it is such a secret place, the land of tears.
– Antoine St. Exupery

 i got my first positive pregnancy test three years ago today.

we were trying, but i was so sure that we could not possibly ever get a positive on the first try – i’d been told since i was sixteen that i was an iffy ovulator – that i waited until i was three days late to test. and even then, when Dave and i flipped that little stick over after the two minute wait, the two clear lines staring back at us left me with an overwhelming sense of unreality, as if i’d – magically, happily, gratefully – landed in a scene my imagination had never fully dared flesh out.

i’ve pretty much felt the same ever since…stunned and unprepared.

only a week after that first positive test, i started to bleed. we were in Korea then, and it was a Saturday night, so Dave and i bounced from emergency room to emergency room all over our city of a million souls, looking for one with an English-speaking doctor on duty. after an hour on a stretcher literally one curtain away from a woman in the full-on throes of labour, i was brought into an exam room where a new curtain was dropped between me and my nether regions. the perky nurse then proceeded, with no explanation but many cheery smiles, to insert some small and painful object into my lady parts. panicked by the ensuing sounds of liquid, i asked in very bad Korean what she was doing…and she answered “draining,” most sunnily. dear god, i thought, they’re vacuuming me out without even checking to make sure the baby’s gone! turns out it was actually a catheter. i nearly fainted with relief.

but my relief was only temporary. i did not miscarry Finn, but kept him long enough to believe we were safe, past danger, and that my traumatic first experience of prenatal care was just a funny story. it turns out it was more of a hazing, a gentle initiation into how the road to motherhood would be for me: overly invasive and kind of a shock to the system, every step of the way. i was reminded of it again the other day, listening to the sounds of a newborn in the hallway outside the room where Dave & i waited for my d&c, realizing that not once – after three pregnancies, two live births, and one reasonably non-crisis-type birth – have i ever gotten to do what that new mother was doing with her newborn: just sitting with him or her, nursing, breathing, holding. even after Oscar’s birth i was whisked away, completely unprepared, to the OR to tear open my unwanted epiosotomy and retrieve the placenta. i waited there for hours in the middle of the night, shaking, unable to believe that a living baby would be waiting for me when they finally saw fit to bring me back.

this is where i am these days, after this miscarriage. i am grieving, though not this pregnancy per se…not solely that, or even primarily that. i am grieving all of it, this whole road, all the damage done along the way. i feel like meat that has been gouged, roughly and repeatedly. the road into motherhood has brutalized every single cherished hope and expectation i ever had of it, and made me wonder what it was about my simple hopes that was so unreasonable, so completely impossible to fulfill?

not all has been sorrow and burden, not at all. moments with Oscar have been gifts of the surprise variety: magic in the way his sticky little hand fits into mine, gratitude for his healthy mind and body, more or less, the wild beauty of those first, tentative, successful communications where he and i shared a giggle, a moment of joy. i could not have been raised in a way that prepared me less to parent a son, and yet i am enriched by this man-child in ways that make the idea of any alternative life seem intolerably black & white. blindly, i’m fumbling my way through a job both more drudgerous and more joyful than i ever imagined it could be.

but each bend this road has taken in and out of the land of tears has left me breathless, in a shock primal and visceral enough that i can barely stay standing, let alone walk. and i am there right now, on my knees, trying to dust myself off and let go of the counting of weeks and hopes, unwind myself back to zero. it is hard. it makes me angry…which for me is really just a way of saying i hurt. i hurt badly, and i do not want to. if i yell loud enough, can i frighten you away, sadness? but sadness is, alas, hard to scare. and the worst of it, this particular time, is that there is so little this loss can add to the vast sum of lessons learned last time that it simply feels like a rehash, like having scabs torn off for no purpose except random amusement. so i sit with all these old wounds piled up around me on the road, unable to go forward just yet, in this secret landscape that i cannot really call up with words, and yet that i know so many of you walk in too, our ghosts passing each other.

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i am not used to this. i’ve struggled, i’ve been disappointed and broken-hearted in other places. but the desire for children, when you have it, is so primal and success so completely out of your personal control, that it’s a mindfuck…especially when it goes badly. and the world’s way of dealing with it – which is largely to say as little as possible, even among medical personnel, even in circumstances that are obviously tragic and awkward – only furthers that sense of surreality. the surgery doctor greeted me Monday with a hearty “it’s d&c day!” and yeh, i was happy and relieved to be getting things over with. but the date wasn’t marked in my calendar with sunbeam stickers, y’know? yesterday, when i called my regular OB to make a follow-up appointment, i was told late January was the best they could do. which means i’ll be 36 by the time anyone looks at my cervix to see what damage, if any, this surgery has wrought, and if there is damage it’ll be scar tissue by then. sigh. but what really hurt was the callousness. if you answer the phones for an OB practice, and someone calls to say they had a d&c two days ago for a missed miscarriage, is it really so hard to say “i’m sorry?” it ought to be sheer reflex. even if you don’t mean it…just acknowledge me, my sorrow, my circumstances. the day after Finn died, my first day on my feet in three long weeks, a nurse at the desk on the bedrest ward i’d been returned to suggested i try walking to the lounge, to build my strength. they were having a baby shower for the other, still-pregnant residents of the ward at that time…in the lounge. she never made eye contact with me again.

clearly, i’m raw. i will heal…i’ve been walking this road long enough to know that no stopping place is permanent. we will try again…and the prospect fills me with wry humour as well as hope, because i wonder if such gluttony for punishment isn’t unhealthy, when experience blatantly suggests that perhaps we’d be more successful with a different pursuit of the heart, like, say rescuing kittens?

but, for all the damage and the hurt, i do not regret the last three years, nor starting out on this road. it has been hard, far worse than i ever expected. but far more worthwhile too, for all the tears.

and i still get to hope, when three more years roll around, that we will have more happy stories to add to the collection, more joy, more children in our house.