For the sanitized Hawaii recap without, you know, copious amounts of sadness, please see Case of the Missing Hawaii Recap: SOLVED. This post is the real deal.
To be clear, I loved Hawaii, even though I ended up giving it my blood, sweat, and tears. It was amazing, and like an entirely different country but also American in so many ways. The black lava rock and the ocean and the lush green plants…it was so cool. But when I got back, I had a hard time articulating how my vacation went because having a miscarriage while you are supposed to be having fun and seeing a place you’ve dreamed of seeing is a special kind of awful.
Before I knew I was in for a special kind of awful, at the suggestion of our Hawaiian AirBNB host, Buck, we hired his friend, Sean, to go see the firehose lava that was shooting into the ocean, and the lava that was flowing on the ground. We were staying on the eastern edge of the Big Island, near Kilauea (the volcano that is currently exploding). The hike was scheduled for Valentine’s Day.
I’m not really into Valentine’s Day (less now). My ideal Valentine’s Day is watching all the 30 Rock Valentine’s Day episodes.
But on that V-Day, we were both feeling a lot of love. We had just found out we were pregnant for the second time, and due in October. We were cautious enough to know that miscarriage could happen, but also fairly certain that lightning wouldn’t strike us twice. I strongly felt that nothing could go wrong—we had paid our grief dues already. My mind unspooled all the plans for the previous pregnancy without an ounce of caution. Sure, when talking we mentioned IF we had the baby, but I didn’t mean it. I meant WHEN we had the baby. The funny thing about being pregnant after miscarriage is that you can’t stop planning or imagining. You can try to promise yourself that you’ll only grow attached to the outcome after 12 weeks, but that’s a little like me saying I’ll buy a package of Oreos and only eat a few.
So, we were excited about the pregnancy but not very excited to be getting up at 4 in the morning to greet Sean in the pitch dark and get in his car, along with Frank and Esther, two other AirBNB guests of Buck’s. We drove to the end of a mostly empty strip of land covered by lava rock and pulled off to start hiking down a long dirt road. Sean regaled us with stories about Hawaii and lava and his upbringing. This guy had been everywhere and seen everything! He handed out head beams, flashlights, and breakfast sandwiches, and we began a trek over jagged lava rocks that sometimes crumbled beneath our feet and sometimes stabbed painfully at the soles of our hiking shoes.
As the dawn light came up over the ocean, Sean showed us the huge canyons that developed in the cracks of the black lava rock and dropped off to sea, which made our hike excitingly dangerous. He also showed us small green plants that grew up between the black rocks, proof that lava doesn’t kill everything forever.
We hiked to the firehose lava shooting into the ocean, and then we walked to the surface flow. Lava has a strange hypnotic effect, like watching a campfire. The lava we saw was pretty slow moving, but steadily advancing. The heat from it was incredible. We took pictures and paused for water and snacks. A stray piece of trash flew from Sean’s hand and into the lava, where it burned up immediately.
“Pele’s going to be pissed with me,” Sean said.
Pele, the fire goddess. Not Pele the soccer player, to be clear.
Hot, hot, hot.
Under the cloudless morning sky, we began our hike back. We talked to Frank and Esther, our AirBNB buddies, about traveling. We talked to Sean about the drug problems in Pahoa and how some people, especially young people, move to Hawaii and take on an apathetic stoner lifestyle and waste away years of their lives. Sean talked about trying to help those people, which was cool.
I stopped in the porta-potty before we got back in the car. I peed, wiped, and paused. Huh. Spotting. No big deal, I told myself. It happens sometimes early on.
We went back to our AirBNB for a nap, only I couldn’t sleep. I was obsessively drinking water and going pee and examining each piece of toilet paper, along with Googling early pregnancy spotting. As the morning faded into midday, it was not, I realized, looking good.
When Kris woke up from his nap, I told him what I thought was happening. There was nothing we could do. It was either going to happen or not happen. Baby or no baby. No control, just waiting for the obvious to become obvious.
We debated what to do next. I felt physically okay, and we were still in Hawaii. We had plans to go to the beach that afternoon. The options were sit in bed and continue crying and obsessing and bleeding, or go to the beach and lay in the sand and continue bleeding. We opted for the beach.
The surreal part of this is that it was a nude beach. There were a lot of nude men that seemed very proud of their dangling bits. To be fair, there was a woman with incredible breasts doing cartwheels on the beach, too. I opted for keeping my swimsuit on and crying behind my sunglasses and cursing my body and my boobs that would look terrible if I did a naked cartwheel. I also cursed Pele, who, I was sure, was punishing me for Sean’s transgression with the garbage.
My mind turned to the beer I had the night I found out I was pregnant. I thought about the flights I had been on with this pregnancy and the one before it. I thought about the waiver I had signed before going on a boat a few days before, the one where I lied and checked the box saying that I WAS NOT PREGNANT. I thought about the rocky Jeep ride to the beach a few days before, and the snorkeling we had done.
Miscarriage makes you feel bad about every choice you made during the pregnancy. Fun fact.
I also thought about how I had said after my first miscarriage that “at least we know we can get pregnant,” as if getting pregnant were something special. Having the baby is the special thing, not getting pregnant. You don’t get some sort of millennial participation trophy for getting pregnant when it ends in no baby.
By the evening, we knew it was over. With two more days left to our vacation, we forged ahead and I was grateful we didn’t have much planned for those two days other than lounging at a resort. I cried most of the flight back (apologies to the stranger I was sitting next to who bravely pretended not to be sitting next to a crying woman and kudos to me for mastering silent crying).
When we got back home, I didn’t have time to be devastated because my cat got really sick and needed some intense medical and home care. It was like he knew I needed an awful distraction! He lovingly racked up the hospital bills as he stayed overnight at the ER vet and helpfully made me cry about losing him instead of the lost pregnancy. What a guy.
Thankfully, he pulled through, but he only has eight lives now. He has not paid any portion of his medical bills to date, which is really rude. I might send him to collections.
Carom, as seen today, waiting for me to get out of bed.
When the dust settled, we went to my doctor. Because we didn’t get in to see her in a super timely fashion, all of the pregnancy hormone was gone by the time I did blood test. The second miscarriage wasn’t on the books, so to speak, so we’d need to have a third miscarriage to really be considered not at all good at pregnancy, our doctor said.
We tried to muster up the strength and energy for a third pregnancy. A third pregnancy would get us answers either way: a baby or a miscarriage.
Or so I thought. I was so dumb.
Addendum—More sads if you haven’t had enough
I came across this article about Sean. I don’t know what to say, except that you really remember some people that come into your life for even the briefest of moments, and Sean was one of those people. He died doing something he loved to do.