As we made our way back to the clinic and turned the corner, there was the administrator/nurse/super-nice woman, waving down a bus to get someone’s sample to the hospital in the next town (via a public bus driver, of course). She looked at us with a BIG smile and informed us our test results were positive: we were pregnant.
(this space intentionally left blank for dramatic pause purposes)
(and we’re back . . .)
Once we caught our breath and collected our “you’re officially pregnant” paperwork, we headed off to see Dr. Chang, the OB/GYN in town. The next immediate hurdle was to find out whether the pregnancy was in utero or ectopic. dun dun duuuun
After an ultrasound, Dr. Chang was happy to report it wasn’t ectopic. But, he also had another surprise in store for us: “It looks like twins”.
(this space intentionally left blank for another dramatic pause)
(and we’re back, again)
He went on to say he “couldn’t be sure” about the twins because I was so early (4 weeks) and perhaps the IUD was in the way/casting a shadow on its womb-mate(s). But, I was definitely pregnant, it was in utero, and I had the complication of the IUD.
So, yet another hurdle cleared but another yet to go.
“What should we do about the IUD?” we asked.
“You should take it easy. Bedrest until you stop spotting. No Sex. Let’s get you on pre-natals and progesterone.”
“But, what about removing the IUD?” we asked again.
“You should leave it in. It’s God’s will. If you have it removed it will cause an abortion and I will not be a party to that”.
(for the record, I think the term “abortion” and “miscarriage” are often times interchanged, especially in a medical setting and especially so in a foreign-language medical setting – not so much in a political setting, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)
Still, it was made very clear by Dr. Chang that if we were looking to terminate, he was not our guy. We assured him we weren’t (after all, we had been planning this . . . in the hypothetical “future”). But, we weren’t sold on not removing the IUD. I mean, I read WebMD internet forums. That’s as good as gold, right?
Plus, I don’t really like it (to put it mildly) when someone else attempts to mix their politics with my reproductive health care. So we left; scripts in hand, grateful to know the pregnancy was in-utero, but seeking no more of Dr. Chang’s services.
Not having a second option in town, we went in search of one online. Specifically, I wrote a couple OB/GYN gal-pals back home with my details, and they both recommended removal if the pregnancy was less than 12 weeks (like mine). Sure, they said, there’s a 50/50 chance of miscarriage if the IUD is removed. But if the IUD is left in, there’s also a risk of early labor (and all the complications associated with that). Additionally, if the IUD is left in, there’s also a high risk of having a unicorn baby*. *not true at all
Armed with the professional recommendations of trusted friends (and definitely not wanting a unicorn baby), I decided I wanted to find a doc who would remove the IUD.
Luckily, while I was chatting with my gal-pals back home, Damon was combing the internet for OB/GYNs in Guatemala who might be able to help us out. Most were in Guatemala City, most had receptionists who did not speak English, and most were not able to help us at this late hour (Friday afternoon). But, we did manage to get through to a couple doctors who recommended the IUD come out immediately – which they could only do in Guatemala City, as soon as Monday.
So, we’d have to wait out the weekend. Me, on Dr. Chang-ordered bedrest with a side of prenatal vitamins and progesterone injections (which leave you sore and full of weird oil balls in your injection site – it’s how they suspend the hormones, I guess). Damon was on “everything-else” duty.
(by the by, and in case you’re keeping track, this was not the first waiting period to have passed and, as it would turn out, many waiting periods were still to come. if you know me, you know how patient I am . . . not. apparently, Nature and I keep different schedules – the nerve!)
From the boat, we occupied our weekend mainly with the logistics of our upcoming trip to Guatemala City: which doctor would we see, what bus would be take, who would look after the dog, would be need a hotel, what next??? And, of course, how much everything would cost was on our minds, too. But, given Guatemala’s medical tourism industry and the fact that an IUD removal really isn’t that complicated a procedure, we figured it couldn’t be much: maybe a couple hundred bucks for the whole trip, considering the 5 hour-bus ride each way, a night in a hotel, meals and medical services by a private doc* in the City? (*given the unusual nature of my pregnancy, I thought it best to not show up in the public hospital or a local clinic)
Luckily, a fellow boater in our marina offered to watch the dog for as long as we needed (he didn’t know why we were going to the City, he just offered, ‘cause cruisers are awesome like that).
Finally, at 2:30am on Monday morning we took off on the redeye bus for Guatemala City armed with a contact list of US-Embassy-recommended-OB/GYNs and a custom-made map of their offices in relation to our bus stop, our hotel and supposedly the best Thai-food place in Guat City (c’mon, would you really expect any less from me?).
