The doctor’s office wasn’t what I expected. The soft lighting and autumn hues made it feel almost cozy. After I filled out all the paperwork, the office assistant asked, “Do you have a ride home?” I told her I’d be taking an Uber. “No, that won’t work. You’ll need a ride from someone who can sign for you.”
“Really?” I asked, as if I didn’t know that I’d be going under general anesthesia. As if a surgical procedure wasn’t about to happen. “Today is Moving Day,” I protested. We were moving out of town, to another state. “My husband and family . . . they’re packing up our apartment. I don’t think he can get away.. . .” As I fumbled my words, I realized how ridiculous that sounded and I pulled out my phone to text my husband. He replied immediately — he would pick me up, of course.
For the past 48 hours I’d had to reach out and let others step up. It still felt incredibly uncomfortable. Strong women don’t need help.
Three months earlier, my husband, Jeremy, was accepted to a graduate program in Chicago. We’d found a new apartment in a city 2,000 miles away, packed our belongings in boxes, hugged our favorite people, and prepared to say goodbye to Los Angeles. We said yes to change and adventure, and when we found out I was pregnant two weeks before our scheduled move, we said yes to the unexpected. We wanted another baby. Just not yet. Despite the wonky timing, we laughed and smiled. Yes, I thought. Strong women can balance it all.
Two weeks before Moving Day, the first trimester fatigue hit me. Unlike my previous pregnancy, I didn’t have the freedom to rest. I had a move to coordinate, a home to pack up, and an almost-2-year-old to care for. Strong women can do all the things.
“What do you need?” my mother asked.
“What can I do?” my mother-in-law asked.
“I’m good,” I said.
I was not good.
Two days before Moving Day, I woke up and discovered I was bleeding. When my doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat, she explained my options: wait for my body to let the pregnancy go naturally, take a pill to speed things up, or have a dilation and curettage procedure to remove any remaining fetal tissue from my uterus. Knowing that I would be leaving home in less than a week and driving with my husband and toddler across the country, she cautioned me against the unpredictability of letting my body miscarry naturally. There was no way of knowing when and where it would happen. Taking the pill meant a few days of bleeding and cramping, which would coincide with my son’s second birthday and our travels. With a quicker and less complicated recovery, a D&C felt like the best option for me. There was one appointment available before I left the state. It was on Moving Day.
No, I thought. I needed to be there to problem-solve, to make sure everything ran smoothly. After all, strong women are in total control. But when I told my family what had happened, it was clear — what I really needed to do was let go. “We’ll be there,” they said. And they were.
Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is ask for help.
Jeremy walked into the recovery room with a smile. “How is everything going?” I asked. “It’s all good,” he said. “Everything’s under control.” And it was. When I was rested I returned to a nearly empty apartment. My sister-in-law was sweeping. My mom was sealing up a box. My dad was locking up the storage container. My mother-in-law had watched our son all day.
My body felt weak, but my heart knew I was still strong. Because strong women are really measured by the support they allow themselves to receive.
Jazmine Aluma is a writer in Los Angeles. Send comments to email@example.com. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.