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Millions Of Women Might Never Know They Had This Type Of Pregnancy

Motherhood

Miscarriages weren't something I knew a great deal about before experiencing it for myself.

I knew other women who'd been affected, even those close to me, but to say I was naive about the depth of trauma that accompanies this type of loss would be an understatement. I can recall even minimizing the emotional impact of a miscarriage back in my younger years, ignorantly thinking it could be remedied by having another baby. I guess it's true what they say---self-experience is one of life's greatest teachers.

My husband and I already have one child, a charismatic 10-year-old son who "surprised" us early in our relationship. With that being said, making a decision to have another was a long time coming for us, and we finally felt like the time was right.

We had only been trying to conceive for a few months before I saw those two pink lines that sent me running up the stairs to tell my husband we were having a baby! We felt a sense of relief that our journey hadn't been met with any challenges and instantly became immersed in planning for the new addition to our family. While awaiting our first prenatal appointment, we wrestled with the idea of sharing the news so soon but eventually came to a decision to tell our closest family and friends.

I never imagined just three weeks later, we'd be telling those same people we were no longer pregnant.

I was helping my son with his homework on the afternoon the bleeding started. Although it wasn't heavy, it persisted as the evening went on, and I was instructed by an on-call doctor to monitor my pain levels and to go to the nearest hospital if things progressed. He told me there was a chance that it could be a miscarriage and only time would tell. I remember playing this beautiful rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Say A Little Prayer" on my phone and placing it against my stomach while praying that everything was going to be okay. The bleeding seemed to stabilize overnight, and we tried to remain hopeful as we walked into our doctor's office the next morning.

I should have been exactly 6 weeks and 2 days along, and my doctor warned us not to be alarmed if we couldn't hear a heartbeat since it was still early in the baby's developmental stage. She opted to do an ultrasound first, and that's when things began spiraling downward. As we looked up at the ultrasound screen, we literally saw nothing. Blood tests from two weeks earlier had confirmed the presence of the pregnancy hormone, and I had almost all of the early pregnancy symptoms, but there was not a visible embryo or even a gestational sac in my uterus. Concerned it might be an ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition where the fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, she immediately sent us to the emergency room.

There, a more extensive ultrasound and additional blood test confirmed that it wasn't an ectopic pregnancy but rather an early miscarriage. The doctors believed our pregnancy had ended around week three, almost immediately after we conceived and was likely due to chromosonal abnormalities. But because the pregnancy hormone was still present in my blood, although rapidly decreasing, my physical body had still been in a pregnant state the past few weeks, causing symptoms like bloating, frequent urination and sore breasts. Hearing I was no longer pregnant, and hadn't been for some time, was a huge slap in the face for me.

It felt like I had gotten tricked in the most devastating way, and it broke my heart to know that everything that I thought was, actually wasn't.

We left the hospital that afternoon with plans for our growing family behind us and completely unprepared for the grief that lay ahead of us. The clinical term for an early miscarriage is a chemical pregnancy. I've become somewhat of an expert on this subject after spending weeks looking for any piece of information that would help answer the questions: who, what, why and how. I knew it was nothing that I did or that I could have done to prevent this, but taking the time to educate myself on this thing that has been so relentlessly painful to me and many other women has been a part of my grieving process. Even more surprising than the statistics surrounding chemical pregnancies was learning that most women never know they've had one.

To understand this type of miscarriage, you need to first understand the pregnancy hormone known as hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). hCG can only be detected through your urineor through a blood test, so you really have to be looking for it to know it's there--not uncommon for women who are actively trying to conceive. Many women, however, will only test their urine after realizing their period is late, which in the case of a chemical pregnancy, the level of hCG has already begun to decline enough to likely give a negative test result. Women who were unaware they were pregnant to begin with often attribute the heavy bleeding from the miscarriage to an unusual cycle caused by stress or other reasons.

I often wonder if I had waited just a few days to take a pregnancy test, would I have ever known that I was pregnant? Would I have been better off not knowing at all like so many other women who experience chemical pregnancies?

It's easy to answer "yes" to that question when I think of all the heartache I could have avoided, which brings me to the biggest lesson I learned out of all of this.

Happiness can exist in the midst of heartbreak.

I cried for days. I shut down and did not want anyone to attempt to power me back on. This is undeniably the most painful thing I've ever faced in my life. At some point though, while deep in the trenches of sadness, I started thinking about how much love and joy my family had felt in the weeks prior to our loss. I thought about how happy our loved ones were when we told them the news. I thought about how instantly more in love I felt with my husband for what we had accomplished together. I thought about how my son was so excited to finally be a big brother. All those moments counted for something and were such a gift.

I think in life we sometimes dwell so much on how an experience, relationship, etc. didn't turn out the way we wanted, we let that overshadow the parts that once brought us joy. For me, sadness doesn't cancel out the happiness I felt, and that's what I'll remember most when I think of my pregnancy.

So to answer the question I posed earlier: No, I wouldn't have been better off not knowing I was pregnant because it gave my family one more thing to smile about, one more thing to be thankful for, and for that, we'll be forever grateful.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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