I got pregnant when I was 15.
I had unprotected sex. It was reckless and stupid.
I wasn’t exactly healthy back then, and I hadn’t had a very regular cycle during those first few years of young womanhood. So when I missed a period, I didn’t think much of it.
When I missed a second period, I really started to wonder.
I talked to my best friend. Just a few months earlier, we’d gone to a drugstore and stolen a pregnancy test for her. We would do the same for me.
It’s not difficult to shoplift if you act like you own the place. Wearing baggy jeans, large t-shirts and your grandfather’s extra-large flannels helps, too.
So does having a friend to help with misdirection. One of you can ask a clerk for help while the other shoves a pregnancy test down a sleeve or into a waistband. You can even buy something small. See? I’m a customer, you’re saying.
Once you leave the store, be sure to wait until you’re past the reach of the cameras to remove the box from your waistband. I know it’s digging into your hip bone and rib cage, alternately, with every step. Keep walking. Appear normal.
It’s not difficult to face a possible teen pregnancy if you’re drunk. Well, it’s less difficult. It’s certainly easier to laugh it off. But you don’t want to be so drunk that you cause a scene, so try to take it easy with that vodka you’re chugging.
When you’re a teenager, the best place to take a pregnancy test is a public restroom. You don’t have to worry about your parents – or a friend’s parents – finding the test in the trash bin. They will freak out if they find a pregnancy test, even one that is negative. Until you can take it, treat the test like it’s drug paraphernalia and keep it hidden in your closet, your underwear drawer, or your gym locker at school.
When choosing a public restroom, you don’t want it to be a single stall restroom. If someone needs to use it and you’re locked in there too long, management will come and make you leave. You’ll need five or six minutes to yourself to do this, so you want to find a restroom where you feel comfortable. Maybe find a restroom you’ve smoked a joint in, or one where your friend has also taken a pregnancy test.
It’s not difficult to pee on a stick. It’s probably the easiest test you’ll ever take. It’s even easier if you have a friend to run the faucet while you go.
No matter what the result, but especially if it’s positive, you are going to want someone to hug you.
After my positive test, my friend and I huffed air duster. For weeks, I kept right on living like I had been – drinking and getting high and skipping school. I made jokes about the pregnancy. Mainly, I tried not to think about it.
I tried not to feel.
One morning, I woke up and I didn’t feel well. I walked to my bathroom, arm wrapped around my abdomen – an abdomen that never did get any bigger, by the way – and miscarried.
I was 15 years old.
I was relieved.
I flushed the toilet and went to school.
But I also had this voice in my head telling me that this was my fault, that something was wrong with me. Crackheads have babies all the time. I’m not even a crackhead, I’d think.
And so I did my best to shut that voice up. I spent all my waking hours either drinking, using or looking to score. Usually I was doing all three at once, and if I wasn’t high, I was raging. This singularity of mind and will lasted roughly a year.
During that year I was suspended from school more than once. I ended up being expelled from school. I was raped. I was admitted into rehab. I was put on Paxil and lithium. I was caught drunk or with stolen merchandise by the police more than a couple times. (They let me go or just called my mom every single time.) I was admitted into rehab again. Then I was sent to a residential rehab near Kansas City. My cousin, who I’d been very close to growing up, killed himself.
Through it all, there was one constant: I kept using.
One day, I did something awful. I won’t say what it was other than to say that I finally had my wake-up call.
From that day forward, I stayed clean. I stopped stealing and lying. I got my psychiatrist’s permission to come off my medications. I learned to be thoroughly honest, even if – especially if – it was painful for me and those around me.
I abstained from sex for about two years, though not for moral reasons. I was busy trying to become a real person again.
When I was 18 or 19, I went on the pill. I had a boyfriend who I mostly trusted and I wanted to avoid pregnancy. I was too young to have a baby.
Plus, that voice was still there, doubting that I would be a good mother, reminding me of how horribly I behaved when I was pregnant. I’d heard all the things that my support system said the times I tried to talk about it – that I was a kid, that it was a blessing, that I should forgive myself, that miscarriages are common, etc.
But every once in awhile I’d think things like “I could have a 5 year old right now.” And I’d shame spiral all over again.
I knew girls and young women who’d had and kept their teen-pregnancy baby. (Most of these babies ended up being raised by the teen’s mom.) I only knew of one girl who didn’t (though there were probably others). She had an abortion, something we only talked about once.
Like her, I mostly kept my thoughts to myself.
[Regarding the birth control pill: it has been wonderful for my health.
I suffer from migraines. Some of my migraines – the ones that cost me days of my life, days spent in bed, in the dark and quiet – are hormonally triggered. Without the pill, I would suffer at least one hormonal migraine every month, and sometimes two. The months when I have two end up costing me a week. Someday I won’t be able to take the pill (I’ll be too old!) and I fear for my brain when that happens.
The pill is definitely not just a form of birth control for me. It’s a wonderful medication that should be available to any woman who needs it for whatever reason. It should be nobody’s business except for a woman’s and her doctor’s.]
In 2007, Josh and I got married. I had been taking the pill for over seven years. We only got married because we wanted to have kids, so within a few months of our wedding, I stopped taking the pill.
It took a long time for me to have a period, nearly two months. Once I did, it was very short. I was mildly concerned. This was nothing like the periods I had before the pill, but I’d heard it could take a few months to normalize. I tried to relax.
I came home from work one evening to find Josh with a stack of baby name books that he’d checked out from the library. We started making lists of names. (I was alarmed to learn that Josh liked the name Jasmine. Somehow we got through that, but those were dark, dark days.) It was fun and we grew closer.
One day, a couple months after we started trying, I felt nauseous and violently so. I thought that I might be pregnant. I waited a day or two and took a test. It was negative. Eventually my period showed up again.
For five more months we tried to get pregnant. Nothing. I’d feel sick for a day or two, or I’d be a little late, but nothing came of it.
I read forums and books about trying to conceive. I started charting my basal temperature and when we had sex. I charted cycle lengths. I charted mucous viscosity. I made an Excel file that was color coded and had notations.
I was obsessed.
People tell you not to worry about fertility problems until you’ve been trying for a year, but I’d always suspected there was something wrong with my body.
When I had my miscarriage as a teenager, I told my aunt about it, the one adult I opened up to. I told her I thought there was something wrong with me. She told me that people who are depressed always think there’s something wrong with them.
I knew she was right about that, but I never felt like it applied to me.
Very late March, 2008:
I went to work one night. I had a decent shift but I was extremely tired when I got home. Normally I would stay up a few hours and watch TV, maybe read some baseball blogs. So, I sat on the couch with my laptop and I tried to relax. I was tired and I couldn’t get comfortable. I had a dull pain in the right side of my abdomen. It became sharper to the point that I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt drugged. I remember grabbing the heating pad from the linen closet and draping it across my stomach. I fell asleep.
But I didn’t remember any of this until later.
Early April, 2008:
I had a positive pregnancy test. We were thrilled. I called my OB and set up an appointment to confirm the pregnancy. My mom and Josh were happy. They assured me I was okay. “See? There is nothing wrong with you! Your body just needed time off the pill!”
I was happy.
Two days later, I felt sick. I felt foggy. I told Josh that something wasn’t right. We met my mom for lunch and I told her that something wasn’t right. They reassured me that I was fine, that people feel sick when they’re pregnant, that everything was normal.
I didn’t believe them.
I had a miscarriage the next day.