We arrived around 7:30am and after a quick bite, we worked the contact list. I secured one appointment at 9am with one Dr. Edmundo Guillen and another with at 11am with another doctor just down the street– just in case (yep, still Type-A me).
I had made the back-up 11am appointment in case I didn’t like Dr. Guillen’s vibe. But as it turned out, he proved a wonderful, warm doctor, father and grandfather who took great care of me that day, and in the weeks following, both during and after my pregnancy. He had actually been one of the doctors we spoke to on Friday – when he was off work, on his cell – who recommended an immediate removal.
And, by “immediate removal”, he meant it. (I find it funny how, in situations like these, even though I know what’s coming, I’m always like “now? You wanna do it now? Oh”, as if I thought “immediate” meant “later” as in “never”)
After about 15 minutes of background, I was in a paper dress making full acquaintance with the good doctor. I specifically remember during the “short” procedure, how Dr. Guillen mentioned it was all going along so “gently” – turns out “gently” and “short” are relative terms dependant directly on which side of the speculum you’re on . . .
Within a few minutes I was back in my civvies but not before Dr. Guillen showed me the culprit: something about the black oxidation of the copper. He remarked that’s a sign of age and I should have had it replaced (even though it was only 8 years old and supposed to last 10-12). Umm, okay. How was I supposed to know to change it? Oh, riiiight: XRay vision, psychic powers or better yet, just get pregnant and then you’ll know yer dadgum IUD don’t work no more! Silly me.
Re: Dr. Guillen’s show-and-tell, I know what you’re thinking: “grody!”, right? Me, too. It was grody. But, it was also fine – I actually really appreciate it when a professional shows me the problem like I’m an actual, capable, adult woman-person, instead of just patting me on the head and telling me not to worry about it, little lady. Still, I don’t think a whole lot of people look at stuff that was in their body for EIGHT years and don’t think “eww, that looks like an old radiator hose or something”. Or maybe that’s just me.
ahem, moving on . . . .
Dr. Guillen was pleased to hear we had booked a room in Guat City for the night, just in case. There was no sight-seeing allowed; my orders were straight to bed. If I didn’t have a miscarriage/abortion from the removal within the first 24 hours, Doc said the chances were good I’d have a normal pregnancy.
He explained my spotting should clear up in about a week; I was to be on bed rest for TWO MORE WEEKS – “no strenuous activity”. Further, Dr. Guillen prescribed “No sex. No thinking about sex. I don’t want your hormones changing or uterus cramping because of an orgasm”. Ummmm, okay. “Got it. Sure, no problem,” you wanna say all casual like, knowing full well the good Doctor knows how you got into this predicament in the first place . . .
We scheduled a follow-up, hopefully an all-clear into the 2nd trimester, for a few weeks later on Monday, March 18th (the day before my 32nd birthday).
March 18th. It became a magic day; one of those days circled in red on the calendar with every day leading up to it another big, black X of hurdles surmounted and progress made.
With each black X we got more and more excited. I didn’t miscarry within the first 24 hours of the removal = big black X. I stopped spotting seven Xs later. So far, so good, eh?
Sure, we were reluctant to throw ourselves fully into the possibility that this “whole pregnancy thing” might work out. But with each black X on the calendar, we inevitably slid further down the slippery Hope slope.
All the while “waiting until the 18th”, we exchanged knowing glances. We floated ideas for names. We imagined.
We surprised friends and ambushed family with Trojan Horse Skype calls disguised as routine check-ins. We swore them all to secrecy and got random congratulatory emails from others nonetheless. We explored many possibilities about whether we would return to the States or become expat/boat mama and papa like those we’ve met along the way. We got unsolicited advice from our neighbors on the dock. We made jokes about how Titos Vodka was gonna go out of business until the little one came. We felt blessed to know my 93-year-old Grandmother (who Skypes!) was excited to meet another generation. We were totally curious to know how our old, grumpy salty dog was gonna interact with his new “puppy”. We downloaded pregnancy apps and we ordered hippie books from pioneers like Ina May Gaskin.
Damon got a little more protective and paternal as his responsibilities on the boat expanded with our little family.
I had normal 1st tri-symptoms of a touch of nausea, tender boobs and general fatigue. I also had a weird symptom of burping – a lot (apparently it has to do with hormonal changes effecting your digestive system) – all things I was happy to complain about. I had half-serious “complaints” about our already drama-filled and high-maintenance little Scorpio. I ate way too much ice-cream for a lactose-intolerant lady on bed rest. And, I drafted an excited blog post (which turned into this one).
All this is to say that, while we were “waiting until the 18th” we just couldn’t help ourselves but be excitedly cautious very-newly-pregnant cruisers.
