No Longer Assuming: Losing My Child
She’d never known what it felt like to lose a child.
Three weeks ago, I walked alone into the Sonogram room at Morristown Memorial Hospital. I was 14 weeks pregnant and had bizarrely gotten food poisoning from a restaurant here in my neighborhood of Hoboken, NJ. I wanted to make sure the baby was okay after putting up with my three days of vomiting my guts out.
I was alone because my husband was at work. He’d gone to the first appointment with me at seven weeks, when it was too early to hear that comforting whoosh sound of the baby’s heartbeat. We’d both stared at the spaceship-like shape that was the placenta, with wonder and a little dosage of fear; had we really created another human being? With thoughts, ideas, and college tuition bills?
I knew something was wrong the minute they jelled up my belly and the kind Haitian nurse ran the wand over my stomach, right underneath my bellybutton, that place so many girls get tattooed. I’ve read way too many mystery novels and watched way too many Hitchcock movies to not understand the subtle nuances of plot; that when a nurse’s face drains of cheer, and turns terse, well, that’s the point in the book or movie the viewer understands the plot is going to turn. The lower piano keys are about to be tapped. The scene is going to shift into a darker frame.
Except I wasn’t in a book or a movie. I was just me, 28, one week into my third trimester, and too sad to feel embarrassed as I sobbed on the table, after being told I had what is called a “blighted ovum.” The baby had stopped developing right after that first sonogram at seven weeks.
Miscarriage happens in about 20 percent of all pregnancies, a statistic that blows my mind. No one tells you how easy it is to miscarry; it was only afterwards that friends, family members, and neighbors came up to me and told me their own tales of sadness, usually ending in future births. The message was clear: a lot of women go through this, but you’ll most likely have a baby in the near future.
Being an avid tabloid reader, enjoying the “bump watch” columns, those silly articles where they hunt down poor pregnant celebrities and take their photographs, their hands pressed protectively around their middles, as if to ward off the paparazzi from their wombs. Seeing pregnant celebrities had given me the impression creating life was easy. Certainly at 28 I shouldn’t experience any problems. I’d foolishly thought miscarriage only happened to “other” people, or those women taking all kinds of fertility drugs at advanced ages.
My doctor says we can try again in two months, and we plan on doing so. I have always been an optimist; a trait I feel saved me in my darkest hours after the miscarriage. I realize now that parenthood isn’t a given. That A + B can’t always equal C. Part of me feels I will cherish this child even more than I could have ever imagined, that having lost one will make me never take my future child for granted. Yesterday on the street I witnessed a woman dragging her toddler by the arm, scolding him in the crosswalk. Of course children are frustrating, and of course mine will probably drive me crazy. And yet, a small, shadowy and not-attractive part of me assumed this woman had never miscarried. She’d never known what it felt like to lose a child. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be so easily annoyed with her own. However, there I go assuming things again.