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.


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.

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:

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

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    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

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    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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