we didn’t plan on having a fifth child.
after gigi, we were done. the family was—we thought—complete. i was done. so done, in fact, that when i took that test…when i had that niggling little thought that just maybe…i still denied it. i turned the test this way and that. there was just the faintest of marks. no, i said. that’s not a line. that’s just where the line would be if there was going to be one.
i handed it to jeremy. congratulations, he said.
i won’t type here what my reply was.
it was hard to wrap my brain around, this new little one. it was unexpected. and even more—i didn’t forget what was coming. people always say you get that pregnancy and labor amnesia—otherwise no woman would have more than one baby. i guess after four prior pregnancies i did remember, all too well. i felt scared. trapped. i knew the months of misery headed my way, culminating in a long and painful labor and delivery.
so we took a few days to process before sharing the news. meanwhile, i took some more tests. the first one—so ambivalently positive, i kept expecting progressively darker “+” signs to appear as days went by.
instead, the second test i took was negative.
what to think?
i waited another day, took another test. the faintest of lines.
now the crazy kicked in. yes or no? life-changing or life-staying-status-quo? positive or negative?
i poured over websites of women TTC (trying to conceive, if you’re not familiar with the lingo) to see which tests were the BEST, the Most Accurate. i bought different brands, i tried different times of the day.
they varied. some nothing, some faintly positive. none with that bright + i knew from my other pregnancies.
i called the midwife.
i think i need an appointment? i said. a plus is a plus is a plus, right? i said.
yup, come on in.
we decided to wait longer. we’ll wait until after the appointment to share the news.
and the first appointment went okay. i shared my fears—no dark “+”, no real symptoms. my other pregnancies had me puking before i was even late. but she reassured me, and drew blood for labs.
so we planned the big reveal: a t-shirt for gigi that said “a little birdy told me a secret!" and on the back “i’m a big sister!”. i even planned to blog it, because it came out really cute.
we decided to wait until we got to cape cod to tell the family. that was where we had broken the news of our first, it seemed fitting to break the news of this new one.
the day we left we dressed gigi in her new shirt. she would break the news first to our other kids when we stopped for dinner on the drive. we giggled with our secret, wondering and waiting for their reactions.
it was almost exactly halfway through our trip when my phone rang. we were just about midway through the long dark teatime of the soul that is 95 through connecticut. it was my midwife. my labs had come back. my numbers were low. it could be that the pregnancy was not as far along as we thought. a woman’s body can be tricky like that.
it could be that the pregnancy was not viable.
how do you do that? how do you cry, silently, in a van packed full of children and luggage? how do you explain to your husband the words the midwife just told you—quietly because the 9, 7, and 5 year olds are old enough to understand words like pregnancy and baby?
the weather matched our mood. it was absolutely pouring buckets when we pulled into the next rest stop. i shooed the 3 older kids in while jeremy stayed behind. he had the heavy task of taking off gigi’s “big sister” shirt and turning it inside out.
i try not to be overly dramatic in real life. but if that didn’t feel like he was symbolically closing the door on our new baby, i don’t know what does.
yes, the kids noticed gigi’s shirt was inside out. yes, we cried through our rest stop dinner. not at all the dinner we had planned.
i found the number for a pharmacy near the house in cape cod. i gave it to my midwife, who called in a prescription for progesterone pills. i googled my levels as we drove. someone with lower numbers than mine who’s pregnancy was fine! yes! someone who’s numbers were the same as mine who lost their baby. depression.
i still think about that poor pharmacist at CVS. i’m sure in that line of work having a person cry at the counter isn’t completely unusual. but when she told me “i’m sorry, i couldn’t understand the end of the doctor’s message. i couldn’t hear the dosage she said. i couldn’t fill the prescription.” what i heard was “i’m sorry, this thing, this one and only thing you can do to try and save your baby and not feel quite so helpless…well, sorry. no, you can’t have it.” and so i cried. again. more.
it worked out. i got my medicine.
i got to the house and crawled into bed with my mommy. “i’m going to have a miscarriage,” i said.
i laid in bed with my sister-in-law while my brother combed his hair. “i’m pregnant,” i said. “liar,” laughed my brother.
no, it’s true. but i’m probably going to lose the baby.
i had almost a dark need to say the words out loud. the “M” word. my body felt useless to me. every cramp a condemnation, every twinge of nausea a cause for rejoicing, every trip to the bathroom unbelievably stressful. i had so blithely assumed i was Super Pregnancy Lady—four pregnancies, four babies, 36 months of maternity under my belt with nary a problem. why now?
eyebrow pencil and lipstick courtesy of mom-mom ;)
my dad laughed at us all. “i’m naming the baby,” he said, “because i’m the only one who believes in her. she should be named Hope. and we should celebrate, because everybody deserves that.” but i couldn’t. we couldn’t bring ourselves to do that.
it was not the best vacation we’ve ever had.
we muddled through. there were fun moments.
meanwhile we counted down the days until we returned and had our ultrasound. i took my progesterone, i took my prenatals.
obviously we all know how this ends.
there she was, little heart flickering away at the ultrasound. our technician was wonderful—immediately she showed us. that is a healthy baby, she declared. i lost almost 2 full weeks—instead of 11 weeks pregnant i was deemed merely 9 weeks along, thus the “lower numbers”, the lack of a vibrantly positive pregnancy test.
and i was right, it was a miserable pregnancy.
now here we are again in the cape. a family of seven. a little monkey walking and talking and causing trouble and making us laugh and i can’t help but think back. being here makes me love her a little more, squeeze her a little tighter.
it was you i thought i wouldn’t have. it was you i almost thought i didn’t want, i didn’t need. and then, when i thought maybe i wouldn’t have you, i didn’t know what to think.
i will forever associate elliot with cape cod. (and no, obviously we didn’t name her Hope. sorry dad)
coincidentally, october 15th is pregnancy and infant loss day. a day set aside to remember the mothers who have lost babies.
i am not the face of pregnancy loss. i have been so, so fortunate. but my tiny brush with what-could-have-been, my brush with almost, was enough to twist my heart. i’ll never forget it, and my heart goes out that much more to those woman who are the face of October 15th.