After telling the story twice this week, and finding myself in tears both times, I realized I have never written out exactly what happened early in Ella’s pregnancy. I’ve skirted around it, because truthfully, 4 years later, it still is too big, and too scary to look at straight on. I even tried to write a nonfiction piece about it for a workshop class years ago, and after the ten minutes of acclaim, someone finally asked “So, uh, what is this about anyway?” and when I explained it, everyone cocked their head to one side and said “What?! Are you sure that is what it was about?” I just couldn’t get near enough to it to even tell the facts, to make it clear just how close we all came to losing everything that matters to me now.
Early in Ella’s pregnancy, after the giddy fear had passed and we were beginning to dream about what our futures would look like, I started bleeding. I did not have an OB yet, so I waited all day for it to stop, knowing that rushing to the ER was pointless. Tom encouraged me to go in that afternoon, to make sure that I was okay (even though we both figured that the pregnancy was lost) and I agreed. I was there nearly 10 hours, and 8 hours in they did an ultrasound as I sobbed. Later, after I had finally been moved into a curtained area instead of the hall, a timid intern drew me a picture of a uterus that was 4 weeks further along that I thought I was, and a tiny, heartbeatless dot which was my dead baby. The first words out of my mouth were “Could it be twins? I know my dates, twins run in my family, I just worry…” and was cut off by her hand on my bare knee. “We would have seen another one, I’m sorry. We can give you a pill today, schedule a D&C for tomorrow, or let you follow up with your OB this week.” I started to cry again, and she left quietly, and sent in a nurse to handle paperwork, and to ask me if I wanted to “end this today, or risk an infection” while I waited. I said I just wanted to go home and she sighed, and gave me the name of a OB “who will talk some sense” into me.
Tom and I spent the next few days in his room, avoiding school, work, roommates, and trying to make sense of what was happening. I had stopped bleeding, still had morning sickness, and didn’t understand how my body could betray me by not only conceiving a doomed baby, but holding onto it for so long. I didn’t understand how my dates could be so far off, and I couldn’t stop dreaming of two little blonde girls riding on the back of an elephant.
When I was finally able to get in and see the OB I had been referred to, he was gone at a birth, but one of his (eight) partners was able to sit down with me and explain what the intern had already told me. Again, I asked if it could have been twins, and she said no, but that she would do more blood work and an another ultrasound if I wasn’t sure. I agreed, and again I sobbed while they did the ultrasound. She told me that they saw nothing new on the ultrasound, but when I again declined the D&C or cytotec, she made an appointment for me to see the original OB the next day. “By then your labs will be back, and he will make your options clear.”
So, again I went in, ready to ask “What if it is twins?” and instead was immediately presented with papers to sign for my D&C. I asked about my labs, and he told me that I needed to get used to the fact that this was a “missed abortion” and sign the papers. I asked about my labs again, and he told me, with obvious frustration, that my numbers were barely climbing, and that at this stage my numbers should be doubling. “What if it was twins, and now it is not, and that is why my numbers are rising but not..” He stood up, and left the papers on the exam table, and turned to me. “You need to sign these, otherwise any complications from infection will not be covered by your insurance” and he left. The exam room I was in was the one closest to the ultrasound room, and I sat, stunned, and listened to a healthy heartbeat playing though the speakers, a mother’s laugh, and a father’s voice in awe.
I agreed to come in in two days if nothing had happened. I spent a lot of time walking around our neighborhood those two days, numb.
On a Friday in April, the universe, God, fate, dumb luck took pity on me, and my appointment to discuss the D&C was with yet another doctor in the practice. He was older, and when he came into the room he told me quietly that he was sorry for what I was going through. He sat near the window and opened my chart, and sat quietly reading, flipping the pages. “You are here to sign papers for a D&C?” he asked, and I nodded. “Well, based on these results, I’m not comfortable scheduling a surgery yet. We just do not have enough information here to say “yes” or “no”… It does lean towards “no”, but I am not comfortable doing this surgery without more tests. You are not text-book developing, but very few women are….” We agreed that we would do another blood draw, see the results on Monday, and if they were even a tiny bit higher, we would do another ultrasound. If not, we would do the D&C.
On a Monday in April, I watched a tiny heartbeat light up the screen, and there behind her, another fetus, still and silent. Tom and I sat in stunned silence, and then suddenly burst into tears and laughter, gripping each other and grinning. This little flicker of light was our child, our Elinor, our little blonde girl who still lights up my days. My silly, beautiful, smart, compassionate, amazing daughter.
And I almost lost her. I was almost bullied into killing her.
And I am still so angry.