- My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant and I recently had a miscarriage.
- It’s been a complicated but beautiful time, perhaps made more of both because we’re polyamorous.
- Here’s what it’s been like to try to get pregnant with my husband while dating other people.
I set out fancy mezcal, a gooey brie, and our vape pen — treats that had all felt off-limits just a few days prior. As much as I love these indulgences, though, that night they evoked decidedly mixed emotions; my husband and I were hosting a miscarriage party.
For the last year, as Cole and I tried to get pregnant, I often imagined how elated I’d be when those two parallel lines on the test turned blue. Instead, when they finally appeared just a week before the party, I felt a sense of dread and ambivalence. I’d called my doctor’s office while experiencing intense period pain that took my breath away. When the nurse suggested I take a pregnancy test, I laughed in confusion. After the at-home test was positive, she told me to head to the ER.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I asked the doctor on call, “If I’m pregnant, why am I in so much pain, and why is there so much blood?”
Cole and I spent four hours holding hands in the waiting room, watching “Parks and Recreation” as I cramped and we awaited lab results to determine whether the pregnancy was viable. The results were inconclusive, so the official diagnosis was essentially “wait and see.”
What followed was a week of pregnancy purgatory: debilitating cramps, countless blood tests, and uncertainty about every facet of my life.
I feared for the health of the fetus and wondered what a painful pregnancy would mean for my business and for my quality of life. I found myself almost hoping for a miscarriage, and then berating myself for the thought, cycling through self-compassion and self-recrimination.
To add to the complexity of the situation, Cole and I were considering another aspect of our relationship and how it intersected with our desire to become parents. Since we began dating six years prior, we’d remained committed to an open-relationship model, which we now describe as polyamorous.
Navigating polyamory while my husband and I tried to get pregnant
Cole and I share a lifelong commitment to one another; we also embrace the possibility of love outside of our marriage. We wondered how our precarious pregnancy status would impact that aspect of our lives. While we’ve closed our relationship at various points to focus on one another or our careers, we decided to maintain our open relationship — with lots of safeguards and honesty with other partners — while trying to get pregnant.
We were both grateful we had decided to keep dating other people during this time, especially since pregnancy was taking a while. I teased that as a sex educator, I’m very good at not getting pregnant, but actually getting pregnant proved to be far more difficult.
After months of trying without results, I decided to get proactive and began diligently entering period data into an app, taking my temperature daily, and peeing on an ovulation strip first thing each morning.
For as long as I could remember, my period had come with a sense of relief. Now my period was the enemy — a signal that despite my meticulous record keeping, I’d failed yet again. Each month I wasn’t pregnant, I felt like a failure, as if I just needed to put forth more energy and effort. The overachiever in me felt certain I could get pregnant by sheer force of will and organization skill.
The beginnings of a new relationship amid uncertainty
As Cole and I sat in limbo about this much-wanted pregnancy, I was also a few weeks into a new relationship. In July, I’d met a new partner in the lobby of a posh convention center. We’d both attended the conference welcome event and agreed that there were not enough appetizers to offset the high volume of cheap, tangy wine.
Tipsy, I described the challenges of being petite and slipped off my shoes to demonstrate. It was an endless struggle, I told him, finding heels that were high enough to put me closer to the eye level of fellow conferencegoers, but weren’t so tall they’d have me walking like a baby giraffe. This made him laugh.
For the rest of the conference, my eyes followed him around the room. Chatting at the bar during the raucous party on the last night, we discussed a famous pancake spot we both wanted to try the next day and made plans to meet in the lobby at 10 a.m.
The next morning, as we ate breakfast and strolled through the city together, I talked about the heartache of trying to get pregnant and shared that I was both queer and polyamorous. Having seen my wedding ring, he’d assumed I was flirtatious and friendly, nothing more. Now he teased that I should add a light-up feature to my ring, one that would prompt conversation and might open the door to let potential suitors know I was poly.
