My friend D from graduate school called to catch up with me in the winter of 2001. For some reason, I decided to go ahead and tell her: “I had a miscarriage.”
“Oh—how far along were you?” she asked.
“Um, like eight or nine weeks,” I stammered.
Then there was a pause, a silence, a hesitation on her end of the line.
“So it’s not really a miscarriage, right? I mean—it wasn’t really a baby yet, right?”
Though she was hundreds of miles away, I think she could sense my face reddening, or could hear my heart pounding and stomach twisting and gurgling in the effort to maintain a steady voice as I replied, “It was to me.”
I remember sitting there, in the straight-backed dining room chair, looking out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of the home we were renting. It was a modernist retreat in a small wooded development with its own human-engineered lake near the banks of the Huron River. It had become my escape from the office, from well-meaning people, from the hospital. Looking out at the slim branches and trunks of the pine and birch and hemlock trees for hints of nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and chickadees clinging to the bark, chirruping and honking in the gray light, on their quest for insects, keeping me company, keeping my mind occupied until Bryan returned from work on the winding river road.
* * *
“Yes, see right there? Blighted ovum.”
The gynecologist withdraws the sonogram wand and begins explaining what will happen next, over the next few days or possibly weeks, when my uterus expels the blighted ovum, the nondeveloping fertilized egg, the blob of cells that has ceased dividing and complexifying and growing. She pushes her stool away from the table, tosses her gloves into the waste can, and goes to the sink to begin washing her hands. All the while she continues explaining what will happen to the blighted ovum. It will detach from the blood-rich uterine wall, hormones will trigger contractions, and it will be pushed out, discarded, disposed.
I will bleed.
I will cramp.
I will feel pain.
I may need surgery if there are complications with the detachment.
I must look awful, because when the gynecologist finally finishes her recitation of the blighted ovum’s scheduled demise and turns from the sink to look at me, she squints at me, like she’s never seen a face like mine.
“Do you want to call someone?” she asks.
I have three more appointments with this gynecologist. At each one, I bring up how I am still feeling tired, having strangely long periods, and cannot get pregnant despite trying after the prescribed waiting period. I’ve read these are symptoms of possible thyroid issues, I say. She shrugs it off and suggests I am more likely depressed, that I might try antidepressants, that I should keep trying to get pregnant despite how awful I feel, because I am getting closer to thirty, and it is harder after that decade begins.
My hair is falling out. I’ve gained a lot of weight. My periods have extended to almost two weeks of bleeding. I can’t think straight, but I know it isn’t depression. I try to remind her that it might have to do with my history of endometriosis, that I might have a hormonal imbalance.
She continues to dismiss what I describe, what I hypothesize about my body.
I change doctors.
I wait for six weeks to see a reproductive endocrinologist for a full hormonal workup.
I get many vials of blood taken for testing right after I turn in my paperwork.
After the blood draw, I meet the doctor. This doctor asks lots of questions, different questions, and he listens to my answers. He doesn’t try to tell me what is wrong. He says we’ll wait for the tests, and we’ll know more.
I get a voice mail from him two days later.
“Catherine, your test results show a serious thyroid problem. You need to pick up a prescription as soon as possible. Please talk to my nurse for instructions if you can’t reach me at this number.”
It turns out that I have Hashimoto’s disease and have had it for a long time. My body attacked its own thyroid gland, decimating its ability to make the crucial hormone. Hence the extended periods, hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, and infertility. The nurse tells me, “With your levels, there was no way you were getting pregnant!”
I am relieved. The miscarriage wasn’t my fault, despite the accusation built within the word.
I begin my thyroid replacement medication.
I lose weight.
I take vitamins.
I am pregnant with triplets. I am pregnant after my new doctor’s interventions, which included a round of follicle stimulating hormones to “reboot” my ovaries after they went dormant from the thyroid nosedive. The doctor asks us if we want to “reduce” the number of embryos to reduce the risks carried by a multiple pregnancy. Bryan and I say, “No,” simultaneously.
I buy two books, the only two general-reader books I could find on high-risk, multiple pregnancies. I fold pages and put sticky notes in places. I take naps and a prenatal yoga class. I go swimming. I take prenatal vitamins. I make it past the first trimester. We celebrate by expanding the list of people we’re willing to tell about the pregnancy. About triplets.
