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Surviving a Failed Pregnancy


For eight weeks, the pregnancy seemed normal. I was thirty-six, and thus supposedly at a higher risk for everything, but I’d had no spotting, no unusual pain. I learned that something might be wrong at my first prenatal appointment, even though that, too, started normally. The blood-pressure test and the queries about inheritable disorders went fine. Then the ultrasound took too long; the technician slid into silence. She admitted that she couldn’t find a gestational sac in my uterus: “I’m sure it’s okay. But I’m going to get the doctor to double-check.” She meant to sound reassuring, but I was not reassured. If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?

My doctor is so calm that he can appear drowsy, but he walked into the room looking alert. He said he thought my pregnancy might be ectopic. That would mean the fertilized egg had implanted outside my uterus, most likely in one of my fallopian tubes, a location that doomed the pregnancy and endangered my life. He searched the screen for several minutes, but found only a suspicious ring near a fallopian tube. I lay on my back as he explained this, naked below the waist except for a stiff paper blanket, the probe from the transvaginal ultrasound machine still resting inside me. My unease unfurled into a bright flag of dread.

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is an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Her most recent article for Harper’s Magazine, “Long Division,” appeared in the June 2013 issue.

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