I check in at the desk. Last name, first name: “Termination, first trimester.”
The facility is clean and small and prepared for protesters. In the waiting room I shift into observation mode.
No heart, only data.
This is happening.
The girl and her boyfriend sitting across from me are maybe fourteen years old. Her mother sits beside her, Not-Looking at the boy.
I’m alone. Strong. Brave. This is the right thing.
This is really happening.
My marriage is dead. We have two children. I do not need three.
I can do this. My mother did. Five times. My sister did. Three times.
This is really happening.
I’m wearing the gown (open in back), climb up on the table. The machine to the left, doctor seated on a rolling stool by my feet. Nurse near my right shoulder. She tries to be an angel. She is not.
All business, no heart; I need facts and data. “It’s about two inches long now, right?” I ask. Not-Angel chuckles. “Oh, it’s a little bigger than that,” she says. I swallow my shame instead of punching her. The doctor turns on the machine while numbing my cervix. My teeth and legs tremble.
“I’m cold,” I say to Not-Angel. She replies, matter-of fact, “It’s not the cold, it’s the tension. Everybody feels this way.”
She needs to shut the fuck up.
No heart. Just data. No heart. Just data.
The machine turns on, sounding like a coffee grinder or a blender, something sharp that destroys things. Doctor asks, “Ready?” “Yep!” I lie.
Doctor inserts the instrument and now everything is sound (no heart)
that gets louder (no heart)
and louder like a garbage disposal grinding too many scraps (no heart)
and (I’m sorry)
after (no heart) ten minutes (no heart)
finally finally finally (no heart)
it’s all (no heart) over
It was the right thing.
It is the right thing.
I get dressed. Stand up straight, despite wearing a superduper absorbent maxi pad.
It was the right thing.
I pray my apology.
I’m sorry, baby.
It’s not your time.
Mommy loves you.
Please forgive me.
In my imaginings s/he understands.
Knees up, legs open; OB-GYN doing a vaginal ultrasound. I peed on a stick last week and got the faint double lines. The familiar “swish-swish-swish-swish” when the techno-dildo finds the embryo (or is it a fetus yet?) and I am more validated than joyous. Of course I’m pregnant. And yes, I know I’m forty-five, but I come from a line of Magic Mamas. I got this.
Six weeks earlier, we dropped off our daughter’s crib at Goodwill. She is in a big-girl bed now that she is three. I sighed, deep breath; equally relieved, sentimental, and ready to get on with it. “I think I want another one,” he says, laughing. I jokingly grab him by the throat and pretend to strangle him. We are laughing, but I don’t know what this means.
My mind is a tornado and I can’t grab onto any one feeling/thought/image for any significant amount of time.
I would like our girl to have a sibling closer to her age but I am just getting my body back. I love being pregnant: the process, transformation, wonder, miracle. I hate leaving my baby to go back to work. And I will have to go back to work . . . but wait, this could be a boy.
Our boy. His son.
I don’t know what this means.
The script is different for pregnant women of Advanced Maternal Age. We are the objects of concern, delight, and flat-out humor.
I’m not crazy, doctor. Just fertile. And I admit, basking in the “fuck you, patriarchal pregnancy guidelines!” of it all.
What I think it means is that I am a badass, and we might have a son.
My boy-obsession is a whirlwind and I already see him with his sister and his big big strong black brothers have to make sure he knows what it means to be a black man in America even with his white father make sure he values his blackness what do we decide about circumcision will this son make his father love me more is he a silently wished-for thing will his sister be a better big sister for a brother will he and his sister be friends after we are gone will he be brave be strong be beautiful be be be be?
We have just finished dinner and something is off. No nausea, no headache, but the vibrating like a tuning fork tapped firmly and held just so. The stillness is vibrating. The “I” of me is vibrating.
A trickle of fluid. I dash to the bathroom. Yellow fluid in my underwear. No. Nonononono rushing to my phone pretending to be calm. “Something is wrong,” I say in pretend while I wait for the doctor’s answering service. I explain what has occurred in clinical, detached detail. My appointment is for the next morning. There is no pain, only vibrating and waiting.
Next morning at the doctor’s office, another ultrasound. The just-turned-fetus (at ten weeks) is still. No heartbeat. I watch with clinical detachment as the doctor tries different angles but we both know and I say it first. “I don’t hear anything.” She concurs. Clinical Me crumbles. “Can you get my husband, please?” She brings him in and I am trying to be brave and trying to have Not Wanted This Baby So Much. I summon Clinical Me and am back at attention, next steps, how do we take care of this? We can wait for me to miscarry at home or get admitted to the hospital and have a D&C. I choose Option B.
Wait for results of the findings.
I need findings found.
I need to know what this means.
Finally an answer. Trisomy 13. “Incompatible with life.”
But was it my son or daughter who was incompatible with life?
Until I know, I will not know what this means. Daughter means “not another,” “not this one,” “you have already been blessed.” Son means “no boys for him” means “you have not earned him,” means “you had your chance and blew it.”
My heart is a madwoman screaming. I don’t know what this means.
Finally (eleven years later)
My OB-GYN retires. My entire Obstetric history is sent to me on a CD. I scour every single page until finally, answers: Trisomy 13, XX. It was a daughter we lost.
And then gained. One year later—2006—I birthed a healthy daughter.
She is strong. Beautiful. Smart. Brave. Brilliant.
We have been blessed.
I know what that means.