Due to some health issues that my husband and I had known about long before we starting trying to have children, we had to try to conceive in a fertility clinic. That process is not fun. At all. But our third month of trying, I went in for my blood pregnancy test. Later that day, we got the phone call I’d been imagining for the past ninety days, and in a way, for the past 31 years of my life. I put my phone on speaker and grabbed my husband. “I’m calling with great news,” said the nurse. “You’re pregnant!”
My husband and I started screaming. All I remember saying is, “we’re going to be parents!” We hung up and just stared at each other. We’d done it. The roller coaster of the medicalized baby-making process was over. We were going to have a child, and it was growing inside me as we spoke.
We called our families immediately. This lucky kid was going to be everyone’s first grandchild, first niece or nephew, first great-grandchild. We got to see our parents’ faces when we told them that they were going to be grandparents. We called our friends who had been with us on the fertility journey and shared the news. Next to our wedding, it was the happiest day of my life.
All signs pointed to a healthy pregnancy. I took a pregnancy test every morning for the first week, and each day the line got darker and came up faster than the day before. I was exhausted. My boobs were growing by the day. No spotting. With every pregnancy symptom, I felt relief that things were progressing the right way.
My husband and I made a clandestine trip to Babies R Us and tested out strollers. He rubbed my belly and said goodbye to our baby each day before we went to work, and at night we talked to it, laying belly-to-belly so it could get to know its daddy too. We made a secret nursery Pinterest board. We went to the beach and bought an impossibly tiny onesie with a crab on the butt, our baby’s first souvenir. We had five weeks of pure, unadulterated happiness. We did not hold back.
Then, at what we thought would be our farewell visit to the fertility clinic, we went in for an ultrasound. A formality before they turned me over to my OB. I chatted with the tech as I climbed up on the table. My husband squeezed my hand. We were going to get to see our baby for the first time.
The amniotic sac was there, but it was empty. No baby inside. Blighted ovum, we learned it was called.
The next month was the hardest of our lives. I was a shell of a person, as empty as the sac that had been growing, uninhabited, inside me. All I could do was stare at the wall and cry.
Now, seven weeks after that horrible ultrasound and the D&C procedure that followed a few days later, we are waiting around for my period to show up and then we can start trying again. But as sad as I am about the loss of this pregnancy, what I’m saddest about is our shattered innocence. The next time, I’m not going to feel that pure elation that I felt when I got the call from our nurse. Our excitement is going to be tinged with the knowledge that the hammer of bad news could come down at any time and smash everything to pieces.
And then I feel angry. Because our eventual kid, the one that makes it past the hazing that is pregnancy, deserves better than that. It deserves our excited screams the moment we learn about its existence. It deserves to be the one who causes the unforgettable look on my mother-in-law’s face when we said, “You’re going to be a grandma!” It deserves the celebratory flowers that my in-laws sent us the day after we shared the happy news. And it probably won’t get those things, because I don’t think any of us could muster those same emotions even if we tried. Instead, it’s initially going to get a mix of caution, fear, and uncertainty. Its grandparents probably won’t find out about its existence quite so quickly, and the look on their faces when we tell them is going to be different, their parental instinct of wanting to shield their children from pain at first superseding the excitement of impending grandparenthood. I’m probably not going to sign up for emails that give me weekly updates on the size of the baby until I’m past the first trimester, lest I re-experience the agony of checking my email the day after the ultrasound and seeing four different emails informing me that our baby, who we now knew would never exist, would have been the size of an olive. Early pregnancy will be more about self-preservation and fear than anything else.
But even given all this, I’m so glad we didn’t hold back our joy this past go-round. I’m glad we told our families and close friends, rather than waiting and then telling them in one breath that we were pregnant but now were not. I’m glad we bought that onesie, our indulgence of first-trimester optimism that we will never have again. I’m glad I learned each week about my little sesame seed/blueberry/raspberry, because the next time I won’t. Most of all, I’m glad I let myself go all-in and experience that exquisite happiness. I can’t wait to hold our eventual baby in my arms so I can experience it again, and maybe treasure it a little more deeply for knowing what it took to regain it.
The author, a college professor and hopeful future mom, wishes to remain anonymous.