Just sitting and waiting, again.
I survey the waiting room. This is my first time at the clinic since our move. To think, just a couple of days ago I was overjoyed at the thought of coming to this appointment. That had all changed when the spotting started.
We moved our family of four—soon to be five—from our cozy life in the midwest to the unfamiliar world of west Texas. Our third child is on the way and I had scrambled to find a doctor. The city was booming and I had struggled to get in to just about anything—housing, schools for my two little girls and especially doctors. Luckily, this clinic was taking new patients who were expecting and I had eagerly made an appointment.
We weren’t far along. This was the part of pregnancy I hated the most. No one knew this time–we hadn’t even told our parents. With the move and everything going on, we wanted to share it when we were out of the first trimester. We had made the mistake before of telling everyone too soon only to have to go back and tell them we had lost our baby. The guilt, the shame, the despair…it wasn’t a mistake I would ever make again. So we kept it quiet as we had with our previous two children.
After the first miscarriage, my other two pregnancies had gone on without a hitch. The fear I had felt with our oldest, Natalie—Am I going to lose this one? When is the bleeding going to start? Is there still a heartbeat? Had almost driven me mad but for no reason. It was a smooth pregnancy. With Maren, our second, I hadn’t had time to worry because I was chasing after Natalie, who wasn’t even a year yet. This time, I had felt better. The familiar voice still whispered dark thoughts, but with the move and the girls I was too busy to worry myself into too much of a stupor. Plus, with the past two successful pregnancies I figured this one would be as well. That is, until I started bleeding.
It started last Sunday morning. I had finally found a Catholic church in the overwhelmingly non-denominational and Baptist town. It was a lovely church and I enjoyed the choir and the priest and the quiet time I had to myself when I went. Adam stayed back and spent time with the girls. It’s not that I didn’t want to bring my family or that they wouldn’t come, but the service was early and it was time the girls had with their dad and time to myself was certainly something I enjoyed. I stayed home with the girls and precious time to myself was something I cherished.
They were getting ready to head to the pool when I arrived back from church. I wanted to join them and went to put on my suit. We were staying in a small apartment until we found a house we could afford in the booming market. I was stubborn, refusing to pay over $600,000 for a house valued at around $250,000 back in the midwest. So we lived modestly in the somewhat questionable complex. I dubbed it the Shangri-La as a nod to one of my favorite characters on the show Fraiser, who had named his new dinky apartment the same.
I had sat staring at the toilet paper. It was streaked with blood. Not dark brown. Fresh. Red. Blood red, true to the term. I felt the tears well. Not again. I prayed. God, please, not again. Not now. Not here. Not in this strange place. Not after we had finally decided after six years to let go and see what happens.
I brushed the tears from my eyes, refusing to let them fall. I had learned how to harden my heart to certain situations. I had become a master of burying my emotions—even better at totally turning them off. I took a deep breath, tossed the toilet paper into the toilet and flushed. I watched it swirl around and around and finally disappear. Was that a piece of what could’ve been? Flushed away forever down the drain? Probably, I figured, glaring at the toilet bowl.
I took off my suit, put on a pad and threw on some comfy clothes. I called Adam into the tiny bedroom attached to the ensuite. He came in wiping sunscreen off his hands with a paper towel.
“Why aren’t you in your suit? Aren’t you coming down to the pool?” He asked, focusing on the greasy sunscreen soaking into his hands. The paper towel sticking to them.
“I’m pretty sure I’m miscarrying.”
“What!?” He dropped the towel and reached out for me.
“I’m bleeding. It’s just like the first time. I’m positive actually, so…” I trailed off and shrugged.
“Are you ok?” He studied me, his brow furrowed. It’s a look he often gives me when he knows I’m shutting down. He may be one of the only people on earth who knows my talent for doing so—for hiding my emotions and pain.
“Not really.” I felt the emotions swirling like the toilet paper in the bowl and hated myself for feeling them. The tears welled again.
“Why would we get pregnant again? Why would God do this?” I clenched my fist and slammed it against the bed at my side. It was such a stupid, selfish thing to say but I couldn’t help feeling the tantrum build. Why would you do this just to rip it away from me again. Why now and especially in this situation where we are so isolated and already scared and uncertain. I had struggled with my relationship with God after the first loss and felt myself teetering again. The baby was the joy connected to this new beginning and now I believed it was gone.
“Maybe it will be ok. You said sometimes this does happen and it turns out ok?” Adam said quietly. Hopeful.
“That was the line I fed myself the first time. That doesn’t happen to me, just to others.” I felt the burn of jealousy remembering back to the first time when all the books said spotting could be completely normal. I had read forum after forum of women saying they actually bled and turns out their little peanut was just fine. Not mine. Mine was not fine. No heartbeat. No baby. Just blood swirling down the toilet along with our dream of a child. I shook my head to scatter the memory.
“I have an appointment scheduled for Tuesday, so I guess at least there’s that. They’ll confirm it there.” I shrugged, picked up the towel he dropped and handed it back to him.
Adam looked sad. I wasn’t sure if it was sad for me or sad for us or sad for the tiny life inside me that I felt was dying as we spoke. Probably for all those reasons.
Now I sit in the waiting room, again. Waiting like the first time so many years ago. Waiting for the ultrasound that would ultimately confirm my suspicions.
