It was 'just' a chemical pregnancy—but I still grieved deeply

"Something was there," the nurse said. "But it's gone now."

chemical pregnancy grief

Trigger alert: This essay shares the journey of a woman who experienced a miscarriage.

There I was, a week into the agonizing 'two-week wait,' staring at the array of pregnancy test options in aisle 12. I knew that it was early, but the tests were calling my name, and I was powerless against them. I decided to spare no expense on my inaugural test, and I had no clue what I was doing, so I figured a test that just came right out and said, "YES" or "NO" was the test for me.

On the way home, I made multiple attempts to talk myself out of taking the test I had just spent a small fortune on.

It's too early.

You should wait a few more days, at least.

There's no way you could be pregnant anyway.

You've only been trying for a month. Don't do it.

Ladies, we all know how this story ends: in a bathroom with an empty, crumpled up pregnancy test wrapper. Screw you, two-week wait.

While I waited for the test results, my mind, once again, raced with all thoughts negative. It's too soon. You just started trying, and you're not even using the highly desirable first-morning urine. Here comes the big N-O.

And then, there it was. "YES."


Cue "light as a feather" feeling. My mouth dropped and the world went dizzy.

Yes.

I ran down the hall to tell my husband, who worked nights and was asleep. "You're going to be a dad!" I shouted. That woke him up. We hugged. We happily and excitedly chatted. We smiled. He went to work. I went to sleep, pregnant.

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Two days later, it was over.

I bought another pregnancy test, and another and another. I was a test-taking addict. I couldn't get enough of that beautiful blue line. My test of choice went from $20 ones to the one from the dollar store. As long as I saw that line, nothing else mattered. It also didn't matter that the line continued to grow fainter with each passing day. I was pregnant, case closed.

Then, my sister, who had experienced a miscarriage at 10 weeks, saw my tests, lined up one by one. "I don't think that's a good sign," she said. "I think that means the pregnancy hormone is disappearing."

A few days later, my happiness ended where it began: in the bathroom. It was over. I knew it. I called my doctor's office, and they told me to come in.

In a sad, windowless room, they broke the news: "Something was there," the nurse said. "But it's gone now."

Something was there. I appreciated the confirmation that it had all been real. I wasn't wrong. But how should I feel now? I wasn't quite sure. I knew that I was sad and confused. But then another feeling arrived that I wasn't expecting: foolishness.

I felt foolish for getting so darn excited. I felt silly for crying. After all, I had only been pregnant for five days. I hadn't miscarried at 12 weeks, 20 weeks, 34 weeks. And I wasn't going through years of infertility. This was my very first attempt! My doctor didn't even call it a miscarriage. It was a "chemical pregnancy." This term served as even more confirmation that I shouldn't be feeling what I was feeling. It wasn't a miscarriage. Buck up, lady.

And then came the self-blame.

Why did you test so early?

Why couldn't you have just waited?

If you had waited, you would have never even known you were pregnant. But, no, you just HAD to find out. Your impatience got you here. It's your fault you feel this way.

My husband tried to be supportive but, you know, it's different for the guys. In those five days, while he was trying to remind himself that I was pregnant at all, I was already picking out nursery curtains.

I felt sad. I felt alone, and I felt like I shouldn't be feeling any of it.

Two months later, that positive blue line appeared again. I looked at it, aloofly dropped it on the bathroom counter and walked into the kitchen to make some pasta. When I saw my husband, I said, "Looks like I'm pregnant again," and lazily continued to stir the noodles. Operation self-protection was in full force.

For years I would look back on that day with regret. Regret that I didn't feel more excited about my second positive pregnancy test. I didn't bake a "we're pregnant!" cake. I didn't put a bun in the oven for my husband to find. It was this pregnancy—this blue line—that resulted in my beautiful, wonderful son, and I didn't celebrate it. My son deserved to be celebrated from the very beginning, but fear kept me from excitement. Oh, the guilt I felt over that, for so long.

But why?

I'm pretty sure we mamas have a tendency to look back with 20/20 vision at the times in our lives when—due to exhaustion, fear, anger, sadness, confusion— our brains were only functioning at 50%. And that's not fair to us.

We have to remember the reasons why we felt the way we felt. The reasons were valid. The feelings were valid. I was so scared that I would lose that second pregnancy. Today, I look at my sweet, smiling son and know that it all worked out. But, on that day, I was just scared, and I reacted appropriately.

Plain and simple, all the feelings are okay. It's okay to feel excited about a positive pregnancy test, no matter how early you tested. You're pregnant! Celebrate if you want to. It's also okay to feel devastated about a miscarriage, no matter how early you miscarried. You were pregnant. Grieve if you need to. And it's okay to self protect after those trying to conceive disappointments. The road can be long and exhausting.

It's okay to feel how we feel, and it's okay to have felt how we felt. Don't diminish it. Don't deny it. Don't regret it.

In this long journey called motherhood, what you feel is right. Trust it.

I am a 2007 graduate of the University of Oregon's School of Journalism. For eight years, I served as managing editor and staff writer for a child welfare organization. Today, I am a full-time stay-at-home mother of two. You can find Ashli here: www.mominthemovies.wordpress.com

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