"When can we start?" Joseph asks, shifting back and forth in his chair.
"How about right now?"
We drop small colored tablets that look like candy into five gray coffee mugs filled with water, and watch as the liquid is transformed-- brilliant red, deep purple, bold blue, bright yellow, and a warm orange.
We're ready to dip the eggs.
This is a tradition for us, decorating hard-boiled eggs on the Friday before Easter.
But next year will be different-- he'll be in kindergarten, instead of here at home in the early afternoon, decorating eggs.
And next year, the baby will be here.
"Mom, can I do the first one?"
"You betcha, sweetie."
I watch him place a cold, white egg on a wire holder and carefully lower it into one of the mugs.
All the while, I'm ansy. I've been feeling this way for two weeks-- like something's not right. Reflexively, I place my hand on my low abdomen.
Please be okay.
I'd been journaling since I first found out I was pregnant-- trying to work through the fear. Thinking that maybe if I wrote it down, it couldn't happen again.
But I haven't written anything in nearly two weeks.
This isn't like last time, I tell myself. I'm twelve weeks-- way past that eight-week mark.
No. We're fine. Just fine.
But then, I turn away from my son, from the unfinished Easter eggs, and pick up the phone.
Despite having no physical symptoms, I've convinced my doctor to see me this afternoon.
Ryan comes home from work and takes Joseph to the park.
"Are you sure you're okay going alone?"
"Yeah, I'll be all right. The doc is pretty confident we'll hear the heartbeat-- that's all I want, is to hear that heartbeat. Then I'll really be fine."
Soon after my arrival, I'm sitting in an exam room, shaking.
Why am I such a freak? Everything is fine. Dammit, I'm twelve weeks!
The doctor comes in, we make small talk, and finally, she pulls out the doppler.
She rubs a glob of clear, cold gel onto my low abdomen, and places the end of the device against my skin, sliding it back and forth, then in small circles-- applying more and more pressure.
For a long time, all we hear is static, and then a faint, rapid heartbeat-- but the doc tells me it's mine.
"Now Sandra, don't panic," she says, noting the look on my face. "It's still early, and this is an older doppler. I'd like to send you over to the hospital this evening for an ultrasound. You're obviously very worried, and given your history, I think you'll feel a whole lot better if we have a look."
My history. I'm glad she didn't say it. If I heard the word "miscarriage" out loud, then yes, I definitely would have lost it.
Ryan is still out with Joseph when I arrive home, so I drive by the park to tell him the plan.
"Why don't we get someone to watch Joseph?" he asks, looking worried.
"It's fine, really. The doc just doesn't want me to go all nuts over the holiday weekend. And besides, I'm not bleeding, I don't have any symptoms. I just don't feel right. It's probably because I'm so damn paranoid."
Half an hour later, I'm sitting on a table in a dark room -- a white sheet draped across my lap -- answering the questions of a very chatty, very young, ultrasound tech.
"So when was your last period? Oh, wait!" she says, after glancing in my folder, "You're twelve weeks today. That's so exciting! Is this your first?"
"No," I tell her. "I have a five-year-old son, too."
"That's so great!" she exclaims with a broad smile, "I'm sure he'll love having a little brother or sister!"
Finally, she switches on the monitor, reaches under the sheet and inserts a 'wand-like' device, called a '"transducer." As she moves the device, it begins to hurt. I wonder if it hurts the baby, too.
But then, I see him.
For a moment, I can't breathe.
Over the next several minutes, the only sounds in the room are the clicks coming from her mouse and keyboard-- and me, gasping quietly at views of his spine, his head, his legs...
But why is she so quiet?
I finally get the nerve to ask if everything looks all right.
"Well, we'll have to wait for the radiologist to have a look," she says-- suddenly sounding a lot less chipper than a few moments ago.
Immediately, she turns off the monitor and says, "I'm going to get these images to the radiologist. I'll be right back."
Now she sounds a little nervous.
It's just me. More paranoia.
I lay back on the table and close my eyes, seeing his image all over again.
It's okay. He looked fine.
I tell myself this over and over . . .
After twenty insanely long minutes, the tech returns.
"The radiologist would like to have a look himself-- he'll be right in." Without waiting for a response, she switches on the monitor, and quickly places the transducer in position.
And before I can even think about what's going on, he's here-- a short, thin, bald man, wearing large black-rimmed eyeglasses and a serious expression.
He says nothing-- just looks intently at the image on the screen for about two minutes.
Then he looks at my face for the first time.
"Ms. Miller, we're going to have your doctor call you this evening with your results."
"What?!" I barely get out. "If you know something, I want to hear it now. What's going on? Is there something wrong with the baby?"
My heart feels as though it will smash right through my chest as I wait for his response.
He takes a breath.
"Well. I'm afraid that what we have here is a case of fetal demise."
Fetal demise . . . fetal demise . . . Oh God.
"Wait- what do you mean?"
This cannot be happening now. Not again! I'm Twelve weeks. TWELVE WEEKS!
"There is no cardiac activity. And given its size, growth stopped about two weeks ago. That's probably when the demise occurred."
"What? Can't we wait a couple of weeks and do another ultrasound?" I ask, desperately. "Maybe it's a mistake! My dates could be wrong or- "
"On ultrasound we can detect cardiac activity as early as five weeks. No, this is definitely fetal demise."
"This is why I prefer having your doctor call with test results." And with those words, he switches off the monitor.
The tears are coming fast now-- over my cheeks, into my mouth. I can't stop them, I don't even try. The technician is next to me with a box of tissues. The radiologist is gone.
After sitting alone in the waiting room for what feels like hours, my doc calls to tell me that the baby probably died two weeks earlier, and that I can have a D & C or wait for the miscarriage-- which she felt would probably start this weekend. I opt to wait.
I just can't do it-- have him taken out that way. Not after seeing him.
At home, I wait for Ryan and Joseph. I'm sitting on the couch. The lights are off. My hands rest instinctively on my abdomen.
He's still here.
The sound of the front door flying open startles me. Joseph runs into the living room, flings his arms around me-- talking non-stop about a boy he'd met at the park.
Ryan is standing in the doorway, looking at me.
When Joseph finally leaves the room, Ryan sits on the edge of the couch, holding my shoulders as I tell him.
We stay on the couch a long time.
Two full weeks pass. Two more ultrasounds show that he's still there.
Still intact. Still a part of me.
Until finally, almost violently, it happens.
We end up in the ER-- there's just too much blood.
I never see him outside of me.
A positive pregnancy test, ultrasound photos, and so much pain . . . that's all that's left of him.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
"When can we start?" Joseph asks, shifting back and forth in his chair.