When the Story Ends Too Soon

cff99f5a82aba7b1a277c1028071d752The Before

Pregnant! July 15. It’s a Friday and Kris is out of town until Tuesday and I am getting ready to dig into my first night home alone in quite some time with a bottle of red. There’s nothing I like more than falling down a slightly drunk YouTube black hole by myself. But before I pop a bottle, I pee on a strip and there is the faintest fainty faint line, but Google tells me a faint line is still a real line, and there’s a baby in me and holy crap. We were trying for this for a few months, and now it’s real. I calmly tell the dog and cat first because I want to wait to tell Kris in person on Tuesday. The dog shakes her head and the cat wanders off. Later that night, the cat pukes. I don’t think they want a sibling.

It’s a long weekend to keep this to myself. I go to a baby shower on Sunday and I keep my little secret under my hat. I’m pregnant, too! I whisper it into a mirror when I’m in the bathroom at the shower. Me, too. I’m going to have a baby. It’s still sinking in. My boobs are sore, pants are tight, I’m hungry and tired. Is four weeks pregnant too early to buy maternity pants? I go to the library and check out Pregnancy for Dummies. I go nuts on my Pinterest. I buy presents to tell our parents and other family members. I download the app that tells you the size of the baby by week, and charts baby’s development. It is already a baby, from moment one, to me.

Telling Kris is fun. I bought a University of Michigan onesie (even though I vow to myself that baby will wear a University of Wisconsin onesie first) and I pin a cute note on it to let him know he can have fun scooping the litterbox for the next nine months. He is elated about the baby, resigned to the litterbox. I enjoy reading him the gross bits from Pregnancy for Dummies. Linea negra. Mucus plugs and bleeding nipples. Episiotomies.  What the actual hell. I mean, I knew all of this stuff in theory, but now it’s going to be me in March. Me.

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One person in this photo is pregnant.

We go to his brother’s wedding in Denver a week later, and we keep our secret. It’s fun, just the two of us knowing, and we’re sitting at a table at the wedding with a pregnant woman who is ready to pop. Me, too, I think. I’m pregnant too and no one knows! It’s a giddy, tight thought that runs circles in my brain, wearing down a track. I ask the bartender to give me a diet Coke in a lowball glass so that people think I’m drinking a cocktail. We eat cake in bed after the wedding, and Kris watches TV and I read. In the book I’m reading, All the Way Home, which I picked up because it is supposed to be primarily about a home renovation, the wife in it has two miscarriages in a row. I just got done reading The Light Between Oceans. There were a ton of miscarriages in there, too. Miscarriage. The word is a far away iceberg. I eat more cake, telling myself that the baby wants more cake.

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Oreos in lieu of cake.

We tell our parents. His first, then mine. We just made four people grandparents. We talk about the future. The baby’s due date is my mom’s birthday. I start looking up astrological signs. Aries or Pisces, depending on the actual birthday. Gemstone: aquamarine. Baby will be class of 2035. It will be four months old when I turn 33. It will be eight months old for Christmas next year. I will look very pregnant by this Christmas. Baby is the size of a blueberry. Then a raspberry.

We countdown to our first doctor’s appointment, August 11. On that day, we take half a day off from work, grab lunch, talk about the baby and future in the endless, circular way we have been doing for four weeks. We go to Menards and buy new outdoor lights and talk about renovation plans. The bedroom we have slated for the nursery is going to need blackout curtains because it faces east.

We’re early to the appointment. I’m giddy. Nervous but excited. There will never be another moment like this for me, for us, in which we get to see our first baby on the ultrasound monitor. We wait to go from one lobby to another, then the exam room, then the ultrasound room where we wait some more. My doctor arrives. She congratulates us warmly before getting down to business.

The ultrasound wand goes in and there’s my uterus and there’s the yolk sac and there’s the embryo. The embryo is tiny. Too tiny for eight weeks, she tells us. It looks more like six weeks instead of eight and you need to come back in two weeks so we know everything is growing correctly. Here, she says, pointing to the barest flicker, is the heartbeat.

The Middle

Stunned, we are dismissed from the doctor’s office abruptly. No prenatal counseling, no picture from the ultrasound. Just go home and hold your breath for two weeks.

Still, I hold on to that heartbeat. It’s better than nothing. We still have a sliver of hope, but the doubt is worming its way in. I get asked by a friend if I’m pregnant. Am I? What is going on? I should be able to answer that question. You either are or you aren’t. No one is a little pregnant.

The days tick by slowly. Each night I count on my fingers how many days are left until the next ultrasound. 13 days. 9 days. 5 days. I still feel very pregnant, nauseous and tired and hungry in rotating intervals. My lower stomach even puffs out, although that could be the recent overindulgence in cake. My boobs still hurt. I am no longer complaining about these symptoms. They are all signs pointing to my rising pregnancy hormones and a growing baby.

We talk about the possibilities, but what good is talking about them? Nothing can happen. Everything can happen. We wait it out in exquisite agony. We are flying blind, completely helpless. Maybe this is our first taste of really being parents.