I eat a lot. I start eating meat again, after having been vegetarian since my college days. Near my birthday, we go to L and T’s house for a July barbecue. I eat two and a half chicken breasts, pasta salad, and dessert. The next day I put on my maternity bathing suit and trudge across the street and up the hill to the public pool, but it is closed for repairs. I am shaking and sweating, and make my way back home and fall asleep on the couch.
* * *
I continue taking my qualitative methods workshop, a professional development module that meets twice a week. I tell the class I’m pregnant with triplets, excusing myself to go to the bathroom once again. “I’m constantly having to pee with these three,” I joke, and my classmates smile at me. During the break, a few ask me how far along I am. One, a medical school professor, looks at me and says, “You don’t look very big for that far along.”
July 2002, Week 15
My mother and sister want to have a baby shower for me, and we drive to Evanston to visit and plan. I’m tired. I sleep in the car, and Bryan does all the driving. I don’t feel comfortable behind the wheel; I feel like I can’t reach the pedals and make enough room for my swollen belly, even though I’m not that big yet.
The second night we’re there, Mom invites friends over for dinner, but I am tired and try to turn in early. My back also hurts, and I can’t get comfortable on the queen-sized futon. Everyone’s laughter in Mom’s living room seems so loud. I want to ask them to be quiet, but instead I seethe in the dark until they leave.
We leave for home the next day, and as we head toward Sheridan Road, a crow flies into our car’s windshield with a sick thump.
“Is it dead?” I ask Bryan. “Do you think it’s dead?”
“I don’t know. I hope not. Superstition, you know?”
July 29, 17½ Weeks
I wake up from an afternoon nap and go to the bathroom. I see a lot of blood on the toilet paper, and some substance I have never seen before. I rush to the phone to call the triage nurse, just like I was instructed by my high-risk obstetrician, Dr. Van de Ven.
“Do you see membranes?” the triage nurse asks me.
“What do they look like? There’s blood and, I don’t know, some kind of mucus?” I reply. I’ve never been pregnant with nonblighted ova, so I have no idea about these membranes.
“It’s probably just spotting. Call back if you have cramping or contractions.” She is blasé; she seems unconcerned, and like she has other patients with real problems to see. I say, “Okay,” and hang up. I take a nap.
But when we sit down to eat dinner that evening, my body starts thrashing and churning out of control into early labor. Somehow Bryan is able to help me to the car, and we head to the hospital.
By the time we get to the hospital, my cervix is dilated two centimeters, flat and open. The amniotic sac of one of the three children is sagging into the opening. I had seen membranes that afternoon, after all. The attending physician goes to page my obstetrician.
Doctor Van de Ven comes in and asks us to discuss if we want to try to preserve the pregnancy or terminate it now, at seventeen weeks. He gives us a 10 percent chance of survival for the triplets. Bryan and I reply, “Preserve the pregnancy,” simultaneously, before Dr. Van de Ven can even leave the room to give us time to talk in private.
* * *
Bryan holds my right hand as I lie on the gurney, moving through the hallways from triage to the room where I am being admitted. He only lets go when the night nurse wheels me through the doorway, lifts me, lays me in the bed, and tilts it to the prescribed degree.
One nurse stays by my left side at the head of the bed as it is slowly lowered, and grasps my hand. She is a solid, squat woman whose forearms could knead a hundred loaves of bread, then birth a calf, and stir a cast-iron kettle of porridge before sunrise. She is built to support life.
As the other nurse busies herself with wires and tubes and monitor settings, she keeps my left hand in hers. Bryan holds my right hand and looks into my eyes, smiling as much as he can. “It’s going to be okay, Catherine.” He repeats this over and over, rubbing his palm over the back of my hand. The other nurse turns to go, assuring Bryan on her way out the door that he can use the call button anytime.
The night nurse who was clutching my hand stays back a moment. Before releasing her grip, she embraces me, her thick arms easily bringing me to her warm torso. She whispers roughly in my ear, “I give you all my strength!”
Then, before I can thank her, she is out the door.
I never see that nurse again, but I feel her capacious chest and the firmness of her grasp on my left hand every day. I believe—I still believe—she transferred to me a gift.
