“Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a heartbeat.”
The technician gives me her best sympathetic face and my hands ball in my paper gown, willing her to leave before my fist lands between her perfectly plucked eyebrows. The feeling of anger surprises me as it wells up in me quick and strong, but there’s no denying the emotion, despite how inappropriate it seems for the situation.
I wait until she shuts the door with a quiet click and then fold at the waste choking out sobs that can surely be heard through the thin walls. I picture the women on the other side of those walls clutching their swollen bellies and shifting uncomfortably on the examination table, politely ignoring the wounded sounds emanating from the next room. My husband buries his head in his hands and I can’t look because his pain guts me, so I pretend I’m alone in the room.
Though I haven’t seen myself, I know I’m an ugly crier and I avoid the receptionist’s eyes as she processes the last of my paperwork. I look young–much younger than my almost 26 years–and I absently wonder if she thinks I’ve just received news of an unplanned pregnancy. I hate her for no logical reason and rip the receipt from her hand when she offers it across the desk.
In the car, I am alone and it is 11:30 AM. I begin to mentally calculate how much booze we have and where it is located in the house. It’s been ages since I’ve really drank–4 months? 5?–and the wine rack is nothing but 12 cavernous slots, filled with dust and stray cat hair. There’s maybe a half a cocktail’s worth of cherry vodka in the freezer and a bottle of warm champagne that we forgot to open at Easter when we announced the good news to our parents and siblings.
I make an executive decision to procure more appealing booze and make a hard right into the liquor store parking lot. Consulting the rearview mirror, I wince, swiping a Dunkin Donuts napkin under my eyes where the mascara has pooled, dusting powder over my blotchy skin. I say a silent prayer of thanks that I know barely anyone in our town of residence and make quick work of the liquor store inventory. A bottle of sweet, cheap wine that goes down like juice and 750 mL of decent vodka that I’ll combine with OJ since there’s been no reason for keeping good mixers in the house.
I feel almost happy as I pull into the driveway and heft my packages inside, the bottles clanking against each other in a satisfactory way. I uncork the wine, a sound I have almost, but not quite forgotten, and pour myself a half, no three quarters of a wine glass I only use on special occasions, feeling like I should be toasting someone or something.
The alcohol goes to my head immediately and I smile, but feel guilty so I stop. My Macbook is open to a handful of pregnancy websites, which I close out of and begin to type a story about a woman who burns down her obstetrician’s office and winds up in a mental institution. I abandon it after paragraph six because I’m suddenly angry again and a little bit buzzed and the words are starting to get away from me. But I’m not just angry now, I’m furious.
I refill my glass and stalk through the house, stuffing every baby-related item I can find into the complimentary tote bag I was given at my first doctor’s appointment. Tiny canvas shoes from the Gap–my first purchase after the positive result. The only two baby books I let myself buy–one for each of us–remembering how I gushed to the Barnes and Noble cashier after she asked if they were for me. The yellow polka dotted outfit my sister gave us, with a matching hat and a fuzzy blue blanket with the letters b-a-b-y imprinted on it. The pastel colored plastic eggs with the miniature socks and pacifiers inside that we used to surprise our families at Easter brunch just one week ago.
I think of all the things that I wanted to scream at the doctor’s office, things that decent, respectable people don’t shout in public places. Like why do crackheads and teenagers and women on birth control and people who don’t even want kids get pregnant and get to keep their babies? How come it doesn’t matter that I gave up drinking and eating spicy tuna rolls and taking Advil for headaches swapping them for green smoothies at breakfast and organic chicken at dinner and pregnancy-safe Tylenol? Why doesn’t it factor that I ran to stay in shape and lifted no more than the recommended 25 lbs and didn’t eat sleeves of Oreos even when it sounded kind of appealing and no one would blame me? Why did I let myself believe I’d actually get to keep this baby even as I knew, deep down, that something was wrong?
