Tuesday, February 15, 2011

That Which Never Was

When I found out I was pregnant a couple weeks ago, I looked forward to the time it would be appropriate to share the good news. Would I post the requisite picture of the pregnancy test, or was that lame? I hadn't decided yet. But, in the end, it didn't matter because I am not writing about my pregnancy, I'm writing about my miscarriage.

I wrote those words about a week ago. What followed was a long, convoluted post in which I tried to say more than I could manage at the time. Losing this pregnancy obviously brought up a plethora of emotions, but it also brought the memory of our trouble conceiving Charlotte and of my first miscarriage, to the surface. And, I just can't cover everything I am thinking about in one post. So, I'm starting over and just focusing on what happened last week and where I am now.

Getting pregnant after only two cycles of seriously trying was a very new experience for us. Here is that story, if you're interested. Something about it felt wrong. We weren't the couple who just decides to expand their family and POOF! We've done it. That's not us. Our story is supposed to be full of bitter resentment, disappointment, despair, and heartache. Between that nagging feeling that this was too easy, and the fact that we suffered an early miscarriage three years before, we were cautiously optimistic. But, as the days went on and my breasts continued to ache, and I continued to feel like I had been run over by a truck, the caution began waning.

Maybe we had been through enough. Maybe now it WAS our turn to have it easy. I had already had a miscarriage; surely I wouldn't have another one. Charlotte's pregnancy worked out just fine. Maybe we had turned a corner. So, we let ourselves get more and more excited, and every day our optimism grew exponentially. This pregnancy started out as a big secret, and within a week,ended up being almost common knowledge.

And then one day a pinkish hue was visible against the stark white of the toilet paper. It was ever so slight, but in my mind it was positively glaring. I called the doctor and was told that since the spotting had already stopped, to take it easy and call again if it resumed. Days went by, and I thought we were in the clear. Then Thursday came. I went to the bathroom: blood. Just a little bit of brown blood, but enough to paralyze me with fear. And then, instantly, I was angry. I didn't even know that this was necessarily a sign of trouble yet; after all, you are told constantly that spotting is common and many times innocuous in early pregnancy. But, I was pissed. Because I'm just so goddamned tired of pregnancy being this unattainable and terrifying thing. Because I was right about this pregnancy being "too easy." And, even if it turned out to be alright, I was just...so tired.

So, I drove myself to urgent care, and Chris met me there later that evening with Charlotte who had been napping when I needed to leave. When I got called in to the exam room, Chris and Charlotte were out wandering the halls since she was getting restless. I asked the nurse if I could get them to come in with me. She got really uncomfortable and said she would ask the doctor, but she didn't sound very optimistic. I told her if it was a problem, I could do without it, but I just didn't want to be alone if there was bad news. So, she asked, and I could hear a gruff voice answering, "What? No, I can't have the whole family in here." Then, he burst into the room, introduced himself, and proceeded to make me more and more uncomfortable as the exam progressed. First, there was the complete lack of an attempt to hide his disdain for my plan of having my family with me in the room. Next, he yelled at the nurse no fewer than three times for her apparent ineptitude (She seemed to be doing just fine to me.) And, finally there was the all-business way he informed me that I might be having a miscarriage, with no sympathy or concern in his voice or manner, and then repeated it incessantly. I'm sure I gave him every indication that I understood what he was telling me; there was no need to say it seven times.

Every time I have had a vaginal ultrasound since my first miscarriage, I wait in agony for the doctor to speak once he or she has inserted the wand and begun perusing the monitor, searching for a heartbeat. This time was no different, only it was made worse by the fact that I was in the presence of a doctor I had learned to loathe in a matter of minutes and didn't have Chris there to hold my hand. This time he told me he didn't see a heartbeat, but did (to his credit) quickly add that it might just be too early. He told me to put myself on bed rest, ordered me a blood test to be repeated a few days later to check my levels, and sent me home.

The days leading up to the Sunday I was meant to go have my follow up blood test performed were horrible. I held on to hope, even when the bleeding increased over the next few days. I told myself it was not as heavy as a period yet, and it would stop for hours at a time. Those few days were hard because Chris and I really didn't know what to expect. He was more optimistic than I was, but I went through periods of hope and increasingly more frequent periods of dismay. The ups and downs were tiring, and I was eagerly awaiting my second blood test Sunday morning which would reveal if my levels were increasing enough to call this a viable pregnancy.

