Yesterday was interesting, to say the least. It started with the normal jumping on the laptop and working on my social media clients. Only my fingers were tingling with excitement because today was finally the day for my first true pre-natal visit! The Indian and I had to drive an hour for the visit, as I was seeing a doctor my cousin suggested and it was near her home, not mine. It was on my “Baby – To Do List” to possibly figure out what doctor to choose that was closer to Baltimore.
I was running late, of course. When I get nervous, I start paying attention to stupid things like, vacuuming or doing my nails when I should be getting dressed. The Indian hates to be rushed so where I tend to make up my time by rushing to the car or driving like a maniac, he walks calmly and slowly and drives with frustratingly slow care.
We both were nervous. We argued in the car about something stupid. He has started to drive Uber to take care of me and the baby and has been getting up at 4:00am to scoop up the lucrative airport people. He was complaining to me of how this woman yelled at him for not calling her when he arrived at 4:15am, saying it was “his job” to do so. He told me how he was gonna show her about who’s job it was to do what. #Cancel. I told him he had negative energy and needed to not have conflict every single day. He told me I didn’t understand. We drove in silence the rest of the way until he reached for my hand and held it tight.
We arrived. We checked in. We joked with the receptionists. I told the girls, “Girls, I’m nervous; if I fall out, one of ya’ll is going to have to pick me up.”
My name was called and an efficient blond woman lead us back to the room. I was giggling, as I do when I’m nervous. Laughing as I took my leggings off, I joked with The Indian that he better get ready because she was going to stick the wand in me for the exam in order to see the baby. He said he was going to pass out.
I’ve been watching YouTube videos. “8 weeks pregnant”; “9 weeks pregnant”; “10 weeks pregnant”. I learned that at 10 weeks, the baby is no longer an embryo and becomes a fetus. My YouTube girls were exclaiming about finally being in the “double digits” and being so excited. Their excitement got me excited. You hear so much about miscarriages and stuff, that I was having a hard time feeling secure enough to get fully attached to my baby. Late one quiet night, I watched someone’s YouTube ultrasound and saw her baby kicking around at 10 weeks and heard her baby’s heartbeat at 175 bpm and under the glow of my cell phone where I was tucked under my blanket, I smiled and rubbed my belly and whispered, “That’s you, baby!”
With the wand moving around inside, and the monitor screen hanging from the ceiling to my left, I saw my baby. I looked at the Indian, and with true wonder, said “Oh my god, honey, there’s our baby.” He smiled oddly. His big brown eyes glued to the screen with its computerized black and white images. He wasn’t green, but close to it. We were in so much awe.
My technician was clicking away at buttons. On the screen, like an old-school video game, she was going after and capturing what turned out to be five fibroids. “Fibroids?!” I said aloud. Five? Where the hell did those come from? She kept clicking and I kept thinking, “Forget the fibroids! Back to the baby, back to the baby. Let’s talk about the baby.” But she wasn’t saying anything. She wasn’t talking. She was clicking. Soon the clicking stopped. She was through. And then she just sort of slowly took the wand out. I spoke up, panicked, “Hold on. Can’t we hear the heartbeat?” Maybe she forgot to turn the sound up. On YouTube the technician had turned the sound up and the girl got to hear her baby’s heartbeat. 175 beats per minute. I wanted to hear ours. That’s what the heck we came for. What I’d been waiting for. She faltered and said, “Um. We can’t hear one at this stage.” Then uber efficiently, super clinically, she instructed me to get dressed and a doctor would be speaking with me.
It was then that I knew.
Last weekend, I went to the Farmer’s Market here in Baltimore. Beautiful day. Beautiful people. Healthy energy and I was in the mix with them. Happily. I was shopping for the colors of the rainbow in my veggies. Nutrients for me and for the baby. I’ve been so consumed with eating well since last November. So consumed. I grabbed a gorgeous bag of spinach. A deep delicious green, so much better than the organic green we get at Whole Paycheck, even. I was so content. So happy with myself for taking care of myself and my baby. I swiftly bought bright red radishes, yellow squash, glowingly orange yams and some home-made spices before I ran out of my $15 budget. So happy with the sun on my face, feeling fulfilled. Feeling whole.
Little did I know then that my baby was already dead.
My doctor entered the room. She is quite tall, and lovely, actually. I’d only met her once and had immediately liked her because she’d joked, “Was this an unplanned pregnancy?” It was a polite way of bringing up my age. Never once did she call me high-risk or advanced maternal age. As she took notes during the exam, she simply and calmly said, “We’ll be sure to test for Down’s Syndrome.” I had agreed. At that visit, I was around 7 weeks. They’d taken blood, she’d called with results to say the numbers “Looked good.” When she had walked in the door, she didn’t look good.
It was then that I knew.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
I’d gotten my hopes up. I’d taken a chance to believe that I could do this. That if I ate enough spinach. And took vitamins and stopped drinking caffeine and took Vitex and Evening Primrose Oil and CQ10 and avoided tofu and ate lentils and drank Damiana tea and did fertility massages at night while listening to soothing meditation music on YouTube that, if I did all of this, I could be a mom. That my dreams would finally come true. That the years I spent and (wasted?) not trying harder to have a baby would have been worth it. That I could truly believe in my young-looking and healthy-acting body. That I could sorta slip one by mother nature. That I could succeed where determined. That, I too could have a baby. It was then that I knew I was wrong.
