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Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 9: Show Stoppers

On September 17, 2014, I went for a routine 8-week prenatal check-up. It was the only routine thing I would do for more than two months.

During this time, I e-mailed a small group of people. Some were aware of the pregnancy, some had plans with me that would need to be broken, and still others simply asked after my health on the wrong day. This is the ninth of 11 such messages. They have been edited to remove identifying information and inside references, but otherwise remain largely unchanged.

November 12, 2014
Dear Friends,

My last blood draw registered a quantitative hCG level of 13.9, which is considered "indeterminate" for a pregnancy diagnosis. As I noted last week, less than 5 is considered a negative result. I've been told, of course, that I'll have to keep getting tested "down to zero." I've also been told I'll have to test until "the levels are negative," which made me wonder if there was some magical way to have less than no hCG in my bloodstream, like, I'm so un-pregnant I could actually leach hormones out of my pregnant friends. Anyway, having come so very close to not being chemically pregnant anymore I finally felt brave enough to request a clarification.

It turns out that, rather than going all the way to zero, I simply have to register a negative test - less than five - in order for the ritual bloodletting to end. If you consider that the level roughly halved last week, that could mean I'll be under the acceptable threshold in another week or two.

There is more reason for tepid optimism, though, as my period returned Monday morning. Via e-mail, the midwife assured me this was "great news!", which seems a stern indictment of how low the bar has been set. For those in the audience who have never menstruated, imagine being told "congratulations - you can flush the toilet now!"

Weirdly, I had circled Monday in my mind as the likeliest day my period would return. This was based part on timing - it was a month to the day after the D&C - and on the fact that I could've sworn I'd ovulated two weeks earlier. That's physically impossible given the amount of hCG in my blood, but maybe my ovaries were doing a test run? That seems like just the sort of thing those egg-crazy little bitches would do.

I crossed another milestone in my struggle to come to terms with this experience over the weekend. I talked about it, in public, to people who were not previously aware. All of you have been party to this incessant rambling from fairly close to the start. I don't have to give the whole chapter and verse at once. Plus, communicating by email allows me total control over the narrative. I can say what I need to say at the time and just assume it's been read and understood. But talking about it in a spontaneous, organic conversation is a completely different animal.

First, there's the question of context. There really aren't many situations in which one can casually mention one's on-going catastrophically failed pregnancy and not mark oneself as tragically, even perversely, special. It's like the worst possible trump card, a rock-solid guarantee that all other conversation will stop. Stressed out about your personal life? That's nice. I have no idea when my pregnancy will end. Work getting you down? Let me tell you about the abortion I'm having next Friday. Think I look sexy in this outfit? Must be the dead embryo in my uterus.

See what I mean? It's a show-stopper.

There's also the issue of what I want to communicate. I've thought deeply about this pregnancy, and worked hard to understand its impact on my family and my personal beliefs. I've carefully measured my capacity and learned a great deal about myself in the process. None of that shows when I'm sobbing hysterically. All anyone sees at that point is the destruction, not the careful planning to contain it.

Underlying all this anxiety about discussing my second pregnancy is the nagging fear that, despite my best efforts, I haven't fully assessed the damage yet. It's been a live event for so long, it's hard to know if I'm through the worst or not. The nature of the damage also makes it difficult to tally. When something makes you question your deepest understanding - and please know that giving birth, being a mother, is the closest I feel I've come to objective truth - it throws everything else into uncertainty. If I can fail so catastrophically at something that seemed so simple and clear, what else am I capable of spectacularly fucking up?

It's easy enough to avoid the topic while I'm working. If I have a job to do or an objective to achieve, there's no reason to consider any larger philosophical issues. It's different with friends, people who might ask how I'm doing and mean it. It feels dishonest not to mention something so big and unwieldy. At the same time, once you've not told someone about it, you can't change your mind mid-stream. You've got to commit. It's like planning a surprise party for everyone in your life, only the surprise is horrible. So, yeah, like a surprise party.

I told a few people with whom plans had to be altered or canceled that I was having minor surgery. If they pressed - which few did - I would describe it as routine and corrective. It was the minimum amount of information needed to communicate why I had to break a commitment. I figured they'd either forget about it or I'd tell them when it was all over. It just never seemed to be over.

It's only recently that I've started to socialize again. I went to a Halloween party, had drinks with some colleagues, and went out for a date night. I even scheduled a haircut for the first time since the summer (to be fair, this had as much to do with general ambivalence as with the current crisis). It started to seem like a normal life again.

Then this Sunday we went out with friends. I had mentioned the surgery in passing to them as I had to cancel an outing that weekend. We were chatting about our respective daughters and they asked whether we were planning to have any more kids. I shot my husband a quick glance to make sure he felt comfortable and then I told them. I simply said that the surgery had been to terminate a pregnancy. They asked why. I said the embryo had stopped growing. They asked if I was OK. I said it had been difficult, but I was doing alright. Then they said nice things, the kinds of things most people think I want to hear. About how I can try again, how I still have time. It didn't matter. I had told them and I hadn't cried and I hadn't broken in two. I had talked about it in the way it should be discussed, as a painful thing that I have survived. As an ordeal that is, in some way, finally, over. Then the conversation moved on to other things.

Best,
nj

-

Previously:
* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 1: No Fetal Heartbeat.

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 2: Firing Squad Or Hemlock?

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 3: Remember The Challenger.

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 4: Mommy, What Does Bupkes Mean?

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 5: D&Cs Suck.

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 6: The Garage Doors Of Fresno.

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 7: Like A Pelvic Game Of Asteroids.

* Diary Of A Lost Pregnancy, Part 8: Zero Is The Target.

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Tuesday: Mommy, what's wrong with your face?

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on February 2, 2015


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