This article is published as part of a series by RH Reality Check and our colleagues in observance of the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade.
I was catching up on the live coverage of the America Life League meeting when the clinic called me to offer congratulations. According to them, I was "almost ‘not pregnant’."
Considering what a struggle it had always been for me to get pregnant, I supposed it was only fair that I found it so hard to become unpregnant, too. We spent a full year trying for our first child before we were lucky enough to conceive. So it wasn’t so shocking when it took the same about of time to conceive our second. The shock came later, at our first appointment, when we they couldn’t find a heartbeat.
We lost that potential life at 8 weeks 2 days, or just over six weeks after conception. In the time that passed between that loss and the visit that showed us that it was gone, my body had soldiered on in pregnancy even though there was no longer a fetus, with my hcg levels increasing, pregnancy symptoms continuing, and my uterus expanding to a full 12 weeks. Because my body was refusing to miscarry on its own, we had to schedule a D&C to have the "products of conception" removed.
I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant, and just finishing my first trimester. It was Halloween.
Your body goes through many different things after a pregnancy is removed, and no two situations are the same. But for those of us with missed miscarriages, we have follow up appointments to make sure our bodies are returning to normal, tracking, among other things, the level of pregnancy hormone in our body to make sure it returns to normal.
Some offices define "pregnant" as any hcg level over 25. Others, any level over 5. When you are having a successful pregnancy, your level doubles roughly every 48 hours. After a D&C, your body should have a drastic drop, although some don’t. And your levels should decrease in half every 48 hours, although some don’t.
Mine didn’t, and still refuses to. Now, nearly 12 weeks since the surgery, I am at 21. I am still, technically, "pregnant."
I think of these timelines when I hear people touting the personhood amendment, or declaring that life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg. They are so definite that that is the moment life that a woman is "pregnant." But when, then, does a woman become "not pregnant?"
Was it when the fetus lost its heartbeat? In that case, I haven’t been pregnant in almost four months.
Was it when I had the D&C and it was removed? Then I haven’t been pregnant since October.
Or is it when my body chemically has everything out of my system? If so, then yes, I’m still pregnant even without anything growing inside of me.
I find it hard to understand how people can be certain that a fertilized egg at that precise moment becomes a life. It hasn’t implanted anywhere where it can grow in order to live. It doesn’t have a heartbeat. It hasn’t become something that can survive without assistance. How does it now develop total rights that surpass even that of the woman carrying it?
If the end of a pregnancy can be this fluid, how can "this is the exact moment that a human begins and has rights?" Pregnancy is far too complicated for that.