Maria Elena Mahler
Hallelujah, I screamed to my insides. Everything was going according to plan. But for some reason, after the intern rolled the gel over my tummy a few times, he left the room. He returned much later with another expert, who pushed the gel even harder. Without a word, they wheeled me into one of the private emergency rooms and left me there. My husband, Jacques, asked me for permission to go outside. I was sure he had to smoke. I waited and suspected that something must not have been right, since the gynecologist in charge didn’t come and give me the results of the ultrasound. I was getting more attention than I really wanted. Nurses came in and out. One placed an IV in my arm per the instruction of Dr. Schott.
Dr. Schott eventually showed up with a sweet smile under his moustache, reminding me of an uncle doctor I had in Chile—the one who took my appendix. I liked him immediately, although his news was not so good.
“The ultrasound shows that you have an ectopic pregnancy, and from that place on the tube the embryo cannot develop and go full term. It’s dangerous. It can create all kinds of complications and health risks to you, my dear.”
He must have been speaking in another language. I could barely make out that my plans had to change. After only the gods know how long, his eyes stayed glued to mine, and all I could see was my uncle doctor in Chile. I nodded at his green lagoon eyes until he repeated:
“Do you understand?”
“Yes. I think so. What are my options?”
Jacques stood next to my bed and held my fingers tightly in absolute silence.
“You have two options,” the doctor said with a sweet and knowing tone. “The first one is we perform a D&C, and for that we need to schedule you for surgery tomorrow. You can start bleeding any minute. Or the second option is we give you an injection that will terminate the pregnancy, and you will be good to go.”
Still in disbelief I asked, “And what is in the shot? How do you know it’s working?”
“You think we can leave next month to Mexico?” Jacques whispered in my right ear.
Like in a spell, I was tangled and slowly drowning in the doctor’s familiar eyes.
“If you were in my shoes and had to choose between those two options, which one would you choose?”
Dr. Schott took another step closer to my bed. Taking the palm of my hand between his cupped hands, he said: “If you were my daughter, I would suggest you get the injection. First, it is quick and practically painless. Surgery, on the other hand, has a fifty-fifty chance of things going wrong.”
“What’s in the injection?” My guts cramped with anticipation.
“It’s called interferon. It stimulates the immune system to go after the embryo and then dissolves it. You will resume bleeding like a normal period, and it will be over.”
“And after the shot, I won’t see you again? I’m all done?” I asked with a smirk on my face, trying to put all this inside a black box called nightmare, and hoping that all of a sudden I was going to wake up and be on the road to Puerto Ilusión, crossing with the geese over borders into Mexico and to the bed-and-breakfast we owned.
“I’ll see you in four weeks after the injection. You can take a couple of days to think and talk with your husband, but no more than two. Before your next bleeding, in three to four weeks, we will do another ultrasound to make sure that everything is all right, and you guys can be on your way to Mexico.” He said the last words looking at Jacques.
Jacques nodded and smiled under his moustache, not really knowing what to say. From his point of view, the quicker we got done with this the better.
The decision was clear. Option two was the fastest and sounded the easiest, not to mention the less traumatic to the body. It was definitely better than being put out and having some doctor scrape my uterus walls and sticking who knows what into my ovarian tube. The decision was as clear as the IV that kept dripping into my veins.
I told Jacques I wanted the injection.
“Yes. That way we can leave for Mexico in a month.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse came in with a large syringe with interferon, and quickly it ran through my veins.
“Out of sight, out of mind” was another saying I learned from my years with Jacques. This time it applied perfectly. We pretended nothing had happened, and we went back home to make our normal preparations for our trip back to the sunshine.
Our two-year-old was standing with both hands on the window. From the car I gave him a big forced smile. And after a game of hide-and-seek, I avoided any playtime or talks about having a baby sister or brother.
A few days before our departure to Mexico, I had my final appointment with the doctor. Before seeing Dr. Schott, I was again lying on the table with the ultrasound specialist rubbing that fishy gel on my tummy, and like déjà vu he left the room again—abandoning me. My mind wanted to go to the worst places. A second ultrasound technician came in a few minutes later, and again he pushed the gel around and deeper into my belly in order to confirm the report. He sealed the envelope and told me to follow him to see Dr. Schott.
When I entered the doctor’s office, he was just opening the results.
“Sit, please.” He pointed to a row of gray chairs. I sat against the wall on the same side as his desk. On the wall in front I could read all of his Canadian credentials. I trusted him and was consoled that in four more days I would be on my way to Mexico, and all of this would be left buried on the outskirts of Thunder Bay with his blessing today. Adieu.
While he read the report, he kept comparing it with the earlier ultrasound pictures.