The next appointment is August 25, the day before Kris’s mom’s and my dad’s birthday. We can’t have bad news. We are much more somber when we get to the ultrasound room. No joking anymore. Just nerves. My doctor doesn’t make us wait this time. She starts the ultrasound, finds the shadow she has been looking for, and she searches and searches, and is silent and I know before she speaks, but knowing doesn’t make a difference.

“I’m seeing the yolk sac. But what I’m not seeing is an embryo,” she says, and I’m grateful for her tone, which is measured, and conveys the right amount of sorrow. I feel bad for her in this moment. How many times has she had to deliver this news to people? A dozen? A hundred?

Our secret joy becomes our secret loss.

She gives me three choices: have a D&C surgery where they go in and remove all the fetal tissue, or I take some pills which start the process of getting rid of everything, or I just wait for my body to do the job. I opt for the pills because I don’t want to take time off of work for a procedure. I don’t trust my body to do anything right, not anymore.

The After

I poured myself a glass of wine that night, which feels weird and makes things more real. Later, we filled the prescriptions at Walgreens. I made a mental note for the future that the next time I am getting a prescription someone in line could be standing there waiting for pills to start their miscarriage. I bought giant maxi pads that I haven’t had the pleasure of since 7th grade. Hello, wings, long time no see.

The physical pain was nothing, a footnote. I woke up early at 6:00 a.m., ready to be done with the whole process. I took the pills, and then the pain pills. Numb was where I wanted to be, and I mostly was. I spent the day in bed watching Snapped and making frequent trips to the bathroom. The cramps got worse and worse, and I grew tired in spite of the pain. I made one trip to the bathroom and knew that was it, and it was. Everything was over.

The following days were a blur of normalcy. I still went to work, even though I was fighting back tears at my desk, biding time until I could cry in my car at lunch. Kris and I went on a vacation we had planned for months before. We did the things we always did. I cleaned the litterbox. I checked the option on the pregnancy app that indicated miscarriage. The app emailed condolences. Pregnancy for Dummies went back to the library.

The pregnancies that were on the same timeline as ours had been began to crop up on Facebook, and my heart clenched. Why did they get to be pregnant and not me? They will be the ones holding a baby in March, not us. I tried to get back to my routines, looking for any distraction. I exercised. I meditated, I read, I wrote, I worked. I cleaned and meal planned, made plans for the near future. I smiled when I didn’t feel like it, and made bad, dark jokes. I cried more than I’ve ever cried. I’m still crying.

Was this punishment for being ambivalent at various points in my life about motherhood? For my always cavalier joking about babies? Are our genes some sort of toxic combination? What if this happens next time? Will there even be a next time? If I was waiting for a sign to have kids, isn’t this the sign I was waiting for? A big fat no, do not attempt? The questions kept coming, and keep coming. Is this because I’m asking for too much from the universe? Or is this just a case of cells not dividing properly, a 20% outcome of all pregnancies, like my doctor explained? Surely it can’t be something as simple and random as that.

It’s been almost two months. It hasn’t all been sadness. We’ve laughed since then. We’ve had fun, we’ve joked. Gone out to dinner, argued, read books and watched movies. We’ve celebrated and felt happy for friends expecting babies, and we still like seeing babies in our Facebook feed. I’d love to end this post with something happy like a “but we’re pregnant again!” line, but life doesn’t work that way. I’m not pregnant.

Instead, today I’m thinking about our baby that couldn’t stay and everyone else with a secret joy that turned into a secret loss.

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8 thoughts on “When the Story Ends Too Soon

  1. I love your writing. You have traveled me around the world with your words. Made me laugh; made me think. Today you made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss. Big hugs to you & Kris. xo

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss and, unfotunately, I can say that I know exactly how you feel. I list my second child to a miscarriage right before the end of my first trimester. Heartbreak, guilt, uncertainty, along with many other emotions are all normal. Take the time to grieve before moving on. That is the one regret that I have. Let me know if you ever want to talk!

    1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. Yes, lots of emotions, for sure. Thanks for sharing about your regret re: moving on. Hard to figure out what’s next. Miss you!

  3. Your miscarriage was about a week and a half after mine and I had mine at home as well with the pills ( except I had 12 hours of bleeding and contractions and a week and a half more of bleeding after that). We also had a faint heartbeat on the first ultrasound but were told the baby was a little small but of course Google said how people still go on to have babies, but like you during our second ultrasound is when everything fell apart. I went through a lot of agoraphobia during the first month and since then it’s been kind of back and forth as we’re also experiencing this loss during many rounds of donor egg IVF, and had our fifth failure 2 weeks ago.

    I wrote a post a week or two ago about the Japanese ceremony for what they called water babies, those who are lost to miscarriage or stillbirth, which I found someone helpful even though it dredged up the loss again. Last week I also got a copy of Fit Pregnancy magazine for the first time in the mail which I had subscribed to after finding out I was pregnant, that was sure awesome 😦

    I’m sorry we’re both going through this. I don’t even want to imagine what March will be like.

    1. Sounds like we had a very similar experience with seeing the heartbeat and then experiencing the heartbreak. Yes, the unfortunate reminders still keep coming. For me, it’s in the form of doctor’s bills that we are starting to get, so I feel you regarding the Fit Pregnancy magazine. Thanks for reading—I hope reading helped in the same way sharing helped me. Take care of yourself.

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