When I was pregnant with my son, my partner and I waited to tell everyone until we were pretty sure the pregnancy had stuck. The first trimester ended and it was starting to become obvious that I had a belly, so we told family and friends and anyone else who cared.
When I got pregnant again, we were so excited that we didn’t wait to tell people. I guess I hadn’t done enough sit-ups or something because I started to look pregnant immediately. I wasn’t even that far along and eople were already starting to ask. Of course, this has happened at other times when I wasn’t pregnant and wearing those “babydoll” shirts, but that’s another issue. This time, I actually was pregnant. So I said YES. I am pregnant.
I went for an ultra-sound, which had to be done vaginally because the fetus was still so small at that point that it couldn’t be seen with a regular ultra-sound. They gave me a few printed out pictures and a CD of all of them.
We told our parents. We told my sister who was also pregnant at the time. We told neighbors. I told other women in a Mommy group who had found out they were pregnant.
We were going along pretty happily until I started to bleed. At first it was a little blood and when I called the doctor, he said to keep an eye on it, that I might have a miscarriage, or it might be nothing. The bleeding was on again, off again.
Until it turned into a constant flow. It was like I was having a period. I bled for several days somewhat lightly and then one whole day pretty heavily and then woke up at 5:00 in the morning with so much blood coming out of me, it bypassed the pad and dripped on the floor when I ran to the bathroom. It was on the toilet, the bathmat, the floor. It was everywhere and it was a lot of blood. That was the miscarriage.
Except I continued to bleed until all of it was completely gone from my body. I went into the doctor and was still bleeding. He sent me for an ultrasound so he could see what was going on. I had cried the day before when I realized the bleeding had gotten heavier. I had been sad and overwhelmed by the amount of blood coming out of me earlier that morning, I felt faint and tired, but I hadn’t cried since the miscarriage. When I saw the screen, I began to cry.
There was nothing.
Where there had been enough to give me a CD just a few weeks before, now there was nothing.
No fetus. No baby. No “is it a boy or a girl?” No “what names are we thinking of?” No “he has your nose or she has your eyes.” No little hands. No little feet. No child. No son. No daughter.
But I kept bleeding. I bled for hours, so much that I almost passed out and the doctor had to perform a procedure to get the rest of the matter out of me, at which point, the bleeding finally stopped, but the sadness didn’t.
For weeks afterward I had to get my blood tested. I had to go back home and tell all the people who knew that I was no longer pregnant.
I had to endure all the people telling me they were sorry. I had to hear over and over again how common it is and I had to listen to other people’s miscarriage stories. I had to still take care of my child, take out the dog, fix food, go to the Mommy groups.
I asked and was told there was nothing I could have done differently. I was told it wasn’t my fault.
We lived on the third floor of an apartment building, was it all the stairs I had to climb? Was it the decaf coffee I drank occasionally? Was it the sushi or the soft cheeses I ate before we tried? Was it karma for something I did? Was it having to pick up my son to put him in his car seat? Was it something in that apartment? We were suspicious of the apartment being old and something in it giving us allergies. Was it allergies? Was it that I took Advil once for a headache before I knew I was pregnant? Was it my age? Was it my health? Was it that sometimes the neighbors’ smoke came through our vents? Was it all the noise from the expressway nearby? Was it all the cats around and their fur? Was it driving?
There wasn’t a question out there that didn’t come into my mind as to why I had a miscarriage. Both pregnancies had been wanted, so why did this one end?
It wasn’t viable, the doctor told me. There was nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. There was nothing you could have done differently.
I still felt like a bad mother, a bad woman, just bad, like I had done something wrong.
In Mississippi, Rennie Taria Gibbs, who is now 20 and whose address they printed in the paper and on line in the article, was 15 when she got pregnant. The baby died when she was 36 weeks pregnant in 2006. Prosecutors discovered she had a cocaine habit. Gibbs faces a murder charge under the state’s rarely used depraved-heart murder law, for the stillbirth of her child due to cocaine overdose.
Cocaine isn’t a good idea when you’re pregnant, but there has been no link between the stillbirth Gibbs had and cocaine. What if it was something else? There have been speculations about lack of pre-natal care and her age. Her case was supposed to go to court this past February and so far, nothing has happened and she is still sitting in jail. Life in prison? She’s not a criminal. She has a drug problem.
In another case, Amanda Kimbrough had a baby that was premature and delivered by caesarean section in April 2008. The baby died 19 minutes after birth. Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy, which she denies. Kimbrough is now facing a 10-year sentence if her case is not reversed on appeal.
Extreme anti-abortionists seem to have realized that abortion has gone on throughout time and will continue, even if it is made illegal, so now they are criminalizing miscarriage. There is no evidence that drugs were what terminated those pregnancies and there won’t be any evidence that drugs terminated those pregnancies because no one is sure about what exactly causes miscarriage.
What if some pregnancies aren’t meant to be carried all the way through? In fact, miscarriage occurs in up to 15% of known pregnancies. You can question and question, but the fact remains that the pregnancy ended and now there are young women being blamed. Gibbs is only 20 years old now. There are other places for her to be, things for her to do, dreams for her to have. But locked up for losing a baby? And what about Kimbrough who is already a mother and whose kids need her with them?
These laws don’t allow individual cases and what has happened to really be seen. Passing laws that criminalize pregnant women is another way to take away the rights of women. Laws around decisions women make about their bodies take away women’s rights to make decisions for themselves. But laws around miscarriages that can’t be blamed on anyone or anything criminalize women for being women.
If I lived in Mississippi, I might be on the lam for having taken those two Advil that one time. If I lived in Mississippi, someone might be knocking on my door to arrest me rather than bring me a lasagna and tell me how sorry they are for our loss.
Such blame and hatred of women! Let’s re-think this.