This is the writing I have began on my latest misadventure. I have not yet heard anything back from my last piece, but perhaps this follow up will interest them. I welcome your comments, as always.
I’m poised at the pharmacy counter, slightly nervous at the prospect of buying Tylenol #1’s. I make a concerted effort to keep my eyes on the level. Avoiding eye contact could make me seem suspicious. The urge to spew forth an explanation is almost overwhelming. I practice it in my mind’s eye. “I don’t normally take these things. But I’m having a miscarriage and I’m worried about the pain, so that’s why I need them. I’m not a crazed drug addict or anything like that. Pinky swear. And I’m certainly not someone who’s going to ‘cook’ them in some kind of a factory in an abandoned warehouse out on a deserted rural road that you sell to young kids to get them hooked. I’m a nurse, for Cripes sake. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t even know the first thing about cooking Meth, or any other drug for that matter. But actually, if we’re being honest with each other, I do know a little bit about cooking meth, just from an episode of CSI Miami that I watched once, but honestly, it’s not enough to actually be able to do it. And even if it were, I probably wouldn’t be able to get all of the chemicals that I would need. Scouts honor. You could call my doctor, name’s Shanna and I now know the phone number off by heart. It’s all legit. Too legit to quit, in fact.” Okay, so that last bit was unnecessary, but I have this nervous habit of rambling.
But she nary bats an eye as she hands me over the bottle of 50 codeine pills. Feeling triumphant, I leave the store, intent on beginning my next, and perhaps less exciting mission.
Necessity does the work of courage, or so I had once heard. And I do believe this to be fundamentally true. We do what we have to do when we have to do it, simply because we have to do it, not because we are noble or great or otherwise of above average virtue. Even at the tender age of six, my younger brother alluded to this, commenting “sometimes a mans got to do what a mans got to do’ when facing the rather grim task of removing our dead rabbit from its’ hutch, its’ cold and lifeless body solid from rigor.
And sometimes a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do, I thought sardonically, brining myself to the present.
I’m not sure what is more daunting: the fact that I must insert the blasted tablets into my vagina “as far up as they will go”, or the knowledge that once in there they will set to work immediately at forcing the contents of my uterus out. It’s a toss up. But I find myself inserting the tabs with the same detachment and aloofness as putting on bug repellent or taking a cold pill. And then all I can do is wait.
It’s been a full week of waiting, so I’m familiar with this concept. I had my first ultrasound ten days before. It was intended only to reassure me, since I had two previous miscarriages. But reassuring it was not. Immediately it seemed there was a problem. The radiologist pointed out the gestational sac, and even my untrained eye could see that it was lacking a rather crucial element- the embryo. But that was that. The radiologist suggested another scan in a week or so to see if anything would grow, which he said was possible because at such an early stage things could change drastically even from one day to the next.
The next five days passed too slowly. Part of the time I was optimistic. But most of the time I was inclined to think the worst. It just didn’t seem possible that I could be losing another pregnancy. And yet, it was difficult to convince myself otherwise.
I prepared myself for the worst at the next ultrasound. I had a brief moment of elation when there was a visible embryo. The unthinkable had happened. The baby had begun to form. But in the radiologists’ next breath, my hope was stolen back. He didn’t like the look of the heart beat. He zoomed in and it became clear that the heart was beating, only very slowly. Too slowly, in fact. The heart rate was 85. It should have been 120-160. It was not a good sign. The uncertainty that I had been living with had made a rather unwelcome comeback.
It didn’t take too long to learn from the internet that a fetal heart rate of less than ninety on a six to eight week scan is a dire finding, usually resulting in imminent fetal demise. Though no one had straight out given me any odds, I estimated them to be at les than ten percent. But, even as bleak as that was, I refused to give up hope. Even any chance was better than no chance, after all. I had my blood taken every 48 hours to check my hormone levels. If they were going up, that was a good sign. But if they started going down, it meant that the baby was gone. It was a long and difficult wait for the news to come. At one point, I was so desperate for an answer that I contemplated presenting in the ER with vague abdominal complaints so they would have to perform an ultrasound. What dissuaded me was the fact that vague abdominal complaints would, in all likelihood, only result in a seven to fifteen hour wait in any ER. At times I doubled up on my Materna, rationalizing to myself that this would make my baby stronger, though I knew this intellectually to be pure superstition. I told myself that all I wanted was an answer. Whichever way it went, I would deal with it. But the waiting was more agonizing than any bad news I might (hypothetically) receive. Or so I had once, (naively) believed.
“I’m afraid I don’t have good news for you,” began my doctor once the results were in, much like Ryan Seacrest on American Idol, except that so much more hung in the balance than a mere recording contract. This was life after all; delicate, precious life that hung in the balance. I felt the words like a physical assault. And though I knew that this was happening; knew all along that I had this date from that first, ill fated, ultrasound; it came as a shock somehow still.
The following day found me in a busy OBGYN office downtown. If there’s anything worse than being in the throws of a miscarriage, it’s being in the throws of a miscarriage and sitting amidst a crowd of obscenely pregnant women. Everything that I had lost seemed to be staring me in the face as they patted their swollen bellies, too smugly, it seemed to me. Angrily, I swiped tears away, while erstwhile trying to appear immersed in Today’s Parent. I began to worry that my tearfulness and obviously unpregnant abdomen would peg me as an abortion seeker, which in a sense I was, though certainly not through my own choosing. This was the same office that I had sat in five months earlier, when my last pregnancy came to an abrupt end at seventeen weeks. Sitting in that room again made my stomach swirl with familiar emotions, not forgotten but merely stowed away. It was like bad deja-vous. Except it was really happening. Again.
That was the first time that I really felt a deep loss of personal control. We plan our lives to happen a certain way. Stop taking the pill, monitor your cycle, take the folic acid, controlling things every step of the way. But it was all an illusion. We control none of it. The fertilization of an egg is a chance occurrence. It’s very survival is a chance occurrence, despite our best laid plans. And in fact, aren't we all dying since the day that we're born? Or perhaps, more accurately, since before we're born? I felt the loss of control in a broad, cosmic sense, as well as in smaller, more minute, ways. Sit here, wait her, sign this, stand up, sit down, wear this gown, put your feet here, etc, etc, I was being prodded along like a beast of burden. These things were happening to my body, and I had absolutely no control over any of it. I was merely a silent witness to what was happening inside of me. That realization was both madly infuraiting as well as deftly saddening.
This work is, as yet, unfinished, as the story is still unfolding to this writer.