My first pregnancy began with such joy — seeing a positive test result the morning that my younger sister was getting married. And it ended with a sudden jolt: a moment in time where we happily saw a perfectly-formed little baby image on the ultrasound screen but did not realize that she was meant to be moving around.We were having our routine twelve-week scan and were told I had had a missed miscarriage. We were devastated. It was the first real time in my life that things didn’t go to plan, and for an A+ only student at college, I felt such an utter failure.
For months I beat myself up over why it had happened and felt tremendous guilt that I had taken a flight to a work conference in Australia during my first trimester. I went down the Googling rabbit hole of learning about the increased risk of miscarriage for flight attendants and felt regret for having gone on that trip, whether or not it had anything to do with anything I would never know.
That entire first pregnancy aftermath was an ongoing lesson in things not going to plan and left me completely reeling. The ‘routine’ D&C surgery after a missed miscarriage went wrong. I hemorrhaged for some unknown reason and lost one-third of my blood, needing a blood transfusion and a laparoscopy to check the bleeding didn’t go elsewhere internally. I woke up extremely weak, my body in literal shock, freezing cold, sore, disoriented and confused to find my belly blown up like a balloon, a cruel twist of fate to someone dreaming of making it that far in their pregnancy.
It took time physically to recover from all of that, especially regaining my energy after the blood loss. Emotionally I was a wreck. Friends came out of the woodwork to tell me they too had all suffered miscarriages, and I entered into a new understanding of womanhood, of grief a mother feels, even before ever meeting their child. I learned an empathy through that which I’ve never had otherwise known.
Four months later, I was watching television with my husband. It was the ad break just after one of our favorite TV show characters was taken away in an ambulance. I got up to use the bathroom and realized I was bleeding – badly. I ran to the bathroom yelling to my husband who followed behind, seeing a horrific trail of blood which he said was everywhere. He called for an ambulance as we both were in shock as to what this all meant. I remember the drive to the hospital hearing drip, drip, drip on the floor. I had bled all the way through the mattress. The driver kept stopping to check my vitals as I wasn’t in a good way. I lost another third of my blood that night. My body had rid itself — in dramatic fashion — of a one-inch piece of placenta left behind by the original D&C surgery. The doctors didn’t want me to have another transfusion, so I was told to take it easy for the next month as my body healed.
Just as we had felt like we had begun to move on with life after the miscarriage, we felt beaten backward. Was giving birth going to be too life-threatening? Would I have scarring from this that would prevent further births? Was it all worth it?
We needed something to take our minds off all the horror. A plan was hatched: We would be a little reckless and buy around the world plane tickets and go take time off and travel for six weeks. We’d take in Sydney, Bankok, Beijing, London, Paris for my thirtieth birthday, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On days when I felt so down, the thought of Paris on my thirtieth birthday at the end of the year could still make me smile. We wanted to end our annus horribilis on a good note.
The trip was perfect in every way: the sights, the food, the meaningful conversations, the fun experiences, the people, the friends we could see, and… another pregnancy. I felt a little strange when we returned to London before flying out to New York and wondered. Was I pregnant again? Could I really be? A quick trip to the drug store later, I found out I was! We were overjoyed. I felt very ill by the time we made it to San Francisco and couldn’t face the thought of walking back up the steep hill to our hotel at the end of the day but my husband happily paid for a taxi ride up. This time was going to be different and any of my thoughts about travel being bad faded off into the distance. Our son was born healthily without any medical interventions or pain relief drugs the following year.
I flew while pregnant with all four of our children. If you are up to it and your doctor says you are good to go, I encourage you to. You will get out and keep more active and pass the time more quickly. Yes, morning sickness with my daughter had its awful moments while traveling but the time went by faster, I had a lot of things to distract myself from feeling so bad. I never found flights to swell my legs while pregnant, but I never did while not pregnant either. One important note — I never traveled in my third trimester as travel insurance would not cover me. I have read far too many stories of women from New Zealand who have gone on a Pacific Island vacation in their third trimester and didn’t take out insurance and were stung with incredible bills and sometimes even flown home under emergency by the New Zealand air force. As much as I love to travel, that is not a risk I am willing to take.