Sure, we had normal reservations about the big stuff: where to have the baby, where to raise the baby, how to pay for the baby, etc. But, in general, the whole experience was such a series of “if we get through this then we’ll be in the clear” situations. So, we figured we just better roll with it and have fun with whatever we got.
Like digging up these old pics of what our babies might look like:
perhaps the way things turned out was a good thing???
Soon, the Xs on the calendar reached into the double-digits and approached the big red circle of dun, dun, dun THE 18TH!
On yet another trip to Guatemala City, we hoped for an easy turn-around: get the early morning bus, visit with the doc at 11am, get an all-clear, then hop back on the 1pm and be back – with baby – by supper. It was not to be.
Our first sign of trouble was from Nurse Bad News Bears, who administered my sonogram. In a stark contrast to our light-hearted, silly Spanglish exchange a few minutes prior, she silently squinted at her screen and soberly pressed “how far along are you?”; she followed up “are you sure?”. Switching from the “jelly on the belly” to a much more intimate sonogram, we joined her in scanning the screen for an image – and the sound – of what we expected.
Something like this:
Or, good heavens! Maybe even this:
But, instead, there was this:
And, no more Spanglish jokes.
There they were (yes, “they” as in “two”!). But, there were no heartbeats. There was no pointing out fingers and toes. There was only “the doctor will explain everything to you”.
By a scheduling mix-up, we had to wait two hours. Two, long hours, filled with knowing but not wanting to know; filled with as many google searches as we could bear (one); filled with more waiting.
Interesting how the mood of a hospital waiting room can change dramatically with the temper of a diagnosis. Suddenly I noticed sick – perhaps dying – people and their families in chairs once occupied by mothers and their infants (“like the one we’ll have soon”) getting routine check-ups.
There were no other (visibly) pregnant women in His waiting room. I wondered what they were there for – it hadn’t occurred to me earlier, when I was stealthily stuffing my purse with old issues of Pregnancy magazine. Damon took a silent cue and discreetly put them back.
And, then, they called my name.
It was so cliché: doctor on one side of the desk, two young, expectant parents on the other side, bad news and questions being exchanged between. The words “no hope” anchored the conversation. Then, “surgery”. Then “as soon as possible”.
We took a long moment.
We let ourselves feel what we already knew and we let the tears fall.
Soon, in another “I’m totally not ready for this, but here we go anyway” moment, I was admitted to the adjoining hospital where Dr. Guillen would perform my D&C in just a few hours.
I called my mom. I think she had joined me in placing a big red circle over the 18th and was expecting my call. She answered cheerfully, launching into an excited story about how seeing some kiddos out and about gave her Grandma-to-be flash-forwards. Of course she didn’t know. I told her. Then, Damon told his dad. Both gave us bolstering words and sentiments which loved us through.
Nurses came and went; doctors, too. People explained things, took vitals. My anesthesiologist (I was to go fully under) proved remarkable: she was about my age and somehow struck the perfect balance between chipper and responsible; rode the perfect line between “I do this every day” and “I know you don’t”. She sat on the bed with me, talking to me at eye-level, casually asking me about my medical history and stumbling, apologetically through practicing her English (which really wasn’t bad at all!). She apologized “I’m sorry, I’m no good at English”. To which I playfully tested, “but, you’re really good at anesthesia?”. Her smile opened wide to let out a laugh; she held her thumb way up, winked and said “Yes!”. I was in good hands. (indeed, it was she who noticed my nerves an hour later under the OR lights and without a pause, took mine in hers. and, she who snuck D into the recovery room against all rules but compassion.)
That night was a bit of a blur for me: nurses came and went, changed my IVs, helped me pee (awkward!) and changed my dressings aka “sumo-wrestler undies” (yep, still totally awkward). Dr. Guillen explained to Damon everything went as expected and I needn’t worry about any complicated aftercare. He had only these words of caution: because of the amount of tissue removed, we needed to allow my body multiple menstrual cycles to build back up any uterine lining, should we want to avoid another improperly implanted pregnancy, and the all-too-familiar potential consequences.
“Huh?” must’ve been the look on our faces.
He simplified it for us, “Use condoms for three months. Don’t get pregnant”.
“Oh, right, ‘cause the IUD-twin couple is super good at beating the pregnancy odds.”
We all laughed.
“Well, just use two condoms and then it won’t be any fun and you won’t want to do it”
We laughed again, until the awkward silence started.
Yep, more abstinence and/or reliving the condom “fun” of many years past, was apparently the latex lining on this dark cloud. (ba-dum-bum ching!)
