I was four weeks along when I first found out I was pregnant. While I wasn’t totally surprised, the realization still managed to hit me like a ton of bricks. “I’m not ready for this,” I thought to myself. “I don’t know if I can or really want to do this.” I spent the rest of the day contemplating the many ways the life my partner and I led would change. Those first 48 hours were wildly confusing, but as the days went by and the shock wore off, I began excitedly envisioning a new chapter of my life.
During weeks four to eight, I did everything in my power to lean into the experience of being pregnant.
No longer able to fit into my jeans? “No biggie – I’m growing a baby!”
Unable to run for longer than 30 minutes? “Fatigue is real, mama!”
No more sushi and poke nights? “Only eight more months—you got this!”
Needing to go to the bathroom every ten minutes? “Well, at least I’m hydrated!”
While it wasn’t always easy, I began to feel connected with my body in more ways that I could have ever imagined. As that connection deepened, so did my hopes and dreams for what was to come.
What will they be like?
What will they love?
What will we teach them?
What will they teach us?
My partner and I would spend hours thinking about these questions, growing in our excitement for what was to come. Within a matter of moments, however, everything changed.
One Thursday evening after dinner, my partner and I were taking a stroll along the beach when something shifted inside of me. Almost immediately, I felt something familiar. Something I had experienced every 28 days of my life for the past 13 years: The start of my period. We rushed home and noticed that I was indeed spotting but knowing that spotting was a common experience in pregnancy, I told myself this was normal and that the best thing I could do was to rest.
The next morning, I woke up and ran to the bathroom to see if the spotting had continued. It had, but it remained light. Hours later, after a morning spent gently enjoying Hawaiian nature, my spotting turned into heavy bleeding, and in that moment I knew I was experiencing a miscarriage. I called my doctor minutes later and she recommended I monitor the pain, and head to the ER if it became unbearable. I spent that Friday night celebrating Shabbat in bed with my partner and cousin by my side. Despite knowing we were losing our baby, we felt comfort in knowing that Shabbat was still present. The next 36 hours were spent bleeding and releasing emotions we never knew we had—anger, fear, heartbreak, hopelessness and sadness. By Sunday afternoon, however, the pain had gotten so bad that I finally said, “I need to go to the ER.”
While I was checked-in almost immediately at the emergency room, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented my partner from joining me inside. As I spent the next four hours in pain and alone in an examination room, I turned to memory and began to hum Shipibo chants and niggunim, Jewish wordness melodies, in search of comfort and care. With no end, I would flow between Eastern European beats and Peruvian jungle rhythms, noticing their complementary nature and their calming powers. “Respira,” I kept reminding myself. “Breathe.”
By the time the doctor came around to see me, the pain had become excruciating. After being questioned, tested and probed, the doctor looked up and said, “indeed, you’re experiencing a miscarriage. What would you like to do? Have a D&C or let it pass naturally?
“What’s a D&C?”
Short for dilation and curettage, a D&C is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is opened and a thin instrument is inserted into the uterus to remove the fetus. For this procedure you would go under general anesthesia.
“And the other option? What does it mean to let it pass?”
It means letting tissue naturally leave your body.
“What is the least painful?”
It’s hard to say.
“What should I anticipate if I go the natural route? Does tissue include something other than blood?”
Yes, it includes the fetus, pregnancy sac and placenta.
“Can you show me a picture of what to expect?”
No, I can’t.
Feeling unsure of what to do next, I called my partner and told him our options. We spent the next 30 minutes doing our research online and feeling out of our depth. After a thoughtful discussion that ended in my partner assuring me that whatever decision I wanted to take he would support, I decided to proceed without the D&C.
On the way home from the ER, I began Googling “what to look for when you’re miscarrying.” Fortunately, I found an article that detailed the process of having a miscarriage, and while no pictures were available, the description was enough to help me understand that my body was experiencing a form of labor (hence the intense cramping) and that I would soon be releasing the fetus.
When we got home, we headed straight for the bathroom. Knowing that the moment was near, I sat on the toilet, resumed my breathing and humming, and within seconds I felt something leave my body. Without thinking twice—and almost instinctively—I reached inside the ceramic bowl and pulled out the intact pregnancy sac. “Wow” my partner and I said at the same time, looking at each other in disbelief, awe and love.
We spent the following 20 minutes in awe of nature, our bodies and life. While we were both carrying the heaviness of loss in one hand, we were also carrying radical amazement in the other. We took turns holding the pregnancy sac that perfectly contained the little being, laughing, crying and thanking God for the experience in front of us. Regardless of the outcome, the child we hoped for was a symbol of our love and of our lives coming together, and that was worth honoring. “Let’s bury this,” my partner suggested. “Absolutely,” I said without hesitation.
Having spotted the perfect garden earlier, my partner guided me to one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. As I held our little sac in my hand, my partner dug the final resting place for our baby-that-was-to-be. “Pelekini. Can we name them Pelekini to honor the Hawaiian islands in which they were conceived and laid to rest?” I suggested to my partner. “Pelekini… Yes,” my partner responded without hesitation. As we covered Pelekini with the soft Earth, we smoothly and naturally transitioned into Kaddish, then the Spanish version of ‘Our Father,’ and finally a Quechua verse taught to me by an adopted grandmother I had while living in my native Peru as a young adult: Kanwan kasaq, aman sakerpariwankichu. Yuyaymanaykim. I will be with you, you will not leave me. I am always thinking of you.
No one ever prepares you for pregnancy loss; however, it is important that we normalize the experience and recognize how common it is. About 10 to 15 out of every 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and an early miscarriage is often a sign that our bodies recognize that something isn’t right in the pregnancy. Despite our bodies working to care for us, there is no denying that the experience of miscarriage can still leave many of us feeling alone, ashamed and in the dark—especially given how seldomly the experience is discussed, and how women have historically been blamed for the loss.
One thing I can say about this experience is that it truly transformed me. I’ve grown in my faith, deepened my connection to my body, and shifted my outlook on life and parenthood. At the same time, it has also been difficult to balance between honoring the magnitude of my loss and mourning the systemic attack on reproductive rights with the passing of Texas’s six-week ban on abortion. Like many people who have complex feelings about their own pregnancy loss while remaining pro-choice, I share my experience while also holding an unequivocal belief in everyone’s right to autonomy over their body–and to define their own experience.
On Friday nights, as we sing Shalom Aleichem, we welcome our “baby angel” to the Shabbat table. Saying Kaddish also gives us an opportunity to remember the life that was to be, and this coming Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) we look forward to starting an annual tradition of co-creating an altar for our unborn children with other parents who have experienced loss. Knowing that our cultures are rooted in rituals that allow us to honor life in all its phases brings us joy, comfort and a true appreciation for being alive to experience love in all its presentations.
Dr. Analucía Lopezrevoredo is a Peruvian-Chilean-Quechua-American Jewtina, born in Lima and raised in Madrid and California. An anti-oppression activist, educator and researcher, Analucía founded Jewtina y Co. in 2019 to offer Latin Jews from around the world a community in which to celebrate and engage in critical dialogue about Latin-Jewish multiculturalism. A passionate global citizen, she’s traveled to over 125 countries, has lived in five continents and eats spicy food in every language.