Prev Next

On Loss, Self, and Sequins


Life is short. Wear sequins if you want to.

On Loss, Self, and Sequins | A Practical Wedding

by Nadine Friedman

Our wedding began with an ending, a painful, unexplainable loss. It was also the impetus for changing how I perceived myself as a woman, a wife, and a bride.

Our conversations about wedding planning were, at first, casual. We got engaged over margavezas in June 2013, at the Bed Stuy dive bar where we’d first made out three years ago. It was perfectly lowbrow, silly, and us. We decided to make our wedding small, cheap, and modest: a long engagement, an afternoon at City Hall, and a luncheon of close friends and fluorescent bodega daisies. I’d never envisioned a wedding, big or small; I wasn’t comfortable with being the center of attention, asking for help, or spending other people’s money. I love rituals, weddings, running my fingers over a letterpressed Save the Date, but not mine. Was I positive, he asked with a raised eyebrow? If there was ever a time to unite my favorite things (Edison bulbs, The Pointer Sisters, doughnuts, and sequins), now was it. I assured him it was fine, it’s fine, as the anxiety of wedding planning and the guilt of wedding having unsettled me. I, like so many women, instinctively apologized for desiring frivolous, expensive, or, uh, enjoyable things. I did not know what charger plates were actually called, and I considered myself healthier for it. We set no date and forgot about it for the summer.

Especially when, in late July, I felt weird. More accurately, I felt pregnant.

We’d been careless recently, my boobs looked unrealistically (but appreciably) huge, and my Lyme disease symptoms were acting up more than usual. It felt identical to the year before when I miscarried at eight weeks, just after the ambivalence and horror had passed and we’d decided it was a good thing. I couldn’t let the uncertainty and déjà vu continue. Pregnancy tests—nine of them—confirmed it. I sat on the toilet, completely destabilized and wishing to just be normal. I didn’t want to be a mother, nor did I want to go through the ugly randomness of another miscarriage.

But it happened again a week later. As if the embryo and I had been playing hide and seek and it got pissed off I won, deciding to just go home. I began bleeding profusely. A male reproductive endocrinologist told me, “Sorry, there’s nothing in there,” and sent us home, empty and resigned. We acknowledged these things happen, possibly for the best. Bad times make for the greatest marriages, right? Right?

But a month later, September, I was still bleeding. The same RE insisted over the phone it was normal for some women to bleed that long, but I went for a second opinion. The free clinic’s female gynecologist took one look at me, handed me $15 for a cab and sent me to the ER.

Freakier than a miscarriage, it was an ectopic pregnancy, a rare enough condition in which the embryo can’t get its shit together to surf to the uterus. Instead, it implants itself in the Fallopian, snuggling in to eventually grow and explode inside a woman. It was not a miscarriage; rather, this mercenary was growing inside me, ready to rupture my tube and kill me.

I could only imagine what Jared thought, hearing me leave for a checkup at 8am and call at noon, saying I had a pregnancy that needed to be terminated with drugs or surgery within hours. We like surprises, us. What’s a long engagement without a life-threatening emergency?

That day is a blur, still: of waiting, of blood, of bizarre terms, the threat of tubal destruction, and a stream of social workers handing me pamphlets about grief counseling. An ultrasound technician sounded baffled and pitying when I told her I was now on junk pregnancy number two. “No children… at all?” she gasped unhelpfully. At 11:15 that night, the embryo was deemed small enough that it could be treated with a methotrexate injection, a creepy chemo drug that would make this tissue disappear back into my body, instead of surgery.

I had to lie down for a week to wait for the shot to work and my hormones to go back to unpregnant; too much activity might make the tube rupture and cause internal bleeding. The disappointment and sense of futility were real, but the ache of loss was nothing compared to the fury at the absence of agency. Where was my choice in any of this?

I threw up from the chemo drug, cried. I felt septic and like I’d failed at being a functional woman, a wife, failed at becoming the mother of Jared’s child. I went on Pinterest.

Because suddenly, I wanted a fucking wedding.

I can say now, three months later, the impulse to plan something happy was probably fulfilling a teeny-weeny bit of psychological and emotional pain. I was sad and bored and vomiting that week, so I looked at affordable wedding venues. If I start crying about the theft of my fertility while in the waiting room getting my sixth blood test, I looked at sequin dresses on my iPhone. I wanted a party, and soon. I wanted to feel pretty. I wanted to hear Jared talk about how much he loved me. I no longer felt like apologizing for it.

