Philosophical Monday: A Very Early Miscarriage [IVF Part Tres]

[Ed. Note: This will be my only blogumn this week, but it's super-long, and I'll be back next Monday.]

Remember how last Tuesday, I said that an IVF pregnancy is very different from a non-IVF pregnancy? As it turns out, a IVF miscarriage is also very different from a non-IVF miscarriage.

Thursday:

I keep coming back to Thursday, because I don’t feel like getting out of bed. This is often the case on what I call “Is she still there” days —  days on which your fertility doctor checks that you are or still are pregnant. CH had to talk to me for 30 minutes on Monday, before convincing me to go in and get the blood test over with. And when I was pregnant with Betty, we had the “Why you should get out of bed” conversation for every single doctor’s appointment until I cleared my first two months and was transferred to a regular OB.  Basically, you don’t feel like getting out of bed, because what if it’s bad news? Why get out of bed for bad news?

But we have a very busy day on Thursday. I read 100 pages of my non-fiction book, get out of bed, meet with a realtor about a business we’re looking to start, rush to the doctor’s office for the blood test, plug in a late article on FaN, promote Fierce and Nerdy, clock two pages on the 32 CANDLES screenplay — the next thing I knew it’s time to eat before my writing hours begin. I had resolved early in the year to do this pregnancy right, not to forget to eat as I had with Betty, to feed myself regularly and nutritiously. So when lunchtime rolls around, that means I watch a soap opera with my MIL and I eat. But first, I think, let me finish this preschool application for Betty. I get the call while putting the finishing touches on the app, and getting the details of what had happened on the first fifteen minutes of Days of Our Lives — which is ostensibly my MIL’s soap opera but which I somehow find myself watching every weekday despite it’s decided lack of black folks.

I frown when I see that it is my fertility doctor’s office, b/c they always say that they’ll call you after two with the results of your tests. That’s weird, I think before answering it. Then my fertility doctor says hello. And that’s when I know, b/c my fertility doctor never, ever calls me. It’s always the front desk. She’s kind but to-the-point. I was pregnant on Monday. My estrogen levels were great. But my beta levels, which were at 50.1 on Monday, have dropped to 9. The test I took that morning was one to ensure that my beta levels had doubled, and they had dropped to 9. And this means that I am in the process of miscarrying.

I go quiet to the point that the doctor asks me if I’m still there. When I say yes, she continues, explaining that I should get a period in the next few days. And then she tells me to take the month off and call her in March to try again.

This is what I liked about my fertility doctor when we were going through infertility the first time. She never leaves a conversation without telling you what the next step in your journey is going to be. Still, I cannot thank her for calling me with this news. I say, “Okay” and hang up.

It’s like receiving a phone call from the future: your baby is not dead yet, but it will be in just a few days. Meanwhile, it’s dying inside of you, it’s dying inside of you, it’s dying inside of you.

I tell my MIL that I’m miscarrying, then I drop the phone and run up to my room. I need to have a little cry, I think, then I call CH and tell him the news, but to my surprise, when he asks for further details, wants to know exactly what the doctor said, I become hysterical, crying so hard, that I try yank on my hair, only to find out I don’t have enough to grab a hold. I really, really, really want to get off the phone and CH needs to get back to work, so we hang up.

Time passes. My MIL, I can vaguely sense is taking care of Betty, getting her up from her nap and feeding her before the nanny gets here. I just need to lie in bed for a bit, I think, and then I’ll get up. But I can’t stop crying.

Both my best friend and my sister call. My best friend is nurturing, but my sister, who I talk to first, is exactly like I would be, firm in her condolences, jokey, and insistent that we look toward the future.

“But when you miscarry,” I tell her., “They make you do it with fertility drugs and two embryos the next time.” Twins, we can’t afford twins, emotionally or financially, I say.

She assures me that we can, and chuckles because (what a coincidence) twins run in our family. “At the next family reunion you’ll be like, ‘Where are the twins?’ And we’ll be like, ‘Which ones?’”