I think of all the signs I tried to force down, to mask with excitement and preparation and thoughts of my husband holding our tiny baby and smiling the way he does when he’s really, really happy. But still. There they were, tangible and obvious and taunting, questioning why there was no morning sickness or cravings for pickles or mad dashes to the bathroom, just a slightly bigger cup size, mid-afternoon naps and a very routine craving for peanut butter cup ice cream. Just the tiny red dots on the toilet paper that became not so tiny after awhile and the 4 AM sweat-drenched wake ups every night since the positive test.
I’m angry and worked up now and I decide I want to smash things, anything I can get my hands on. I start with the wine glass–finishing the contents first, of course–and hurl it at our bedroom door, which nicks the wood and fans a blanket of tiny shards across the beige carpet. Then I round up a handful of picture frames and hurl them against the back deck, watching the glass and wood splinter into a million tiny pieces, which I will have to clean up later, but not now. Into the woods go two potted plants from my mother in law and two dozen painted Easter eggs in quick succession, though one wobbly throw has an egg hitting the doorframe above my head and landing at my feet. My arm hurts from throwing so hard and the urge to destroy has abandoned me as quickly as it came, leaving me feeling hollow and tired and flimsy.
I take two Tylenol PMs and drift to sleep in front of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, waking up to a black screen and no concept of how long I’ve been out. I finish off the night with a bottle of wine, three margaritas, two screwdrivers and one glass of champagne under my belt. The next day’s hangover is enough to ensure I won’t drink so recklessly and self-destructively again any time soon.
Everyone has a different statistic to comfort me. 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage my obstetrician tells me. 50% says my primary care doctor. A friend cites 80%. Zero percent of me cares about those other women because my pain is real and immediate and so very fresh and I can’t wrap my brain around theirs just yet. Is it too much to ask to just lick my wounds without everyone telling me about others who have been through it too? Can’t I even be afforded the luxury of feeling horribly, unapologetically wrecked?
Friends from church and my mother in law send me cards and emails and texts with Bible verses and psalms and urges to find the meaning in God’s plan. I politely tell them thank you for their kindness, but leave out the part about how pissed I am at God for pulling the rug out from under me, how I think His plan royally sucks and that He is an Indian giver of the highest order. After several weeks, I stop acting like a sullen teenager and end my standoff with God, apologizing for acting horribly un-Christian and skipping church for three weeks. I know He forgives me, but I still feel like an asshole.
I am like a child of divorce, irrationally blaming myself and acknowledging the irrationality, but feeling the finger pointing at me, all the same. I loathe the term “miscarry,” as if I carried our baby wrong and caused this to happen. My mother in law says God doesn’t work like that. My husband says I’m being pessimistic–good things and bad things aren’t inherently intertwined–but I reserve my right to be skeptical. Blame is the only thing that makes sense, so I grasp it tightly with both hands. I am being punished and, instead of deepening the pain, it somehow soothes me.
The world streams around me, continuing with its ebb and flow. My pregnant friends stay pregnant, carrying healthy babies that I will eventually fawn over and buy tiny outfits for, heralding their entrance into the world. In Target, I intentionally avoid the baby section, keeping a wide berth so as not to lose it in a public place. Pregnant women sit across from me in my office at the daycare center, making small talk about due dates and possible names and their growing bellies. As more time passes, I start to notice that their due dates are later than mine would have been and it feels like a thousand internal paper cuts. That butcher knife feeling has subsided, but this is almost worse because it is unexpected and constant and I don’t know how to make it stop.
Weeks pass and I throw myself into a new job that demands every ounce of my attention. We move into a blank slate home, needing badly to be made into something that is ours. I am busy and frenzied and without a moment in my day to pause, happily distracted. But still. There are those moments in the car, when I am alone with nothing but the radio to distract me from my thoughts of the baby that was almost mine, but slipped through my fingertips. The life we would have all had together, which seems so absurd and impossible now.
And I know I will never be the same again.