(I also reasoned that a set wedding date in the next year would be practical for language purposes, in case I almost died again. Because if internal bleeding had ended the engagement in August, Jared wouldn’t have had the vernacular clarity of “widowed.” He’d have to use the more emotionally diluted “my fiancé died.” Now, if we were married and something horrible happened to me, he’d be a young, gorgeous, and haunted widower, instead of a messed up guy who’s basically-what-amounted-to-a-live-in-girlfriend died. That was my generosity of thought in a very dark week.)

A season and venue deposit later I’m calmer, more recovered, and have used APW to calculate reasonable booze costs. And it turns out, planning my wedding is wonderful. It’s fun and healing. Losing a pregnancy didn’t make me less of a woman, nor does having a huge bridal party make me less of a reasonable person. My wedding isn’t a symbol of frivolity, or consolation prize for not being a mother right now; it’s just a community gathering in the name of love, creativity, and disco. I’m energized to get married because I get to see his perfect, skinny ass everyday for as long as I’m alive. I want everyone there to hear me say it.

Vows at a courthouse wouldn’t encompass all the terrible things we’ve seen together, even before that day in the ER—death, illness, poverty, loss. Neither can they convey the gratitude and passion we have for each other and everyone around us. I’m getting married and serving it up real, because life is literally, incredibly short. What is there to be sorry about, having a party? How terrible is a party for yourself, in the grand scheme?

So a party it is, the drunkest, loudest dance party to celebrate the start of my life with my best friend. I’m getting married in sequins and will either look like a liquid, Bowie demi-goddess or a ninth grader in a school play flapper costume. Who cares. Endings create beginnings in painful, meaningful ways. And I’m going to dance my ass off with this one.

Photo by Liz West, edited and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

More in The Hard Stuff Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Katy

    Love, creativity and disco.

    Amen and much love to you and yours. You rock.

  • http://evangelicalexpat.wordpress.com/ dj_pomegranate

    Well, this was just wonderful.

  • SamA

    “Losing a pregnancy didn’t make me less of a woman, nor does having a huge bridal party make me less of a reasonable person.” amen to both sentiments. Have a KICKASS day, and a fabulous rest-of-your-lives…

  • BreckW

    I love this post so much–what an awesome way to kick off 2014. Nadine, have an AMAZING wedding day, and please come back with some pics of you in your sequined dress for the magpies in the comments : ).

  • tashamoes

    This is a wonderfully thoughtful start to a new year on APW. Thank you, and sending all the best wishes your way.

    Finding a sense of community and reason to celebrate love in the midst of pain – a good step towards all sorts of healing, I think.

    • friedpod

      TRUTH, girl. thanks!

  • http://www.asafemooring.blogspot.com/ Kirsty | A Safe Mooring

    So much love. You work those sequins, ladypants.

  • moonlitfractal

    I identify with this post. Shortly after my husband and I became engaged, I began exhibiting symptoms of an undiagnosable chronic pain syndrome, which resulted in my losing my job (the people who say you can’t be fired for being disabled are wrong), and having to put all future career and grad-school plans on ‘indefinite hiatus.’ I threw myself into wedding planning with a passion. It was good to have my life revolve around something that I could (to an extent) understand and control. My wedding was far from practical: it was much bigger and more detailed and more expensive than I would probably have wanted if my life were going differently. It was beautiful. I think that devoting those months to creating something beautiful was the right way to use my time.

  • Jo

    Blessings to you, on hard-earned celebration of life and love.

    Thank you for writing this and thanks to APW for publishing something so real and true. It reminds me of how one of the great things about finding a partner who truly celebrates you is how it frees you to really celebrate life the way that suits you – if you can let yourself. For our wedding, I ended up in a slightly fancier wedding dress than I might have picked had my fiance (now husband) not been in the picture, but in the end it suited our celebration, as did the (ridiculously short-lived) fresh flowers, the epic self-thrown dance party, and cupcakes (in lieu of cake). Did we NEED it? In a way, no… but in a way, how else to appropriately honor “the gratitude and passion we have for each other and everyone around us,” as Nadine so eloquently noted?