I feel better after talking to her. I think that I’ll make one more call to my best friend and then go write. But in the middle of talking to my best friend, another wave of hysterical crying comes over me. I can’t explain to you how weird this feels, I’m not a good enough writer. It’s like having one of those women that get paid to wail at funerals in foreign countries thrashing around inside of you, trying to get out. The instinct to pull out your hair is the worse bit. You just claw at your head, your hands clenched by something outside of your control.

I do not get out of bed. I very generously decide to allow myself some time. I’ll get out of bed when the nanny leaves for the day. I doze for a little bit and wake to the sounds of Betty playing with her nanny in the next room. Then I stare into space. I come up with an idea for a project that my best friend is planning to launch in 2014 and I call her with it.

Then I stare at the ceiling some more. I think not about the book that I’m writing now, but the book I will write next. The third book, which I’ve been fretting over lately, because it is a difficult book, and I don’t know that I have the writing skills to pull it off.

You better get those writing skills, I say to myself. You better figure it out.

How could we possibly handle twins? I wonder. What if it doesn’t work the next time or the time after that? And even if it does, hasn’t this destroyed everything? My happiness over the last three days now feels like a cruel trick. This miscarrying has made it impossible for me to enjoy another pregnancy at all. I’ll now be scared for nine months straight and for completely valid reasons. From now on, I realize, I will be scared to be happy.

Then I wonder why this is happening to me. Then the hysterical crying. After that, I figure a few things out.

First of all, logic doesn’t work. For whatever reason saying things to myself like, “you knew this could happen” or “you were only pregnant for a few days” or “you already have one beautiful child” only makes me cry harder.

I promise myself that if I can go one whole hour without having a crying fit that I will get out of bed. Either way, I tell myself that it’ll be best if I can pull myself together before CH comes home.

CH comes home and I’ve only left the bed to pee, which means that I have been in bed without anything but one landline phone for almost eight hours. An entire workday spent crying, dozing, and staring into space.

I haven’t eaten anything except a greek yogurt and a decaf coffee all day. I should be grateful when CH comes in with my iPhone and an In-And-Out burger for me. But the burger tastes horrible in a way I can’t really explain, unreal, like it’s composed of elements that don’t quite work together, “Like a bunch of chemicals. Like dirt,” I say when I try to explain why I can only eat a third of it.

CH and I talk. He points out that very early miscarriages happen all the time, but that most women don’t know that’s what it is. Indeed if I wasn’t being so closely monitored, I wouldn’t even have known. He wishes that we had never been told we were pregnant in the first place. We talk about wanting to give up, and then we talk about how of course, we’re not going to give up, we’re going to try again in March. Then we talk about the possibility of twins. CH thinks we could handle it, but that we’ll have to move again to a better school district, b/c we’re not going to send three kids to private school. We go back over our plan, which is the exact same as it was with Betty: three tries then we look into adoption.

I text message the two out-of-town friends I am supposed to meet up with this weekend and cancel our plans. I’m sure I’ll be able to leave the house by this weekend, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to both leave the house and be social. Wine is uncorked, and we decide to watch a BIG BANG THEORY before bed. I begin to feel that things will be better tomorrow. That I will get up and perhaps even go to the gym to exercise.

Friday:

CH brings me my computer which was still in my writing backpack downstairs, waiting by the door in anticipation of what was supposed to be just another day. I will put in the Fierce and Nerdy articles, then I will go to Starbucks and write. I am behind on all my projects, but I can catch up.

I put in the articles, but I don’t feel that I can get out of bed. So I decide to answer all of my email. I have almost 400 messages in my inbox. It’s a huge mess. So I begin to painstakingly answer everything. Betty goes down for her nap.The nanny comes. CH and my MIL go out to do some research on our upcoming business venture. I am still answering email, explaining to a few people who have congratulated me on the baby that I’m miscarrying, that I’m planning on posting a blog about it on Monday, that I am answering all of my email in the hopes that it will help me get out of bed.

I feel weak, like I’m no longer in control, like someone else is running my life and body.

