The One that Got Away? [Stay-at-Home Nerd]
My wife lost her pregnancy on a Monday. I held out hope ‘til Tuesday, but by then it was over. The disappointment I felt was real, although for me, the pregnancy hadn’t quite felt real yet. We’d just begun telling family and close friends. My wife wasn’t showing. We didn’t know the sex of the child to be. We didn’t have a due date. We hadn’t even gone to the doctor.
In hindsight I guess we did this as early as we did (less than 2 months in) as a way of sharing the joy of being pregnant and establishing a support system should anything go wrong. Still it was awkward receiving messages of congratulations from people who found out about the pregnancy, but hadn’t learned of the miscarriage. And it’s always weird to have someone you haven’t seen in a while ask how you’re doing when you haven’t told them about either.
Various people had various reactions to the news. Most just said they were sorry for us and hoped we were okay. My sister was particularly upset because I think she’s done having kids and she loves being an aunt. It hit the grandparents hard as this would be their second grandchild, or third in the case of my mom, and they’re a huge part of our lives and the life of our son. Some friends shared their stories of miscarriages. Some we knew. Some we didn’t. All of them, though, went into the big melting pot of feelings we experienced that week.
None of them, however, helped explain the panic attack. My wife took the week off work and mostly we held our son closer than usual and stayed together as one. If it weren’t for the miscarriage, it would’ve been a pleasant vacation at home. We ventured out to parks and the mall and it was on the second story of the Burbank Towne Center that I came close, as close as I ever have, to a nervous breakdown.
My son toddled too close to the glass side railings that keep us from walking absently over the edge and falling to the cement floors below. All I could picture was him pushing through the glass and tumbling to his… How thick are those panels? Can they fall out? What’s the law there? What’s the building code? Who’s responsible for the safety of my son?
Whatever it was, and I know now that it was simply the absolute and utter powerlessness I have to protect my son from his ultimate destination, a chill came over my body and I perspired. My breathing quickened and my heavy legs moved far too slowly as I scooped him up and brought him to my wife. Safely in her arms we made it to the elevator. I stood with my feet wide apart and mustered the courage to move quickly, if needed, to catch my son should he wiggle free of my wife and fall over the railing or should an earthquake, just at the moment, strike and cause them to tumble away.
My dad was a terrible fisherman.
Most of my memories of him are framed by his failures and he never failed more than when he was fishing. An overhand cast that stranded live bait in a tree. Or, a lost oar spinning my dad in circles as he paddled from only one side. There was the sopping wet three hundred dollar rain suit that soaked and then chilled him to the bone, as I stayed dry in my seven dollar yellow poncho. The fact that he didn’t know how to swim was too much to bear. How can you catch a fish if you can’t think like a fish?
One story my dad liked to tell involved me and the one that got away. According to him, I was reeling in a really big fish, when an even bigger fish came along and bit it in half. His reasoning was the immense strain on my line, the length of time I was “fighting” the fish, and the large fish head I managed to finally haul into the boat. I was twelve and I believed him.
Looking back I know that the fish was a small Northern Pike. They have long, seemingly large heads, but narrow bodies, and having caught more of them since then, I know it was a young fish. The immense strain on my line came from not knowing how to fish. Instead of pulling the fish in and then reeling in the slack, I simply reeled and reeled, my ten-pound test weight arguing and losing against a fish desperate to shake free. It’s possible the fish was bitten in half by another fish, but it’s much more likely that it was carved in two by one of the many motorboats on the lake. As I fruitlessly tried to bring him in he ran and ran and ran until snap. I felt nothing on the end of the line.
I’ve thought of that story a lot over the past few months because my wife having a miscarriage feels an awful lot like the one that got away. It’s easy to give my second child a story. I can make him a boy, give him a name, a favorite sport, a hair color, a smile that reminds me of my wife, a favorite subject in school, a love of dogs, or anything else I want to give him. I can make the child a girl, and give her name, and make her stand out in math and science and soccer, because you know, girls can do anything boys can do and better.
I remember wondering what my first son would be like when my wife was still pregnant with him. I carved out a picture of him in my mind. I gave him a personality, interests, future occupations. I stamped his passport full of exciting adventures. Then he was born and all my wondering was lost. His existence exceeded all expectations. What I imagined he would be was instantly replaced by what he was and for all my creative efforts I’m not capable of imagining him any other way.
I suppose that’s the way it goes with the second one too. It’s hard not to imagine that our next child will be just like our first child even though none of my friend’s brothers and sisters are anything alike. While my wife and I share things with our siblings, we also are aware that we are so very different and that these differences when understood can make our lives richer and fuller. That’s the hope I have for my son.
I hope that we can give him a sibling to round out his life; to teach him that sharing is caring, that those who come after us may need a helping hand. Life isn’t easy and there are no guarantees. We want a second child and we’ll keep trying. If it doesn’t happen, then yes, this may be the sad story about the one that got away. Until that time comes, a year from now, two years from now, ten, I prefer to cast my vision forward and wait for the true story to be reeled in.