This is what happens to you when your cervix opens up too early and you want to try to save the fetuses inside rather than terminate the pregnancy:
You get put on a bed tilted, head down, at five to ten degrees to take pressure off the cervix and ease the placenta back inside.
You get drugs to stop contractions.
You get a large IV shunt attached to your veins for antibiotics to stave off infections, and for fluids to stave off dehydration, which can bring on contractions.
You have a catheter inserted because you don’t get up to pee.
You lie like this for many days until the doctors think there’s a chance to place a cerclage in your cervix, to sew it up to everything inside.
So I lie upside down, on my back, hooked up to tubes and needles and monitors, for days. My world was officially off-kilter. I was literally on a different axis than the rest of the maternity wing, on another plane, like the diagrams of vectors moving through three-dimensional spaces in the math books Bryan used to prepare for teaching undergrads. We had to create our own map of this world, setting up a routine in an upside-down environment.
“I don’t want to watch TV here,” I declared, and Bryan agreed.
“Yes. We can use the VCR for a documentary or something,” he suggested. And from there, we made spoken and unspoken rules for the hospital room that fit our physical confinement. I was hooked up to IVs and a catheter and could not get up. At all. He brought in sheets and pillows from home to settle into the reclining chair that converted to lie flat. It wasn’t a true bed, but Bryan sat and slept every day and night in that contraption. From that chair, he would ask, “Do you want me to read some more tonight?” Another rule: we would read, meaning, Bryan read to me. He had checked out books from the library and bought some.
* * *
Looking back, I am really glad it was 2002. We didn’t have smartphones, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. I’m pretty sure the hospital didn’t even have Wi-Fi for patient rooms yet, because Bryan would take short breaks to go to his office—a good walk but not too far from the hospital—to check emails. I felt no need to update anyone on my status or to make choices about what to post online. I am eternally grateful I was pregnant before it was common for pregnant women to post selfies of their growing bellies, smiling triumphantly into the camera, proving their fertility and health. I was tortured enough by my memory of pictures on pregnancy books and magazines sitting on the bedside table in our townhouse, gathering dust while I lay in the hospital trying to beat 10 percent odds. Instead of making posts on a website or listserv, Bryan kept a small blue spiral notebook in his pocket, where he made notes of everything that happened during that first week in the hospital.
We were a team of two. There were few discussions about our situation: we were of a single mind in those days. “It’s actually a relief,” Bryan mused as he settled into his sleeping chair for the night. “I know exactly where I need to be and what I need to do, twenty-four hours a day. I just need to be here for you and the babies.” He squeezed my hand and turned off the table lamp. The sun set and rose, nurses came and went. Bryan used the shower, shaved, and made quick trips to the cafeteria or home. But his steady support and love were the clear constant, my lodestar.
Dr. Van de Ven reported that my uterus had calmed down after two days of being on the incline and taking indomethacin, a uterine-calming drug. I had hoped as much, since I wasn’t feeling the contractions anymore, but every breath or slight movement in my body had sparked fear that they were returning. But the amniotic sac for Baby A (they labeled multiples by letters in order from closest to cervix to farthest) was still sagging into my cervical opening.
“We’re going to take you off this incline,” Dr. Van de Ven notified us, explaining that “there’s risk of blood pressure problems, and we’ve probably seen all the improvement we’re gonna get with the gravity helping us.” I wasn’t sure if I should feel hopeful or discouraged by that, but I was glad to be back on level ground. I had an almost constant headache while on the sloped bed.
“And I want to try something,” my doctor continued. His postdoctoral fellow arrived, wheeling an ultrasound machine in front of her. “There may be a way to close up that cervix.”
Here’s what they did:
Looking at my uterus with the ultrasound, they then used a syringe to pump water into the catheter, filling my bladder like a balloon. “See there?” Dr. Van de Ven pointed at the picture, while I felt the worst urge to go pee I’d ever had since I was in kindergarten. “See how the bladder pushes the cervix closed? If I can get a needle in there, I can run a stitch. We can do the cerclage.” He looked at me and Bryan.
I looked at Bryan and saw he, like me, was nodding already.
“Okay, let’s try it,” I said.