By noon the next day (my 32nd birthday) we were discharged, we paid our bill, and after a 4 hour ride back to the Rio, I wrote the following letter to the handful of family and friends “in” on our expanding crew list:
“I apologize for the mass email, but wanted to share with you all the latest: yesterday we had our 11 week checkup and found out we had twins (!) but, unfortunately, they had not developed and had no heartbeat(s).
Because there was no hope for what was to be the newest Jones to keep up with, and there was a potentially serious risk of infection for me, I was immediately admitted to the hospital in Guatemala City for a D&C. The procedure was performed by a team of really great providers (led by my OB/GYN) and went really well. Early pathology confirms the pregnancies would not have progressed.
My doctor strongly suspects the reason the pregnancies didn’t progress was due to the IUD (I had in place when I got pregnant in January) preventing proper implantation (and therefore nourishment of the ovas). Otherwise, he confirmed that I am in great health – his comment of “when you were in surgery, I checked out your hips and when you want to get pregnant again, you should have no problem giving birth vaginally” made me feel a little bit like a prize breeding sow, but I appreciate the Doc’s intentions.
I was released this morning and we are now comfortably back on the boat. Other than being a bit tired and sore, I feel great – I’m not nauseous and my boobs don’t hurt for the first time in weeks!
We find the following series of well-known clichés, to be in line with our own perspective:
- “Miscarriages can be a blessing in disguise”;
- “You don’t just want a baby, you want a healthy baby”;
- “Everything happens for a reason”;
- “It wasn’t meant to be”;
- “When it comes to womb-mates, three is a crowd”*;
- and, “Shit Happens”.
*perhaps not as well-known as the other clichés
Even so, we are pretty disappointed and find ourselves grieving the excitement we shared with all of you over the past couple of weeks.
It has been really fun to share the possibility of expanding our family with all of you. Thank you for all of your kind words, for fielding our many (sometimes weird) questions about pregnancy and childbirth and for razzing us (mainly me) about getting my just desserts from the little ones.
At this time, we’re just really thankful for the love and support of our community (all of you) and for the great health care I’ve received. And, of course, us being us, we’re definitely taking the opportunity to laugh at a bunch of stupid and (mostly) inappropriate jokes that run through our heads.
Thanks again for everything.
Laurie & Damon
Ps. We expect that some of you, in your excitement, may have shared our initial Jones-expansion-plans with others. If so, thanks for your burst of excitement and for spreading the love, but . . . now that there’s this (less than exciting) news, we’d really appreciate you following up with anyone “in the know” who’s not addressed here. Thank you so much for your help.”
I wrote in that birthday letter that I felt better than I had in weeks – I think I was high. Sure, physically I felt better: like not pregnant with first-tri symptoms. But, that high wasn’t to last. In fact, the bottom fell out a few days later when I started spotting again.
It was physical proof I was in recovery. Physical proof that everything did, in fact, just happen. Physical proof that I lost what was, in fact, inside me – in my uterus and in my heart (cheesy, I know).
Since discovering we were pregnant (with an IUD in place), we knew there was a higher-than-normal risk that “it could go splat” (to borrow an outlook held lovingly by a good friend when she was in her first tri). We thought we were prepared for that and would take it in stride, like no big deal. Right? wrong. I get it now. At least my version of “it” – pregnancy & miscarriage.
For weeks I felt trapped in a no-woman’s-land between not-pregnant-anymore and not-yet-normal. My membership in the super-fun-time-sister-hood-of-the-Pregnancy Club had been terminated. When my prego-boat buddy and I went out – and only she — was congratulated, it stung. When another, far-flung boat-buddy announced she was pregnant, my first thought was to laugh with her about how crazy it was that all three of our young-people-buddy-boats got pregnant in Panama ala “there’s something in the water, eh?”. But, then I paused; what excitedly expectant mama wants to hear about pregnancy not working out? “I’m sure you’ll be fine, though” Ugg. Way to take the fun outta that pregnancy announcement, Debbie Downer.
Of course, I’m over-the-moon excited for them; truly I am. It’s just that their excitement (and the familiar question of our child-less status from well-meaning strangers), has, at times, painfully reminded me of the excitement I no longer have. The Club I’m no longer in. And, of the Other Club I joined by default. “Other”, like a box checked on a form between “never been pregnant” and “mother”.
I didn’t want to be in this club! (stamping feet!) I wanted to be in the other club! (even when wasn’t expecting to be!) Or, maybe, could at least be in the normal club? (like a “normal club” exists!)
