Issue 18 / Summer 2019 / Abortion Ban Protest Special Issue
I didn’t realize I was pregnant until we were moving out of the duplex and into our new condo. After a long day of hauling boxes, I collapsed on the new hardwood floors and tried to understand my exhaustion. It was a new kind of tired—like I couldn’t get up off the floor—and I tried to remember the last time I had my period. That was when I asked my partner to pick up a test. It was New Year’s Eve. The test came up positive.
It was the two of us with our puppy and a + sign that told us there was a baby on the way. The condo was new with white walls and no history. It was the height of the real estate bubble, and we believed we were settling into a fresh new start, and our little family was sprouting new life.
So, if you believe a pregnancy is the universe’s way of telling you to stay with someone, to work through things; what exactly is the universe trying to tell you if you miscarry?
It was the beginning of February and the gloom of winter that never usually settles into LA, settled into LA. I was nearing the end of my first trimester. This was confirmed at an appointment with my OB/GYN. I was relieved to be happy, to know that I wanted to have kids. I asked the doctor about the drinking I did over Thanksgiving, before I had any idea I was pregnant. Her response: “There’s nothing you can do about it now. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Make sure you’re taking a prenatal vitamin and stop drinking and smoking.”
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the bacchanalia that was that Thanksgiving. It was the year our friend was dating the wine maker and at our Friendsgiving, we drank. We Drank. And there was lots of second-hand smoke. We ate so much delicious food and we drank some of the tastiest wines, but now I couldn’t help but wonder the impact those three days of gluttony might have had on the baby.
So, when I saw spotting toward the end of that first trimester, and then the spotting got worse, I called my friend who was also a doctor, and he told me to go to the emergency room.
Atop the exam room table, the lab tech searched, searched, searched inside me for a heartbeat and he found nothing, nothing, nothing. It was over.
The Urgent Care doctor said I could choose a D & C or allow my body to take care of it on its own. Either way, I already had my next prenatal appointment scheduled; I could decide then. My discharge papers from Urgent Care said, “Threatened Abortion.” Abortion. Not miscarriage, abortion. The issue suddenly came into new, sharper focus, because if abortion was murder, I had just killed my baby. The injustice of the loss and this loaded term overwhelmed me. As my partner drove me home, I started to grieve. I had already imagined the timing of this baby, had imagined the future of our family, but I also breathed with relief. Maybe we weren’t ready. Maybe this pregnancy wasn’t meant to be.
When I got home, I looked up threatened abortion: vaginal bleeding when the diagnostic for a spontaneous abortion has not been met. Spontaneous abortion: miscarriage, pregnancy loss. These are all the pregnancies that aren’t meant to be. Despite what anti-abortion activists wanted this word to mean, pregnancy loss is loss. Abortion is a pregnancy that isn’t meant to be.
That was twelve years ago. I can do the math in my head. I can tell you how old that baby might be, and friends I have who have experienced any of the many types of pregnancy loss hold that math in their bodies.
As abortion access and rights are systematically stripped away from women all over our country, I think of my unplanned pregnancy. I remember my threatened abortion and how sick I was for months after, but at that time, when so much was out of my control, I still had a choice. Our country protects that choice, and we will continue to fight for it for all women.
Noriko Nakada writes, blogs, tweets, parents, and teaches middle school in Los Angeles. She is committed to writing thought-provoking creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Publications include two book-length memoirs: Through Eyes Like Mine and Overdue Apologies, and excerpts, essays, and poetry in Kartika, Catapult, Meridian, Compose, Hippocampus, and Linden Avenue. Through Eyes Like Mine was shortlisted for the inaugural book prize by 2040 Books. “Threatened Abortion” first appeared as a column with Women Who Submit, an organization empowering women and nonbinary writers to submit their work for publication.