But, I didn't make it that far. Saturday night the cramps started, and the bleeding was not something you could ignore or explain away. By Sunday morning (Superbowl Sunday) we were back at urgent care where my second blood test and an ultrasound confirmed what we already knew: this pregnancy was not only not viable, it was on its way out. Luckily, the doctor who saw me on this day was the kinder, gentler, and more encouraging of the two. I was also alone this time, because Chris and I both agreed after being there for a couple hours that he should take Charlotte home to nap. But, this doctor took the time to talk to me, answer my questions, reassure me that I should be able to have another child, and even squeezed my shoulder briefly before leaving the room. It was a vast improvement over the previous experience and just one of the many things I have found reason to be grateful for throughout this experience.

I am grateful for my beautiful, healthy child. For my husband who is not only a supportive and caring partner, but a wonderful friend. My best friend. And, somehow, the fact that he could make me laugh even in the darkest moments of this experience, makes me realize that we will be okay and makes me feel so lucky to be married to him. I am grateful that my body knew how to take care of this on its own and that I didn't have to have any interventions. I am grateful for our family and friends who stepped up with child care, gifts, cooked dinners, and washed dishes. I am grateful that even though I wish I hadn't been so frivolous with the news that we were expecting, everyone handled our disappointment perfectly. No one made me regret sharing with them. Which, is great, because I don't know that I could have handled it any other way.

And, that's the tricky part, isn't it? It's hard to contain your excitement over something as huge as being pregnant. It consumes your thoughts, your body, your entire life. How can you have casual conversations with your friends and family and NOT respond to their inquiries on your general well-being with, "Well, I can hardly keep my eyes open all day, my head is pounding from the caffeine withdrawals, I obsessively check my toilet paper for signs of bleeding, and I pretty much spend all day thinking about this super-secret baby I'm hiding in my womb. How are YOU?"

So, we sometimes take the risk and share our happy or happily terrifying news. Because it's human nature, or maybe mostly female human nature, but, we need support. We need people to be happy for us, hopeful for us, and then we need them to grieve with us when it doesn't work out. Using this logic, it's strange that we don't just take out an ad in the Sunday paper announcing our pregnancies the moment we see the double blue lines. But, there's something else. Something I can't quite put my finger on, but something that will prevent me from being so open about it next time. It's the same thing that made me regret telling as many people as I did. I think it's...embarrassment. Like, if I thought I was getting a promotion or a new house, and I told everyone about it, and they celebrated with me, congratulated me, and then it didn't work out? I'd feel silly. And I guess that's how it felt when I had to un-tell people about this pregnancy. Ridiculous? Maybe.

It's also hard to relive it over and over again. Especially because whenever someone heard the news and then proceeded to be amazingly kind and sympathetic, it would set me off crying all over again. When I had my first miscarriage I had only been at my new job for a few days. I didn't know anyone. Didn't have any friends there. So, when I returned from my leave of absence and the school secretary very warmly put her hand on my shoulder and told me to call her if I needed anything, I collapsed into paroxysms of sobs and unintelligible muttering. She hugged me until I was whisked into the principal's office, presumably so I would stop making a scene in front of the children.

So, maybe I will handle things differently if and when I get pregnant again. And,that "if" is what keeps me up at night. I should take solace in the fact that we got pregnant so easily this time around, and I do. But, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't just a wee bit terrified of the possibility that we just lost our only chance at having the family of our dreams. And, yes, we hit the jackpot with the child we have, but I do think we're allowed to want another one. I realize this sounds defensive, and maybe it is. I just know that somewhere out there someone wants to tell me to be grateful for the child I have, and I just want you all to know that I AM. WE are.

A long time ago, my sister-in-law and I were having a discussion about whether or not it is any easier to go through a miscarriage when you already have one or more healthy children at home. And, really, this was a completely useless discussion because how could we possibly decide something like that? How you handle a miscarriage will depend so much on so many different factors in your life, and it will vary from person to person. All I know is that for me and Chris, it is so much easier. When I walked out of that exam room after the Ultrasound of Doom and was greeted by a grin spreading across those chubby cheeks and golden curls bouncing up and down as my daughter ran to meet me, and later when I was treated to her very seriously looking me in the face and saying,"What's wrong, Mommy?" I knew I was going to be okay. Because I have to be. For her.

So, that is the very long story of my miscarriage. I feel a little better every day, a little more like my old self, and a little more ready to move on and continue trying for the baby we hope to have someday.