Finally at 4pm, I’ve answered all but the major emails. I don’t want to eat, but I can’t write a complicated email without any fuel in my system. I’ve been in bed for over 24 hours. I’m going to have to get up, before the nanny and Betty gets back, before CH and his mother return. I must do this while the house is still empty.

Showers, as it turns out, are very dangerous. I’ve come up with many a plot point in the shower. Often the answers to knotty story problems become clear. I love showers for this reason. But there’s something horrible about showers when you’re sad. I end up crying for a very long time in there, and when I get out, I feel like a bad Californian, b/c we’ve had an unusually warm winter, surely a drought is on the way, you’re only supposed to be in the shower for ten minutes tops if you’re not washing your hair, and an entire half hour has passed by the time I get out.

And then I get hit with another hysterical fit while I’m brushing my teeth. For some reason I say, “Help! Help!” while this one happens. Out loud. I’m still not sure why.

I finally land upon a mantra that works. “You are so small. You are just a speck, just a blink in this world. And being okay is a decision.”

Still, when I come out of the bathroom, the bed sings a siren song, inviting me to lay back down.

I barely make it out of the house before everyone gets back, and the world feels like a very hostile place. There are families everywhere, and it seems that the majority of them have two children. At one point a small child in a double stroller with his sister yells “Hi!” as he passes me on the street. He is assaulting me with his greeting. But still I say, “Hi,” back.

I walk and walk, listening to MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins as I do so. I know that dystopian literature probably isn’t the best for me right now, but what am I supposed to do? Switch to a romance novel where everyone is beautiful and no one ever has any problems getting pregnant? And if someone finds out she’s pregnant with twins, it’s a double blessing as opposed to a high-risk pregnancy that will most likely entail at least a month of mandatory bed rest? It feels like listening to a romance novel would be way worse.

As I walk, casually browsing through stores, I make lists of things I should be grateful for. This, like the mantra, makes me feel better. Then I lose it again, when I see the model couples in the wedding registry poster at Crate & Barrel. So happy, like everything in life can be solved with the right pots and pans.

My back begins to hurt from all the walking. I need to either sit down or go home. I do not want to go home, b/c I don’t know how I will avoid Betty. I do not realize that I’ve been actively avoiding Betty until I think to myself that I don’t want to go home b/c I don’t know how I will avoid Betty.

I feel terrible about this, so I go home. I run into a Chinese food delivery guy outside our house. I point him toward where he needs to go to drop off the food, and lurk in the shadows while he does the exchange with my husband. I wonder not for the first time that day if I’m going crazy, if I will ever feel better.

Go in, I say. And if they try to make you eat, excuse yourself and go back to bed.

I go in. The table is being set. Betty is already in her high chair. They immediately try to make me eat. I excuse myself to go back to bed, but then Betty says, “Mama” and CH says, “I think your daughter wants to spend some time with you.”

I sit down at the table and ignore the plate of food that CH sets in front of me. I stare at Betty who is happily eating lo mein and I think about the embryo dying inside of me. Inside my head, I say to the embryo, “Why couldn’t you have been more like your sister?”

This is grossly unfair and I start crying at the table in front of everyone. CH rubs my back. My MIL concentrates on her food. Betty eats her lo mein. It is a relief when she demands to get out of the high chair just when CH and my MIL are getting started on their own dinner. I take her down, leaving my plate of food behind. We play on floor of the living room and eventually CH joins us. I begin to feel something similar to contentment and suddenly I am sure I will get through this.

I eat my dinner twenty minutes later after warming it up b/c it’s gotten cold. And as I’m taking Betty to bed, I promise myself that tomorrow will be different. I’ll get out of bed like normal and I’ll return to the life I had before I started miscarrying. I think I’ll title Monday’s blog, “How to be Sad.”

Saturday:

I wake up and I tell CH that we should go to the gym. He agrees. And then … I don’t get out of bed. Instead I clear out my Google Reader, I read everything there is to be read in the moblie New York Times. Then I stare into space.

