I've read some special posts in the last few months. Women who'd been through hell to get their long-awaited miracles and then, unexpectedly, found luck and joy when they weren't even looking for it. Women who kept these secrets close to their hearts until 12 weeks or 16 weeks, some point when the crazy dream started to feel real, and then revealed on their blogs that they weren't "cured" but somehow they were, and blogged about the tremendous awe and gratitude they felt.
This was supposed to be one of those posts.
But you've probably figured out right about now that it's not.
On Halloween, I got the surprise of my life. Okay, truth be told, I wasn't actually that surprised. My period was almost a week late. The surprise came in the fact that I was doing what I was doing at all--going into the bathroom, peeing in a cup, taking out the very last dollar store pregnancy test left in the drawer, left over from before Smudgie's conception, so old I had no idea if it would even work.
We weren't trying. We weren't tracking. The basal body thermometer stayed in the drawer. I never once thought of pulling out the $200 fertility monitor sitting next to the pregnancy test in the bathroom. Two periods since night weaning. That was it. One normal (for me) 35-day cycle. And the next one we maybe had sex twice.
In all honesty, I didn't even really want to be pregnant right then. I was so happy with my little family the way it was. I felt no urgency or compulsion to make it larger just yet. I had plenty to occupy myself-- a growing, amazing 13-month-old little boy just learning to walk and talk, a wonderful husband to finally reconnect with now that we were getting a little more sleep, a dissertation to write, a conference to prepare for, races to run, a life to live. The thought of returning to try to conceive was unbearable. So I didn't think about it. I just lived my life.
Waiting to go back into the bathroom and check the test, I imagined seeing that it was negative, and my heart sank into my gut. So that told me something.
It was positive.
Over the next few weeks, it continued to feel like a strange dream. I'd forget about being pregnant for long stretches of time-- having an active baby to follow around and care for will do that--but even when I remembered, even when I talked about names with LG or pictured in my head how we would rearrange Smudgie's room to accommodate a toddler bed and more clothes or tried to wrap my mind around how we were going to handle childcare for two kids in less than a year-- it all felt exceedingly academic. An exercise for my brain, not for my heart. And really, not even for my body.
I was tired. I peed more. I was occasionally crampy. That was it. My boobs didn't even hurt (probably because I was still nursing until told to stop by my doctor a few weeks ago) which was why I waited so long to take the test. But it didn't really worry me-- I'd had no nausea until 8 weeks with Smudgie, after all, and tons of nausea with the m&m, the first pregnancy. Symptoms don't mean anything.
And I knew I was pregnant, because I kept getting confirmation from my gynecologist. A 5 week appointment with a sack and yolk sac. A 7 week appointment with a right-sized pole and a heartbeat--133 bpm, perfectly on track. I'd had to take Smudgie to the appointment with me, because LG was at work, and the nurse held him up to listen while my doctor filled the room with the sound of a beating heart. "That might be your little brother or sister!" the nurse said to my son. "We'll see you in 15 months," my doctor told me with a big hug as she waved me out the door. "With two kids!"
I knew how lucky we were of course. After trying for so hard and so long the first time, enduring so much, doing so much damage to our hearts and lives together and even, though not irreparable, a bit to our love for each other, how could we not look at this as the unexpected and astoundingly precious gift that it was?
I was also nervous. This really wasn't part of the plan. Would I be able to finish my degree with two kids less than two years apart? Would we be able to stay in this apartment the length of time I felt we needed to for the security of our investment? And if we stayed, how would we all fit? How would all the stuff fit? How was I going to be able to carry two kids up and down the two flights of stairs to our walk-up every day and also maintain my sanity? How the hell was I going to be able to do this? Was I ready for the midnight wakeups again? The return to nursing bras and spraying milk and hours-long feeding sessions? Didn't I just finish with all of that?
There were deeper concerns. I felt detached, unemotional. The intense agony and fear that accompanied every waking moment of my first trimester with Smudgie had been replaced by a calm acceptance of the will of God or fate or whatever you want to call it. "What will be will be," I thought. "Let's see how this pans out." I listened to that heartbeat in the doctor's office without a tear, without even any real excitement. "Okay. One step down. Let's see what happens when we reach the next one."
I worried about this detachment. I worried that I was already loving this baby less than I loved my Smudgie. I worried that I could never love it as much as him. That the utter joy Smudgie brought into this world for so many people just by existing could not be replicated in this strange gift of a child. I know many parents of second children who have said they had similar fears before their younger kids were born, and that in the moment of their birth you realize how wrong you were to fear. I knew that when this baby came, I would love him or her unconditionally. As a result I didn't even feel guilty about my passing thoughts.
But still, they persisted. Is that how I would always think of my children? The baby I dreamed of, fought for, cried for, suffered for, and finally welcomed with the greatest rejoicing. And the one that just showed up on its own.
On Tuesday I had my first appointment at my OBs (my gynecologist does not deliver, but she will handle early first trimester monitoring). I had to attend alone, as LG needed to get Smudgie to his nanny share. It felt like no time had passed at all. Give the urine sample, get on the scale, talk to the doctor, pants off and on the table.
