“Let’s get you to ultrasound,” says the nurse, “and we’ll see if we can find a heartbeat.”
You won’t, I think to myself.
After some gentle nudging, my husband recently agreed to try for a second baby; but after a bleeding event last month I’m sure it’s over. I’ve spent these past weeks drowning in sadness, vomiting from leftover HcG hormones, and waiting for the rest of this pregnancy to flush. I’m ready for the DNC.
The monitor flicks on. “Do you see this?” the tech asks.
I do see. I have had two previous pregnancies, including one miscarriage, and I fancy myself a bit of a hack with ultrasounds. I once won a baby shower game based on labeling black-and-white images from 20-weeks gestation with facial features, kidneys, genitals, lungs, gall bladders, etc. I barely know what all of those organs do, but I got 100%. So I don’t need anyone to tell me that instead of one dead baby in my belly, there are two.
This ultrasound tech with the German accent has done all of my 10-week ultrasounds over the past five years – at three different Juneau OB offices. It’s a strange coincidence what I’ve been through with her. I don’t even know her last name.
The lump in my throat is too big to speak so I nod. If there’s anything more disturbing than learning you are pregnant with twins, it’s learning that you were pregnant with twins, but aren’t anymore. My heart feels like it has been hollowed out with a spoon.
In my first pregnancy, there were no symptoms of miscarriage; unless you count lack of vomiting and a recurring nightmare where the wicked witch from Snow White steals a baby out of my womb and places it in her own. I went glowingly into that 10-week ultrasound to this woman’s frowning disapproval. “Your fetus isn’t ten weeks old,” she said, “maybe six. And I’m not finding a heartbeat.”
This miscarriage is different, but the dreams are back. Over and over, I meet pregnant women with round full-moon bellies. I look down to see my own body: lean and empty, and I feel so sad.
I watch in disbelief as she labels the once-fetuses: “This one closer to your cervix is Baby A,” she says. “Baby B is up here.”
Something is off. I know the hard, clear manner with which this woman delivers sad news, and this isn’t it. Finally done measuring and labeling, she turns to me and says — “I’ll go get the doctor to look at these babies.”
“Babies?” I ask. “They have heartbeats?”
“Ja,” she says. “They have heartbeats.”
Recognition of our disconnect flashes in her eyes. She runs the wand back through the gel on my belly. The blurry forms that were lifeless sacks waving in an amniotic breeze become two jumping beans waving fingerless hands. “Hi mom!” they say in unison. “Surprise!”
“See?” she asks. “They’re active ones!”
For the second time in ten minutes, my world crumbles. Come to the OB office, I text to my husband. Urgent.
When M walks in I let him take in the scene for himself. He looks at the monitor as I watch like a hawk caught with too many eggs in the nest. Bless him. Happy daddy tears form in the corners of his eyes.
After the appointment, we head home in separate cars. My husband picks up our daughter and gets takeout with a cake to celebrate. Driving alone, I try to figure out who to call… what to say…
That evening, M and I stare at walls as our daughter bounces around our apartment in her usual state of evening coo-coo. We eat in silence, then M devours half of the cake without realizing what he’s doing. I start in with the only positive thing I can think of in this moment:
“At least it’s not triplets?”
The story continues… Part two is here.