The Misery of My Miscarriage

First Person

The Misery of My Miscarriage

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Day 1, 1.10 am. On the pot, numb and nervous.
Calm down. Aim. Pee. Leave the rest to Allah. He’ll do what’s best. He always does.

Allah is my go-to guy except when I commit sins that render me high or hammered. And yet when all cures fail to reverse the effect of Jäger shots downed the previous night, it’s him I turn to. Minutes away from taking my first pregnancy test, I’m praying to him. Having missed my period by a week – something that’s not unusual – my husband and I are eager to weed out the possibility so that we can smoke what’s been rolled, ready and waiting. It’s not like we never want babies, but we’d like to plan our two down to our savings and their zodiac signs.

I hastily twist my hair into a bun, lift my navy blue maxi dress and start peeing inside a see-through disposable glass – the it’s-time-to-fuck-off glass given after 1 am at Khar Social, which I stock for those last-minute, fairy-lights-in-planters kind of house parties.

Back in my bathroom, I’m hit by a surgical strike of contradictory emotions. I tell myself that I’d be happy if I tested positive, happier if I tested negative. If this were a planned pregnancy, I too would have been on top of the world. But none of what’s transpiring tonight – or the night IT happened – had been planned. I’ve been caught off-guard and unprepared.

Tonight is a night of moral dilemma. I’m 30, have been married for a year, and have often been reminded about my ticking biological clock and diminishing egg count. I junk the thought at the back of my head that I might be jinxing my future pregnancies by being ungrateful, and woman up to the possibility of a positive result. Maybe the almighty is telling me it’s my ammi time.

Dismissing all these thoughts, I rise holding the yellow liquid. I see the first pink line, and then the second. It’s done. I’m done. A ₹50 kit, one drop of fresh, warm urine, two pink lines and 15 minutes later, I am standing in my stark white bathroom, all pale, panicky, and pregnant.

What the F just happened? I instantly freeze, recovering only to crash into my husband’s arms, drenching his shirt with a slimy concoction of tears, kohl, and snot. There is nothing exhilarating or filmy about our embrace. I can see he is equally shaken and unready. Should or shouldn’t we be on cloud nine? Aren’t there couples who pray, and pay, for this? Am I being a stupid ingrate or purely hormonal?

Day 2, 8.30 am. Dear Internet.
After securing an appointment with the gynaecologist, I spend hours browsing on what not to eat, when does a baby bump start to show, week-wise foetal growth, can I lie on my stomach, permissible sex positions, can I have a glass of wine or two? By evening I have finally come to terms with my world of unplanned pregnancy – instant and abrupt quitting of alcohol, cigarette and pot. No white bread, pizza, or pasta. No forward bending in yoga. No air travel for at least two months. A navel-piercing plan is instantly junked.

Despite this overnight lifestyle overhaul, watching countless foetus-forming videos is stirring something inside me. Something powerful. I’ve exhausted all my emotions, but I go to bed with a smile.

Day 3, 5 pm. The countdown begins.
It’s my first ultrasound, and with a single lubricated thrust inside me I see a tiny black sack flashing inside my uterus on the screen. It’s the size of a poppy seed or half the size of your button, the doctor says pointing at my husband’s shirt. The first sight of Poppy has left me with an inexplicable, indescribable feeling.

I have to take my first progesterone shot today, and I’m trying to keep my morale up. This morning, though, I can’t pretend anymore.

Only yesterday I was awwing at images of others’ ultrasounds and watching videos of growing foetuses. Today, the sight of a life taking root inside me feels surreal, but we leave the clinic thrilled, feeling more parental than 48 hours ago. Flashes of tiny limbs and a head with gossamer whiskers for hair, branching out from one tiny bindu inside my belly, perk me up. That night I caress my tummy gently, lovingly… with acceptance.

