We named it Eugene-Eugene. Both of our father’s carry this middle name, which they begged us not to continue, and what we thought would be a fun nickname while in utero. Our first, we called Oscar, as in Oscar Myers, his last name. Oscar, now known as Zev, is nearly 5 and never knew he was almost a big brother.
That week, the website told me it was the size of a raspberry. A perfect, growing raspberry with a spine and a beating heart with eyelids that was busy budding fingers and toes from its flippers. I would begin to show soon and had told those close to me the great news. Everything was going exactly as planned. I plan everything – when I do laundry, when I wash the dog, when I get pregnant. I would be starting maternity leave right when Zev began kindergarten. We would have a month together, just the two of us, and then five months where the three of us would walk him to and from school. Perfect. I would be most pregnant in the late summer where I could ease my joints weightless in the pool and not battle those intense hormones during creepy, cold months when I seem to naturally fight the urge to sulk indoors. Yes. I would be 36. Older, but not so old that I had to write off the possibility of a third down the road. I had planned this perfectly. I brainstormed how to fit a crib amongst the CD’s and the cat food. I had spent lunch hours ordering maternity clothes online. I was stowing away cash for an extended leave. I re-read every pregnancy book, studied names as they scrolled by at the end of sit-coms. I only allowed myself foods high in fiber, folic acid, and calcium. I ate salmon and I hate salmon.
When the nurse at my first prenatal visit couldn’t detect the heartbeat on the Doppler she told me not to jump to conclusions. She ordered an ultrasound to make sure. That was my first clue. When the other nurse couldn’t find the heartbeat on the ultrasound she said the same thing, adding, “If you start to bleed go to the ER.” When I went home, I didn’t pack for the weekend trip with my sisters as planned. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be going.
That evening at 6:30, I called my husband into the bathroom. He looked in the toilet at the mass of thick, chunky blood settled at the bottom. I asked, hoping I was overacting, “I need to go, don’t I?” I wanted him to come with me. He did too, but I asked him to stay with our son. Don’t be dramatic. Don’t involve your family. I’ll be okay…I started out on my own.
The intake nurse was patient while I blubbered through why I was there. The security guard handed me a tissue. The triage nurse asked me how far along I was, if I used drugs, if I needed more pads and my blood type. The phlebotomist asked if his hands were cold. My husband appeared (thankful he didn’t listen to me for once!) and sat with me for the next 7 hours.
We kept company with an assortment of folks. Some homeless, hungry and cold. Punk kids needing their turf war wounds stitched up. There was an honor roll student with a concussion from practice and so many moms and their tired, fevered babes. These moms, tired themselves, not moving, fearing they’ll stir them awake and keeping their sweating heads in the crux of their necks. We guarded each other’s seats as we each were called to various windows. Local news. The Late Show. Scrubs (which oddly, I told my husband when he first arrived, this place was nothing like). The local news again. I watched one stranger give her blanket to another, who was slumped, wheelchair bound, coughing, and stuck in the wind tunnel of the automatic doors. Where was his family? I thought this over and over as I curled into my family’s shoulder and tried to sleep.
Adam told me later that he couldn’t see our baby on the ultrasound as he could that afternoon. He told me it would be okay. He reassured me that we’d try again soon and that I already made one hell of a kid – I’ll do it again and I believed this all, too. I told myself how this happened all the time. It wasn’t meant to be and that this is nature’s way of saying this one wasn’t right. I still believe this, but not as much as I thought I would.
I will always have the irrational wonder that it was something I did. Should I not have walked that ill-trained 100 pound puppy? That day at work, the water cooler needed changing. I didn’t ask for help since no one knew I was pregnant. Did that do it? Maybe I didn’t eat enough folic acid. Maybe I’m too old.
As much as I coached myself that this was a possibility so early on, it was always a possibility for someone else, not me. My preparedness did nothing for me the next day as I walked past the baby books on the coffee table, the growing list of questions for the doctor on the fridge, when I discovered the prenatal pills in the cupboard, or when I opened that email waiting in my inbox telling me what my raspberry had miraculously turned into in just a week. Then, there was the bathroom. No one writes of the bathroom. The constant reminder that you body is purging itself of some foreign object. Each time, I would tiptoe in and witness this crimson lingering string with pieces of my baby dripping from me in still motion. I would have to wipe it away and flush goodbye. Was that my baby I saw this morning? Or is this it? It’s a raspberry, after all. That’s not small. Please let this be all of it. And then there are those damned maternity clothes yet to be delivered.
The first day, I napped. The second day, I cried around my doctor visit where a nurse asked if I needed a hug and I collapsed into her. I didn’t plan this. But I’ve had a good life, I remind myself. I must take something from this. Even if I don’t fully believe it now, each day I must convince myself a bit more.
I force myself outside to get some brisk sun on my cheeks and watch my 4-year old play in the dirt. I have a good life, I say over and over. Don’t wallow! I give myself a lecture: I can’t plan everything and that’s okay. Yes, this is a good lesson. And also, there are some really genuine people out there, I was becoming a skeptic. I decide to let each cramp I was still feeling be a reminder of those people I’ve seen these past few days rather than the person I have lost. There are strangers that will give you their blanket and save your seat. Some will offer you a hug. You have friends that will leave flowers and your favorite cookie on your doorstep. And if you’re lucky like me, you have a husband who will keep the house running while you’re in slow motion, who will sleep on the couch while you spoon your son all night long in a vice-grip hug. And that foolish puppy that gallops as you take out the trash? His one goal in life is to be your pal (and eat your flip flops).
A couple days after my miscarriage, a good friend of mine sent me a note. It said, “Store up everything you are feeling now, so that in five years, when your kids are shrieking at each other in high-pitched banshee wails and throwing objects at each other’s heads, you’ll know motherhood is a joy not come by easily.” I have a goal to not put so much weight on future plans, small or large. But this one – this thought that my wonderful friend put in my head – is a plan I don’t anticipate keeping idle.
After reading her advice a few times, I opened the fridge, brushed aside that mass of spinach and broccoli and discovered a bottle of champagne.
I poured two glasses, topped them with orange juice, and plopped a raspberry in each. “Health food,” I said to Adam, as we clinked. With the last sip, I swallowed the raspberry that tasted so right. The corners of my mouth perked, my back straightened, for the first time since all this happened. It was comforting to think it wouldn’t be long before I had another perfect raspberry inside me again.
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