On a Monday in March, I woke up with symptoms that made me 90 percent sure that I was having a miscarriage.
Less than 24 hours before, my husband Josh and I had told our respective sets of parents that we were expecting our first baby, his parents’ first grandchild, my parents’ fourth. I was just shy of two months pregnant. I knew conventional wisdom dictated that expecting parents wait until they have passed the 12-week mark before letting people know, but I had a good feeling about this one.
The doctor couldn’t see me until the afternoon after my worrying symptoms began, and so we waited at home in the suffocating staleness of grim expectation. I cried over every possible aspect of what I was pretty sure was happening. I felt like an idiot for being overzealous about sharing news of my pregnancy. I felt like the pain my parents and in-laws would feel after this would be my fault. I shouldn’t have told them. When he drove me to the hospital, Josh let me off at the front door and drove around the block, where he parked a block away and waited for me to text him.
My husband couldn’t come see the doctor with me, couldn’t sit there with me as I cry-hiccuped in an intake room, couldn’t sit next to me as the midwife performed an ultrasound and informed me, to my surprise that, in the middle of the little blob that would eventually turn into something that looks much more like a human, the little flicker that would eventually be part of a heart was still flickering. The pregnancy was still viable.
Josh wasn’t there when the midwife explained that the body does weird things during pregnancy and we don’t always know why, and I sobbed with relief. He hadn’t been with me when I had, just days before, had my pregnancy confirmed by ultrasound. He wasn’t there to hold my hand while I had blood drawn; I’m terrified of needles. He wouldn’t be there for any appointments over the next two months, when I’d see the little blob looking more like a tiny alien, kicking tiny legs and rolling around with the impatience of an insomniac that can’t get comfortable on a cheap mattress. He had to settle for pictures the doctor allowed me to take with my phone.
Like millions of women whose pregnancy overlapped with the COVID pandemic, like millions of people dealing with all manner of medical issues from a terminal cancer diagnosis on down, I had no choice but to be alone for all of pandemic-era appointments, even though I was fully vaccinated for most of my pregnancy. I can’t say I was thrilled that my husband couldn’t be there the first time I saw an image of what would eventually grow into our child, but I understood why a hospital would take measures to keep staff and patients safe in the midst of a pandemic and as the number of vaccinated people moved us toward herd immunity.
During pandemic restrictions, pregnant people had to endure both joy and tragedy by themselves. My “scare” ended in relief. But, with at least one in four known pregnancies ending in miscarriage, I can’t wrap my mind around the loneliness and pain of having to hear devastating news in an exam room alone, without any support from a partner, relative, or friend.
I’m now rounding the corner into the third trimester. After The Scare it’s been an uncomplicated pregnancy, a blessedly boring pregnancy. I am starting to look, in my husband’s words, “like I am made of circles.” We are interviewing pediatricians. We are writing a “birth plan.” People I wouldn’t trust to water my plants over a long weekend are giving me unsolicited advice about child-rearing. There is an unassembled crib in our office. I sold my Honda Civic and bought a CRV. Our parents have airplane tickets booked to visit us a few weeks after Halloween, my due date.
I’m not a politician or a public health official, so I don’t feel a need to be polite about how I feel about the disinfo-and-germ-spreaders who brought us to this point: I’m fucking furious.
As life continues its demoralizing backslide toward the worst months of 2020, I can’t view my solo prenatal visits as a small part of a larger shared sacrifice we’ve all agreed to endure while we wait for medicine and science to do their work. I don’t think of all of the months that my friends’ kids spent out of school as a year-well spent on a larger public health goal. I no longer think warmly about families that pooled time and resources to get their elderly family members vaxxed back in January and February. I’ll think about people like my retired father-in-law who took it upon himself to help dozens of his friends and neighbors secure appointments, and about how all of that labor and sacrifice is in danger of being wasted on the stupid assholes who won’t take the vaccine for ideological reasons and are telling others to do the same.
It is obscene that every responsible person who took steps to protect themselves and others over the last 16 months will continue to pay such a disproportionate price for the spiteful, pigheaded stupidity of the willfully unvaccinated.
I don’t feel sympathy for those who had access to a vaccine but chose not to take it out of cult-like adherence to a political identity, or selfish belief that other people’s immunity would protect them. I can’t say I’m moved by reading the daily parade of social media posts from proudly anti-vaccine morons who end up catching COVID and spending weeks in a hospital, their relatives begging for prayers on Twitter. These stories all blur together as tales of people who fucked around and got found out. It’s too bad the arsonist got burned, but it’s also kind of his fault for going around setting fires in the first place.
I feel worse for overburdened health-care workers forced, once again, to shoulder the burden of other people’s irresponsibility than I do an anti-vaccine asshole warning other anti-vaccine assholes about the seriousness of the disease from a hospital bed.
I do not believe that any of the infected Trumpists facing months or years of long COVID have learned their lesson: “Bad things only exist when they happen to me personally” is a core tenet of a belief system that is incongruous with a functional society.
I have nothing left but anger for the right-wing media, the Tuckers and the Megyns and the Seans, themselves vaccinated, stoking fears in their audience so that they can buy a slightly larger third home in the Hamptons.
We’re all paying for that. Every woman who is sitting alone in a waiting room worrying she’s miscarrying is paying for that, every cancer patient and transplant recipient in a hospital room alone, every great-grandmother dying alone in a nursing home is paying for that.
I do not care to sit down and listen to any of America’s enormous contingent of crazy assholes, or people making excuses on their behalf. I have no more energy for them. I have no kindness for them. I don’t care that unvaccinated people are losing jobs over their vaccine refusal. It doesn’t bother me that Boomers who won’t get vaccinated are being barred from seeing their grandchildren. I hope every concert venue and restaurant requires proof of vaccination from everybody who can physically withstand the vaccine as a prerequisite for entry. I hope more maskless screamers are barred from air travel for life en route to anticipated family vacations. Unvaccinated teens who don’t have chronic health conditions that make the vaccine unsafe for them shouldn’t be allowed to attend school with those who are vaccinated. Insurance companies should start refusing to pay the medical bills of people who could get vaccinated, don’t get vaccinated, and then spend weeks in the hospital after coming down with COVID.
Responsible people have already suffered enough. The people who brought us back here should be paying the price.