I was pregnant for a little while. Our first go trying for number two. We were so happy, though incredulous that it happened so quickly. I remember telling Mitch that if I were the universe, I wouldn’t let us have it so easy. We’d get cocky, insufferably cocky ...
But there it was; an extra pink line on the stick and I was knackered. Bailey was going to be a big sister and she couldn’t have been prouder. She told my mom on Mother’s Day and Mitch’s folks a few days later. More tears of exuberant joy—I was six weeks.
At seven weeks we got an ultrasound, and there was a little flickering heartbeat. Doc says the embryo is measuring at six weeks and two days. Wrong, lady. I know my body and I know when we conceived. Are you telling me that I got a positive pregnancy test like a week after doing it? Doubt it. Okay, then it might not be developing normally, she says, but the heartbeat is a good sign.
Two days later I start spotting brown and yucky, but not too much and no cramps. Three, four, five days, still going. Okay, I spotted with B. Trying not to worry.
Going on a long camping trip to Portland and back. Get to Portland, Lena, one of my besties, announces she is pregnant with her first. I am overcome—so happy for her. We’re going to be swinging our bellies around together and have lil ones the same age. I tend to her as she is super barfy and on-the-floor tired. Wow, it is so much easier the second time I think. I feel pretty good (a bit of mild nausea, some cravings, an aversion to burritos and bologna). She feels like a wimp she says. Sorry hon.
I am still spotting. Fuck. Eight, nine, ten days.
Bailey and Mitch are sick and I have no idea what is going on with the baby. We cut the trip short and book it home. I have blood work and an ultrasound scheduled for the Tuesday after Memorial Day (wow, that’s today—I can’t imagine sitting here thinking I was still pregnant). I call and beg to be seen Friday. Okay, but there’s only an ultrasound technician available, possibly no doctor. Whatever, fine.
Mitch’s mom meets us there so she can be with Bailey just in case. Or, so we can all see the heartbeat together, I think. How special.
Ultrasound tech says she can’t tell us anything, but as she moves around my womb with her cold little wand, she looks very serious, and she won’t make eye contact. Mitch says after she leaves, that he saw no flickering this time. I scour the screen for clues. Next to “embryo,” it says six weeks. What? I was nine weeks. Can you come back at 2 p.m. today to speak to your OB? Yes, but I already know. Our little sprout has died.
What did I do? Was it that cup of coffee? That glass of wine? Those ten minutes in the hot tub? Stress? Are my eggs too old? I’m only fucking thirty-two. Why!!!!?
“I am so sorry Bailey, you are not going to be a big sister when we thought. The baby in Mommy’s tummy stopped growing. And Mommy is probably going to be sad for a while. And I will probably need extra hugs from my big girl, okay?”
“Okay, Mom,” she says and gives me a great big one.
Doc says it was probably a chromosomal defect. Nothing we could do. The spotting was probably the embryo “unimplanting.” No reason she can see that we can’t go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. Am I reassured? No I am not.
Okay, now what? Having exhausted my current pool of tears in the hours between appointments, I want to get down to business. Stop looking at me like that, feeling sorry for me, you faker. Well, you can have a D&C to surgically remove all of the contents of the womb. You can wait for your body to expel the matter naturally. This could take four to six weeks. “Contents?” “Matter?” Ouch. Or, you can put some pills in your vag to stimulate contractions and get things moving when you get home.
Normally I am a let-my-body-do-its-thing kind of a girl. But right now, I don’t trust it and I can’t fathom walking around indefinitely with a dead baby in my belly. So I take option three.
On my way home, I am in a daze. Mitch can’t say anything right. He is trying to be supportive while processing the loss himself. But I kind of hate him right now. Unfair, I know. I stop by the pharmacy to pick up the Vicodin prescription, some giant pads, a bottle of wine, and a bag of flamin’ hot Cheetos. Might as well go all the way, right? Fuck it.
I tuck in.
I’ll skip the part about the sweating and shaking and agony and such.
I pass the embryo just before midnight. There it is. A tiny little sac and the beginnings of a placenta. I stare into the toilet for a long time. A quiet peace takes over me. The twenty-eighth and a full moon. Bailey was born on the twenty-eighth under a full moon. Hmm. I call to Mitch to join me. He stares into the toilet for a long time. The scientist in me wants to fish it out and have a real good look, but instead we say farewell, thank the sprout for visiting us, and send it on its way.
So now, as I write this, a few days later, I am still expelling the “contents” of my womb. And my body is trying to get hip to what has happened. Various hormones are like wait, am I supposed to be here? Am I coming? Am I going? What is going on? I am feeling okay one minute, thinking I am more and more myself and then, in an instant, I am overtaken by the saddest sad I have ever felt. I shudder and crumble to the floor. I try to allow myself the space to grieve. Sometimes I feel like I should be allowed to cry as much as I need to. Sometimes it feels indulgent and selfish, especially when my daughter is around.
The truth is, I am so lucky to have her. She is amazing—bright, funny, loving. When I cultivate this feeling of gratitude, I gain strength. Maybe this is the key to getting through this. Maybe I did need a reminder of how incredible and beautiful my family already is. Maybe this was the blessing in a flickering little disguise. Maybe ...
Funny thing, while we camping we found a drowned mouse in one of the campsite toilets. Bailey was absolutely captivated by this and it spurned a conversation about the circle of life. She seemed to get it, in a way I don’t think she could have much earlier—the concept that all living things are living things for a finite amount of time. Since we explained to her that the baby was now like the mouse, and we all said goodbye, she has not once mentioned her (no longer imminent) big-sisterhood, but she sees and points out things that remind her of the circle of life everywhere—falling leaves, bugs, baby birds. She understands.
And I … well, I am getting there.