I always thought of a miscarriage as a discrete event. Like, you would say I had a miscarriage and you would be talking about this awful thing that happened and then was all done happening. It would be contained to a moment.
My miscarriage isn't happening like that, though.
I am having a miscarriage is what I say because it's been happening for weeks, it turns out, and it's been happening to me since Friday morning.
Before that, really.
A month ago when the baby stopped growing.
2 weeks ago when the baby's sac stopped growing, and I stopped feeling queasy and tired.
A week ago when I had my OB service-coordination visit and the physician's assistant tried to see the heartbeat with this really amazing ultrasound machine that looks like an iPhone and didn't see anything and told me I shouldn't be worried because I was exactly 8 weeks pregnant and 8 weeks is the earliest she would be able to see anything but I was worried because I have had 6 and 7 week ultrasounds and have heard the baby's heartbeat via doppler right around the 9-week mark, and every time anyone has looked or listened, we've seen or heard something and this time there was nothing.
Still, she said it was normal to not see the baby so early and sent me downstairs to the lab to have a million vials of blood drawn and pee in a cup and schedule my first OB doc visit and a dating ultrasound and a blood test for really old moms that would tell me the baby's chromosomal makeup including its SEX at like 10 weeks which is an amazing technological improvement if you ask me. The PA-C told me that the ultrasound machine she used to see the heartbeat was really for making sure the head was down at 36 weeks and that she wasn't a trained ultrasound tech and that I really shouldn't worry.
I did worry, though, while I left my urine sample and made small talk with the phlebotomist about what having 5 kids would be like. I worried while the lovely lab receptionist scheduled my ultrasound and genetics appointment and while she remarked about the baby's due date being 10-4. Like ten-four. And I imagined a super cute ultrasound picture with a little walkie talkie drawn on and the fetus saying, like, 10-4 good buddy. I'm on my way. Which is a REALLY STUPID IDEA. I totally see that now. The receptionist told me I could use the appointment schedule chart I got in my intake appointment folder to schedule the rest of my OB visits electronically now that I was in the system, but I thought about the black void of the baby's heartbeat and decided to wait.
I imagined the text of the ultrasound picture I would send to friends and post on Facebook. Something about "You can be honest. Baby number 5 looks exactly like Ben, huh?"
The big sister t-shirt I ordered for Dorothy arrived via Prime, and I thought about her wearing it to the hockey rink over the weekend.
Ben said we should plan something special to tell the kids since this would be their last sibling for serious this time.
We messaged a woman in our neighborhood who was selling an Ergo infant insert which was like the number one baby good we'd need and we talked about purging all of our baby stuff after we found out the sex of this one.
We got out our Cool Names for Babies book, and I tried really hard to talk Ben out of Rocky for either sex.
Friday morning, we got in the car to take the little kids to school and run some hockey party errands on the way to the ultrasound clinic and found a completely flat back tire. That Ben tried to PUMP UP WTH A BIKE PUMP before just giving in and borrowing a friend's air compressor. No time for a spare.
I was so nervous on the way to the clinic that I didn't even mind my uncomfortably full bladder.
As soon as the tech squirted warm jelly onto my stomach and pushed down the probe and turned on the screen and I saw the black circle of my uterus, I knew.
She asked me if my periods were regular, and I admired her tone-- light and conversational and if this had been my first time at the ultrasound rodeo, I don't think I would have been nervous at all. I expected a jumpy, flickering gummy bear on the screen, though, and all I could see was a little, still smudge, so I knew that this was not a matter of being a few weeks off on my dates. I told her that I knew what was going on and that I expected it, and she was so sweet and efficient. She said the fetal pole stopped developing at 5 weeks and 6 days, and the sac stopped at 7 weeks and 3 days. She told us that the baby was smaller than the radiological 7mm needed to declare a miscarriage, so she said we might have to come back for another ultrasound but that what she saw on the screen was really ominous.
She took us into a bad news consultation room-- seriously-- there was a couch, a chair, a table with a box of tissues and phone, and a light box on the wall. Nobody gets good news in that room. She patched my OB through to talk about our options. The OB explained the radiological standard to me and said that protocol was for the radiologist to want to see another ultrasound. But she also said that the date of my pregnancy test and my regular 27-day cycle meant that she was comfortable scheduling a D&C or a Cytotec dose for me right away or that I could wait and see what my body figured out.
Part of me really wanted a follow-up ultrasound, especially since I typed my last period into an online calculator incorrectly at the very beginning of the pregnancy and thought I had an October 31 due date for awhile. Maybe I do have my dates wrong! I tried to tell myself. But the tech showed us on the screen that the fetal matter was starting to break up. I took a million home pregnancy tests, starting January 24. I was sure of my dates and sure that the blob on the ultrasound screen wasn't moving.
I came home that afternoon and cleaned the shit out of our house for our hockey weekend schedule. I took Harry to his hockey dinner. I cheered at Saturday's game and hung out with my parents that night and drank my first glass of wine since January. Sunday we saw all the grandparents and threw a 7-hour party, and stayed up late cleaning up the house. Monday was a normal Monday. Tuesday, I spent the morning at Cooper's IEP, the majority of my day at work, the afternoon at the doc getting Cytotec and a slew of other drugs to go with it (vicodin! zofran! azithromycin! giant ibuprofen!), the evening at Cooper's conference and gymnastics pick up.
I had to un-tell a lot of people. My best friend from childhood whom I called in January with my ambivalence about the pregnancy. Ditto my mom. My internet friends. The moms in Dorothy's preschool class. My colleagues. (Oh god, you guys. I had to tell my colleagues because I needed to change my fall teaching schedule to accommodate being home with an infant and the fall timetable of classes closes for editing and opens to students in February, so I was over the barrel there). The director of Dorothy's preschool (schedules changes on a deadline, again).
All of this was easier than I thought it might be because so many people have had a miscarriage themselves. One preschool mom quietly told the rest. Work was lovely (but you guys! someone moved their class to another day because I needed a certain schedule because of the baby! I feel terrible!). Friends sent flowers and brought dinner and offered to take the kids off our hands. People are great. (This is like the only time in my whole misanthropic life that I have ever said that, by the way).
We are just sad.
The kids don't know about it, which is both easier and harder.
I was really ambivalent about the pregnancy. I mean, we haven't used birth control in like 4 years, so we knew what could happen. But except for that random chemical pregnancy a couple months ago, nothing has happened. And I am old. And we have a ton of kids, And our house is not huge. And kids are expensive. And the world is falling apart. But, of course, in the end, we did want this baby.
That's the hardest thing. We wanted this baby. The 10-4 baby.
I love pregnancy. It reminds me of rhetoric because it's about the possible, about the potential that's buried in the mundanity of the actual. I always love the positive pregnancy test sign because the plus is perfect. Pregnancy is me plus Ben. It's us plus someone else who is developing right inside of me. It's the ordinary plus the extraordinary.
Will we try again? I don't know. It's a bummer to end my reproductive years on this note, but I don't ever want to expect a heartbeat and see an empty black circle again. I will say that all the reasons for our pregnancy ambivalence seem petty in retrospect, and of course I worry that I caused this outcome with my lack of unrepentant joy or my weird fad diet. But, I mean, it was probably just my old eggs.
I am having a miscarriage, and it's sadder than I thought it would be even when it's mitigated by my four awesome little kids. It's also taking a helluva long time. But you know what? It doesn't feel lonely.