Saturday, December 13, 2014

At 5 weeks you were the size of a sesame seed

A co-worker and his wife just had a baby; his boss sent an e-mail around to everyone. I knee-jerk deleted it. I don’t want to see it staring out at me from my inbox.

I already had that sad Charlie Brown Christmas song in my head. You know the one. The one that makes you want to slit your wrists, even if you don’t have depression to begin with. That one.

My husband and I are buying a small Christmas tree this year, the same as we’ve done for all of the years we’ve been together. When I was briefly pregnant, we had talked about making a big announcement right before Christmas; I would have been about 10 weeks by then. I was thinking “family,” thinking “big tree,” thinking ornaments for the baby, thinking of our modest townhouse as a necessarily expansive place, to accommodate someone new.

But nope.

So a small tree it is this year. That’s all we need.

***

There are parts of a miscarriage that go on, long after you’ve stopped bleeding.

I mean this in a medical sense – I have an appointment on Monday to get more blood drawn, because my levels of pregnancy hormones are not yet back down to “not pregnant” levels. (If I were to take a pregnancy test today, it’d come back positive.) This means I go into the doctor’s office again, and pretend again to hope that all traces of the life I had in me are gone.

Until the levels get low enough, I won’t ovulate, which means we can’t try again right now. (Well, we can try, but nothing will happen.) So here I am in this weird biological limbo, with not even my doctor able to predict with certainty when I’ll be back to normal. (It could be days, it could be weeks, it could be more than that.)

But I also mean this in other ways. Here’s how it goes, if you’re me:

You go along for days feeling totally OK – so OK that you almost worry about your soul. You wonder if maybe you’ve gotten too good at being rational about things. Then you see something dopey – a pair of tiny pajamas in a store that say “Baby’s First Christmas” on them. The world stops spinning, and you feel a hard pang of loss at something you never really had in the first place.

You go for hours some days with the feeling of choking back tears – of forcing yourself to “suck it up” because you’re at work and you need to make money because who knows, maybe you’ll need a few of those $10k IVF deals someday.

Most alarming is the utter lack of care I feel toward myself, now that I know it’s just me in here. When I was pregnant, I ate healthy. I ate like a health nerd. I quit caffeine and drank my weight in bottled water. I slept when my fatigue-ruled body asked for it. I took care of myself, mostly because I wasn’t just myself, if that makes sense.

These days – I’m back in the Starbucks line in the morning before work, because who cares? I literally have nothing to lose. I have a couple of social events on the calendar, nighttime events at which there will be alcohol, and at these events I will probably drink. So what? It’s just me in here.

***

Part of why this hits so hard for me is that I have always wanted to be a mom. Never, for one second of my life, have I ever not wanted to have a family.

The problem is that my life took a long time to line up in a good way for m
e to have a family, at least the way I grew up thinking would be the ideal way to have one. I dated this one guy for 10 years, all of my twenties, and we both loved kids – but he had some mental-health and chronic unemployment issues that made me seriously worry about marrying and having kids with him. After that, I was quasi-involved with a series of guys, most of whom just wanted to date around and have fun and not settle down. (Or, not settle down with me. A decent number of them went on to marry the next chick they were with, and in some cases have babies with them. Ah, life.)

Finally I was lucky enough to meet my husband, and now we’re all set up to have a family – we have a nice little home near the woods, we can afford to have a family, we even live right down the street from a k-3rd grade school! However, biology is taking a while to cooperate, and who knows? Maybe we won’t go the biological route for a family. There are lots of ways to have a family, and we’re trying the old-fashioned way first. (This topic, the adoption topics, really deserves a whole blog post of its own, so I’ll end this tangent here.)

For me, at age 36, losing the only pregnancy I’ve ever had (after almost a year of trying to conceive) has been a pretty big deal. I guess it would be different if I’d ever had doubts, or if I saw having a child as something “optional” that I could take or leave. But I have never not wanted this.


***

Miscarriage, especially early miscarriage, is a hard event to categorize. It’s a loss, but you know, where’s the funeral? Where’s the casket? If that stuff’s not there, what is it? I took time off from work to mourn – but I classified that as “sick” leave, not “bereavement,” because where’s a death certificate? There isn’t one. So then my mind goes in these philosophical circles: “There wasn’t a death because there wasn’t a life.” Yet there was a life, because it died. Or stopped living. It’s a crazy thing to try to put a “life-experience label” on.

***

People are no longer sure what to say, or whether to say anything. Most follow my lead, which is to say nothing.

They’ve already said, “I’m so sorry.” They’ve already echoed the reassuring statistics that say odds are good that I could get pregnant again, and maybe next time it’ll be OK. They already did that. They’re done.

But I’m not done. I’m over here wondering why I’m trying not to cry over something that seems more and more like it was an imaginary friend. Like a nice idea that wasn’t real. Or a crazy idea that people are too nice to tell me wasn't really a real thing.

I don’t want to be “that miscarriage chick,” like some widow from olden times who wears all-black for 40 years after her husband has passed, persona non grata.

Life in our modest townhouse has shrunk back down to “normal” – I have to put quotation marks on it because it isn’t the way it was, and can never be. We are a household that has suffered a loss. Technically. Maybe to a lot of people it doesn’t count. Maybe to a lot of people it wasn’t long enough, wasn’t real enough, to count.

What was the count?

I had five weeks.

I had four days of knowing.

This Christmas season is going to be hard.

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