I didn’t realize until the nurses and administrator came with the paperwork that I had to sign waivers that I wouldn’t sue the hospital if I or any of the triplets were harmed, or killed, by the procedure. I also didn’t know they were going to use general anesthesia until that moment, because one thing I remembered from the books I’d bought on high-risk pregnancies was that a cerclage could be put in while you had a spinal block—numb from the waist down but awake. For some reason, I thought we’d be doing that, but it was general anesthesia instead. I was scared of going under general anesthesia but more scared of not trying to get my cervix closed. There was no way the babies would be “viable” at seventeen or eighteen or even nineteen weeks if I went into labor again, or infection set in, or whatever else could go wrong that I knew about. They would die. And I knew I would never want to get pregnant again. Never.
Hands shaking, I signed the papers.
By this time my mom had arrived. Bryan was there, and she was there. They stayed with me and walked with me as far as they could toward the surgery area. Bryan clasped my hand and smoothed my forehead as he walked alongside the gurney. Then he bent down to give me a kiss before they wheeled me away.
When they brought me into the OR, they put a hairnet on me, and hooked me up to a new set of monitors. Then the anesthesiologist started leading me through the procedure to knock me out. I had to keep my arms in a T position, and they strapped them down, just in case—of what I didn’t really know. Then he fit a plastic mask over my face with a tube down my throat. I wasn’t ready. The last thing I remember was trying to tell the anesthesiologist while gagging on the tube that I was not ready. But all he did was tell me to count backwards.
Then I woke up, puking into a plastic pan.
I was in a hallway or staging area, and it was dim. Bryan was holding my hand, looking down at me on the gurney. He had the saddest smile.
My throat was on fire with bile and the aggravation of the tube. I squawked, “What happened?”
Bryan squeezed my hand. “They tried sweetie, you did so well. They tried, but—the needle. There just wasn’t enough room. The needle nicked the baby’s sac.”
One of our babies was dead.
I know Dr. Van de Ven said something to us before the nurses wheeled me back to the hospital room, but I didn’t really hear him or understand. Bryan just kept telling me, “You did so good, Sweetie. You did so well.” And I thought he was going to cry, but he didn’t. All I could think was, “This is my fault. If only I had gone to triage and not let that nurse on the phone make me think I was being a hypochondriac. If only I had taken more naps, or not taken the class, or not tried to walk to the pool. If I had known about membranes. If only I had done some small or large or insignificant thing differently,” I railed at myself, silently, tears flowing, “our babies wouldn’t be in danger. All of them would be alive. And we would be at home. Safe.”
* * *
Sometime that night, Dr. Van de Ven came by and asked us again if we wanted to continue trying to save the other two babies. It was inevitable that my body would reject the dead body, and the risk of infection was high. It was most likely that once my uterus started to expel the dead fetus, all three would come out. “I can’t even give you a percentage, what the chances are, that they could stay inside,” he said, sounding like he had been crying. His eyes were usually so bright, but their blue was dulled, tired.
Somehow, in that moment that I knew our babies would make it. I recalled a dream I had, of being on our big new bed at home, with a nursing pillow and two babies. Not three, two. I remembered being upset by that dream, but now it was something to cling to.
We told Dr. Van de Ven, as before, that we wanted to try to preserve the pregnancy.
Bryan resumed reading to me. I was taken off the catheter, and Dr. Van de Ven allowed me a trip or two to the bathroom each day, and a shower. I hadn’t showered for days. I smelled of medicine and urine and saline. I cried as the warm water cascaded over my shaking shoulders and quaking legs. My belly looked pitifully small and inadequate. But then I breathed in deep and straightened up.
“Mom, I need you to cut my hair,” I declared after the shower. Mom was with me while Bryan took a break and checked in at home with our bills and other mundane things.
Mom was puzzled. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I asked the nurse for some scissors, but all she would give us were the safety scissors for cutting off bandages, not office scissors even. I didn’t care.
She repeated her question: “Are you sure you want me to cut your hair, with these?”
“Yes, Mom.” And with some nervous laughter, she began.
I had been growing my hair out when I got pregnant. I imagined throwing my hair up into braids, or a bun, or a ponytail before changing diapers or pushing a triple stroller for a power walk to the grocery store. Nothing was going to be like I imagined, and I needed to make a mark to make that clear. Confined to the hospital room, cutting my hair was one thing I could control and could change easily. And my mom was the only one I wanted to do it for me. I felt relief as each curl fell to the floor.
