Saturday, August 20, 2016

How To Lose A Baby

"One and done," you say. One child is simple; one child is manageable. You feel fulfilled as a mother, and just one is enough. Seven years of motherhood go by and you're in your mid-thirties now, and suddenly you change your mind. You think, maybe you should add one more. Would it be crazy to do that at this point in life? Perhaps. But you're always doing things the wrong way. So you tell your husband that you might actually want another baby and hold your breath while you wait for a response. It doesn't take him long to agree; he always wanted two kids anyway.

You are worried that it might take a long time, but it doesn't. You conceive around the same time you did eight summers ago. You find out in early August, just like last time. The script is familiar. You are so excited and full of plans for the future. You pull out old storage bins that have gathered dust. You find the small collection of maternity clothes and baby items you just couldn't bring yourself to get rid of. You browse through baby name books and review your old copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting.

You have family members visiting. You share your good news with two of them. There are lots of big family dinners over the next week, and the news spreads like wildfire.  Your teenage nephew congratulates you on your pregnancy in front of your daughter, who doesn't know yet. You can't be angry, because it's such good news, so why not go ahead and tell her? The pregnancy feels just like the last one. Your husband cautions you against talking about it too soon, but you don't listen.

But then, after you've enjoyed being pregnant for just two weeks, you have an Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret moment in the bathroom. But you remember that this happened last time also. You call your doctor's office answering service because it's a Saturday morning, and someone tells you not to worry too much. This often happens in the first trimester. They say to call back Monday morning and your doctor will work you in.

There is more blood than last time, though, and you worry that something is wrong. Your doctor's office opens at 8:30 Monday morning and you call at 8:31. Your doctor will see you at 2:00, just to make sure everything is okay. The nurse tries to reassure you that you're probably fine, and the baby is probably fine, but something in your gut tells you that it probably isn't. You are a soggy mess by 2:00, going through tissue after tissue in the waiting room. The doctor brings you back for an ultrasound and you stop crying so you can concentrate on the screen. It's like one of those Magic Eye pictures that you've always been so terrible at. You squint your eyes and look for something that might resemble a tiny baby, but it's not there. You wait for your doctor to point it out, but she can't find it either. It's already gone. Lost. Slipped through your fingers without you even knowing it.

Your doctor questions you about dates. Maybe you aren't really as far along as you think you are? Perhaps it's just too early to see. But you know that you don't have the dates wrong.

She sends you in for a blood test to see where your hormone levels are. You are crying and shaking so hard that the phlebotomist has to wait for you to pull it together so she can stick a needle in your arm. You go home and try to put on a brave face for your daughter, but she can tell that something is wrong. You wish she hadn't found out about the baby. You want to shield her from all of this sadness.

You wake up the next morning and your body feels different. The swelling in your belly has gone down. You know your body, and you no longer feel pregnant. You have already scheduled a play date for the afternoon, and you know that canceling it would disappoint your daughter. So you grit your teeth and try to have a normal day, even though all you want to do is curl up into a ball and cry. The play date feels endless and you know that you're being a terrible host. You find it impossible to make small talk with this other mom that you barely know. You are even more awkward than usual.

You're back in the doctor's office again the next morning. There is no question now that the pregnancy is over. You have to see the same phlebotomist again for another blood draw to make sure that your hormone levels are dropping, and damn it, you're crying again.

You go back home and face your husband and your daughter. You tell them that the baby is gone. You wish you didn't have to say it. You're always losing things...your wallet, your keys. And now you've lost the baby. You wish for anything but this.

Your daughter creates a make believe game where she is a talking horse stranded on a deserted island. You are expected to play along and voice the characters of 15 stuffed animals who are stranded with her. You play the game, knowing that she is creating an escape from this sadness, and you love her even more for including you in her escape. You play this game for hours and hours...there are natural disasters and explorations and a whole system of money is created.

When night finally comes, you hug your family just a little bit tighter. You cry yourself to sleep and you look forward to tomorrow, because tomorrow is a new day.