*If you haven't read my first post on pregnancy loss, you might consider doing that, first...*
First published on www.mamascomfortcamp.com
Ann plans and God laughs.
No? You learned it differently? Well, maybe. But that seems to be the way that adage plays out in my life.
I always wanted two children. I married James knowing he wanted four. But, after Sarit was born I kept finding myself LOOKing for someone else. A third child. It would be risky, I knew, having a third kid. I had two hips and could carry them at the same time when I walked short distances. When it was time to go somewhere I would say “Girls! Let’s go!” Or, “Ladies! Time to leave!” How would I get three children out the door? Especially if one was a BOY?
But I decided. I planned. I wanted another.
I have a pretty sensitive stomach so when I went to the doctor for stomach pains, I thought we’d agree that I had food poisoning, I’d get a prescription for medication—and ginger ale—and that would be that.
“Mmmm. Do you know when your last period was? I think we should give you a blood test.” “Um, OK.”
“Hi. I was wondering if the results of my, um, test were in?” HIPPA privacy regulations and all. One must be discreet.
“Yes. They’re positive.”
“Yeah. One week.”
“One week?! Aaand that’s based on HCG, not LMP, right?” Two can play at this “privacy” game.
I went to my OB-GYN when I figured I was about six weeks pregnant and we scheduled the first round of now-standard prenatal testing. One day a few weeks later, at the end of November, I dropped Gavri off at school, strapped Sarit into the stroller, and sang to her from the pages of her nursery rhyme book as I lay on the table for my routine ultrasound: “Hush little baby, don’t say a w—“
“I’m going to get the doctor.” The sonographer walks out of the room.
“OK…” That’s normal. Isn’t it?
She walks back in. With a doctor. Not mine.
Click. Swish. Click. Swish. Click. Swish. Gagoom. Gagoom. Gagoom. Gagoom. Gagoom. Click.
“Normally, at this point, we would see the baby’s brain fully developed. This HOLE wouldn’t be here. It might be nothing. Come back in a month to check. In the meantime, you can go across the hall for the blood-work.”
MY doctor called the next day. “It might really be nothing, Ann. But you don’t have to wait a month. You can come in next week.”
I started to pray. Out loud, in English, I asked God to heal the baby. I started singing. Because there’s a teaching that when we’re singing, it’s like we’re praying twice. I sang running errands. I sang washing dishes. I sang walking Gavri to school. “Mommy, are you praying?”
Then I thought I was being impractical so I just asked for the strength to deal with whatever came next. Then I decided I was allowed to be selfish. I wanted a perfect child. So after asking God for everything else, I finally asked for a miscarriage. What kind of a mother asks God to take her baby?
My doctor called. The blood tests had come back. There was a four out of five chance that the baby I was carrying had a chromosomal abnormality: Trisomy 13 or Trisomy 18. “Either way it’s bad. They’re very bad. Not compatible with life. Call back tomorrow and we’ll schedule you for a meeting with a genetic counselor.”
So I did. And we did. And we learned that there was about a 90% chance that I would miscarry. Some time before the end of the pregnancy. Some time. And that abortion was an option. Abortion. But they recommended a follow-up test for further information first. So I could come on Friday. And then I could schedule an abortion.
James wanted to meet with the rabbi. We shouldn’t make these decisions on our own, without rabbinic counsel. But I had already decided: I couldn’t be pregnant with this baby. I couldn’t wear maternity clothes and have people ask when I was due. Have the girls ask when the “new baby” is coming. “Oh, actually,” I would say, patting my belly, “this baby’s probably going to die. We just have to wait and find out when!” I would smile cheerfully, shrug my shoulders, and move on.
“It’s the mother’s decision,” the rabbi told us. “Not only do you have to support it, James, but you have to tell Ann that you support whatever choice she makes.”
I cried myself to sleep that night.
After the longest week in my life, at 12 weeks and five days of pregnancy, I woke up bleeding. I called my doctor, giddy. She said I had to wait. There was no reason for me to come to the hospital right away. So I took Gavri to school. I volunteered at the book fair. I emailed lesson plans to my principal, saying I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it in. I called a friend to watch the girls, telling her I was miscarrying and on my way to the doctor.
I took the bus. And the subway. I couldn’t DRIVE. I was BLEEDING. I might pass out behind the wheel of the car. I told James I would call him when I was on my way into surgery and he could meet me there. I was sure I’d need surgery. This had happened before.
By the time I made it to my doctor’s office, it was all I could do to keep from squatting in the waiting room, the cramping was so intense. Then the nurse called me in. As I started to sit, she said, “You know what? The doctor’s probably going to want to do an exam. Why don’t you go change?”
So I did.
Then it happened.
And I looked.
And I saw it.
And I screamed.
And no one came.
I sat on the exam table. The doctor knocked and entered. She wasn’t MY doctor. Tears welled up in my eyes and I said, “I think you have to check the toilet. I think I just passed a mass.”
And she did.
And I had.
“That looks like your fetus.” I know. I saw it. At the bottom of the toilet. It was the size of my thumb. It had hands and a face…
“I’m sorry. Do you want me to leave?” She walked towards me. The tears spilled out. The words joined them.
“No! Please. Don’t leave me alone…I’m sorry…I have two little girls…What a horrible thing to happen to a baby…”
Years later I sit in a room full of women training with me to become foster moms. I had to become a foster mom. It was kind of my only option. I had a little boy. A two-year-old. “Rami.” He had just weaned and I knew I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t go through another pregnancy waiting for the next doctor’s appointment, waiting to hear the heartbeat, waiting to see the FULLY DEVELOPED BRAIN. I couldn’t do it. But James wants four kids. And I need desperately to hold babies. To know that I’m keeping even one baby from crying.
The social workers are explaining that some women simply CAN’T parent their children. The natural response is "TSK. But every mom WANTS their baby. Every mom SHOULD want their baby." But I know better. I slink down in my seat. I'm afraid they'll see me. And they'll know. I was that monster. I was that "girl." I was that MOM. Who didn't want her baby.
But I did.