I never saw the solid, comforting nurse who brought me into the hospital the first night. But I remembered her and her generosity at the moment I met an intern I’d never met before. At that moment, I was at the beginning phase of having to expel my dead son from my body. The intern’s body language and voice had the opposite effect of the solid nurse’s presence, and the intern’s stance might have ended my time in the hospital with three deaths rather than one, because when she looked at me, in my contraction pain and panic, she asked me this: “Do you mind giving birth right here?”
I looked at her and saw contempt with a smidgen of pity in her green eyes peering at me through fashionable glasses. She blew a stray piece of brownish-blond lanky hair away from her eyes, as if to see this strange specimen more clearly. All I could do was stammer, “I guess so.”
The intern didn’t offer to find my husband, or my doctor, or the postdoctoral fellow who was assisting Dr. Van de Ven with my case. She just stood there looking down at me while the nurses came to try to get me all the way onto the bed. She didn’t lift a finger or move an inch to assist them or me, didn’t go get a sterile bed pad, or wash her hands or anything. She just watched me until she was pushed out of the way by my husband, who miraculously returned soon, followed by the appearance of the postdoc. Like Athena from Zeus’s head, the postdoc sprang out of nowhere into wise action. I couldn’t see the intern’s reaction to the postdoc’s order to “Book a surgical suite now. Dr. Van de Ven is on his way up.” The postdoc was going to get me to the surgery to give my babies a chance to live, not just expelled along with their dead brother’s body.
Dr. Van de Ven had a plan, though he hadn’t shared it with me and Bryan yet. Unbeknownst to us, he had been doing research. He found reports from an Arab doctor in the Emirates or somewhere in that part of the world, who had preserved a twin after its sibling had been born preterm. The key was leaving the placenta inside, on the other side of the cervical canal, tricking my body into thinking it wasn’t time for more contractions to expel the other two placental sacs. Not time for gestation to be over. The time to expel everything and start the nurturance phase outside of the womb had not yet come. Eventually, my cervix started to close down, and we tried a second cerclage. It worked.
* * *
Not long ago, the news was full of headlines about Serena Williams’s story of almost dying after giving birth. The hospital staff wouldn’t believe her when she described her deadly health condition, which was worsening postdelivery. They greeted her with suspicion rather than care. When I think about Williams’s story, and when I see statistics that the rate of black maternal death is 243 percent higher than white maternal death, I can’t help but wonder if race played any role in that intern’s disdain for me the day my son was stillborn. I think about the gynecologist who was perfectly fine ignoring my concerns about thyroid symptoms. I’ll never know if race played a role, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. Studies do show that health workers regularly dismiss or minimize black patients’ concerns, minimize their pain, and dismiss claims of trauma. If a superstar like Serena Williams, pregnant in a private hospital where she and her husband paid to get special treatment, can’t get nurses to treat her with respect, to acknowledge that she is feeling something wrong in her body and give her care that she needs, what can the rest of us expect?
October 1, 28 Weeks, 10 p.m.
After two months of bed rest with biweekly visits from a nurse, the contractions begin again.
Bryan drives me to triage, as we are instructed. We tell them I am Dr. Van de Ven’s patient, and about the early labor. But the doctor assigned to us doesn’t admit me.
“We have to be sure that the contractions are getting closer together. You can lay down in there, and we’ll time them and take a look at the cerclage.”
“Did you talk to Dr. Van de Ven?” I ask. The doctor just replies, “Hospital admission rules. I’ll get a nurse to set you up to rest in there.”
I am flummoxed. How can they do this? Aren’t we supposed to be on some sort of list, some sort of emergency list of people who have dangerous pregnancies? I had read in my books that I should be getting a dose of magnesium sulfate to pacify all of my muscles, the uterus especially. Get shots of steroids to strengthen the babies’ lungs, in case the magnesium sulfate treatment doesn’t have the desired effect. There are things to be done, but instead we are ushered into a side room, where a bunch of spare gurneys are sitting under half-dimmed lights. Bryan helps me get up on the metal gurney and puts a blanket over me and the uterine monitor strapped to my belly. It is 11:00 p.m.
October 2, 28 Weeks and 1 Day, 2 a.m.
The doctor returns. She checks my uterine monitor and the readouts. “We’re going to admit you.”
