Ten percent of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage. So why does the subject still feel so taboo? For women dealing with the complicated grief of miscarriage, it's not the stat that's comforting—it's the knowledge that they're not alone, that there is a space to share their story. To help end the culture of silence that surrounds pregnancy and infant loss, Glamour presents The 10 Percent, a place to dismantle the stereotypes and share real, raw, stigma-free stories.
The first time we heard the heartbeat, my pregnancy app said that baby was the size of a blueberry. There it was, our second surprise baby, their little heart flickering at us. “Hi, baby,” I heard my husband say while the nurse handed him the photo of our little one. The second time we went in for an ultrasound, two weeks later, to make sure everything was progressing normally, things went differently.
Before the appointment everything with my pregnancy seemed normal: I was more tired than usual, sometimes taking naps at the same time as my son did; I had food aversions, especially to things that had very strong smells; and I had to pee all the time. I had no bleeding or cramps. Walking into the ultrasound center, I fully expected a normal appointment. They were going to measure the fetus to see how far along I was, look for a heartbeat, and make sure it had implanted correctly in my uterus. But when the sonogram technician kept pushing the wand around inside me and making faces, I knew something was wrong. “There’s no heartbeat,” the doctor said. My body immediately went numb.
I knew this was a possibility, considering that 1 in 10 women experience a miscarriage. It was an even higher possibility for me, since doctors had discovered a polyp on my uterus after the birth of my first son. Still, hearing those words felt like running face-first into a brick wall—I was stunned, shocked, and confused at the sudden pain. Despite the fact that miscarriages are so common, nothing can really prepare you for how you’re going to feel or react in that moment.
My husband kept telling me how strong I was and how we were going to be okay, and I knew, eventually, he would be right. But right then, all I could think about was not having a dead baby inside me.
I called my gynecologist, and she gave me three options: We could wait for my body to miscarry naturally; I could also take misoprostol, a pill that helps speed the process along by inducing strong uterine contractions (also sometimes called the abortion pill); or I could get a dilatation and curettage (also known as a D&C) in which a medical professional surgically removes all pregnancy material from your uterus.
Given that the fetus had stopped developing two weeks prior and my body was showing no signs of having noticed, my doctor warned me that a natural miscarriage could take weeks if not months. I couldn’t bear the thought of living in that limbo, not knowing when or if my body was going to start the process, still feeling all the symptoms of pregnancy but also fully being aware that this baby I was carrying was no longer growing, so I opted to miscarry through a D&C.
Miscarriages are traumatic on so many levels. Knowing that there was a fetus that had stopped developing still inside me was destroying me emotionally. It was all I could think of. The loss of that potential life was gutting enough—the thought of then seeing the miscarriage unfold in my underwear made me feel sick. We scheduled the surgery for two days later.
The day of the surgery I was pretty relaxed. I had read innumerable stories of what the process is like, and I felt mentally ready to face it. Then, while signing my intake papers at the hospital, I read the word abortion on my chart. My whole body tensed.
Technically D&Cs are used in cases of miscarriage and abortion, and so hospitals sometimes use one label for both. “Abortion simply means the ‘termination of pregnancy,’ whether by the body or an external force,” says Chloe Lubel, a midwife at Central Park Midwifery, who oversaw my first pregnancy and also saw me through my miscarriage. I understand the technicality, but seeing the A-word when you very much did hope to carry your pregnancy to term and meet what had been stirring inside you earthside is gutting.
That wasn’t the only surprise I would get. Before undergoing the procedure, I was told I would have to pay $3,000. Up front. I put it all on my credit card, which I’m still paying.
The procedure itself was pretty quick and simple. I was out of the operating room in half an hour and out of the hospital and on my way home an hour after that once the nurse had made sure that I could pee on my own. I remember hearing the nurse repeat the care instructions over and over again: Bleeding after the procedure is normal, but heavy bleeding or large blood clots are cause of concern; take it easy for the first couple of days; manage pain with over-the-counter painkillers; no sex or tampons until your doctor says it’s okay.
Normally I would have stayed at the hospital a little bit longer, but all the recovery beds were full. That’s when I realized I wasn’t as alone in this journey as I had thought. It’s strange, I know, but that recovery ward full of women like me—whether by choice or circumstance—gave me the strength I needed in the days to come.
About two weeks after the procedure, when it was time for my follow-up appointment to make sure everything had healed and there were no infections, the bills started coming in: $200 for anesthesia; $500 for an ultrasound; blood tests; midwife visits—the numbers just kept adding up despite the fact that I had insurance. After two months the bills totaled $9,000.
I never imagined I would have to pay anything for treating a miscarriage—with my previous pregnancy, which gave us our now 14-month-old son, I paid nothing out of pocket, except for the splurge of choosing a private room over the shared room our insurance covered. Now in my second pregnancy, I found myself facing a serious financial burden on top of the emotional one. It seemed cruel.
All insurance plans are different, but since this is a necessary medical procedure, it’s typically covered. Factors like your deductible, whether you have the procedure done in a hospital or in a doctor’s office, and whether everyone on the medical team is in network can impact costs. That said, four-figure bills aren’t unheard-of.
After tweeting how much I owed for my miscarriage, I discovered I’m not alone in my shock over women’s health care costs. Dozens of women started sharing their stories with me: thousands of dollars owed because of a NICU stay, in debt for riding in an ambulance to save their unborn child, procedure after procedure not covered. Many people I didn’t even know offered to set up a GoFundMe account or even Venmo me some money to cover the expenses. I declined, because I had the time and resources to fight my bills, and because I wanted all those kind strangers to save their efforts and cash for someone else who’d need it more than me.
Shortly after my miscarriage, my husband and I ended up switching insurances. I sent complaints to my former insurance company about all the costs, and though I never directly heard back, the bills stopped showing up. All we ultimately had to pay was around $2,500.
It’s been almost eight months since I had my miscarriage, and in a beautiful turn of events, we’re pregnant again, this time with twins. So far this pregnancy has been perfectly healthy, but in those early weeks the fear of this happening again was paralyzing. Not just because of what my body endured but because of the debt sitting on my credit card reminding me of what I went through—and that I’m still paying for it.
Originally Appeared on Glamour