In January I reported that my wife was pregnant, and I had a few things to say about my hopes and fears for the future. I didn’t want to say too much, because I knew that there was a significant chance of a miscarriage in the first trimester. I didn’t want to tell my wife this and make her worry needlessly. Yet, it was also difficult for me not to remind her of it when she talked too enthusiastically about what we were going to name “our baby,” and what “our kid” was going to grow up to be, and what our future with “our child” was going to be like.
Yet, as I watched her body change and rubbed her back as she vomited her way through interminable weeks of morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness, and we fretted about her diet and bought prenatal vitamins to supplement it, and I read all I could about dealing with pregnancy and childbirth, and we attended an orientation meeting for expectant couples at our local clinic and she took all the pertinent lab tests, and “our baby” became a literally and figuratively growing part of our lives, I began to let down my defenses against talking about it and began to believe that our parenthood was more of a rapidly approaching reality than a precarious possibility, and I think my wife and her family and friends began to do the same. Wednesday night, the night before my wife’s first prenatal exam, I lied in bed with her rubbing her slightly swollen belly and affectionately talking about and to “our child” and about how we would send “her” to Thailand when she was old enough to spend time with my wife’s parents and absorb Thai culture. The warmth that I felt in my heart for my wife and for the precious life she carried inside her overcame my doubts and fears and had me looking forward to seeing the nurse practitioner the next day and hearing that “our baby” was doing well, and to learning more about how to deal as well as possible with the six or so months that lie ahead.
But when the nurse positioned the ultrasound probe and we looked expectantly at the screen, we saw a little dark sac inside my wife’s uterus, but there appeared to be nothing inside it. The nurse asked my wife if she had noticed any recent bleeding or pain or suddenly begun feeling very different than before, and if she was sure about the time of her last menstrual period. Then she explained that it looked as though my wife had indeed conceived and that an embryo had begun to form but that something had caused it to stop developing and that sooner or later she would either miscarry or need to have a procedure done to remove the contents of the aborted pregnancy. The nurse then left to summon a doctor for his opinion and returned with a smiling, soft-spoken Asian Ob-Gyn who examined my wife and conversed with her in Thai. He seconded the nurse’s opinion, and, after he left, the nurse scheduled an appointment for next week to discuss where to go from there if subsequent blood hormone tests confirm what seems to be a foregone conclusion.
My wife tried to smile and act as if it were no big deal. But as we stood in line in the phlebotomy lab, she began to cry. And she cried many more times that day. She stayed home from school the rest of the day, and we went to Costco, ate lunch at a Chinese food buffet, and then went bowling and watched “American Idol” that night as she struggled valiantly to keep her mind engaged with something, anything that would drive away her grief. At first she was going to stay home from school today. She didn’t want to break into tears when her classmates asked her how the exam went yesterday. But she decided to go after all. She’s a strong woman, much stronger than me, and, as I saw her struggle to assert that strength over her pain and tears and I told her not to fight it but to let go and let the tears flow and I did my level best to reassure her, I felt my love for her growing larger and deeper than ever before.
But this morning while my wife was in school and I saw the optimistically large bottle of prenatal vitamins sitting on the dining room table alongside the packet of pamphlets the clinic gave us to help us through a successful pregnancy, my eyes welled with tears as I thought about my wife’s broken heart and about what our lives might have been and what might have become of “our kid” if only there had been something alive inside that little sac.
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