Having moved so quickly from the (publicly-congratulated) Pregnancy Club to the privacy of Other Club felt very isolating. Other than my wonderful partner, I was thousands of miles away from anyone who knew me well and knew my status (had changed, and then changed again). Like the pregnancy itself, this time was filled with more waiting and wondering; the un-expected unexpecting. It was really hard. I cried almost every day: tears of frustration, tears of disappointment, & I’m sure tears full of hormonal cocktail served straight-up and on-the-rocks. I had been personally introduced to a new shade of grey which colored everything in my view. I was not happy.
Of course, even though I felt totally alone at times, I was not. There are lots of women in this Other Club who’ve hosted a whole range of similar experiences. Some of them don’t get pregnant so surprisingly, some of them don’t get my sterling prized-sow diagnosis for future pregnancies and some of them even hold cards in a combination of clubs (Pregnancy, Other and Mother).
Through this experience, many women who I didn’t know held memberships in the Other Club have reached out. And, I’ve grown closer to those in this club I already knew held a card. I’m grateful for the generosity of sharing and listening – and especially for the laughs and opportunities to talk about the fun times, too. It’s been nice to know that even though I don’t get to keep the babies, I get to keep the experience and share the stories. Of course, I know that what I have experienced isn’t the worst of all – but I also know it’s not nothing.
Training wheels. These two little whatevers, joining us on the boat, against all odds, thousands of miles away from my support system, have provided us a peek into a possible future. They’ve given us a pass – at least for now – on what another pregnancy – or even a baby – on our boat might be: the possibility of finding great care outside the US medical system, as much recovery time as I want away from work and with my partner, and also the trappings of having only virtual, long-distance support from dear friends and family.
I spent six weeks in that no-woman’s-land between pregnant and normal (having a period again). Then, early last week, I got my period. It’s had a way of shifting the stasis of my present into my history. It’s turned out to be the yin to my spotting’s yang: another physical reminder of my recovery, this this time gently telling me the cycle continues.
Our little family (of three), with Guatemala behind us
A few thoughts on sharing this:
It occurred to me that this could be just one more sad story on the internet. That’s not my intention. Like every post on this blog, this is a snapshot into our lives out here on S/V Mother Jones. Something private, which we chose to make public – it was never a secret (there’s difference, so says my mama, between Private and Secret).
I also happen to think context matters, and I would have been remiss in not mentioning something so significant on our journey: “How was Guatemala?” “Umm, freaking crazy!”
Additionally, because I’m so far away from home, and because we were so early on, there are also a lot of folks we know and love who would probably be “in” on this news given another week or so. But, given the circumstances, we weren’t really keen to tell this story over and over again. To all you folks we love, and (we hope!) love us back, we trust you’ll forgive us for sharing this important context of our lives in such an impersonal way.
Another reason I decided to post this to The Internet is that throughout my pregnancy I got a ton out of referencing other women’s stories – in online forums, through personal emails and dockside conversations. Perhaps this share will be helpful to someone reading (I know it was for me in writing – thank you all for listening).
Finally, for any of y’all reading who think this subject matter is gross, TMI or otherwise impolite, 1) why have you kept reading this far!?! and 2) it’s just life, y’all, get over it.
A few words about medical care, insurance and payment in Central America (and maybe a little bit of a rant, too – hey, the personal is political):
We don’t carry health insurance. We pay out of pocket and generally that’s meant $5-50 worth of medicines or treatments. We’ve received brand-name antibiotics, had our teeth cleaned, and our moles checked by excellent pharmacists, dentists and doctors – most of whom speak English, because most were trained in the States or Cuba. Because of the low cost of routine care, our relative youth (32 and 39) and because we’re relatively healthy, we haven’t carried insurance. Of course, insurance isn’t there for the routine. It’s there for the emergency you don’t plan for – like a pregnancy with an IUD, removal and then a D&C – or worse, waaay worse.
Our emergency cost about $2,000 all-told, including everything from my initial pregnancy test, three visits to a first-class OB/GYN in private practice, travel to and from Guatemala City twice and an overnight stay in a private room in a private hospital (which took VISA). Believe you me, I recognize how lucky, persistent and privileged we are to have had this access to quality care.
Ironically, $2,000 was the deductible we were negotiating in a policy that didn’t include maternity care (for 10 months) a few weeks prior to our emergency.
Adding to further irony, on the same day of my lecture-free, safe asind legal abortion in the explicitly Catholic country of Guatemala, my home state of Texas (which explicitly protects religious freedoms???) was debating several laws to restrict access to abortion care. One of these measures includes subjecting women like me to an unnecessary (vaginal) ultrasound and state-mandated badgering (under the guise of “informed consent”). All this in a thinly-veiled attempt to get us to change our mind about abortion. As if we had the luxury.