As we awaited our Lyft to the airport, I kissed him for the first time on the sidewalk of a quiet side street.
After we flew home in different directions, he mailed me copies of his favorite books. We texted daily about everything from our favorites of the seven deadly sins and to examples of toxic masculinity in nonfiction to our shared passion for Google Docs.
Weeks later, Cole and I were suspended in uncertainty — were we currently growing our family, or was I having a miscarriage, and were our pregnancy plans on pause yet again? I was navigating concurrent sensations of hope, guilt, and apprehension, magnified with the energy of my new, long-distance relationship.
Whether I was going through a viable pregnancy or a miscarriage, each path felt like a potential betrayal of one of my identities. If I was pregnant, I feared my poly and queer identities would become invisible or inaccessible to me, subsumed by my mom identity. If I miscarried, I worried how that would affect our journey to becoming parents.
My friend Krista Rae helped steady the ship, saying, “Either way, you’re going to embrace your truth. If you’re pregnant, your truth right now is to grow your family with Cole. If not, your truth is to explore an exciting new relationship.”
I was stuck in limbo, but having an abundance of support helped bolster me
Mid-August at home in New Orleans, the waiting game matched the temperature: uncomfortably intense, swampy, and slow. My efforts to work were fruitless. I’d have moments of focus before a blast of pain would shoot through me, a persistent reminder of my uncertain state. I canceled non-urgent meetings and through those I couldn’t skip with a white-knuckle grip.
My friends showered me with support and distracted me during gaps in my schedule. I texted my new partner.
If each cramp was a reminder that something was potentially very wrong with my pregnancy, each time my phone vibrated was an affirmation of something hopeful, delivering a flurry of serotonin. Still, I wondered about the ethics of the situation. You can’t exactly Google, “When should I tell my brand-new partner that I’m pregnant with my husband’s child but most likely miscarrying?”
I reasoned that he knew I was trying to get pregnant, and my doctors said we’d likely know more by the end of the week. I decided to tell him once I knew something concrete. Meanwhile, Cole held space for the full spectrum of my emotions. We laughed about the very weird dynamic of dating while likely miscarrying. When the dissonance became too intense for me, he assured me that no matter the outcome of this pregnancy, we were in it together.
Our conversations came with a playfulness and sincerity that was reminiscent of our wedding vows: “Come hell or high water, raptor attack, or zombie apocalypse, we’re in it to win it, no matter what.” What could have felt profoundly lonely for me instead felt connecting, both to Cole and my larger community.
Finally, the results — and learning to live my truth
The results came in late Friday night, a week after that first positive test. I sent texts to loved ones, inviting them to Cole’s and my miscarriage party the following night. I made it clear that we weren’t going to weep in a circle, discussing my pregnancy loss. Instead, we were going to drink, smoke, and go dancing. We’d celebrate our friendships and the joy that can still exist, even in hardship.
What started in our living room with my favorite bullshit-pop music transitioned into a full-blown dance party after we walked to Twelve Mile Limit, the dive bar Cole owns and manages. Our friend Ann was DJing; it was a sweaty, irreverent, joyful affair. I worked through my grief dancing and singing to a soundtrack similar to that of “Dirty Dancing” and “The Big Chill.”
That night, people who loved us, knew how desperately we wanted to bring a kiddo into our lives, and supported our poly identities surrounded Cole and I. Days later, I shared news of the miscarriage with my new partner, who was exceedingly compassionate, even mailing me a handwritten, tender note of support.
For many people, miscarriage comes with a soundtrack that’s less “The Big Chill” and more “It’s my fault.” Even though we strive to believe it when our doctors say that we didn’t do anything wrong, that inner voice persists, wondering if we caused it. It’s an experience we often keep secret, which can be severely isolating for a person, or a couple. I sought the opposite — a cheeky party surrounded by friends to move through any shame, seek support, and acknowledge the grief.