I get the magnesium sulfate and begin to float between worlds. I don’t even feel the pneumatic needles pushing into my thigh, delivering the steroids for the twins’ underdeveloped lungs.
I dream constantly. At one point, on one day, I tell a friend who’s come to sit with me so Bryan can take a break, “Write this down for me.” What I say is unintelligible to her, because she didn’t write it. But I remember saying, “I can see my son and daughter in my arms. They will be okay.”
October 3, 28 Weeks, 2 Days
I am allowed to have a sponge bath to get the heavy metallic smell off my body. I luxuriate with each sweep of the washcloth the nurse assists me with, even though I am naked in front of someone I don’t know. I don’t care. I can feel the babies moving inside me.
October 4, 28 Weeks, 3 Days: Birth Day
I wake up feeling fluid between my legs. It isn’t urine or blood or membranes, just clear.
My water has broken.
A new doctor I haven’t met before brings an ultrasound machine to check the fluid levels and says it’s Baby A’s sac (“Baby A is Will, my son,” I think in my head, cross with her). She says that it is leaking, but my uterus is not contracting, so as long as the fluid stays at a sufficient level, we’re okay.
Twenty-eight and a half weeks. My babies are being delivered two months early. I wanted to get to thirty-two weeks, at least.
Dr. Van de Ven explains that because he left the placenta in to preserve the pregnancy, to trick my body into waiting, the placenta is now an infection risk. With the punctured sac, Will could get an infection that would also spread to me and Helena.
October 4 would be their birthday.
October 4, 2 p.m.
I prepare myself for the spinal block, curling myself inward and pushing my spine toward the anesthesiologist’s needle, inviting it to find an easy slot between my vertebrae.
“You made that easy!” He raises his eyebrows and peers at me as the nurse helps me lie back onto the gurney.
“I’ve had practice,” I manage to joke. The cerclage at eighteen and a half weeks had been set with only a spinal block.
Bryan is allowed in as soon the spinal block starts taking effect. He has to wear a hairnet and a surgical gown, but they don’t make him wear a mask. “Our babies are coming today, Sweetie. You did so good.” He squeezes my hand, then stands where I can see him, but not in the way of the doctors who file in and take positions on the other side of the surgical drape. I can’t see what they are doing, but I can see Dr. Van de Ven’s blue eyes, and I relax as much as I can.
I feel a tugging sensation in my lower body and back as they cut into my uterus and begin moving things around to bring the babies out.
Will is first. He is so small. I lose my breath at how small he is. I can’t really see his eyes, but I can hear the start of a faint wail. Then he is taken away by the nurse for the Apgar test, the test that will determine what medical interventions will be started right away, and what will wait for the neonatal intensive care unit. But I hear breath from him, if not the classic infant cry.
Helena is next. She is bigger, just slightly, and her skin is so much redder than her brother’s. Dr. Van de Ven holds her up over the curtain a little longer. “Helena,” I whisper up at Bryan, tears coming down my face. Then she is gone.
“Go with them,” I urge Bryan. “Please—I don’t want them to be alone.”
Bryan looks torn. “I want you to go with them,” I repeat. And he follows their trail to the heated stations where the tests are happening.
“They’re both over two pounds! They’re not going to intubate them, they think.”
A miracle. The steroids have worked.
“They’re taking them to the NICU now.” Bryan puts his hand on my forehead.
“Go with them,” I manage to choke.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Be with our babies.” And he goes with Dr. Van de Ven, while his surgical residents start the task of reconstructing my abdomen.
The residents are a chatty bunch, talking with each other on the other side of the drape, putting their hands inside my body, as if I can’t hear them. They wear plastic eyeshades and paper masks over their mouths, and with the glare it is hard for me to see their eyes. The residents stand, talking to each other, just three figures in blue surgical scrubs, every so often raising their bloody, gloved hands above my stomach.
October 4, Evening
“Here comes Mom,” I hear the nurse call ahead of my gurney as she opens the security doors to the NICU. Bryan is there. The twins are placed on my chest, above my sutured belly. I am crying, “Oh, Sweeties! Mommy is here! Mommy is here! I am so glad to see you!” They are so light, I can hardly believe these are the creatures who kicked my ribs and elbowed my organs for the past two months.