I am fine I am fine I am fine. Some days I am even good. But it comes back to me in so many little ways, this sadness, this heavy weight threatening to suffocate me.
I glance back at my children in the rear view mirror of our new Honda Pilot: Isaac in his booster in the third row, Vivian in the car seat in the second row. Next to Vivian, the empty space where the infant seat should go.
A package comes in the mail: two cans of Enfamil infant formula and a letter congratulating me on my newborn. The one that should have been born the day I miscarried the next.
I apply for a teacher's aide position and am directed to a doctor for a TB test. The new patient form I fill out has several sections, among them: Menstruation history--list the date of your last period. '11/25/07' I fill in dutifully, then have to scrawl in margins to explain: "pregnancy lost to miscarriage 4/08".
In the exam room, the doctor explains that TB tests are not covered by insurance and asks what other health issue I might have at the moment, this way she can charge insurance for the office visit instead. "Well, I had a miscarriage two weeks ago", I say, and I don't even cry. But then she says so softly, "I am so sorry to hear that" and the tears spring back in my eyes. Quickly she makes her notations and leaves the room, afraid, I'm sure of a total breakdown. Though that doesn't happen. (Of course.)
Bored, I surf blogs aimlessly, and happen upon one where the blogger has just lost identical twins at 19 weeks. Fascinated and hungry, I read her posts, the ones where it happened, the ones where she is grieving, over and over. I am jealous of the comments she receives and contemplate leaving my own: "Hey, me too! I lost my son, too! At 17 weeks! And also another one at 13 weeks just a few months ago. What about me?" But I don't.
I finally talk to my mother and she is good, she doesn't mention it, we talk breezily for a few moments, carefully avoiding the elephant in the room, laughing joylessly at small talk-- and then she says "How are you doing?" "Oh, I'm fine, I'm great, better than I've ever been" I respond with what I hope is the appropriate amount of ruefulness. But I can feel those tears coming again, and my voice starts to go ragged and I have to get off the phone so I can sob again.
I don't know why I can't talk to her. It is not because of something she has said or something I am afraid she will say. It is because I can't hear her voice without crying. And I tired--so tired--of crying.
"Dr. Platt" reads the notation on my calendar, and in a particularly strong moment I seize the phone to make the call. "I need to cancel an appointment, I tell the receptionist, and she dutifully looks up my date. "Okay" she says finally. "Are you going elsewhere for your twenty week scan?" "No. No. No. I, the baby died." I say, and hang up, and sob.
A week later, the phone rings and I check caller id. "Center for Fetal Medicine" it reads and I look again, surprised. What could they want? Does the doctor have some information for me somehow? I pick up and the receptionist asks "Did you forget your appointment this morning? Your twenty week scan is today." "No, I canceled." I replied. "The baby died, I cancelled last week." Hang up, and sob.
My d&e at the clinic was performed on April 3rd. I was "lucky" because the baby had decomposed enough that it only had to be a one day procedure instead of the usual two days for a 17 week fetus. In fact, while the baby measured 15 weeks on April 2nd at my OB's, the very next day he only measured 14 weeks. "I can't even get a good measurement," the tech said. "The head is already breaking down". "That's my son" I thought, but I said nothing, and let the tears come. "I'll bring in the anesthesiologist" said the tech.
At the "counseling session" before the d&e, the doctor came in after reading my chart. "well, you've got quite the pregnancy history, don't you?" she asked gently. I nodded. "But you have two children" she adds, in a strangely accusatory tone. I nod again. "Any questions?" she asks. And I don't. I have been through this before, I have worked at an abortion clinic before, I know much more than I want to know about any of this. So I say "no", and she leaves.
I bleed parts of him out of my body every day. I have done this before of course, so I am used to it. But it is a special kind of cruelty, these bloody pads I must wad up and throw in the garbage.
A hand-addressed envelope appears in the mail and I wonder, who has had time to send me a handwritten sympathy card already? It's only been a few days. The return address is in Orange County, and I can think of no one I know who lives there. A friend of Lance's? This seems impossible. I open the card, hungrily, to find an invitation to a baby shower. Lance's cousin, having her third baby, due at the end of June.
My children are obsessed with the Junie B. Jones books, since my sister brought a bunch of them out when she visited, right before we got the news. In them, kindergartner Junie welcomes a baby brother to her family. I loved reading this books before, thinking how appropriate, since Isaac will be a kindergartner when we bring this new baby home. Now reading them is not as enjoyable, I will say that right here.
(What was his name? I liked Oscar, though I never said it aloud. I was waiting until I could feel more confident that we would actually bring a baby home. Lance liked Felix, he said, months before we even got pregnant the first time. And I am driving home one day when it hits me: aren't those the names from the Odd Couple? Oscar and Felix?)