When I arrived today, I was scooted into a welcome room where a woman had taken my new patient information for the system. Then she handed me a large bag and congratulated me. I peered into the bag warily and saw it was filled with diapers, formula, coupons, a little onesie and a tiny stuffed elephant.
“You can keep this.” I said, pushing the bag back towards the woman behind the desk. “I’m pretty sure I’m losing the baby and I’m here to confirm it.”
The woman looked shocked and slightly unsettled behind her square glasses at my cold response. She smiled and pushed it gently back towards me.
“Maybe not, you keep it for now.” She said.
I couldn’t decide how I felt in that moment. Part of me wanted to thank the woman for her optimism. The other part of me wanted to stand up, grab the bag and throw it as hard as I could at the wall behind her, telling her to keep the damn bag.
I took it reluctantly and left the room without a word, headed back to the waiting room to await my ultrasound.
Still waiting. I couldn’t tell you what was on the magazines next to me on the table or the one in my lap because while I was looking at them, I wasn’t really looking at them. I turn my head to look out the window behind me. Adam is in the truck waiting for me with the girls. We had no one to watch them while I had my appointment—we were still so new here and had no sitter or friends, so that’s why I am alone.
Adam had been horrified to send me in solo but I promised him it was fine—and I felt like it was. I had died a little right along with this little one once I started bleeding and continued to die right along with it each time I saw more blood. Streak after streak after streak for almost two days now. Ironically, it stopped this morning. I wondered if that was the end or if the big finale was coming. I was prepared mentally for it. I had shut off that part of my brain and heart to the hurt. Now it is all business.
I see his white truck in the parking lot behind me, smile and turn back around. He can’t see me through the window tint, but it’s comforting to see them out there. I have two healthy girls and a healthy husband. So that is obviously how it is supposed to stay. We won’t try again after this one. I haven’t told Adam yet, but I don’t want to risk going through this again. Once was bad enough, but now twice is too much. I tell myself it isn’t worth it and not what we want—even though the tug in my heart says otherwise. You will. Not now. Not next week. But you will. Just like you tried after the first one.
“Melissa?” A women in scrubs calls from the doorway next to the reception desk.
I nod grabbing my handbag and welcome bag full of baby essentials. I head back to the room with the technician.
“My name is Rachelle and I’m going to do your ultrasound today.” She smiles at me and then stops. “Everything ok?” She asks frowning.
“Sorry, no. I’m pretty sure I’m miscarrying. I’ve had a miscarriage before and it went about the same exact way. I’ve been spotting for almost two days now.”
The questions begin. What color was the spotting? Did I spot with other pregnancies? How many pregnancies have I had? Miscarriages? Cramping? All the things.
After the interrogation, she casually ends with, “Well, let’s just see what the ultrasound says, ok?”
There was that hopeful optimism again—they must all be trained to be like this. But optimism is no good for me. That only works in the books and on the forums to those lucky ones.
Rachelle leaves so I can dress in the weird standard hospital gown. Despite the things I keep telling myself, despite my resignation to the worst, and despite the fact I’m not on the best terms with him, I say a silent prayer to God. Please, let me be one of the lucky ones this time. Let it be ok. Because despite the hardening and despite the exterior shell I am portraying, I really really want this baby. I loved it from the moment the lines showed up on the test. The tears come again as I sit back on the chair and wait for the knock.
Melissa comes back in and turns on the machine.
“Today we are going to get some measurements and the biggest thing is to find the heartbeat.”
Her enthusiasm is infuriating or is she in denial about what’s about to happen? I don’t know but I sit back and wait to see what the wand shows us.
Suddenly I’m back in the huge hospital in the city. Adam was sitting next to me holding my hand as the technician tried and tried to find a sound— but there was no sound. Just silence. The absolute absence of a heart beating and only that white noise of a barren womb. I had been optimistic then only to have it shatter—the glass scratching and cutting every single inch of me until I bled out. But it wasn’t really blood or glass, just tears, grief and hopelessness for a dream and life gone forever. This is why I am so cold. The feeling in that hospital was too much for me to bear—more than actually losing the baby– it was the complete and total surrender to hopelessness.
The technician starts typing and the clicking of the keys shakes me out of that nightmare and back into this one. The wand goes in and we both look to the screen—hers is in front of her, mine on a monitor in front of me that is a projection from her own computer screen. She starts taking measurements, clicking the keyboard and moving the wand from side to side catching different angles and taking different pictures. On the screen I see the tiniest little shape. I feel sadness as I think what life could’ve come from that tiny little speck.
She turns on a button and suddenly there is the white noise that sends shivers spiking through me. It’s the dreaded white noise absence of sound. She adjusts the volume, moves the wand and suddenly a whooshing sound fills the room.
WO WO WO WO WO WO it goes, in quick succession.
“Your little peanut is just fine Melissa, there’s the heartbeat.” She smiles.
All the buried emotions spanning from the first loss to this moment pour out of me. I feel myself almost convulsing with emotion as the tears spill from my eyes. I put my hands together, close my eyes and pray as hard as I have in a long time. Thank you.
“She’s ok?” I blubber, opening my eyes and turning towards her–silently begging her to confirm.
“Everything looks great. You are right at about thirteen weeks, great heartbeat and all measurements on target.” I think I see tears in her eyes too, as we sit silently listening to the boom of the baby’s heart filling the room with life…with hope.