171 beats per minute.
That's what the happy, sunny ultrasound technician said.
"Do you want to hear the heartbeat?" I had no idea you could hear the heartbeat this early, so of course I wanted to.
"There it is. 171 beats per minute."
"Is that good?"
"That's very good.." Very good; very real.
At every step of finding out I was pregnant, I was skeptical. After all, I AM 46 years old.
I decided not to take the test until I was 14 days late because I just was not sure. When I took the test, I took it twice. Well, honestly, the first time I tried to pee on the stick, I completely missed the stick and had to re-pee. Then I thought the results were faulty because maybe missing the whole stick somehow tainted it and I would need to test again for a more accurate reading. When the second test confirmed the first, I still had a hard time believing it. We had tried. We stopped trying. Not really stopped, because, as I have said to friends who had surprise pregnancies, "If you were having sex without protection, there was always the chance that you would get pregnant."
So, there was always that hope...always.
Then the technician said, "171 beats per minute," and later showed me a picture with a tiny arrow pointing to a little blob that was my baby.
Another three weeks passed, and the blood came. Not a lot. Just a little...just enough.
A different technician, not as sunny, not as bubbly, not asking what I wanted to see or hear. Just the silence.
"I am not hearing the heartbeat. I am going to take you to another room and we'll wait for the doctor. Take your time getting dressed." That was it.
Most of my friends know I like crime shows, both true crime and "ripped from the headlines" shows. I always feel bad for the people upon whom suspicion falls just because when they were told tragic news, they had no reaction. That's how I usually react. The road from my head to my heart to my emotions is paved with doubt and hope in equal measure.
I was expecting her to tell me that they would use a different machine that would show a better picture. Or that someone would come and tell me that this technician was new and she needed help reading the screen sometimes. Or that someone would just walk up and say, "We're sorry, but you're dreaming: No pregnancy, no blood, no 171 beats."
Instead, I dressed in silence, followed the technician to another room, and after a while, to another room and no one said anything except, "Follow me."
I sat in an office, with a space heater blasting air that was way too warm, for a long while before anyone said, "I'm sorry. You have had a miscarriage." The "no heartbeat" message was still traveling on Hope Road. The nurse came in and hit the brakes for me.
"I need to ask you a few questions so we can make sure we get you healthy after this miscarriage." The tears came then. Just sobbing. No wailing. No hiccups. No beats anymore. Her face was the last sympathetic face I saw in that office.
When my OB/GYN came, the one I chose on-line and had never met, she was chewing gum. In between chomps, she told me what we needed to do to remove the tissue from my body. And the "comforting words" came in that sing-songy voice that universally signals, "I've done this before. I have to say these words. You are nothing special." The words "blah, blah, blah" practically floated over her head as she said, "It's not your fault. You are not being punished. You can have the tissue analyzed to see what happened, but the insurance probably won't pay for it because they know it probably happened because you are 46 (smack, smack). I tell my patients who are 45 that they have 0 chance of getting pregnant. (chew, chew). If you were 25 or 28, and this were your 2nd or 3rd miscarriage, I would say get some tests (chomp). But since you are 46 (by the way, you look 23) it's a miracle you even got pregnant (slap in the face)."
I had no where to look: there were three 2ft by 2ft pictures of her twins on the wall, her pants were brown, the white table behind her was calling to me, and I was wearing my favorite pair of converse sneakers. I knew there would be something in that room that would always remind me of this moment, and I wanted it to be something that I never had to see again. I had no where to look, so I turned inward to that dark place that I visit sometimes, that has been always been. And I am still there.
But I am praying to get out.
I have friends and family and co-workers who love me. My students missed me when I was gone. My daughter tells me she loves me every day. My husband has been my rock and one of the people, of many, who reminds me that God is in charge.
And I am still there.