Schumanberg’s Uncertainty Principle

I woke up today with my stomach in its usual knot. I decided that even though I was teaching today, the cold weather combined with being slightly fat combined with my emotional state gave me the right to dress like a minor schlub.

What I really wanted to do was wear something I don’t wear much, so that I wouldn’t always remember my once-favorite shirt as The Shirt I Was Wearing When The Miscarriage Was Confirmed. I often have very strong emotional connections to clothes, food, etc. I once had a massive fight with my better half over a plate of my favorite dish–african-style spinach/peanut stew–and I went off that stew for two years, much to his annoyance (years later, another tiff took place on or around our beloved Vegan Taco Night, and he said: “This better not ruin Taco Night.” I’m happy to report it didn’t).

Anyway, lately I’ve been wearing different versions of this shirt by SuperMaggie (designed and made in Austin, TX)–I’ve got a whale, a walrus, a hippo and a rhino, all massive animals in a nod to my newly plump self. I had already given myself permission to teach in jeans sans makeup (which, the first time I did it, made a few students gasp: “You own pants?”), but wearing one of my SuperMaggie shirts was out of the question. So I wore this pilly, ratty, slightly off-smelling old sweater my mom gave me like four Christmases ago that I largely use to sleep in. I figured if I had to give it to the Goodwill because of its traumatic association, my mom would forgive me.

I let my 12:30 class out 15 minutes early (to their shock–I never, ever tell them I’m letting them out early in advance, as that results in guaranteed antsy non-attention-paying half-checked-out kids), and then went back to the WashU Center for Advanced Medicine for the third time in a week. The Center for Advanced Medicine is an astounding place, and though it’s not four blocks from my apartment, I’d never had occasion to step inside until recently. My husband put it best, when he said: “Inside there, you forget you’re in St. Louis.” Because our humble, scrappy city has much going for it, but a lot of that “much” has to do with its scrap and humility. The Center for Advanced Medicine is a seriously, terrifyingly top of the line medical facility (it houses the Siteman Cancer Center, the recipient of the $625 my husband I raised tandeming about town last October), and everyone who works there is the nicest person alive (another reason you forget you’re in St. Louis, where your average citizen is…we’ll say “charmingly real”).

My husband hurried into the waiting room the exact starting minute of my ultrasound appointment (he let his 12:30 class run its full duration and then caught the train after mine), and they were a tad behind schedule, so we had some time to catch up about our days and exchange side-eyes at the woman in the waiting room with us who named her newborn twins Lincoln and Madison (two girls, I’m assuming). For two people about to get the world’s biggest bummer of news, we joked around quite a bit, and were finally ushered into the “Mercedes” ultrasound suite (the original machine last week was the “Honda Accord,” according to the OB). The tech spent a lot of time whooshing around on my belly, taking pictures and measurements–and she found a fibroid! I have fibroids! WTF? Why do women only find out this shit after they try to get pregnant? That could have made my cramp-wracked teen years quite a bit less awful, but I digress. Then came the “fun” ultrasound–back up my lady bits with the wand. For a really, really, really long time. Neither my husband nor I understood what we were seeing, and the tech isn’t allowed to make any medical proclamations, so we went back to our waiting-room conversation, and only occasionally did I remember that I had a large piece of medical machinery jammed into an orifice.

“I’m going to go show this to the doctor,” the tech finally said, and then she returned shortly thereafter to get a missing “picture” (of the ovary I suspect is “lazy” a la Miranda on Sex and the City–as the want went back in, I expressed disgust that my husband did not know that Steve had one ball because he had cancer, and proclaimed: “When we get home, I will explain to you the entirety of every plot on Sex and the City, Seasons 1 through 6.” He did not seem enthused). Then she left again.

Is this post dragging on? Are you wondering, still, what happened? Are you, perhaps, eager to know the outcome? Don’t want to be dicked around anymore and just want me to get to the point already, Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ?!?!?

Now you know how I feel.

