The night I found out I was pregnant, it was date night—what would become our last legitimate outing before the Corona hit the fan. We’d started out at a new wine bar in our neighborhood, whose terrazzo counters kept popping up in my Instagram feed. It was early Covid-days; as I placed my hands on the orange-and-gray-flecked bar, I thought, This is cute. Then only half-seriously: Maybe I shouldn’t touch this.
Coronavirus was definitely a topic of discussion all around us, but it was still sort of intangible and uncertain, heavy on hand sanitizer humor. When my husband wondered if we should stay in that night, I replied, almost teenage-like, “We still have to live our lives.”
He had more reason to be concerned: As a Type 1 diabetic with asthma, he was a walking target. Yet, that night, Insta-friendly decor and natural wines won over the threat of a virus we didn’t know much about (which now seems insane). “I guess you’re right,” he said, pocketing a bottle of mini-Purell as we headed out the door.
We had been told that getting pregnant would be an uphill battle due to my husband’s sperm morphology; a semen analysis had revealed that he had a very low percentage of sperm in the correct size and shape to fertilize an egg. “Not impossible” is how one doctor described it, along with a basketball metaphor I’m still not sure I understand. In short, pregnancy wasn’t a complete impossibility, but would probably take a long time via natural methods. We hadn’t been “trying” long — this was our third month, but I was already mentally preparing myself for a discussion about IUI in six months’ time.
When we headed to CVS to buy a pregnancy test later that night (the day my period was due), we both talked about it being a waste of money. There was just no way.
“JK SURPRISE!” is what it should say instead of “Pregnant” after you pee on a Clearblue stick. My husband, frantic, both in excitement and disbelief, was sure the test was wrong (“These things don’t lie,” I kept saying), but he insisted on heading back to CVS for more tests, which all said the same thing.
Over the next two days, the Corona situation snowballed and the fear started setting in. I informed my team that I’d be working from home until further notice because of my husband’s underlying conditions. (Well, and now because of my pregnancy, which I didn’t disclose.)
I’d imagine that any newly pregnant woman becomes addicted to Google, but in the time of Corona, I began devouring everything I could find about how the virus was affecting women and their children. I started taking my temperature and frantically researched “fever during early pregnancy” when I got a few readings over 100 degrees. (Turns out we had a faulty thermometer.)
We told close friends and family about the pregnancy with the caveat, “It’s early days. We don’t know if it’s a thing yet.” Our older family members brushed off the idea of miscarriage each time we reminded them of the possibility; it quickly became clear to us how misinformed their generation was on pregnancy loss. They’d lived through pregnancies in times when miscarriage wasn’t openly discussed, leading them to conclude that it happened rarely.
But of course, I’d had plenty of friends miscarry. My doctor, who has been delivering babies for 37 years, told me that he finds that one in four women miscarry, a statistic that’s even higher than the number quoted online. (An ultrasound technician would later tell me it’s more like one in three, a number that feels both scary and reassuring that this literally happens ALL THE TIME.)
At our first scan—at six weeks—my husband teared up when we found a heartbeat. In the weeks ahead, and with no cramping or bleeding, we began to feel like it was going to be “a thing.” I’d crossed a mental line where I’d allowed myself to bookmark a few IKEA nursery pieces. We mulled over name choices during our nightly “gotta get out of the house” walks.
At my second scan at nine weeks, I was alone (partners were no longer allowed in the doctor’s office) when I got the bad news. I began crying into my mask as my doctor explained that he couldn’t find a heartbeat and the embryo had not grown. He called it a “missed abortion.”
The doctor arranged for a follow-up ultrasound with a different hospital department — he was only permitted to treat patients one day a week, so this would be the fastest way to confirm the miscarriage. A few days later, I found myself, alone, once again, being told the pregnancy wasn’t viable.
Miscarriage is already a lonely process; you go from living for two to being back down to one. And no matter how much you’re told it’s “not your fault,” you still feel like you failed.
I’ve never been someone who has felt like they need tons of friends or even tons of time with them (I have my solid circle and we ordinarily have our regular friend-date schedules), but all of a sudden, I wished everyone could come over for a days-long dinner party. I missed my parents with the same sadness and homesickness I’d last felt at summer camp when I was 10. Zoom dates made me want to reach through the screen for hugs.
Yet, I question whether I would have pushed myself to see friends under “normal” circumstances. Or would I have held back, stayed close to my partner, and given myself some time to just be alone? After all, being secluded with him during that time brought us closer and was undoubtedly coated in compassion.
Maybe the emotional aspect of miscarrying in quarantine isn’t actually any different. A loss is a loss is a loss and that lives inside you — no matter what’s going on in the world outside.