Day 17, 5 pm. All’s not well.
In the two weeks until my next appointment with the gynaecologist, I mostly stay indoors stepping out for errands or night drives. Since the doctor has advised us against sharing the “good news” just yet, and I don’t know how to suddenly insist on plans that are more Starbucks than Social, I am avoiding friends.

It’s a regular check-up day, and I’ve been dutifully having my three egg whites, nuts, and pomegranate, the baby-beautifying fruit every single day. This is the first time I’ve gone dry in a non-Ramzan month. But by now I’m feeling emotionally attached to Poppy.

Life, however, takes a drastic change with the second ultrasound.

I can’t detect a heartbeat and I’m a little concerned, the doctor announces staring at the screen. My Poppy, even to my non-gynaec eyes, looks the same size it was 13 days ago. Oestrogen, progesterone, and pregnancy hormone tests are prescribed immediately to “take a call”. As my husband coordinates with the doctors, I sit in the car and weep like a child.

Day 19, 8.15 am. Bloody hell.
I have to take my first progesterone shot today, and I’m trying to keep my morale up. This morning, though, I can’t pretend anymore.

I freeze at the sight of reddish-brown filaments squirming in the pot. It’s too early to call the doctor so I call my husband, and browse the internet with panicked questions. It’s been five weeks since Poppy’s been around. Ya Allah, I pray again, let my Poppy grow. But by afternoon my white panty-liner is polka-dotted with shades of red.

Day 20, 5 pm. Still no heartbeat.
It’s my third ultrasound and I see my Poppy, still the same size, still no heartbeat.

It’s now in the interest of both of us to let go. With the help of two tablets. One of those two has to be taken on my husband’s birthday, for which, the first time in five years, my planning has been zilch. I’m feeling terrible.

There will be bleeding and the cramps will be severe. But I mustn’t pop in a painkiller as it might suppress or prolong the smooth passage of red clots and other fluids, which once made up Poppy. So I must suffer to avoid a D&C, a surgical procedure to clean up my uterus.

Day 22-23, 9 am. Mission termination.
From wailing to subdued sobs, I do it all before popping in the first pill. Later that day, I strap on a sanitary napkin and step out to get my hair coloured and then work out of a coffee shop for the remainder of the day.

The next day, the cramps kick in. The pain is uterus-crushing. By night, tears are trickling down my cheeks as I lie writhing in pain. My husband, an hour before his 28th birthday eve, is rubbing copious amounts of Tiger balm all over my back and abdomen.

The next day, feeling weak and dizzy, I wish my husband. He plants a kiss on my forehead and hands me the second pill. My Poppy gets flushed down the same pot where it all started a month ago.

Poppy and Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra.
In the days after, I try to stick to routine to take my mind off Poppy. I do whatever it takes to not think about my loss. I devour the Internet and brush up on all things related to unhealthy pregnancies and miscarriages. In that frantic haze, I find studies that suggest nearly 15-20 per cent of pregnancies in India end in miscarriage.

Pensiveness strikes, strangely enough, while Netflixing. A week after the loss, I watch seven-month-pregnant American stand-up comic, Ali Wong, joke about inserting progesterone pills up her vagina during a troubled pregnancy. In her show, Baby Cobra, Wong also speaks of her miscarriage. On stage, quite casually. In stark contrast, I am unable to share my grief with a single soul other than my husband.

But soaking in Wong’s punchlines, I feel a strange virtual connection with her. Her public acknowledgement of “having miscarried” triggers me to encapsulate my own experience.

If miscarriages are so common, especially in first pregnancies, then why the stigma against speaking more openly about them? If more of us were talking about our bodies and what goes on inside them, I wouldn’t have to bear the weight of my grief alone. I know I could have used some emotional support – and gained from the experience of – a friend or a colleague who might have lost a Poppy too.

But what’s done is done. The only optimism out of being sort-of pregnant is that I’ll be better prepared the next time. Until then I’d like to hit the road with a doobie or two, enjoy my occasional Benson & Hedges, and drink from a see-through plastic glass outside a pub past 1 am.