How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve never met? How do you end a story without a beginning?
The car rolls and I die quietly. Vehicles speed by with faces in the windows – big, ordinary American smiles, content, and smiling. Go for brunch with friends or take the kids to football. Just another summer Saturday. I try to remember what it’s like not to wake up in a panic, not to be consumed with fear and guilt. Live like these people.
I close my eyes, overwhelmed by the desire to cease to exist, slide painlessly into nothingness. If only I could call on my own Clarence and say, “I wish I had never been born.” “
But I wish someone else was born.
For three days, I roam the dining room. Please God not now. We had tried once three weeks before, just to see what was going on. I’m 41, for god’s sake, isn’t that supposed to take months? The media like to remind us that our eggs start to die after the age of 30. A good moment. A few nights before we had a party, and we all got drunk. This is not how I want to start a pregnancy, thinking that I might have hurt my baby.
But God doesn’t hear me call and I collapse.
The anxiety is all-consuming, so bad that I can’t sit still. My mind races, dominated by a thought. I need someone to reassure me that drinking so early has not harmed the little being growing in me. I have no health insurance and no doctor, nowhere to go and no one to ask. My panic and fear are so deep that I beg my husband to take me somewhere, anywhere. I guess we’re going to a place where the poor, the foolish, or the people in trouble go. A place for the uninsured and the unbalanced.
“Don’t worry, this happens a lot and the zygotes are tough,” a woman there tells me. “Someone else was worried about taking strong medication before she found out.”
Friends tell me they also drank in the first few weeks. Some chain smokes. No big deal, everything went well. But no reinsurance measure helps.
I look at baby’s clothes, gently fingered tiny pink onesies, knowing my baby will never wear them. I talk to her a lot between panicking and hyperventilating (I’m sure she’s a girl). I go for a walk in the woods and get lost, only to stumble upon an old cemetery where I see a tiny gravestone. Another time, I feel a stabbing pain in the side. I google it and cry for hours.
It’s the day of the ultrasound. Maybe everything will be fine now. Looking at the screen, the technician shows me the baby, then mumbles, “Where’s the heart beating?” Before rushing to the door. We sit there confused. Someone finally ushered us into another room. A nurse comes in and says, “I’m sorry. ”
“Sorry for what?”
Finally, a doctor comes in and tells us in a cold voice that the pregnancy is not viable. Weeping, I scan the piece of paper she hands me, explaining all about a missed miscarriage and the possible causes. The alcohol is there, shouting his accusation.You did it.
“Can drinking cause a miscarriage,” I ask. Shrugging her shoulders, she said nonchalantly, “It might.” She might as well have stuck me with a scalpel. We’ve never met, she doesn’t ask me about my health or my situation, or how much I’ve been drinking. It was only one night. Maybe she thought it was everyday.
But she doesn’t care. To her, I am just an irresponsible and uninsured stranger. She does not know that I sometimes experience episodes of OCD where I think I caused harm and that this condition can manifest itself in many ways. Hit and run while driving, leaving the stove on, and setting the house on fire, drinking overnight shortly after conceiving …
But we are taking the time and they are worried about how we are going to pay for this visit. I had asked for Medicaid for pregnant women but had yet to receive a response.
Not wanting me to suffer the trauma of the baby’s death, my husband inquires about a D&C. The hospital charges too much, so he calls Planned Parenthood.
We are almost there. They warned us of the possibility of protesters outside but luckily the parking lot is empty. But the waiting room is full. About 20 years old is filling out a form, long blonde hair hiding her face. A young girl and her mother are sitting together. She’s only 15 and they told daddy they were at the dentist. I love mom. Strong and capable. She smiles at me, and I feel less alone, comforted beyond measure.
I wonder how all the girls and women here feel. Are they sad? Concerned? Scared? Guilty, like me? After his intervention, the young girl returns, collapsing on the ground. Worried, I forget my own worries for a moment. Turns out she’s fine, just a little dizzy. Everyone is relieved.
It’s my turn. I beg the nurse to check if my baby is really alive, and it was all a terrible mistake. “There is no activity,” she told me quietly, looking at the ultrasound monitor. My last hope flies when the doctor approaches. To me he looks like Mengele. I hug my husband and call my baby. In no time at all he says “it’s done” and walks away.
In the recovery room, we are served ginger ale and plain cookies. The lady next to me is talking to the nurse. She is plump and looks older than me, with short black hair. “We can’t afford another child,” she said in a firm but sad voice.
Earlier in the waiting room, I wanted to let go: “I’m going to take your baby, give it to me, mine is already dead, not fucking viable», But I do not know their history. They don’t know mine. It does not matter. In this other room, the dreaded act accomplished, for now and forever, we are bonded together in a brotherhood few can understand. Whether through loss or relief, we are a mass of emotions, the air is loaded with them. I’m sure others are as thirsty and beaten as I am.
Bad time. Wrong place. Bad guy. No insurance. Party three weeks before. No genre reveals balloons to us. Our dreams or mistakes die in the womb, on an operating table, or on the bathroom floor. I call him My potential and light a candle. When the flame is out, like his short little life that never really was, I bury the candle in the front yard near some flowers.
Over time, the pain subsides and we come back to life. Mourning is a lonely journey. No one can travel with us, they can only hover nearby, offering kind words and a strong hand to get us out when we are ready. A famous spiritual master said it best: “That too will pass” – and it does, most of the time.
I am now a mom to an 8 year old girl who, like most children, is curious and oddly insightful.
“Is there a baby that’s dead?” She asked me. “Did I have a brother or a sister? “
Someday I will tell her about My Potential and the part of my soul that is forever missing. But not now. I will save it for when she is much older and begins to understand that it is often very difficult to be a woman, but if you take care of yourself and others, you almost always get away with it.
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