At the eight-week ultrasound, it was apparent even before the doctor said anything definitive.
I looked at the monitor and there was just a space in a little black hole. I kept hoping as she moved the wand that she would stumble upon our child hiding, but no. No heartbeat, I heard her say. I must have turned pale because she told me to lean back. I held my husband’s hand and then buried my head in his shoulder.
“It’s called a missed miscarriage,” she said. “Your body still thinks it is pregnant.”
“Are you sure?” I asked her too many times.
And she was.
I could not actually believe it when the line turned blue on the stick. We’d been trying for months. Now it was real.
I was trying out names, pricing double strollers, measuring my son’s room to fit another crib. At night when I put him into his pajamas, I’d lean in and ask him if he wanted a baby brother or sister, as if he had a say.
“Baby sister,” he’d shout every time. Then he’d squeal the name he had decided for her. I’d squeal it back and we’d both laugh. And I believed in that moment he had brought “her” to us.
In short, I was dancing with happiness.
Though one day while taking him for a walk, I was overwhelmed by a really strong sense of sadness. I did not know why. It came from nowhere. I kept walking, hoping it would pass.
Later that night I told my husband I think we needed to move back East. Being away from our family with a new baby coming is the only thing I can think of that would make me so sad. We’ll think about it, he said.
But now, I think perhaps I knew. Perhaps, even though my body still thought I was pregnant, at that moment, my soul knew I was not.
When I officially found out in the doctor’s office that I was not, it was a Friday. She scheduled me in for a D&C on Tuesday, the earliest she could see me. Those four days seemed like an eternity. I wanted it done with and out of me, but I didn’t want anyone to take “her” away from me yet. “She” was still mine.
Of course, that weekend I was doing a reading in a show about motherhood. I had announced at rehearsals the night before that I, too, like a couple other cast members, was pregnant.
I wasn’t sure if I could go through with it. But I kept my commitment. The audience’s applause felt nice.
I made my way through the next few days bumping up against other women’s pregnant bellies, turning my head down when I could not find a smile, basically tripping my way through.
There is something about miscarriage that makes people awkward and uncomfortable. It is secretive and hidden. It is not discussed as easily as other life disappointments. As one friend told me that weekend, it is the only death where you don’t get flowers.
When it is discussed, often people stumble and search for something helpful to say. I am here to say, the only thing worth saying is a simple “I am so sorry.”
When I reached out to my friends and family, I was saddened by how many of them had been through it themselves. And for them, I was sorry all over again.
Sunday, we headed to Malibu. Our son played in the sand. We rested on a blanket underneath the California winter sun. I leaned back, listening to the ocean and the sounds of my family playing around me. Instinctively, I placed my hands on my belly. Right then, we were a family, all four of us.
Benjamin chased a dog, which happened to be named the same name he would squeal for the baby sister he desired. My husband and I looked at each other. I smiled, thinking, this was a nice way for us to say goodbye.
When Tuesday arrived, I woke extra early and took the pills the doctor gave me to induce labor. I hoped to have some sort of new experience I could grasp onto, since I’d had a C-section with my son — something special. But quickly, I was just very sick and asked my husband with all seriousness, if he could get pregnant next time. We went to the doctor’s office later and I had the procedure.
And so it was done.
By the end of the day, I was just another woman giving advice, as one of the other pregnant women in my show had also miscarried. And though I did not know her well, that day, I knew her all too well. For we are both mothers of 2-year-old boys, but for eight short weeks or so, we had glimpsed becoming someone else’s mother as well.
I did get flowers, thanks to my neighbor and my mother. They stayed on my dining room table until they wilted.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.