    • friedpod

      Jo… that sounds amazing. Many good vibes to you and your dude.

  • Shiri

    “My wedding isn’t a symbol of frivolity, or consolation prize for not being a mother right now; it’s just a community gathering in the name of love, creativity, and disco.”

    I love this. Yes. You are awesomely strong – I went through half of this wanting to give you a hug, and was proud to realize at the end that you don’t need it, you’ve got your head in a great place and some really kick ass plans. You’ve got sequins ahead of you, a perfect ass to send your life with, and the wherewithal to save your own life by listening to your body and finding a doctor who did, too. (and yay for the funding that pays that free clinic doctor’s salary, btw)

  • Kayjayoh

    “I’m getting married in sequins and will either look like a liquid, Bowie demi-goddess or a ninth grader in a school play flapper costume. Who cares.”

    This. This. This.

  • Meg

    You deserve sequins so much. ALL OF THE SEQUINS.

  • MisterEHolmes

    Oh goodness. All the sequins for you indeed!

  • MovingMaven

    “I’m energized to get married because I get to see his perfect, skinny ass everyday for as long as I’m alive. I want everyone there to hear me say it.”

    Post-wedding (and primarily, post-wedding-planning), I can attest that this is the reason to have a wedding and not an elopement/paperwork-filing. We needed that community to witness our commitment. Pick a good community, and have a fun party! Good luck.

    • Ella

      That was my favorite line, too!! :)

  • Fiona

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. Have a fabulous, sequin-infested celebration!

  • Sarah E

    Fuck yeah, woman. I can feel your agency from here.

    • friedpod

      i’m using that on the invitations, fucking genius

  • Julia

    Beautifully written.

  • malkavian

    I am truly sorry for your loss, but can we please refrain from calling medications creepy? As someone who takes chemotherapeutic drugs on the regular due to an autoimmune disease, that line really jumped out at me. Statements like that feel really judgmental toward the people who need to take such medications in order to survive or feel like a human being.

    • Meg Keene

      I do get where you’re coming from, I take meds myself, and have autoimmune diseases in my family, and yes, use of meds can be stigmatized. But I think we have to allow people the space to have their own experiences. The very same drug can feel totally different in different circumstances. And having to use one to essentially terminate post miscarriage so you don’t die? That being insanely hard, and feeling creepy, is not a judgement, or even a comment on, on you using similar meds.

      • malkavian

        I understand that the author’s experiences are different than mine, and yes, she has a right to her feelings and experiences. But labeling the medication itself as ‘creepy’ suggests that ‘creepy’ is an inherent characteristic of that medication, rather than being a reflection on the author’s circumstances.

    • friedpod

      Thank you for your thoughts and response to this. I also take medications daily weekly, plus injections weekly for Lyme Disease and understand the physical pain, stress, financial angst that these rituals cause people. I identified methotrexate as creepy because it was designed to break up living cells and reabsorb them back into my body… felt kinda creepy!

      • malkavian

        It’s just really, really frustrating, that, with all the stigma against taking medications that I’ve seen or experienced, to see another medication portrayed as being inherently negative in a place that’s usually a safe space for me.

        Also (because understanding how medications work is very important as patients), that isn’t actually how methotrexate works, it just stops rapidly-dividing cells from proliferating. It inhibits cell division by
        interfering with DNA/RNA synthesis via inhibiting the conversion of
        folate to thymine (one of the nitrogen bases in DNA/RNA). That’s why
        it’s used to treat cancer and AI disease, it slows down the cells that
        are dividing more rapidly than they should be (and more rapidly than everything else) and thus causing damage. In the case of ectopic
        pregnancy, this stops the embryonic cells from dividing, killing the
        embryo. The human body automatically cleans up/recycles/destroys any
        biological debris that accumulates in it, that’s not the drug’s effect.

        • friedpod

          I don’t think I, as a lone essayist, have the cultural power to cultivate stigma. I’m just telling you how I felt.

  • sfw

    Beautiful. Strong. Unapologetic.
    Thank you for this.