I didn’t lie when I said during my pregnancy announcement post that my worry gene had short-circuited. Since finding out that I’m miscarrying, I’ve not felt one iota of worry. This is the only thing I regret about that blog post. I wish I had appreciated worry more. When you think about it, a bit of worry isn’t so bad, especially when you compare it to abject terror. Fear keeps me in the bed unable to face the world or even take a shower. I decide that I will title Monday’s blog, “How to be Terrified.”

I eventually go downstairs and ring my hands in front of the refrigerator for quite a while. I open and reopen it four times. I then decide to watch THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG with Betty.

“Oh, hey,” CH says, “We were supposed to go to Huntington Gardens for Chinese New Year today.”

After the movie, Betty goes down for her nap and I go back to bed. After answering more email, I send CH a text message,asking him to come upstairs. We’ve both been through some stuff, so we’re big on communication. “I think I need you to convince me to get out of bed,” I tell him when he comes into the room.

This takes longer than either of us expect, with CH having to outline and reoutline the day for us. We’ll go to Huntington Gardens, then we’ll buy Betty some new pajamas to replace the ones she’s about to grow out of. That’s it. A nice easy day.

“I should be writing,” I say. “I’m so behind.” I’ve called him up here, but I now realize that I really don’t want to get out of bed. “What if I start crying at the Huntington?’ I ask.

“Then we’ll leave,” he says.

CH somehow convinces me to take a shower, and I agree only to break into another hysterical crying fit after he turns it on for me.

“I feel like this is trying to break me,” I say to him. I will wonder later, what I meant by “this.” Did I mean life? The situation? The dying embryo inside of me?

He holds me close and says, “It’s okay, honey, it’s okay. You have so many people who love you.”

The words strike me as familiar, and I after a bit of mental searching, I remember that this is what I used to say to Betty in the early days when she would get upset and we had no idea what was wrong or how to soothe her.

Later on, I feel faint as we make our way to the car. It is decided that we’ll attempt In-and-Out again. Fifteen minutes later I tentatively try a bite, and am surprised to find that it tastes really good.

We go to the Huntington and then we go to Target. I surprise myself again by suggesting that we go out for sushi. Back when we were going through infertility the first time, we would go out for sushi and beer every time I got my period. You can’t have sushi or beer when you’re pregnant. It was our silver lining.

CH makes a reservation at a nearby restaurant and we have a good time. Later, while lying in bed, we talk for a very long time for the third night in a row. We make plans to exercise the next morning, but this time I tell him to make me stick with them.

Do I love CH as much as I did on the night when he proposed, when we thought that getting pregnant would be a simple matter of me going off of my birth control? Truthfully? No, I don’t. I love him so much more now.

Sunday:

I don’t want to get out of bed. But I muscle through and do it anyway, determined to keep the promises that I’ve made myself today.

When I sit down on the toilet, I find that my period has come. I stare at the blood, waiting for yet another wave of anger or tears to overtake me. But instead two words float up to the top of my mind, “Thank you.”

I feel sad, yes, but mostly I’m grateful that this beginning of a baby has finally let me go.

Which is why I later say, “Come on,” when Jay-Z’s “Forever Young” comes on the shower radio and I’m reduced to tears again.

It doesn’t feel good when you can’t control your tears. They laugh about it in the movies when this happens to women, but it really is awful not to know if you can trust yourself outside of your house.

I think about this while doing ab exercises at the gym, and decide to be okay with being sad, to be okay with being terrified. I had been thinking about cutting my hair again, to shave away the miscarriage after I’m done bleeding, but no, now I think I should keep it and grow it out. I love myself, all of me from my hair to my adult acne to my uterus to my thighs to my overly large feet.

If I get pregnant again, will I be as happy about the next pregnancy as I was last Monday? No, I decide, flipping off both fear and superstition, I’ll be even happier. And what.

One more question: now that I’ve miscarried, am I as good of a woman as I was before? And the answer to that is no, goddamit, I’m better.

featured image credit: Bosumu.Images