I think the doctor was bemused by my strangely calm reaction. "This wasn't planned," I said, as we finished our pre-exam conversation. "Do you have some reservations about this pregnancy?" she asked with concern. "No. But given our history, I don't want to get too invested before I know how it's going to turn out."
Almost immediately after she put the wand in, I realized something was wrong. The nurse asked if the doctor wanted the lights turned out. She didn't respond, just continued looking intently at the screen.
I lay my head back on the table. "It's happening again," I thought. "I can't believe this is happening again."
"I'm sorry, [Sloper]. I can't find a heartbeat."
She brought in another doctor to confirm-- the OB who delivered Smudgie, in fact. Yup. An 8 week embryo with no heartbeat. No one's fault. Nothing you did. Probably something wrong from the beginning.
I felt strangely calm and very afraid at the same time. "This is the second one. What does that mean?"
No one can really tell me.
I called Lawyer Guy while I pulled my jeans back on. He didn't answer. I didn't leave a message. I called again. Same thing. He knew it was bad news when he finally reached me. "If it was good, you would have just texted me." He felt terrible that he wasn't with me. Honestly, though, I realized it wouldn't have made a difference. I least I didn't have to worry about being strong for anyone else.
I sat in a coffee shop for two hours staring at a grapefruit and cup of tea, crying a little, thinking and not thinking, killing time until the volunteer session I had to run with a group of geriatric patients at the hospital around the corner. Then I spent an hour making Christmas cards with my volunteer committee and our elderly members. If I looked like hell, no one mentioned it.
I picked up Smudgie from his nanny share with a smile on my face. I chatted with his sitter as we walked down the street, my nerves strung tight, just waiting until she peeled off and left us so I could finally let that cheery demeanor drop.
I played with Smudgie on the floor of our apartment for an hour and every so often I grabbed him close and smelled his sweet neck and stroked his sweet hair. My precious boy.
It took me 24 hours to schedule it, but I finally opted for the d&c at the hospital with anesthesia. I felt paralyzed by indecision until I did. Like I was being asked to order from an a la carte menu designed by Satan's catering hall. D&C or natural miscarriage? And would you like your dead offspring with an extra order of genetic testing? If you choose the natural option, you'll have to provide your own tupperware.
Why can't the answer be e) None of the above?
Smudgie's OB did the d&c yesterday morning. I don't know if he did something differently than the first doctor or if having a vaginal delivery in between made the difference, but it was nothing like the previous time, when I woke up with searing pain and tons of blood and copious vomiting. They gave me zofran in my IV, so I had no reaction to the anesthetic. I have had essentially no pain at all since I woke. The bleeding has been minimal. I finally understand how people can return to work the next day without problems, which was unthinkable to me before given my previous experience.
We haven't told very many people. Our parents, my sisters, two of our close friends. That's it. What's there to say, really? Whoever we tell will feel uncomfortable, will say the things people say to people who have this sort of stuff happen to them and then we'll have to say the things back that we're supposed to say in response. Plus, if people don't know, we can't be disappointed in their reactions. It's not shame that makes us hide it. It's exhaustion.
So what comes next?
We wait for the testing. We hear the results. If it's normal or inconclusive, that's that. If it's abnormal, same thing. I've had all the repeat loss testing already, back with Dr. Wonderful, our RE. It all came back negative (with the exception of the single MTHFR mutation). And if it's abnormal, there are really only two options: either we've just had some unusually shitty luck. Or we've got some unusually shitty eggs or sperm.
Not much to be done in either case, is there?
We're not ready for more testing. We're not ready for more procedures. We're not ready to put our lives back on the treatment clock. We will eventually send these results to Dr. Wonderful at our clinic, but not until we're ready to do something about them. That time is not now.
For now, we're willing to wait. To try to return to something like the peace and contentment we felt before, to take a few months to heal and love each other, all three of us, without fear of the future or sadness for what isn't going to be. I hope we can.
I read something a long time ago, maybe on one of your blogs or in a newspaper, about the way they consider miscarriage in Japan. They have memorial sites set aside for lost babies where people visit and leave little trinkets and toys. They call them "water babies," babies who lost their way trying to go from the insubstantial to the solid. And sometimes they think that the spirits of those babies come back to their parents, keep making the attempt to be born, until one day, we hope, they succeed.
I like that thought. I like it better than the thought of a collection of angels on a shelf up in Heaven, getting dusty as they wait in eternally frozen arrested development for a family they will never have.
As I changed into my gown and slippers and hairnet before the surgery, I put my hands on my belly for the first time and spoke to the baby that weirdly, finally felt real.
"I'm sorry it didn't work out for us, baby July. But we both did our best, so there's nothing to regret. I won't be mad at you if you won't be mad at me."
"It just wasn't your time yet. You tried to get here too early. But do come back again, and next time we'll be ready for you."
"I know we'll meet again."
RIP Paul Kalanithi
2 weeks ago