Life and Health

A Burden Shared – Part 2

TW: pregnancy, loss, and Roe v. Wade

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Back in October 2021, I shared the gut-wrenching loss of miscarriage after an unexpected pregnancy. It’s been a few months and while I thought I was “over it” that doesn’t seem to be the case. In January my partner had a vasectomy because while the unexpected pregnancy excited me, it scared him. He has a genetic condition called epidermolysis bullosa where his skin layers aren’t fused together properly so he gets blisters just by catching his elbow on the door frame or scuffing his heels on the stairs. While normal people experience blisters on occasion, his condition results in them happening constantly and very visibly. I’ve lost count how many times we’re out and people ask him “what happened?” and he sometimes answers with the truth (usually when I’m there to call him out when he lies) or he’ll offhandedly reply “chemical burns” or “motorcycle accident” when he doesn’t want to deal with the further explanations. I am the one more often to explain the truth; I imagine this is because I don’t give a $h!t but also because I’ve only been dealing with it for the length of our relationship whereas he has been dealing with the stares and comments his whole life. And while most people are just genuinely curious and trying to be sympathetic; some have been downright rude about it. Magnified over his lifetime and coupled with the fact that his father had the same condition, he has grown tired of it.

I don’t relay the small snapshot of what he’s dealt with for any reason other than to try and explain that we discussed and agreed upon the vasectomy; it was not a decision he made on his own despite my attempts to sway his opinion. Through our discussions I realized the pain he would feel passing on the condition (there was a 50–50 chance) and potentially laying that burden on a child would be way more than my pain at not having a second child. However, as with anything, while I agreed and was part of the decision I still have to wrestle with my own feelings and regrets at realizing that our family is purposefully going to remain capped at three members.

And I was doing fine with it until April hit. April was Blueberry’s due month and leading up to my period I had some symptoms that I warped into some false hope that meant maybe his was the vasectomy that didn’t work. I built up in my mind that these symptoms MEANT something and when my period started, I was absolutely devastated. I woke up in the middle of the night, started ugly crying like it was September 2021 all over again. I woke him up to comfort me and desperately tried not to wake up my daughter at the same time because the sobs just wracked my body unexpectedly.

It was 2:00am and I couldn’t remember how to call out of work because they just changed the system over and I completely forgot my log in information, so I ended up going to work. Fortunately, I was showing a movie about The Human Genome Project so in the darkness while the movie played, I tried to keep the tears to a minimum but sometimes they would slip down my face and I’d brush them away. I made sure to get my log in information so I could take the next day off so I wouldn’t have to sit through another day of class trying to hide my crying.

I talked with some friends about it, the period (and the PMS symptoms) passed, and I was able to move on until the draft supreme court opinion dropped in May which brought an onslaught of discussions about pregnancy, abortion, and miscarriages to the national stage. The captured news cycle discussed almost nothing but pregnancy and it forced me to relive the emotional roller coaster of August and September 2021.

After the radiologist told me that the zygote was no longer viable, I had to be checked over by my doctor to see if the miscarriage had completed otherwise, I would need assistance. I remember sitting in the waiting room of my Ob/Gyn’s office, watching pregnant women come and go; trying not to turn into a wailing, rocking, shaking mess. It was insanely hard watching all these women walk past me and sit down next to me while they waited for their own appointment but in May 2022, I imagined what would have happened if I went into that doctor’s office and was treated like a suspect instead of the immeasurably sad and sometimes inconsolable woman that I was. What would have happened if the doctor started interrogating me about whether I may have done anything or somehow caused this miscarriage either by accident or on purpose? What would have happened if the doctor didn’t (or couldn’t) prescribe the medication I needed to make sure my uterus expelled all the dying tissue and my body went septic leading to hospitalization and potentially death? Where would my partner and daughter be then?

I was over 8 weeks pregnant, in some states and at a different time the horror of being treated like a suspect and not a woman who needed medical (and emotional) care could have been a very real possibility. Of course, some of you will say, “you were clearly distraught” or “it was evidenced that you wanted your baby” but that’s not the point. With the rotation of medical care, the doctor I saw for my miscarriage had never treated me before and depending on what notes the midwife put in my file at my previous appointment, or if he even had time to read them, he may have his own opinion about the situation. He asked me if the pregnancy was planned and I answered honestly that it wasn’t — in a different state that could have led to a whole new line of questioning and/or treatment from the doctor or staff. And what would have happened to me while they were trying to decide if I did something wrong or not?

None of the medical staff questioned or tried to sway my husband from getting a vasectomy. No one has called out his choice for how he’s treated his body and prevented us from having more children (except when they didn’t realize I was in fact part of the decision-making process). They did not require me to attend the appointment to make sure it’s what I wanted as well. However, my situation could have led to me being treated like a potential criminal and scrutinized for everything I did leading up to the miscarriage to determine whether it was truly “natural” or if I somehow made it happen, because even unknowingly causing a miscarriage could be considered a crime in some parts of the United States.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

It has been 10 months and I’m still not “over it”. There are still pangs of guilt and “what ifs”. There are still moments of sadness and regret, but I am lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends who support me, and not experiencing these emotions while at the mercy of the legal system. We all have our burdens to carry but when we get to share them with others it lightens the load.