The verdict today was shocking, but  uncertain. Shocking in its uncertainty, as I had been so certain before that this was all but definite in its non-viability. And yet. In the last week, the embryo inside me has grown. It has grown, in fact, consistently with an embryo that was alive and well last week at 5.5 weeks, and is now at 6.5. I have grown, in case any of you are doctors are nurses, a “fetal pole,” which I guess is a big deal. But there is still no heartbeat–but not, now, because the embryo is surely dead. There is no heartbeat because the embryo might just not be big enough yet. “Anyone who came in at 6 weeks would be just as inconclusive,” they explain.

So, I have to wait another week, and go back again, to determine viability–but now instead of telling me about the miscarriage symptoms to look out for, they are telling me to be “cautiously optimistic.” But next week, if there’s no heartbeat, then it’s really over, for real. ANOTHER FUCKING WEEK.

I cannot begin to explain how I feel about this other than WTF. I am too traumatized by the past week (and too chastened by just having read Candide!) to be optimistic. And yet, neither am I full of grief and sorrow. I am in actual, true, floating uncertainty, simply hoping that the next week will pass quickly (we are doing Faust and then watching Amadeus for class, two of my favorite things to teach on Earth, so that should help). I have expended too much energy into grief and reconciliation since last Wednesday to be anything, right now, but tired.

After I got out of the hospital, I decided to walk around the neighborhood instead of going home. Since last Wednesday, I’ve been at home almost 24/7, too scared and bummed to leave. Suddenly, it was the last place I wanted to go. Since last Wednesday, I have been cleaved onto my husband like a barnacle, leeching his strength to keep me from collapsing. Last Thursday, when he had to leave for school two hours before me (like he always does), I broke down into sobs. Today, I finally craved a little me-time, and so I went to the movies by myself, and ate a popcorn with butter and some Junior Mints. Those two things were the best part of the movie, since said filmic masterpiece was The Wolf of Wall Street, whose only redeeming quality is that it manages, somehow, to be a Martin Scorsese picture that is not scored, in its entirety, to “Gimme Shelter.”

Sometimes, when I say “I don’t know how to feel,” I actually mean that I know full well how to feel, but just don’t want to articulate it, because articulating it would piss me off too much.

Tonight, though, I honestly do not know how to feel. It’s neither the time for congratulations nor condolences. It’s just uncertainty. WTF.

12 thoughts on “Schumanberg’s Uncertainty Principle

  1. good god… I’ll be coming back for updates, lady. I am outraged that W didn’t know about Miranda and Steve’s reproductive parts. What has he been doing?


  2. I have a theory. Since the revolution and the forced mass extinction of the tenured professoriat that I keep agitating for seems to be getting postponed, and postponed some more… I have a theory.

    It’s identical twins. And the heartbeats are exactly out of sync, which means, they cancel each other out exactly (remember the wave superposition principle?), which means, that’s why nobody can hear a thing.

    P.S. I actually lived in St. Louis for a year, in the late 1980’s. I don’t know about scrappy, but crappy..? The weather was definitely crappy.


  3. I hope that your pregnancy pulls through. I don’t want to hurt your feelings by saying that, though, because I know that hope can hurt sometimes. If I were you, I’d go and see a movie every freaking day of the week until I felt better.


  4. WTF, indeed. Even Miss Manners has not provided a proper way to address this sort of suspenseful situation (unless she recommended silence, in which case, as you can tell, I missed it). I am tempted, Dr. Schuman, to repeat my advice that you should keep un-calm and carry on. I also want to send my best wishes and admiration to your husband, who sounds like a helluva guy, and whose helluvaguyness is going to be called on in the near future and beyond.

    Beyond that — and perhaps even that — would be saying too much.

    A lot of people are thinking good thoughts about you, I’m sure. That, I hope, is sustaining in some small way.


  5. I held my breath through this whole post. I cannot imagine the frustration you must be feeling. I would be breaking stuff by now. I wish you all the best, you already have an awesome husband, I hope soon you also have a child to cuddle. All the love!


  6. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Uncertainty is an emotionally excruciating part of being alive, and I admire your courage not only in going through this experience but in sharing it with all of us.


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