It has been two weeks since I realized I was having a miscarriage, two weeks since I felt the exhilarating excitement and fear of bringing a new life into the world, and two weeks since I gave up planning all of the cute and endearing ways to tell my family and friends that my husband and I were pregnant for the first time. It has been two weeks since I realized there are some things that the world can’t see.
I know that early miscarriage is a relatively common event. In fact, one source states that about half of fertilized eggs are lost before a positive pregnancy test could occur, and about 10-20% after a positive test. This is often referred to as a chemical pregnancy.
What is a chemical pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy is when a woman has a pregnancy that ends very early, though after enough time for HcG levels to rise adequately to have a (sometimes faint) positive pregnancy test. This can lead to a lot of confusion for a woman. She anticipates pregnancy. She has a positive pregnancy test. Then shortly after, she has an unusually heavy period that makes her question if she ever even was pregnant.
This was my story, like so many others. And Natural Family Planning (NFP) was entirely to blame.
If you know me, you know that I am a huge advocate for NFP whenever I get the chance to sing its praises. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to many that I adamantly blame NFP for these trials. So maybe I should back up and explain myself. My husband and I were very excited and anxious to try to become pregnant. We could not believe that we were finally hearing this summons from the Lord. We knew we could not deny it. He was clearly calling us to take this leap of faith, however unprepared we felt. So, like diligent NFP users, we turned to our chart that tracks my cycle.
What does our NFP chart have to do with anything?
Well, although most people think of conception as a pretty simple matter, or even just an incidental consequence (or accident), we know otherwise. Getting pregnant is actually statistically pretty tough (despite what the new Teen Mom premiere leads you to believe). When a woman ovulates, the egg only lives for 12-24 hours if it is not fertilized. And without the presence of cervical mucus, which typically only occurs for a short amount of time in a woman’s cycle in response to hormonal changes, a woman’s body is actually not at all conducive to the survival of sperm. In the absence of mucus, they will die within hours. So we knew, like most NFP users, that by utilizing our chart where we track these symptoms of fertility, we could increase our odds of conceiving.
Nobody ever warns you about the waiting game.
For the next couple of weeks after we suspected the window of our fertility had passed for that cycle, I obsessively monitored every strange sign and symptom of my body. It took very little time actually to feel confident that I was pregnant (if you have been told previously of breast tenderness with pregnancy, take my word that it is not at all a subtle thing). So, since I consistently chart my cycles and know within a day or two of when to expect my period to start, I desperately leapt on the chance to take a home pregnancy test when I was “late.” As predicted, it was positive! We were beaming. Parenthood, pregnancy, and children seemed to suddenly be coming up in all of our conversations. We assumed everyone would be able to guess our news. So we (not so) patiently planned on how to announce our pregnancy to everybody.
Then, everything was suddenly all wrong.
I began to have all of the warning signs and symptoms of early miscarriage. I was bleeding heavily, cramping even more heavily, and, of course, crying… I knew what was happening the moment it began, with very little doubt. After confirming with diagnostic testing ordered by my doctor, we began to shift our discussion from announcing our exciting news to instead how we were going to tell our family and close friends (who didn’t even know we were pregnant yet), that we had miscarried.
We heard all of the anticipated responses.
Some asked how far along we were. Some offered prayers. Most sat silently and let me verbally grieve. All were sorry for our loss. But the thing that I didn’t expect to be told was that most women don’t even know they are pregnant at that point. They would have thought this was just a slightly late period. They would never mourn this loss. It was almost as though I should be resentful towards NFP.
I guess this is where NFP is to blame.
Because of NFP, we knew every joyous detail of our child’s life. We knew when we conceived. We knew when to take a home test. We knew how to calculate our due date. But most importantly, we knew that we had become parents. In light of my faith, I believe that the Lord invited us to participate in the co-creation of a life, a body that was the physical vessel of a soul. It was not chance. It was not luck. It was definitely not an accident. It was an outpouring of grace on my husband and me when the Lord gifted us a new role as parents of this child, even if only for a short time. So, yes, it was because of NFP that we knew when we miscarried. It was because of NFP that we knew when the time came to grieve. But it was also because of NFP that my husband could speak on my behalf at the doctor’s office when I was overcome with emotion and I desperately needed him to answer the staff’s questions about my cycle. It was because of NFP that we were able to celebrate this short life of our child. And it was because of NFP that we can say that we have been parents, even if that is what the world can’t see.