Life happens: I am the 40 percent
The longest day of my life began at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday.
I had gotten used to waking up early ever since I found out, which I chalked up to the lack of massive amounts of caffeine in my body and my newly formed habit of falling asleep around 8:30 p.m.
But this time was different. This time it was the dull ache that gently woke me up. Clumsily making my way to the bathroom though, it was the blood that jolted me awake.
Spotting, I told myself. Mild cramping. No big deal, my head said while my body frantically looked for the right section in the book. Yep. Totally normal.
I laid down on the couch in total darkness and turned on some crappy late night/early morning/not really suitable for human consumption TV. I absent-mindedly rubbed my lower stomach, a sort of unconscious gesture meant to signal reassurance for the both of us. I'll be fine.
We'll be fine.
By 5, the crappy movie was over and the meaningless dull ache had forced me into a fetal position. By 6, I was walking around bent over in an effort to relieve the meaningless pain that had meaninglessly grew into an intense ache. By 6:30, I was lighting a cigarette from the secret stash I hadn't been able to throw away yet even though I had quit smoking. Just one to calm myself down.
Everything is fine.
As my husband woke up at 7 and as dawn broke, casting brutal light on the situation, I allowed myself the first tears. He ran to the store for Tylenol and maxi-pads, a first aid kit for a gaping fatal wound. By 8:30, we were on the road to the women's health clinic, an appointment that had actually been made weeks ago.
No one even knew yet besides a handful of close friends and family. Eight weeks pregnant. Keep it quiet for now. Just in case ... you know.
And suddenly, I knew all too well.
We nicknamed it Poppyseed in lieu of the popular moniker "It" so many other couples use during those early months. It was a private joke courtesy of my cousin, who upon finding out my new condition three weeks prior, pulled a poppyseed off her cheeseburger, pointed at it and said, laughing, "That's how big your baby is right now."
Urine sample. Blood sample. Weight and height check. Hello, I'm Carol. Is this your first pregnancy? Congratulations. Symptoms could be normal. Your cervix is closed. Good sign. Hmm...can't find a heartbeat. Let's schedule you an ultrasound ... just in case ... you know.
I was due in May, which was perfect. If it was a girl, her name was going to be Mae. A decision made long ago. Because Aprill is always followed by Mae. If it was a boy, well ... Milo has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Two hour wait. Silent tears. It'll be fine, honey. Don't worry. Mrs. Brandon? Nice to meet you. Hop on up here. Now, what happened exactly this morning? Relax your legs. Too small to see on the monitor. Let's try this.
Just the other day I had planned on shouting the exciting news from the virtual rooftops of Facebook and Twitter. After our first doctor's appointment. Once we made sure there was little chance of any sort of just in case.
Well, there doesn't seem to be any pregnancy tissue. You may have passed it this morning.
There's nothing you could have done. Or did do. These things just happen. Forty percent of pregnancies in the first trimester, to be exact. Most women only have one in their lifetime. Chances are high you'll conceive again.
I know they have to say this. The doctor. The nurse. The now-demoted future grandparents. The friends and co-workers.
There really is nothing else you can say.
But it doesn't help. At least not right now. Because no words can erase the image of your husband, so strong and stoic the entire time, finally breaking down on the phone when he calls his boss to tell him he won't be in today. And because what died on that horrific morning wasn't just a fetus. What also drowns and dies in that tsunami of blood and cramps is that movie montage you've been playing over and over in your head the past eight weeks until it's the perfect mental screenplay of the rest of your life.
But then, the dream of a completely different future than the present you are currently living in fades slowly to movie black.
Suddenly, you can no longer see the labor scene where you hurl hilarious insults at whoever is standing by, ones that even give the nurses a giggle. Or the moment you both sob like idiots when it's all over and you're holding a baby that has your eyes and - praise Jesus! - his nose.
The neverending need to count all his perfect fingers and toes. The uncontrollable urge to kiss her little face all the time.
The framed photo of her sleeping on her dad's bare chest or his first Halloween when I dressed him as Frankenstein's monster simply so I could send out a photo card with the caption "We have created LIFE! It's ALIIIIIIVE!"
Christmas mornings. First birthdays. ER trips because someone couldn't resist shoving a LEGO up their nose. Catching her digging through the trash with the dog as her accomplice. Having him help me make pancakes.
Ballet recitals. T-ball games. First girlfriends where I whip out every single embarrassing photo I can find, including the one of him in a dress having a tea party with his female cousins. First heartbreak where I cuddle with her on the couch and we eat ice cream while watching "Love Actually," and I let her cuss in front of me for the first time.
Graduation. Marriage. Becoming a grandparent myself. And everyone coming back home for Thanksgiving, filling our quiet house with welcomed chaos.
It all died, too.
So, for now, I mourn the loss. Of her. Or him. And of the dream.
And hopefully, after time, and some Merlot and maybe a night or two of healing vodka, we'll be able to try again.
And I can start to dream again.
Aprill Brandon is a columnist for the Advocate. Her column runs every two weeks in the Your Life section. Comment on this story at VictoriaAdvocate.com.