Fri 29 Feb 2008
and there i was again in that same goddam room for the third time, that room with its stark, giant clock, that room that has only ever hosted endings for me, or the beginnings of endings, bright with blood. and first the machine crapped out the moment she pulled the sensor towards me, and we waited, making awkward idle chitchat, while it rebooted and i pretended to be composed. there was a nurse there, and a nursing student, though both of them seemed out of place since i’d thought this was a clandestine affair, this visit, date almost, this secret promised viewing in the closed and hallowed halls of Labour & Delivery. ’til yesterday, i had not seen my OBGYN since the week before my D&C last November. no visits to check the drop of hcg levels or confirm the thoroughness of surgery. the followup appointment – delayed due to the holidays – was cancelled in January thanks to a storm. the replacement appointment after the storm got hijacked because my doctor herself was sick. by the time i finally saw her yesterday, it was for another maternity visit…i am nine weeks today. theatre of the absurd. and such a terrifying leap of faith, this try, this shot. so i figured this trip to L&D was a favour, a kindness slipped into her busy delivery schedule because she knows me and my history all too well, even though ultrasounds in our part of the world are hoarded and doled out like prized crumbs and better say thanks.
she laded me with blue jelly. the chitchat stumbled to a halt. i looked at the screen and saw only fuzz, and looked away. i stared at the clock, instead, that trusty abominably ugly clock that has witnessed too many minutes of me lying in that bed, fearful and waiting. she tried. she twisted, cocked her head. i looked her in the eye and realized hers are almost the exact colour of my own. and she met my gaze and said, “you know what i’m going to say. i’m not seeing what i’d like to be seeing here. but that could just, umm, be me.”
it is an in joke, of sorts. three years ago, this same kind, frank, capable doctor “snuck” me into L&D for one of these sly side ultrasounds because i’d seen her twice for what appeared to be an unfortunate, mortifying bladder issue, and she wanted to make sure instead that i was not leaking fluid. that sunny April morning, she pronounced all well with the fluid surrounding my 23-week baby, and after a little begging on my part told me she was 90% certain we were having a girl. six days later, i found myself in the room with the clock, blood and fluid all down my legs, waiting for an airlift. Finn, our son, died ultimately of the lung complications suffered because i had, indeed, been leaking fluid for a month unchecked before the sac gave way entirely. she knows this, my doctor. i know that had she caught it, there was still nothing she could have done. so we live with this between us, this sad, wry truth that she may not excel at ultrasounds and yet is the only one who has ever gone out of her way to try to give me peace of mind with them. and i trust her because she is honest, and human.
but when she said, “it could just be me,” i could not hear her, not really, because my heart had already sunk into that stark, certain, brutal helplessness of having one’s fear realized, yet again. she left the room to call down to the radiology lab to see if they could see me. the part of me that weighs and measures and never took my eyes off that bleak, institutional clock face registered what a gift it was to have these strings pulled, to actually get in for a vaginal ultrasound ASAP. most of me, though, was scrambling to hide. my brain tore through sad little shreds of narrative and metaphor wherein i tried to tell myself i could do this again and come out whole on the other side. i refused to believe myself. i would have thought that the prospect of loss, like so many things, gets easier with practice…instead, for me it becomes more intolerable, more surreal.
the nurse insisted that the student nurse walk with me down to radiology. poor little soul, all of twenty-one and chipper. they let her come in with me to the tech’s lair, when they would not let even Dave come in November, not even when we were almost sure that the news was going to be bad. she had the good sense to sit in a corner and not try to hold my hand.
belly ultrasound and the tech said nothing except that my uterus seemed tilted back and sucked her teeth and asked if i’d mind the transvaginal and i nearly leapt off the table trying to get my damn pants off, because what the hell is dignity for if you can’t shove it aside now and then for things more important? then the probe, and she sucked her teeth again and turned the screen and there it was, hiding in the back, way away in that pelvis that seems to be spreading daily, a little round head and wiggling limbs and a heartbeat, 170 bpm. and i said, sweet fucking merciful Jesus and my legs began to shake like a small dog’s and then i would have let that little student nurse hold my hand, i would have, but she was trying very hard to politely not notice me spread-eaged on the table and was instead smiling intently at the screen.
never once in my reproductive history before today have i had a doctor say, “uh oh” and had anything but the very worst case scenario turn out.
i said to Dave that maybe my luck in this department is like Brigadoon. it hides in the mists, and i needed a leap year – a moment out of the ordinary ordained calendar – to bring it out.
so badly i hope that it holds.