One year ago today, I was pregnant with Avery. Only twelve weeks, and already miserable enough to know I had to be carrying another girl. I didn’t blog about that pregnancy, I didn’t put anything in Facebook updates, and I didn’t post any pictures. Generally speaking, I lived every single day of those 39 weeks counting down the seconds until my next nap.
One year ago today.
I know the date because it was Eliott’s 7th birthday. Standard Dadderday, John was taking all the kids to the gym for the morning. He bought tickets to take Eliott and Carter to their first ever movie in a theater (Frozen) which would allow me to take a nap with Isaiah that afternoon. Then we were all going out to eat for Eliott’s birthday dinner. Her choice: Golden Corral (damn you, Saturday morning cartoons and your chocolate fountain commercials).
I got up and dressed early (unusual for a Saturday) because I needed to go to Walmart and wanted to beat the Hanes Mall Boulevard silliness. I don’t actually remember what I needed to go to Walmart for, because I never made it inside. The minute I stepped out of the car at ten o’clock that morning, I felt a rush, and looked down to see a puddle of blood at my feet.
For the next several minutes I existed in clear jello. My head pounding, my eyes hyper-focused, my sweat icy, my thoughts blasts from a panic-gun with a silencer. No. No. NO. This isn’t happening. I need John. I need to find something to protect the seats. My favorite jeans! This can’t be happening. This isn’t happening. Omigod-omigod-omigod-omigod.
And then, I haven’t been this sick for the last three months to have this end now. NOT OKAY GOD. And, Alright, I’m sorry, I won’t even be angry when she turns out to be a girl, as long as she’s okay.
I was driving John’s car, thankful for the first time that he never quite got around to taking those bags to Goodwill. I stacked some old t-shirts to sit on and called him from the car. I probably sped the entire way home, knowing I had a valid excuse and a free attorney, should it come to it.
When I got home I showered, changed my clothes, and laid down on the couch with my feet up. John made exactly three phone calls. First, to my parents. Though they are five hours away his rationale made sense: “No matter how this turns out, I want them here. You need your mom. Plus, she’s the only person who will be able to get that stain out of your pants.”
Second, to David and Tonya, family friends who have a son Eliott’s age. If anyone was going to salvage the birthday plans, it was David and Tonya, who officially made Eliott’s birthday so great, she later declared, “I wish David and Tonya were my parents.” Finally, to Josh and V, friends willing to cancel all Saturday plans and stay with Isaiah indefinitely if necessary.
I sent a frantic text message to about ten women, simply asking them to pray.
And then I mostly cried, off and on, for the next several hours. Of course I thought I was having a miscarriage. And while I know several women who have had this experience, some multiple times, and survived, it didn’t make it any easier knowing that everything would eventually be okay. I now have a renewed sense of empathy for anyone who has ever lost a child, even one who has not yet developed fingernails and lungs.
We are not a family who does a very good job keeping secrets from our kids, and I’ve never been very good at hiding my emotions from my face. So even in the midst of all this personal fear, John and I tried to explain to Eliott and Carter what might be happening.
Because we already know the end of the story, I feel the need to resort to a list:
- Anyone who goes to the emergency room because they have a fever and are throwing up deserves to die.
- The prioritizing of someone with a stomach bug over a pregnant woman actively bleeding in the emergency room is just another notch in the idiot belt of America’s healthcare system.
- If you live in the Winston-Salem area and have an actual medical emergency, the still-new ER in Clemmons is fully staffed, mostly empty, sparkling clean, and absolutely worth the 20 minute drive it takes from the Forsyth ER. I advise you to make this decision earlier, rather than later.
- The fetus was fine.
- What I was experiencing is called a “subchorionic hemorrhage” and it is strangely common but rarely spoken about. For me, the bleeding tapered and eventually stopped completely after about five days. The rest of my pregnancy resumed a normal level of miserable.
- No matter how many times I type the word hemorrhage, I have to use spell check.
- A perfect birthday in the eyes of a seven-year-old now includes not just a movie in a theater, but a popcorn/candy/drink combo, playing video games after the show, winning not once, but twice, the stuffed animal claw-game, Chuck E. Cheese for dinner instead of Golden Corral, and your mom not having a miscarriage on your birthday.
It is impossible to explain the kind of comfort that exists in knowing more than a dozen people who are not directly related to me, are ready to envelope us in the kind of drop-what-you-are-doing-and-go support that is typically only reserved for family.
It is impossible to explain the kind of physical and emotional euphoria I felt when I heard that heartbeat.
It is further impossible to explain how even a near-death experience as a fetus did not exempt this child from future mother-style-momentary-death-wishes despite all promises made one year ago today. (Not now, with her continued periodic 3am wake-up calls, and probably not when she’s 16 and hormonal either.)
And so today I celebrate the alpha and the omega of my current motherhood chapter. Two girls who are vying for the “Most Difficult Baby” award, winning me the “What doesn’t Kill you Makes you Stronger” medal, and probably eventually earning the, “If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing,” sentiment.
Happy Birthday, Eliott.
Happy You’re Still Alive Today, Avery.