Mom to Sweetpea, February 12th, 2009 (miscarried at 12.5 weeks)
and unnamed Baby, January 19th, 2008 (miscarried at 6 weeks)
On Thursday morning, I saw the blood. A light pink stain as I cleaned up in the bathroom at work. Oh, shit, I said, under my breath. No, no. Not again. Oh, god, please. No. I talked myself into believing that it was nothing. That I would check again later. That I was imagining things. But I wasn’t imagining things the next time. I called the doctor, and they said I should come in today, even though I had a scheduled appointment on Monday, to see the baby, to see that everything was all right. They seemed so confident, that I believed them. I didn’t call my husband. It wasn’t necessary.
Until I saw the monitor, and the technician, searching. Measuring. Quietly. Looking for something that she wasn’t finding. I’m sorry, she said, I’m just not finding a heartbeat. Oh, god, I said. Oh, no. I covered my mouth, open, like an o. They took me to another room, said some things about what I should expect next, let me go. I cried a little. I hugged the midwife as she went to close the door and leave me to collect myself. I thanked her. I dried my tears and opened the door to the waiting room, walking through a sea of pregnant bellies. I saw a woman I knew in the parking lot, with her sick son. I sympathized, told her I would check on them this week. She didn’t ask why I was there. I drove home.
I became methodical: I emailed the people I knew who had known about it. I called the woman who had offered me her maternity clothes to tell her to give them to someone else. I went through the house, throwing away the prenatal paperwork that I was supposed to return on Monday. I threw away the container they’d given me for my first morning urine specimen. I threw away the pamphlets on prenatal nutrition. I threw away the paperwork to register for maternity stay. I told my husband. I cooked dinner, I bathed and put my son to bed, I checked work email, I went to bed.
On Friday, my car battery was dead. I was tired of death. My husband jumped my car. I went to work. I bled some. I went for a run, not sure if I could, not sure if I should. My body protested. I could feel the blood coming. I walked back. I went to a lunch meeting of mothers at Rutgers, sympathizing with people’s day care stories, feeling like I was talking in a tunnel, listening to myself in some other body. I bled more, and now even more. I excused myself, staggered to the bathroom, hoping that I was not leaving a bloody trail on the historic carpet. In the bathroom, I began to feel as if my body was emptying in great waves of blood and islands of slippery tissue. Would the bleeding never stop? I returned to my office. I saw a student for advising, making sympathetic comments about her problem. I drove home. I fed my family, I bathed and put my son to bed. I went to the grocery store to do my Friday night shopping, walking slowly. I came home, put away the groceries. Checked email. Went to bed. Lay awake, listening to nothing.
On Saturday, I baked banana bread while I made breakfast for my son. I walked with him to the library, promising him a trip to the store for a treat. I went to the toilet in the library. I knew something was coming, and I had to push, but it came — whatever it was, a mass of blood and cells and tissue — it looked like a human heart. It was my heart. I looked into the toilet, trying to see the baby I knew must have been in there, as my son sat reading Dora’s Valentine on the bathroom floor. I knew I couldn’t look much longer before my son would come over, and I didn’t want him to see that. It was surreal. I flushed it away, feeling sick, knowing what I had just done, washed my hands, ushered out my son, closed the door. The back pain was unbearable. I walked home, every step a torture. I made my son lunch, put him in the car. I drove the hour to my mother’s house to get her settled after her return from the knee surgery rehab. I ordered her dinner. I entertained my son while feeding him dinner. I drove home, made lemon poppy cake, checked work email, prepped my Sunday RE class. I went to bed, listening to the roaring of my heart and blood in my ears. I lay awake for hours, shifting to make the pain subside. It would not.
On Sunday, I made breakfast, collected our things, drove to church, set out the cakes and fruit for coffee hour. I washed dishes and made polite conversation about the minister’s pregnant wife, due a week before I would have given birth. I drove home, made lunch, returned to church. I taught class, beginning with a memorial service for the co-teacher who had died this week of a sudden heart attack in traffic. I drove home, went to the park, watched my son play in the puddles in his rain boots. I came back home, I made dinner, I put my son to bed. I baked a red velvet cake. I took hours to frost it. I roamed aimlessly; I lay awake for hours.
On Monday, I made my son breakfast. I drove the hour to my mother’s house, chattering with my son the whole way. I answered her trivial questions about web searching. I drove us to Ikea, where my son was not allowed to play in the ball pit because he is not yet tall enough. I took us upstairs to the play area which was too young for him. I watched his disappointment, and I tried not to cry. I took us to lunch, I got my son a balloon. I drove home, exhausted. I put my son down for a nap; I tried to nap. I checked email instead. My son woke up. I started dinner. I took out my son’s tricycle, and pushed him up and down the street. I talked with my neighbor. I spent another hour cooking dinner. I bathed my son and sent him off to bed. I drove to work. I talked for an hour to a group of twenty students. Eyelids heavy, I drove home. I wondered what the hell I am doing driving home from work at 11pm on a Monday night.
I felt hollow. Empty. A shell full of nothing. I was just tired; not sad, not angry. I was just nothing.
I thought about the minister’s wife, how she would have a baby in August. I thought about my friend, who would have her baby even earlier, in May. Another friend, in May. Another, in June. I wondered how that would feel to me. Then, it made me feel a little sick. I would have no baby. I would have no reason to post “pregnant” as my Facebook status. I would have no maternity leave in the fall. I would do the same things I do every day. Nothing would change. My changed plans had changed back to unchanged plans. I felt cheated, maybe even jealous.
I began to wonder if I didn’t want this one, or the last one, for that matter, badly enough. If they knew this, and left my inhospitable body. I began to think about all of the things I might have done: not enough thyroid hormone. A mistake at Starbucks, when a barista might have given me caffeinated coffee. A piece of chocolate cake. Too much exercise. Overheating. A hot shower. Stress. Negativity. I knew, intellectually, that it is not my fault. This didn’t seem to matter to my superego.
I felt guilty for ignoring my son, for being so busy that I can hardly see him, even when I see him.
I wanted to take a month off from all of this, and just be quiet.
No one tells you that you are going to experience a mini version of labor and have a baby in the toilet of the public library. They don’t tell you that it won’t be like the first time, when you lost the baby at six weeks. They don’t tell you that you can feel happy or sad or nothing at all. They just give you a slip of paper to get your blood drawn when you stop bleeding, to make sure your levels are at zero. You are done bleeding, and they take blood. Because you can never bleed enough.
Though I know how blessed I am to have my son, I still feel the pain of those losses. And I know that pregnancy will never be the same … that I will always fear loss, that I will hold tightly to the children I am given, knowing that at any moment, they could be taken from me, but knowing, too, just how precious life really is.