Warning: This is not a post for everybody. This is a post for me. And for anyone who has experienced infertility, the loss of a pregnancy, or who wants to support someone who has. It’s common for people to share pregnancy announcements on social media. To snap week by week photos of healthy growing bellies and freshly painted nurseries. It’s not as common for women to share announcements about their miscarriages. To share their disappointment with the world. However, I feel they are still stories worth sharing. This is mine.
I feel crampy today. The hopeful me wonders if this is the month, this is when a tiny blastocyst will burrow into my side, hitching itself to me for the next nine months. For life. I worry that it is not. That I will wait another two weeks and bleed and wonder if I will ever have a healthy pregnancy again. If Gabe will have a sibling. Or if he will simply wish for one.
I am grateful that my son is oblivious to the things I worry about. That he pulls out sheets of colored construction paper and hands them to me with a request: heart, please. And we sit together as he watches my scissors trim as many hearts as I can from the card stock. That he lays them down on the ground to admire their shape before taking one in each hand and pushing them skyward.
A coworker showed me some of the first pictures shot from a satellite heading to fringes of the universe to study an asteroid. We are so tiny, I thought as he showed me the last images it sent of Earth. A speck beyond a speck beyond a speck of light. Our problems are all so small.
I peed on a stick today. The faintest of a blue line. A ghost. A hope waiting for time to give it shape. I worry that I have already mentally sketched out the layout of the kids’ room and called my parents to circle the date. But I’m grateful that I can see a ghost line and simply imagine—perhaps.
The fetus, if indeed I am growing one, is smaller than a grain of jasmine rice. I worry that I may have an empty sac. Or that a million cell divisions will all go well except for one or two or three, which will change the course of this life. It’s a miracle every time a baby is born healthy. So many millions of cell divisions gone right. Every day I look at Gabe and feel so lucky that he is here.
I interviewed a woman about infertility issues today. Afterward I surprised myself when I slid the recorder back into its case and admitted “I will never get over it.” And I won’t. I can still feel my throat tighten every time I think about the three years we tried and failed to get pregnant. Every time I saw my hope bleeding into the toilet each month.
But I wouldn’t change what we went through either. I think I kiss Gabe a little more, squeeze him a little tighter than maybe I would have if he had come easy. Maybe for me, it’s what I needed to be a better mom.
Today was my first ultrasound. I brought Gabe to the appointment. I knew that if something was wrong, it would be best to have him with me. Because you can’t fall apart when you need to zip someone else’s jacket and wipe someone else’s butt. And deep down I suspected that something might be wrong. “I haven’t felt all that pregnant,” I told the nurse. “I haven’t felt that nauseous and I know that feeling sick is actually a good sign of a healthy pregnancy.”
She assured me that it’s also normal not to experience morning sickness during pregnancy. And she’s right. “Let’s see if there’s two or three in there,” she joked.
“Or anything at all,” I said.
The moment the doctor inserted the ultrasound wand I looked for the sac. I think I knew it before he did. No heartbeat. “How far along should she be?” he asked the nurse. “Far enough along that there should be a heartbeat,” I said.
The hardest thing is my body hasn’t figured that out yet. And it will be weeks before my hormones resettle. Before my body recognizes that there is no life in here to support. Rational me says people get bad news every day. Today was just my day. And yet.
I started spotting during an afternoon run. I worried that the miscarriage would stream out of me all at once. That I would return to my office with blood-stained pants. It is a strange thing to sit in a meeting and hope you will not bleed out onto the roller chairs. They’re an unfortunate gray color. But a miscarriage can take awhile. Weeks. Even months before the body gets the memo: no baby here. I haven’t spotted since.
I am still waiting to bleed. And to try again. Gabe has picked up a funny new saying: “happens.” He says it while reading after seeing an overturned car, a person slipping on some marbles, or the general chaos in a Richard Scarry book. “Happens,” he says. And he’s right. Sometimes unfortunate events happen. And then we turn the page.
Today I found myself clicking on graphic images women posted online of the contents of their miscarriages. One woman apologized for the gruesome nature, but, does anyone know what this could be, she asked? I think it’s normal. To want to know what went wrong. To want to know how pregnant you were before you weren’t. Not that it matters. In the end there’s still no baby—just a desire for one.
I’ve started calling it “the nothing.” As in “the nothing is still in there.” Wednesday the waiting will be over. I’ve scheduled a dilation and curettage to clean out my womb. There are several tacks women can take when they are waiting to miscarry: let a natural miscarriage occur, take a pill to facilitate the process, or undergo a surgical procedure that ensures the lining and sac are removed. I chose the latter because I want some control over the where and when. Because I am 37. And I don’t feel I have a lot of time to wait.
Strangely, I haven’t been too emotional about the miscarriage. I’m pretty sure it stems from the years of trying and never once getting a positive pregnancy test until the one. From the years of saying “I just want one.” And I have Gabe. And he’s amazing. In a way, I am also grateful. Miscarriages are normal. The estimates vary, but figures suggest between 20 and 33 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
I am relieved we didn’t spend three years trying this time. That conceiving didn’t take visiting a fertility doctor, taking Chinese herbs, or acupuncture. That I didn’t collect pennies on heads from the street and store them in a jar on my windowsill. Maybe next time it wouldn’t hurt to look for a few coins on the sidewalk. But I am grateful that maybe this is a sign there will be a next time. Because right now, I am not losing a baby. Just the hope of one.
It poured this evening. A Texas-style storm that erased the dividing lines on the roads. The kind of rain where you find yourself holding your breath on the highway.
We spent the whole day at the hospital. I felt old sitting in my obstetrician’s waiting room with a bunch of expecting mothers as they unconsciously stroked their swollen bellies and thumbed their phones. They didn’t seem to register skinny me with crows feet around her eyes holding a card indicating that I’ve been administered RhoGAM. Bleeding and wondering if someday I will be back in this waiting room under different circumstances.
I cried about the loss for the first time post-surgery to the anesthesiologist. “It finally hit me why I’m here,” I said.
The last time I wore a hospital gown I left the hospital with a baby. This time I left with a light period. The two nurses who helped me shared their miscarriage stories. My obstetrician shared his, too. This happens. But I’m sorry, they said holding my hand. It helped to hear I’m sorry. But I’m still glad it rained on the way home.