Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fade Away

I hate everything about this post.

Yesterday around lunchtime, I went to the bathroom and noticed some reddish streaking on the toilet paper, and a tiny blood clot about the size of a mustard seed. Rob and Westley were out running errands, and the house suddenly seemed uncomfortably quiet.

I paged my midwife, and stood in the silence. Then I set the timer on the microwave for 20 minutes. (If you don't get a call in 20 minutes, you're supposed to page again.)

Four minutes later my phone rang. My midwife prescribed "pelvic rest" - no sex, no orgasm, no jogging. Not that I've jogged recently. Or had sex, for that matter.

I sat all day, drinking water, occasionally getting up to pee, checking the toilet paper. Always some pink or brown streaking there on the white. Sometimes a tiny bit. Sometimes a tiny bit more. By 9:00 PM, I was still spotting, and starting to feel uncomfortable. Rob dialed the pager number for me.

* * *
By 1:15 PM, the ER observation room across from mine had been cleared twice. I'd been sitting cross-legged on my narrow bed, watching through the window for three hours. It would be at least another hour before I got the ultrasound I'd come for.

We met our midwife, Bev, at the clinic this morning to check things out and listen for heart tones. I brought her a little Ziploc bag full of my red-streaked toilet paper. Her brow furrowed when I handed it to her, and even before I climbed up on the table, I was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to hear anything on the Doppler.

Nothing came up but the whoosh of my own insides. It was time to seek out an ultrasound (and on Sunday morning, that that meant going to the Emergency Room). Bev said, "Prepare yourself." That babies at 12 weeks move around a lot, that Dopplers aren't perfect, but . . . "prepare yourself." I don't know how one prepares oneself for an ultrasound showing no life - except to expect it. I didn't want to expect anything negative; I wanted to be calm happy and hopeful.

The longer I sat on that ER bed, the less hopeful I felt.

Rob and Westley had gone out for lunch. The room was cold, dim, and so, so quiet. Tomb-like. The TV had no remote. I was glad to have my journal:

There's a mirror across from the bed, so I can see myself out of the corner of my eye. Or else I can look up and see how miserable I look.

* * *
A young man with an armful of tribal tattoos wheeled me into Radiology, a ghost town of a department on Sunday afternoon, and parked me in a room with an ultrasound machine.

Phillips, I noticed immediately. Not Siemens. (I used to work in technical publishing. I've seen the manual for several Siemens ultrasound machines in more than a dozen languages.)

"Hello?" my chauffeur-nurse called out, and his voice echoed.

"Hi," a female voice came back from around a doorjamb.

I was glad the tech was a woman, even though when she came into the room she looked half my age and was chewing bubblegum. Over my shoulder, the nurse disappeared quietly. The ultrasound tech, Becky, said almost nothing once I was on the table. She'd angled the monitor away from me, but I could still see most of it. And I knew what I was looking at, and what it meant.

The outer-space landscape of my uterus with a curved black hole on one side, a few inches long on the monitor. Not a flicker of movement.

There was nothing, Becky explained later, when the ultrasound goo was wiped away. No crown-to-rump to measure, no heart to be beating. (Though she didn't say it like that.) Essentially, I had a tiny empty sac with no sign of a fetus.

* * *
Becky wheeled me out into the silent hall. She took two blankets out of the warmer, and draped one over my legs. The other she wrapped tightly around my shoulders, mummifying me.

"Someone will be by in a minute to take you back to Emergency." And she left.

I sat in my wheelchair, wrapped in my warm blanket cocoon, unable to lift a hand to my face. I started to cry. The occasional doctor or nurse walked by, completely oblivious to the wheelchair. I felt invisible, like a piece of paper someone had thrown away.

I sat alone - staring at the framed pink patchwork quilt, about the size of a baby blanket, that hung on the opposite wall - for five or ten minutes.

My chauffeur-nurse appeared from around a corner I didn't know was there.

"I'll take you back to Emergency."

I nodded, and burst into tears. I was getting good at crying in front of strangers.

"What happened?" he asked.

I thought about what to say. All I could manage was, "Bad news."

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding not particularly committed to his sympathy. Then, a second later: "Something about a pregnancy?"


"I'm sorry."

Rob and Westley were waiting for me in my ER room. They didn't let us go home for another hour and a half.

* * *
Rob drove home. The three of us were almost silent. I felt numb, and my head was very quiet inside, except when it drifted into singing the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." (Why that song? I wondered. I can't remember the last time I listened to it.) The view as we crossed Lake Washington was a heartbreaking kind of beautiful.

* * *
The closer it gets to completely dark outside, the more I seem to bleed.

It's the first day of Spring. The symbolism is all wrong.