Before my appt with the OB on April 2nd, I knew he was gone. Did I ever mention that? For about a week--at least a week--I knew it was over. Not in any place that I was admitting it, but deep in the recesses of my brain and my heart. For a week, I didn't feel him move, never during the day, but every night, every single night I would get into bed and lie there, and minutes later, I kid you not, he would kick. One kick, and I would smile, and say "good boy" and go right to sleep. Can you believe the idiocy? What a fool I was! What baby kicks one kick at the same time every single day? It embarrasses me to admit it, even now.
I walk into the garage, see the double stroller. Feeling strong, I head back to the house, email the friend who is due in August, see if she wants it. Decide to pack up all the baby boy stuff to hand over, as well as the baby girl stuff (she's having a girl). She comes over, brings her 18 month old and I clean out the garage. Hand over all my baby stuff, including prenatal vitamins. It is fine, I am fine I do not feel sad. We are done with this phase of our life, we do not need baby stuff anymore. We will never need it again. It is a relief. It is a weight off my shoulders. She heads off. I return to the house and sob.
Sobbing does not make me feel better. And yet the tears are always there, just underneath, threatening to overflow at the first kind word. Please do not be nice to me, I cannot handle the kindness of friends or strangers. Talk about basketball (goddamn Tarheels) or the weather, but do not ask me how I am doing. And yet: ask about me! help me get through this! You can't. I have to do it alone. I am amazed at the depth of this well of tears, will it ever dry up?
I have imaginary conversations with my friends, with strangers, with my husband. Conversations about the lost baby, the lost babies. These conversations are healing and I am ably to talk freely and openly about all of it. In real life, I clam up. I say nothing except "wow, it sure is hot today".
At night I go to bed early, the way I have every night for the last year, this last year that I have been pregnant and exhausted. But I am not exhausted anymore. So I wake up in the middle of the night, alone with my thoughts and silent tears.
In the kitchen at lunch, I hesitate: 'oh, I shouldn't have tuna fish today', the thought sneaks in. The same one I have thought for a year, a year of policing the amount of fish I eat, the sandwich meat, the cheese, the alcohol. And then I remember. Yes, have the tuna. Have as much tuna as you fucking want, Amy.
How are you doing? my mother in law asks. The same one who didn't want us to have a third child. Did they say why? It's probably because you got pregnant again too soon. "No", I answer calmly, the Corona next to me keeping me numb, "the doctor had given us the okay to try again." Well, then, I guess that's why they say the childbearing years end when they do, she replies. "No," I say again, with no rancor in my voice, "actually since the CVS results came back okay, that means the chromosomes were normal and those are the only things affected by age." Later, I am enraged by this conversation and have wonderful self-affirming arguments with her in my head. But aloud I say nothing. There is nothing to say.
At the kindergarten round up at Isaac's new school I run into a mother I know very loosely. She is carrying her 6 month old in a baby bjorn on her chest. When I saw her last I was pregnant, she had her new baby with her and I was dying to tell her. But I couldn't, I was only in the first trimester then. And of course now there is nothing to say.
I pack up the maternity clothes that mock me, hanging in the closet for a year, close the boxes, carry them downstairs and away. But my regular clothes don't fit me, and I must squeeze into the same pants I wore post-partum with both of my children, almost every day. The pants that bring back memories of sleepless nights, nursing newborns, teeny tiny toes. The empty place in the closet where those clothes once hung mocks me, too. Empty closet, empty uterus. Empty.
Now, there is boredom. Lonely mornings while the kids are at school. I am not tired anymore, I am not sick, I have no excuse or desire to sit quietly watching bad television. So I sit. I read blogs, but I have to unsubscribe from so many. So many written by mothers that are pregnant, or giving birth, things I don't want to read about anymore, although just three weeks ago, I was eating it up.
We are broke. We have been broke, independently of the miscarriages, for a few months, but this month is the worst. I do not have money for groceries, or to pay bills. "Your insurance doesn't cover the facility, since we are a clinic" says the woman on the phone. "Our discounted cash rate for a d&e at that gestation is $2600." My doctor does not want to do it at the hospital, insists that the clinic specializes in this kind of thing, that it is worth the money, trust her. In the end, she is right--a better experience than my hospital d&c, in the same way that falling out of a ten story building is better than falling out of a 12 story building-- but the bill still feels like a slap in the face.
There is nothing to say, I tell well-intentioned friends. And it is true. There is nothing. I have nothing of him except a few ultrasound pictures, the wristband from the clinic where I had the procedure. I paste it in my scrapbook next to the ultrasound from our last lost boy.
But I miss him. I miss him terribly.
Unedited. This is therapy for me and I expect nothing of you, the readers. I am not returning to the blog for any length of time, just for the time, like now, when I need a place for all these thoughts to go. Thank you for listening.