Sitting across from our sixty-seven-year-old, red-headed, bohemian-dressed, Buddhist/Carl Jung-loving therapist, Jason and I listen intently as Debra makes her best persuasive attempt at consoling our loss of Sophia:
“You cannot step in the same river twice.” Waving her wrinkled, yet meticulously manicured hand, bangle bracelets clank down her arm. “Some greek philosopher said that once. While I may not be quoting him exactly, the meaning is there. Each pregnancy is unique. You may be embarking on the same adventure, but the water that touches you will be different.” Her deep, raspy, smoker’s voice induces a tickling, retching cough. When a lung wedges into her trachea, she reaches behind her for a water bottle, and nods to us as if toasting Heraclitus himself.
Squeezing my fingers together in a squished fist, Jason’s touch reunites my drifting mind back to the abandoned body that lies on the exam table. Two-and-a-half minutes of a silent ultrasound break down the carefully constructed walls protecting the overwhelming feelings of guilt, terror, sadness. Our new medical professional, Dr. Howe, effortlessly resurrects images of Baby Number Two, and of Sophia, from the depths of my memories with just five words.
“I cannot find a heartbeat”
Her sad eyes hang as she re-attaches the ultrasound wand to its barren holster. Clicking the small button on the side of the machine, Baby G.’s fading image takes us along to the black hole. With a snow wash of thoughts, deja vu quickly fills the empty void in my mind. We have been here before with Dr. Gladwell, with Baby Number Two, with a prematurely stilled heart. I desperately search my brain for emotional clarity.
Finding my anguish, I grab on until the tears Baby G. deserves emancipate. Like a breaking dam, the flood washes over my entire being, prompting Dr. Howe to embrace me as I wrap my right arm around around her thin, bony shoulders. Holding up my shirt with my bicep and elbow, keeping it away from my gel-covered stomach, Jason clasps my left hand. Through the human wrapping of arms, elbows, hands, the salty tears clarify my emotions; rational thoughts break through. Tough decisions don’t wait.
Baby Number Two was allowed the luxury that I cannot bestow again: the daunting wait for my body to naturally vacate the now unwanted, yet not unloved, resident.
“I want the pills this time. I think I just want this over as soon as possible.” Stated definitively, my watery lackadaisical eyes acknowledge the supporting weakness behind the words. Dr. Howe releases her prolonged hug, placing a gentle hand on my knee.
“Just so you know what to expect, these pills will be inserted near the cervix and should help dilation and move the miscarriage along. Sometimes it takes a few hours.” Dr. Howe pauses, inhaling before breaking the truly dismal news. “Sometimes it takes up to a day. With a seventy-five percent success rate, there is a chance a D&C would be necessary afterward to prevent infection.”
Jason’s slow nods match the beat I produce with my own ascent. The risks, the options, the ominous upcoming events have been forcibly adopted into our life’s journey. Despite any effort of establishing a new objectivity, nothing has changed. A new doctor, a new office, a new ultrasound machine could not save our third baby. The breath being sucked from my lungs, the choking sobs getting stuck in the back of my throat, disbelief settles in my bewildered eyes.
Dr. Howe continues, providing us an adulterated silver lining. “At this point, being your second first trimester miscarriage, and third loss all together, you would fall into the unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss category. This could be helpful in getting insurance to pay for additional testing that may or may not result in answers. To be honest, the chance is pretty low of ever figuring out what is the cause of any of your losses.”
Departing from our unsought initiation to the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Club, we head home to an afternoon of dreaded anticipation. The balmy sun rays radiate through the passenger car window; I barely notice the near sizzling of my frigidly cold, clammy hands. Between my trembling fingers sits the catch basin of fetal beings. The white plastic “hat”, given to us by Dr. Howe’s nurse, fits neatly over the toilet bowl. The “hat” is coded with measured lines. The “hat” is hard, sterile, winged. The “hat”, if turned upside down, is straight out of the Quaker Man’s wardrobe. Occasional drops, heavy and wet, leave salty pathways as they fall from my eyes into the echoing white plastic canyon. This innocuous basin could not offer a more sinister purpose: to preserve Baby G from the bacterial-filled unsterile plunge into the half-filled water bowl of waste.
Watching the other drivers, obliviously smiling as they carry on conversations with invisible others, sing loudly to Bohemian Rhapsody, and eat their Big Macs, Debra’s throaty-voiced thoughts ruminate in my head:
Together we will make it through anything. We cannot step into the same river twice.