The day before my D&C was scheduled, I began to miscarry naturally. I was at work, and called the midwives’ emergency line to see if I could get a quick prescription for vicodin or something so I could ignore the pain and finish my shift.
“If you’re in that much pain,” the midwife said, “maybe you need to come in and have emergency surgery tonight instead.” I decided I wasn’t in that much pain, since changing the time of my surgery would mean changing its orchestrater; that is, I’d chosen to have my surgery performed by the one of the six doctors I’d liked the most, and the doctor on call tonight was the one I’d liked the least.
“Just take 600 to 800 milligrams of ibuprofen,” the midwife continued. “That’s prescription strength.” So I loaded up on the free drugs in my store’s first aid kit and somehow finished my shift.
On the way home that night, I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. When we got home, I locked myself in the bathroom and, once satisfied that I wasn’t actually going to vomit, sat down on the toilet with my pants around my ankles and my head in my hands. This was not what I had wanted. I’d been begging for the surgery so that I wouldn’t have to feel my pregnancy slipping out of me and then flush it away.
But that was what happened. When I stood up, one of the two sacs from the ultrasound photos was there in the toilet, a small, glistening oval in a haze of blood. I thought about calling Doug in to show him, but decided to spare him the visual memory, unsure as to whether he’d feel what I felt. Because what I felt at that moment was not disgust or sadness or anger, but peace. Seeing that sac reassured me, in a way that no amount of blood tests and ultrasounds ever could have, that there was no baby growing in there. So at least I never had to wonder, following my choice to have an abortion instead of a miscarriage, what if I killed it?
By the following morning, I hadn’t seen the second sac, hadn’t done much bleeding at all, really, so I reported for surgery anyway. When I told the doctor, a petite Indian woman who was so naturally pretty she even looked gorgeous in her scrubs, what had happened, she agreed that we should go through with the D&C. She put her hand on mine and led me into the OR, saying,
“Let’s get you all cleaned out, honey.”
The details of the next few days are kind of fuzzy and unimportant. I was told the surgery went well. Although I had bought maxi pads – an ordeal in itself since I’ve only ever used tampons; I remember standing in Target, calling Dawn and my mom, leaving frantic messages because I didn’t know what to get – I hardly bled after the surgery. I spent the next two days lying on my couch, taking ibuprofen and taking it easy, and then I went back to work.
I do remember, however, a conversation I had with my friend Beth right around that time. Beth and I have been friends since we were six years old, and as long as I can remember, she has wanted to be a housewife: when I would go to her house after school, we would bake cookies and watch Frugal Gourmet (as opposed to when we’d go to my house, play outside with my brothers, and watch Ninja Turtles.) She got married shortly after I did, but she stayed happily married while I ran for the hills to reclaim my “lost youth.” She makes budgets and owns property and cooks for her husband; I feel accomplished if I have more than $20 in my bank account the day before payday, or if I help Doug cook by chopping vegetables for him. We are in every way opposites, but after 20 years of friendship, some of those contrast lines start to blur.
“So are you going to keep trying?” Beth asked me. It was the very first thing she asked me after I’d told her what had happened.
I felt like a kid whose dog had just been put to sleep, but who suddenly realized that this meant she could get a new puppy. Keep trying! What a wonderful idea! We hadn’t been trying before, so why not keep doing what we were doing (which was nothing, really – no prevention, no measured attempts, just sex for sex’s sake)? And maybe next time, the baby would stick, and everything would be okay.
Of course, a little while later, I mentioned this idea to my mom, and she reminded me of all the things that might constitute an ideal situation for a baby: money, proximity to family, a strong and lasting bond between the parents, more than 700 square feet of apartment to raise the baby in… and how little all that resembled the situation I was proposing to actually bring a baby into.
I consulted Dawn, who said more or less the same thing: “Use this time to really work on and strengthen your relationship with Doug. You’re both still so young. You’ll have plenty of time to have a baby.”
They were right. I watched my little getting-a-puppy ship sink, taking my heart down with it. I was going to have to find a good form of birth control.