waiting to miscarry

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.

1.21.18

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.

1.29.18

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.

1.30.18

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.

2.2.18

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.

2.12.18

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.

2.21.18

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.

2.28.18

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.

3.1.18

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.

3.2.18

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.

3.5.18

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.

3.12.18

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.

3.13.18

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.

3.14.18

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.

gentle

My 19-month old is confronting the realization that sometimes, when we’re not careful, we can break things that cannot be easily fixed. Like seashells. Paper hearts. And crayons.

“Fix,” he said holding up two pieces of an orange crayola.

I knelt down and showed him how the edges fit back together without a scar if you press them together hard enough. He was delighted. But when I let go the split returned and the halves fell away. And Gabe lost it. I tried taping the crayon around its midsection but that only upset him more.

“Broken!” he sobbed.

I know the feeling. These days I’m glad he is still learning to identify colors and shapes and animals he may never see anywhere but on safari. That he’s in the phase where he wants me to cut purple, yellow, and blue paper hearts and scatter them on the floor. Where he doesn’t know that hearts symbolize love. Where he just wants to read and climb and run and laugh.

Because I can’t tell him how heartsick I am. How I worry every day about the cracks growing apparent in our institutions. How I’m not sure how we can put things back together if they fail. Because there are certain words he doesn’t need to know yet.

Gabe crawled over to our cat BB and stroked his fur. Then he closed his fingers around BB’s tail and yanked. BB meowed pitifully.

“That’s not gentle,” I said pulling Gabe into my lap and rocking him. “We have to be gentle with the people we love. We have to be gentle with the things we love.”

a purgatory of sorts.

Every night, I check on my son – multiple times – before I got to bed. It’s a dance I perform every hour or so after I put him down in his crib. I climb the stairs without cause, softly push open his door, and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. Sometimes I just stand there listening to him breathe.

After a while I reach down to touch his hair, pat his hip, and go back downstairs. Over the last few months I have found myself checking on him more often. I’m not entirely sure why.

I do know that I am increasingly uneasy. My journaling reflects that. Every night before bed I write a worry I have and something that I am grateful for. Lately, my worries seem a lot easier to identify.

Yesterday, while reading a story about some of the victims from the Las Vegas shooting I paused when I came across a young man who died at 23. “We only had one child,” his parents said. “We just don’t know what to do.”

I stopped reading. I went for a walk. I thought of this young man and his parents. My throat closed in on itself. Then I thought of my son at daycare. Probably sucking his thumb and pushing around a toy car. Then I worried. And I got mad that I have to worry.

I called my senators. Their staffers read prepared statements over the phone.

“I don’t care what he said. What is he going to do?” I asked.

I am still waiting for a response.

a hug i failed to give

When, exactly, do we stop caring about a person?

Is it once the ink dries on the divorce papers? Is it earlier – when we’re climbing the stairs to the attorney’s office? Or did we leave the caring behind in the car?

I want to know. I’m trying to understand how the uncaring unfolds. Is it a gradual process, or more like flicking a switch? Is family something you can truly divorce yourself from? Or is it more like a wart? Something you burn or carve out of your flesh only to have it spring forth anew years later?

I ask because I’m still turning a conversation over in my mind that I had the other night. With an older woman I met at a screening of a documentary. A film about drug abuse. She drove an hour to see it.

Do you know anyone affected? I asked.

Oh no! No one in my family.

You’re very lucky, I said.

She paused.

My ex-husband’s son has a drug problem. My ex-stepson. He’s not doing well. But no one in my family. I’m lucky.

She came to the film alone. The showing was sold out. She lingered by the door just in case a seat became available. One didn’t. So she sat for 90 minutes at a table outside the screening. She attended the question and answer session afterward.

Later she found me outside. She wanted to tell me what she learned about treatment. About how it’s hard to find a good one.

I keep thinking about this woman. And what I should have said to her.

I keep wanting to tell her there’s no shame in having a problem. There’s no shame in being frustrated about a situation you can’t fix. That we can’t ever get well if we feel ashamed of who we are.

And I kind of wish I had given her a hug. I feel like she needed one.

lucky

The woman flipped open my chart. I was there to talk about my teeth. A routine check up. Count them. Scrape them. Polish them. Set me free.

“Are you still nursing?”

No.

“How old is your baby?”

14 months.

“Do you have other children?”

No.

Silence.

There’s always a silence afterward.

This interaction has become routine. Where I live I could be a grandmother and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of ordinary. I feel her eyes scan my date of birth. Some mental calculations are made. I have a few more years than her notched on my belt. And my son is more than a decade younger than her oldest. I smile.

What I consider saying:

He took a long time to get here. I feel lucky to have him. Every night I thank God my one is in my life. And, yes, it’s none of your damn business.

Instead, I lean back in my chair, look at the tips of my shoes, open my mouth, and wait.

some thoughts on an interview.

Your story is never complete and your work is never done.

Tonight as I listened to an interview for a radio series I’m producing I listened to a man recount how he recovered from addiction. How he’s gone on to help hundreds of other people like him and others with different demons. Domestic violence and rape survivors. Veterans. Kids.

He said we all screw up. We all deserve a second chance. And sometimes a third.

“Redemption has to be for everybody,” he said. “Mental health has to be for everybody.”

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to cut a word from a story. That I could simply push back from my chair and say, hey, people, just listen. Someone important is speaking.

a part removed

My mind will not quiet these days.

Last night, at the park, the sun was slinking off behind the mountains, my friends were sitting in the grass, paper plates balanced on their laps, and my son was gently touching another baby’s belly button. It was, by most accounts, a beautiful scene. And yet. My heart lurched.

I scanned the playground and wondered ‘How many people are going to bed scared tonight?’

Later, over a game of Scrabble with my husband, I checked the news and started to cry. “Families are going to be torn apart,” I said. I studied my letters. I could not find the words.

Today, I find myself Googling terms like ‘how to adopt a DACA child’* and ‘immigration attorney SLC.’ My study is no longer a study, but a room waiting for more important work.

My country feels like an anesthetized patient, cut open, its parts removed. The heart has been misplaced.

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*Most DACA recipients are adults in their twenties. The majority are employed or in school. Many have children of their own.