“Miscarriage Is Normal and Normal Hurts”

by Alicia de los Reyes

At the beginning of all of this, I had a premonition. When I saw the spot of blood in the bathroom, I knew. “No!” I said out loud, involuntarily. But it was barely a spot — more like a very pale pink tinge. It could be the embryo implanting, I told myself. It could be a little first-trimester bleeding. Still, I looked myself in the eye as I washed my hands and told myself silently, “You can handle this.” I kept staring even when the water stopped running. “You are strong,” I told myself. “You’ll be ok.”

None of my clothes fit that night, but instead of feeling huffy and angrily tossing shirts out of my closet, I had happily tugged a loose sweater over my extra-large bra. This bra is usually reserved for two or three days of the month before I get my period; I’d been wearing it a whole week. My belly hung over my skinny jeans, too, a first since the magnificent Ten-Pound Month in college. I was elated.

My happy glow didn’t wear off the entire evening, even though I was barred from the beer festivities. (Officially, I was the designated driver for my husband Andrew.) I drank a soda and sniffed each glass as my friends tasted seemingly every pumpkin beer manufactured in the Puget Sound region. I leaned against the kitchen island and carefully avoided the pepperoni on the pizza, smiling.

I saw real blood just as I was leaving for work that day, a Monday afternoon. Shit, I thought. Shit shit shit. I called my husband. “It could be nothing,” I told him. “But I’m scared. I have cramps.” They’d started on a bike ride earlier in the day, but were so mild I thought nothing of them. Since taking the pregnancy test, I’d noticed every glimmer of a cramp, and a few had come and gone quickly. I was still getting used to the reality that I was pregnant. Not might be, was. But I’d just made an appointment to go to the doctor. It was too early even for an ultrasound.

But I could tell something was wrong when I saw dark red. I ran up the stairs and pulled out my remaining pregnancy test. I couldn’t take it — I didn’t have to pee. And besides, what would it prove? I put it away, ran back downstairs and dashed out the door, trying to make sure I had my water bottle, my keys, my wallet. I brought a maxipad just in case. “I’m going to be late,” I told Andrew.

“That’s okay,” he said. “That’s not important.”

The sky was overcast and I told myself to relax on the ride over, a traffic-less journey on route 90. I made up a mantra: Please stay, baby. But I didn’t want it to stay if it wasn’t ready to be here. I said the mantra, then I didn’t say it. I said it again. I couldn’t listen to music.

At work, I began to feel worse. I opened the door to the office building and ducked into the bathroom. More blood, dripping damningly into the toilet. It was good I had brought the pad. (But if I hadn’t brought it, would the blood have gone away? Would it have been nothing? The only snippet of magical thinking I allowed myself.) I went into the little room where I tutor students, unsmiling, trying to stay calm, trying not to get upset.

As I talked my students through calculus problems and private school entrance exams, I could hear my voice flatten. Could they tell? Why didn’t one of them ask me what was wrong? I flipped the flimsy pages of a textbook and pointed to a problem. The minutes passed by in a steady stream, neither slowly nor quickly. I signed another student in and signed her out. The clock on the wall was my talisman; if I’m still bleeding after this student, I told myself, I’ll text Andrew. If I’m still bleeding after this hour, I’ll call my mom.

The hours passed. It all got worse. In between students, on a ten-minute break, I went out to my car and called my mom. My dad picked up, his voice sounding ultra-cheery. “Hey, baby!” he said. I didn’t want to make him sad but I kept my voice flat. I did want to make him sad. I felt like I was melting into the damp asphalt. I had been waiting to cry all evening.

“Can I talk to Mom?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. He must have realized something was wrong. “Do you need her right now?”


My dad didn’t try to make small talk while we waited for her to get off the other line. I remained silent, still not crying.

My mom finally picked up. I had six minutes until my next student. “I think I’m having a miscarriage,” I told her, without saying hello.

“Oh, honey,” she said.

“I only took a pregnancy test last week,” I said, and then, finally, I started to cry.

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