the first time: just bad luck

I saw blood on the toilet paper at 5 weeks 6 days, in the bathroom at work. I felt my body go nearly lifeless like I could pass out any second. Knowing what I had learned from my fertility and pregnancy “night school” as my husband called it, I frantically checked my cervix to see if it was closed (tip: don’t do this). I called my OB office and moved my first appointment from the following week to the very next day.

At exactly 6 weeks, we had our first ultrasound. The ultrasound technician was extremely efficient and within 45 seconds we saw the little baby bean, measuring 3 days ahead, and heard the heartbeat. I couldn’t believe everything was okay. I had always been a little nervous about miscarriage, knowing a few people who’d had them, plus Beyonc√®, which proves that no one is exempt from this nightmare. I felt optimistic after this appointment, but the fear still stained the back of my mind.

Two weeks later, we had our second ultrasound appointment. The day before, a good friend of mine who was also pregnant sent me her 8 week ultrasound picture. Her baby looked like an adorably fat marshmallow with tiny hands and feet. As we left for our appointment that morning, I said to my husband DeAndre, “I can’t wait to see our marshmallow… if everything goes okay.” He stopped me, “IF? Nothing is wrong with my baby!” I didn’t actually believe that anything was wrong, but I know that I would make these comments in an attempt to protect myself just in case the worst happened. Spoiler: that doesn’t actually work.

Laying on the ultrasound table with DeAndre standing by my side, we both stared at the screen, waiting to hear that heartbeat again and see a shape that looked slightly more like a baby than a bean. The tech asked me if I’d had any recent bleeding. What. No.¬†Keep looking, lady. Don’t give us bad news. But we could both tell from the image on the screen that it wasn’t good.

“I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat. You’re only measuring 6 weeks 6 days and you should be 8 weeks.”

I was numb. I asked her, “What do we do now?” And then I got off the table and started to get dressed. I remember holding it together for as long as I could. I got my jeans on and when I started to put my foot into my shoe, I lost it. Kneeling down, sobbing into my sneaker, everyone in the room helpless.

The nurses and doctors that came in and out of our exam room that day reacted as if they’d never seen anyone cry as hard as I was. And maybe they hadn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard in my life. I felt like I could have drowned everyone in lower Manhattan within the hour.

I didn’t know what was happening but I know that I needed to not be pregnant anymore. If it was over, I needed it out of my body. They offered us an appointment later that day. We got in a cab home, still sobbing in the backseat while trying to compose an email to my family, and to tell my job I wouldn’t be coming in. The worst thing about living in NYC is that you’re always on display. On the street, on the subway, even in a cab, you don’t have enough privacy to have a proper meltdown.

Thankfully, we had a ZipCar account. DeAndre rented a car for the day so we could have some level of privacy on the worst day of our lives. After taking a Valium and inserting the Misoprostol pills (have I mentioned there is no dignity in miscarriage?), back to the OB clinic we went. In the waiting room, a nurse who recognized me from that morning asked me how I was doing. I burst into tears, DeAndre nearly chasing her away for doing that to me in a hardly private waiting room with pregnant women around us.

They told me to close my eyes or look up at the ceiling during the D&C procedure. They didn’t want me to see blood, or god forbid, the fetal tissue, as they put it in containers to be sent away for chromosomal analysis. A nurse, an OB, and an ultrasound tech, all poking and prodding at me, wiping away blood, rubbing my legs when they started to shake uncontrollably, pressing on my abdomen to get a better picture. And I just stared into fluorescent lights until it was over 20 minutes later. It hurt like hell, physically and emotionally.

On the drive home I felt numb, dead inside. Ultralight Beam came on through the car speakers, the first time I had heard it, and it triggered so much pain in me that I’ll never forget and will cherish it for the same reason. A sad yet comforting touchstone of this heartbreaking experience.

We escaped that weekend to the W Hotel in Hoboken. A short trip from our Brooklyn home but a much needed change of scenery. The front desk agent tried to have a peppy conversation with us and we just stared right through her. We spent the weekend eating candy in a comfortable big bed, watching HGTV, me Googling sad quotes and crying (don’t ask me why I do this). We’d go out to dinner in the evenings, because at the very least we deserved to eat good food even if I did cry into my meal. Before we checked out, I asked DeAndre to take a selfie on the balcony with the city in the background. “Actually, nevermind. I don’t want to remember this.” I wish I had taken the picture. I had no idea how many more memories like that our future would hold.

We found out 2 weeks later that the fetus tested normal, meaning there were no obvious chromosomal causes. “Just bad luck,” a phrase we’d hear over and over for the next several months.