When you’re pregnant, before you start to show and especially when you’re around people who don’t know you or your body, you find yourself walking around with this secret. For some reason, I felt like I had an Instagram filter on constant as I walked the streets of my new home. Where no one knew me. I saw things differently. Colors were different. Vibrant; odd; rabbit hole-ish. Thoughts were different. I’ve always been curious about strangers. Always wondered what they were about. Now I looked at people and wondered what secret they held. Was she pregnant? Was she happy in her relationship? What did he eat last night for dinner? Did he cook? Is she happy? Does she miss her friends? Are they broke? How much was that stroller? All kinds of odd questions. Secrets I wanted revealed, like mine.
Turns out our baby died around 8 weeks, 3 days, the doctor said. Shortly after my appointment. Shortly after the report of my good numbers. She said it was more likely due to chromosomal problems than my fibroids or anything I did or didn’t do. Turns out my baby never made it to fetus stage after all. No double digits for this one.
Last night, The Indian suggested we make stew. He’s so good about making sure we eat. He used to say “Feed my baby!” Last night, he didn’t. On the drive back from the doctor, as we held each other, I wailed and moaned. So hurt. So without words. So wanting to not have a dead, dead being floating in me; he calmly said, “I planned for this, Peppur. I didn’t want to tell you, but I did.” His sister’s brother is a doctor. The Indian told me how they’d had a very long conversation about all of this (my being 46; he’s nearly 40) and that he should prepare himself. Even though every night, before we would go to bed, he would snuggle his nose into my belly and hold me and speak to the baby in Hindi, in words I didn’t know, to a baby we both wanted to know. Even then, he was preparing himself.
He cut up the veggies I bought at the market for the stew. Buried in my black hoody my brother gave me, leggings and cute bunny slippers The Indian gave me, I watched. Uninterested in the food. He had me taste his spice masterwork, “Good,” I mumbled. I smiled. I was trying. He asked me to wash the spinach, which I did. It looked almost black to me now. I threw it in the crock pot.
While he dug his hands into the crock pot to mix and churn the veggies and meat and spices, he quietly said that if we stayed in this dark place, he was going to go crazy. He said we needed to get over it and move on. (Pain is not easy to just get over. However, I can agree that when you feed it, when you cry so deeply, so grippingly that you can’t breathe, the pain does seem to hang on a bit longer.) I wondered when he was going to feel this pain. He hadn’t cried yet. Told me he would be dealing with this alone, when he was alone. I hoped he’d be ok. Hoped his preparation had worked.
I did the dishes. His iPad was propped open and rested on the marble counter as we cooked. Voices floated around us. Tinny, coming through the iPad speakers. Warbled in Instagram colors. People were crying and saying things about the loved one’s they’d lost in the Las Vegas shooting. I stopped to watch these grief-stricken people. I leaned against my sink, arms crossed with my hood over my head. Drained. I knew I needed gratitude. But I swear it had been bulldozed to a pulp by disappointment. I turned around. I’d have to pick that gratitude up later.
The Indian and I were going to watch a movie while we waited for the soup. I chose instead to lay in bed and listen to Billie Holiday on my phone and cry. He joined me and asked me politely to stop. He pulled out his phone and we watched Wild n’ Out, the glow illuminating our faces in the darkness. I laughed. He laughed. We tried.
Around midnight, it was time to taste the crock pot soup. The Indian asked me to get up and join him. I didn’t care about the soup. Didn’t care about how anything turned out anymore. I got up. Tasted the soup.
It was then that I knew.
I started sobbing again. The spinach. It was there. Floating with the lentils and potatoes and stuff. It was supposed to have had a purpose. It had a job to do and IT DIDN’T FUCKING DO IT. I no longer give a shit about spinach.
So, as I sit here, on a Saturday morning in my Baltimore flat with puffy eyes and listlessness, the sun is trying to peek through my blinds. To nudge me like my cats used to. To comfort me. It’s about 18 hours after not hearing my baby’s heartbeat. Three days before I go to the clinic to remove an 8 week and 3-day old lifeless embryo. I wish I’d thought to ask for a picture of my ultrasound. I’d always wanted one. Just knew I was going to be going home with one to study and lament over. One to proudly post on Instagram. Or Facebook. Like all the other girls. Now, I just simply want my own picture of my baby to study and hold in these mourning moments. To get to know her. And to see with my own eyes, without a filter, that her beating heart wasn’t there. But that she was. Instead, I’m a bit haunted by the memory of a pic of the baby in the ultrasound hanging from a cold monitor. I knew from YouTube that the heart was super tiny. With my feet in the stirrups, I had squinted and tried to see the little dot. But, you know what guys? I hadn’t seen it then. I really hadn’t…Somehow I knew I was looking at something just hanging there. Something entombed in its own world. In its own stopped time. I was looking at something that had said goodbye to me almost two weeks ago. I hope somehow, that I heard it.
I’ll get over this. As do all the other women on the street with this secret. I’ll be fine. I hope. But for now, while my boobs still hurt and I still have morning sickness and my belly is still round, I’m not.
And by the way, for those of you who are like, whaaat? I thought Pep was still in Prague! Or, whaaa? Who’s The Indian? Start reading here. Love you.