“Oh my God!” He used one hand to cover his wide-open mouth. He then rubbed his hand over his balding head, trying to bring some circulation to his brain. “I can’t believe it. I made a mistake,” he said with his voice almost breaking. “The baby was healthy and implanted in the walls of your uterus all along. The first reading was not so clear. You were only a couple of weeks pregnant then. This new one shows it was okay. It’s still there where it is supposed to be.”
As I listened to his voice, huge tears spilled onto the carpet. I wasn’t sure what the feeling was that came up so strong, melting me into an avalanche. I couldn’t tell why I cried. Maybe it was his honesty that touched my heart like the cantaora does with her sincere voice in flamenco. Or were these tears of happiness since now I could go on with my pregnancy? I could come back to Ontario after the winter and have the baby in spring. Through the flood of tears, I finally uttered:
“What does this mean? Can I have my baby now? You just said so, right?”
“No. We need to end your pregnancy before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what? I don’t understand.”
My head began to look for the exit of my labyrinth, and his words started to sound slower, like they were coming from deep underwater.
“You cannot have this baby.” He could barely say the words. “If you are lucky enough to make it to term, the child will most likely be born with some deformity. Interferon can cause all kinds of problems, serious birth defects, three legs or two heads. Do you understand?”
My tears only understood the desire to roll down to the deepest part of some well.
“Malformation is really common in these cases,” he insisted. “Besides, it’s dangerous for you too. You could abort the baby any day, and you might not realize it. The fetus could stay inside of you and putrefy, poisoning your blood. I can’t believe I made a mistake. Now we have to do the D&C. I’m going to schedule it for you at six thirty tomorrow morning.”
I stood up in the middle of my puddle on his office floor so I wouldn’t drown in myself.
“It’s okay, doctor. We all make mistakes. Really, it’s okay.” I reached toward him in an impulse to give him a hug but had to slowly take it back.
I drove home in a trance, not believing what had just happened. I couldn’t find the words to communicate the news to Jacques. How could I explain to my little angel that I was going to kill her the next morning? I had already honored her death, and now I had to go through it again.
Jacques didn’t say much other than, “Sorry this happened,” while he gave me a hug. He left me alone most of the afternoon. At least he had the good sense to know I needed some space. He watched cartoons with Sebastian, ate pretzels, and left the crumbs on the couch.
Tomorrow, the guillotine will spill blood down my walls, was all I could think. Then my heart would remember the doctor’s pain—and my heart would cramp when I thought about him.
“You know we can sue him?” Jacques said before he began snoring that night.
The thought of lawyers and going to war made me feel worse. Making someone pay for their unintentional mistake wasn’t going to change what happened. What is the point of revenge? To get satisfaction by seeing someone in as much pain as me? Wasn’t he already in hell, feeling responsible like a father toward his daughter?
That night all the questions spanned out and collapsed into one vivid dream. I heard the owl on the cedar tree and the sound of snoring, then slipped into another reality as clear as the one I was just in. I was in the presence of Dr. Schott. We didn’t speak. We just stood in front of each other and experienced an immense feeling of connection for one another. There were no colors other than white around us and no sound. We didn’t need our eyes to see each other. We deeply felt each other. It was a most inexplicable soul-to-soul recognition. I spent most of my dream night with Dr. Schott.
Dawn was not welcoming for the unborn and the nameless. The early rays were weak and filtered through the few leaves left on the poplars. Soon everything will die. The only way to get through the long drive to the hospital was to feel the pain—not mine but his. His pain, his mistake, his repentance, his admittance, his fault, and his face were all that got me to the hospital without stopping along the highway and starting to vomit.
My legs were tight and crossed as I lay on a rolling bed wearing a light-blue paper robe. My curls hid in remorse inside the blue cap. I stared at the ceiling made of cheap white foam and at the green fluorescent lights. I prayed in vain for the nurse not to shave me. When she was done preparing me, I was left alone in a hallway by some door with a sign that read Only Authorized Personnel.
My heart skipped when I heard the echo of heels growing louder through the solitary hallway. When I tilted my head to see who was coming, I saw his grand figure walking toward me.
“I know I’m not supposed to see you. But I needed to see you.” His voice was quiet and quick, and his face, with a mask hanging around his neck, got closer to mine. “I needed to tell you that last night you were with me all night.” He placed his hand on his heart, and I could see his eyes water behind his glasses.
“I know, I know,” I barely uttered. “You were with me too.”
Dr. Schott and I smiled, and no more words were needed.
“Wakee, wakee,” Sebastian said, trying to wake me like I woke him some mornings. His soft cheeks felt tender on my face, and his hair tickled my lazy eyes. I could barely open them. I was still in and out of the anesthesia. I could feel a deeper level of the duality of this world, this plane, other planes, and how their borders can shape-shift. One can easily get lost in the net of Neptune, unable to distinguish one water from the other, and forget where we are.
After a week, we were able to leave for Mexico. I hoped that in that reality of sunshine, music, and beach, I could relearn to smile.