I guess that I can’t avoid writing this chapter of our history any longer.
I realize that I am still in that awkward stage of blogging when past and present have a tendency to mingle a little more than they should. But a meaningful understanding of everything that happens to my wife and I from here on out will depend on some kind of context. Anecdotes don’t mean all that much on their own. A story without a backstory is spineless.
So, here it is. Up to this point, one event looms as the clear dramatic climax of our struggles with infertility. It is not a particularly unique or objectively-fascinating tale, but it is our story and I must share it if this blog is to be of anything approaching honesty.
The first week in April 2011 was the best week of my life.
It is the week I was going to be a father.
“Was going to be.”
Like I said: the worst week of my life.
In April, my wife and I had been trying to get her pregnant for somewhere between eight months and a year. (A recent conversation with my wife has me wondering if the event where I committed to start trying to have a baby actually occurred earlier than I have been remembering it.) We were a little frustrated that things weren’t going as easily as we hoped. But we were not particularly heartbroken yet. Our efforts were an exciting adventure. Our repeated failures were almost more amusing than agonizing. In our minds, a pregnancy was coming soon. We knew the point at which we had taken longer to conceive than a reasoned statistician would predict. But we knew that we weren’t exactly outliers.
My wife (who is never late — to menstruate or otherwise) still wasn’t bleeding a couple days after her period should have began. That’s when she took a pregnancy test. And another for good measure.
Positive. Positive again. Good measure, indeed.
We were thrilled. What’s the due date? December 20? My wife and I always said we didn’t want a Christmas baby. With one on the way, we realized that we couldn’t have been more wrong. An Independence Day baby or a Labor Day baby would have been better, but having a new baby for Christmas would be the greatest thing ever to happen to us. We no longer cared about how sad it would be to have his or her birthday overshadowed by the holiday or about the financial hardship of giving our child respectable birthday gifts and respectable Christmas gifts.
We’d never been more overjoyed. We told our immediate families. This would be her parents’ first grandchild and my parents’ first grandchild. My sisters and her sister would be aunts. My brother and her brothers would be uncles.
And we would be parents. Mother and father. Mum and pops. Mommy and daddy. I tried all of ‘em on and loved every last one.
Everyone was entirely signed on for their new roles and ready to dive in.
What if it’s a boy? We bought a few outfits. What if it’s a girl? We bought a few outfits. What if it’s inter-sex? We bemoaned the scarcity of gender-neutral baby clothes.
We may have been stupid-happy, but we weren’t stupid. We knew that lots of pregnancies end in miscarriage and that those that do end in a miscarriage typically end early. There were no announcement cards in the mail. No hints on social media. Not so much as a mention to our closest friends.
If there were grief, it would only be for us and our families to share.
Grief came shortly. And not the kind that Charlie Brown is always talking about. This was bad.
A couple days later, the blood came. My wife was getting ready for work. I tried to talk her out of it, but she’s not the kind of person who will let something like a cataclysmic life-changing event alter her plans. And besides, she didn’t want the first people she told to be the human resources office at her work.
I went to work as well. Numb. Trying desperately to think of something that could make everything all better. Or at least make my wife happy again. When she got home, what could we do? What movie do you watch when you’ve lost your first chance at becoming a parent? What’s the best sorry-you’re-not-going-to-be-a-mom-yet-or-in-any-predictable-timeframe restaurant in town? (I just checked the Zagat to confirm and there isn’t one listed.)
Around the lunch hour, I got a call from my wife who had left work early. My heart beating a thousand times a minute, I approached my supervisor and told him I’mhavingafamilyemergencyrightnowI’llseeyoutomorrowthankyouforyourunderstandingbye. I grabbed some lunch to share with her and flowers. I ran home. The numbness was fading fast.
“How was your day?” My wife and I ask each other this question every day. I’m sure we didn’t on that day.
My wife’s day was pretty terrible. Her pains were intense. The amount of blood was unprecedented. Her emotional turmoil was the most intense she had ever experienced. It’s not the kind of state you want to be in when you’re trying to take care of patients.
At some point, my wife found herself in her manager’s office where — cruel irony of cruel ironies, the manager asked my wife “Are you pregnant?” A number of the women working on my wife’s unit were pregnant and several weeks before (before she was pregnant), a rumor started spreading that my wife was another one of them.
As you can imagine, my miscarrying wife very calmly and straight-facedly answered that she was not pregnant.
Or maybe she reacted slightly differently.
As she recalls, she didn’t say anything. My wife is not an emotional person at work. She is a consummate professional. In a work environment where altogether too many people allow themselves to lose their tempers, my wife is a pillar — to the extent that co-workers honestly profess that she’s the only one they haven’t seen lose her temper.
But that question. THE question. It was too much. The answer was certainly more than her heart or her cool demeanor could keep in. She sobbed dramatically. I can imagine her saying something like “not anymore,” “if only” or a simple “no” through her tears and sharp respirations. But whatever she said or didn’t say, her manager understood her and sent her home.
Somehow, she made her way home through the tears and the pains and the heartbreak. And I was supposed to come home and make it better. Other than come home immediately, what’s a man to do when he gets a tearful call from his wife who just tells him to “come home”? I did what you can guess I did. The numbness having completely vanished when I saw her, we cried together. I put the flowers in a vase. I ate with her.
I have no idea what we did for the rest of that day. But I know what we have done every day since then:
We have remembered that day.
I will remember that day until the day that I write my last post on this blog and beyond.