For months, it was my plan to spend the now-bygone MLA 2014 at the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s rather incongruous to my personality, but I love Disneyland. I LOVE IT. ‘World too. Really, the more hermetic, the more terrifyingly princess-heternormative, the more give-me-your-money-for-the-“magic” the place, the more I love it. What can I say? I contain multitudes.
But, as some of you know, I spent MLA 2014 tottering around San Clemente, going to the beach, soaking up the sun, and napping. I did not go to Disneyland–it would have been a waste, you see, because you can’t go on any of the good rides when you’re pregnant.
It turns out, I should have just gone anyway.
Today was my first doctor’s appointment since my positive pregnancy test on Christmas. I had been feeling very, very weird since shortly after Thanksgiving, but as I’d just gotten my IUD taken out on Nov. 13, I thought–no, it couldn’t be. I’m 37! The first try? I mean, my husband’s really attractive, so I’ve always assumed he’s virile (ha!), but really? And yet, really. Or, for awhile at least.
I spent my break in California exhausted, mood-swingy, alternately queasy and famished, but elated. I told my family–cautiously–and a few friends. I did the math. If all had been OK, I would be just entering my eleventh week, out of the first-trimester danger zone.
It is not. Today, my husband was with me as I nervously spread ’em and the obstetrician stuck a giant white wand up my lady-parts. “Now look right here,” he said, in that amazing, sweet, TV-doctor kind of way…and then he stopped talking. And then he started asking me questions. And then it became clear: there was no heartbeat. There was no 11-week-old fetus, with arms and legs and a giant head and even eyes. There was only a “yolk sac,” and a small one at that.
He says there is still a very small chance that I am indeed actively pregnant, but only five weeks along. I have done the mental math, and I don’t think that’s possible. I am emotionally preparing myself for what comes next. I have another ultrasound next week to confirm, and some blood work. Then, provided nature has not taken its course, I have a difficult, painful and expensive procedure. I will be ready for this, I think.
My choice to share this with the Internet is unusual, I realize. Most people–especially most 37-year-old crones such as myself–keep their pregnancies tippy-top secret pretty much until the baby can spell its own name on its college applications. Now that I have been pregnant, been an almost-sort-of-mother-to-be for even a month, I know more than ever that I would never, ever begrudge a woman her choice to be private about such a painful event. But I, personally, don’t feel like being private about it. I don’t feel like shouldering this pain and disappointment to an empty room.
I’m not religious. I’m staunchly pro-choice. If this thing had tested positive for any of the trisomies or Tay-Sachs or anything else, I’d have pulled the plug myself–and if a future pregnancy does, I will do so then, and I will be heartbroken about it, but that is my choice and I am very grateful that I still, for now, live in a country that allows me to make it.
I saw the ultrasound, I saw that what I have inside me is just a kidney-bean-sized dot. It’s got no recognizable humanity to it at all. It is not a person. I am not grieving for it like a person. It’s not a death like that. It’s a different sort of sadness–it’s the ghost-grief for a ghost-baby. It is the getting-ahead-of-myself and thinking of names, of plans to move back to the west coast after it’s born, of what it will be like to be a giant sweaty cow in St. Louis in July.
When you have created a future for yourself, and such a detailed one as I did (my imagination is, like I apparently am, quite fertile), and one two-minute ultrasound changes it completely, it’s like everything goes into slow motion. As the doctor talked to me about what comes next, it was like my head was filled with cotton, like I was not sure if it was a dream or real, like I was floating above myself.
I have had two dreams a week for the past month about miscarrying. Every morning I wake up and everything seems fine. But, it’s not.
I know what has happened to me is common, normal even. I know that it’s nothing I did, that something just probably went awry with the chromosomes or whatever, that my own body, being a human body that generally knows what it’s doing, took one look at it, declared it a no-go, and said SHUT IT DOWN. I am proud of my body for doing that, for not forcing me to carry an unviable pregnancy any longer than I had to.
And I’m impatient–I just want confirmation that it’s a dud, a little scrapety-scrape, to watch my (terrifyingly enormous) boobs shrink back down, to come to terms with the fact that the 3.5 pounds I’ve gained are not baby, they’re the result of going “Fuck it, I’m pregnant, no more WeightWatchers!” With the fact that yesterday at spin class, I wasn’t exhausted after three minutes because I’m pregnant, I was exhausted because I’m fat and out of shape. I just want to get back to the WeightWatchers, back to the spin, back to the course prep and the Slate columns and the hate mail. But it’s not that easy.
I will have a sadness around me for awhile. I will be fragile. I will need to be gentle. I am ready. I’m not ready.