  • anonymous

    Wow. For parts of this post, I felt like I was reading my own story. I got pregnant a couple months after we got engaged. I had an IUD, making pregnancy 99.8% impossible. I was 7 weeks along when I found out. The pregnancy was growing around the IUD and I was bleeding a lot. It was a mess. I had to have an emergency D & C. There is nothing like finding out you’re pregnant one day, and being in the hospital the next, having your wrists strapped to the surgery table before they put you under to operate on your lady bits. The doctor tried to save the pregnancy. He couldn’t. Being in a ton of pain and then waking up to the news that we’d lost the pregnancy was almost more than I could handle. Even if getting pregnant while we were engaged hadn’t been part of the original plan.
    For a week post-surgery I was an emotional mess and I would double over in pain when I tried to walk. My partner was there for me every step of the way. I could do so little for myself, let alone anything for him, but he just kept on loving me. We were living out the vows that we would make to each other before we had ever made them (or written them down). There’s nothing like living through your darkest days together to really make your commitment seem transcendent. We got married this past summer. It was not the courthouse wedding we would have had, had the pregnancy resulted in a little bundle, but it was our wedding. Imperfect, loving, and a very good day.

    • friedpod

      i’m so sorry that happened to you. and happy that you discovered the value in it, and have a partner who does too.

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    This is awesome!! And thank you for somehow in the midst of all that making me feel courageous and validated with my own wedding planning. I too feel guilty or weird making things “about me” and we have about 5 months , no exactly 5 months till our wedding. we tend to be really casual about everything, as if we are so asking so much by having this wedding to begin with. so thank you for the perspective and the attitude adjustment, because we deserve this wedding and deserve, for this one time, for it to be all about us! thank you for your story, and i am glad you are healthy!

    • friedpod

      and mazel to your wedding, girl

  • Paula Kinsey

    “I’m getting married and serving it up real, because life is literally, incredibly short. What is there to be sorry about, having a party? How terrible is a party for yourself, in the grand scheme?” Especially one that celebrates love with sequins, liquor and dancing. Love you Nadine.

  • Cherryblossoms

    The desire to throw a party after a period of darkness and uncertainty really resonated with me. My partner and I had always assumed we’d have an easy peasy family-only ceremony at some point. Then when he went through chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 33 and got well, we both felt that a much bigger party with friends and family fit the bill. It really made us want to celebrate LIFE and our life together.

    • friedpod

      i hope you and he are happy, healthy and safe

  • AmyN17

    I am so sorry that you miscarried and in such a traumatic way. Your essay is beautiful, inspiring and honest. Thank you for sharing.

  • JenClaireM

    This just made me tear up, especially the ending. I’m so sorry for what you went through and for your loss. I’m also thrilled for you that you’re having a wedding that you’re excited for. It’s really a wonderful party to have, and I hope it is every amazing moment you desire. I’m sure the sequins will look fabulous.

  • Jules

    As someone with a background in medicine, it makes me so sad that your ectopic pregnancy wasn’t picked up on the first time. It is by no means as rare as you have been led to believe. I don’t suppose I have to convince you to never see that doctor again.

    I hope your sequinned dress reflects (like a disco ball!) all the beautiful memories that have made you and Jared into a little family and wish you nothing but health and happiness for the future.

    • friedpod

      That’s actually really good to hear. When that appointment was going on and he was all indifferently up in there ( bringing up all of the anxiety and fury about the dismissive/dangerous misogyny in the medical institution I and other women have experienced), I just kept thinking, “why does HE get to wear clothes? Why are there so many men in here wearing clothes, can’t they even take their shoes off?” There’s this absurd societal/medical/media focus on reproduction, yet zero compassion for the experience of it. I appreciate there’s someone like you who give a shit about that.

      And I appreciate and return your well wishes. This is an amazing community.

  • Kara Davies

    Wear those sequins and dance your ass off honey. I’ve lost both my children as well (been there done that, a “missed miscarriage” at 17wks -I prefer to say our daughter was stillborn- and a “full term on my due date unexpectedly fast unexpected feet first birth” resulting in my son being braindead) and planning a big happy event does help somewhat to ease the pain. Dance your ass off honey!

  • EF

    Ahh this post is wonderful. How scary it is to be in the hospital (an ER visit of mine and stumbling over titles for each other kinda made us hurry up with announcing the engagement), and the whole situation sucks, but there’s also so much hope here. Can’t WAIT to see Nadine’s graduate post.

  • snack

    beautiful.

  • g+m

    Good. for. you. What a lovely, moving read – thank you for sharing.