When I worked at the abortion clinic, people asked me if I ever felt angry or jealous, seeing all those fertile women giving up their pregnancies. I didn't. After all, if you're pregnant and you don't want to be, it sucks.
Before I'd call a client in for counseling, I reviewed her file, always glancing at the glossy little black and white ultrasound print-outs. Every now and then, I would see the ragged image of a miscarriage in the works. Once, the static starry-sky pattern of a molar pregnancy. In these cases, I'd read the nurse's notes and prepare to discuss them with the client. But usually, I found myself looking at the white shrimp-like blob of a growing fetus inside the dark abyss of an amniotic sac -- A healthy pregnancy. And that's when I'd feel it: a dull pang of longing.
I never got around to ultrasound with my second miscarriage, but I had two with the first. All you could see in the first was the little black hole, the sac in which a pregnancy would, presumably, grow. But it never happened. Several weeks later, the second confirmed what, by that time, I suspected, dreaded, knew: miscarriage was imminent.
Yesterday afternoon, I met J~ at the obstetrician's office. We sat holding hands in the waiting room, taking deep breaths, thumbing through a cooking magazine together. One of the recipes called for, of all things, "powdered ham." I wanted to throw up. Nerves? Pregnancy? I didn't know.
A nurse led us to the couch in the doctor's office. Assuming we wanted to check them out, she offered to tell us about the practice. "Actually," I told her, "the main reason we're here is to get the results from hCG tests." Surprised, she admitted the reports were not in my file. She left to call the lab about a fax. More deep breaths for J~ and I. She returned, reporting results were on the way. In the meantime, she launched into an introduction to the practice. beginning by listing numbers of doctors, midwives--
"I'm sorry," I interrupted, "I'm not able to concentrate on what you're saying." I briefly explained my history, my fears, my desire to hear the lab results first.
Finally, Dr. A~ appeared, and introduced himself. He sat, opened my file, clicked his pen to the ready position. "Let's see," he drawled, flipping pages, "I've got just a few questions for you."
"Can't you tell us the numbers first?" Meekly, I said this. Shaking.
"Well, okay," he shrugged, surprised, but, thankfully, understanding. He shuffled his papers, and then, before telling us, held up a warning hand and said, "I don't know."
My heart sank. I wasn't shaking anymore. I was numb. I looked at J~ and shook my head. Not good. Everything I'd read indicated that hCG levels should be doubling at least every three days. But at this rate, mine would take five.
The doctor was quick to say this doesn't mean much. Doubling rates slow, eventually. An ultrasound would give far more accurate information. "Your numbers are high enough that we should see a heartbeat."
"Can we do one today?" I was literally at the edge of my seat.
"Yes," Dr. A~ smiled. I sighed, relieved. He laughed. "Now can I ask you some questions?"
He clicked his pen again, collected some medical history, and then he, the nurse, J~, and I, trundled off down the hall.
There was a monitor mounted to the ceiling. In the dimly lit room, our eyes were glued to it well before the ultrasound wand was near my vagina. After some initial fumbling something came into view (Dr. A~ was like a nervous teenager with that thing, poking further and further from the mark -- I finally offered to put it in myself). Finally we saw it: the white shrimp-like blob of a fetus inside the dark abyss of an amniotic sac. A rapid flicker. "See that?" the doctor exclaimed. "Can't ask for better than that!" The nurse gasped (she later told us she'd had goosebumps, a chill up her spine). J~ drew in his breath, squeezed my hand. I corralled my tears, holding out for measurements. "How far along are you," Dr. A~ asked, clicking his mouse over the image, "six weeks, four days?"
"It measures exactly six weeks, four days."
I am sitting at the computer this morning in my bathrobe, with my Chinese herb tea and toasted rice bread, prepared by J~, and my very own collection of glossy black and white ultrasound print-outs, all contained in a cheesy little folder labeled, Baby's First Pictures.
J~ and I went out to dinner to celebrate, couldn't stop smiling, laughing, shaking our heads, incredulous.
I didn't sleep well last night, worrying over the hCG readings. But I found an article by Dr. Robert Warnock this morning that put me at ease, suggesting that once levels get beyond 6,000, it can take more than four days for them to double. "Once fetal activity has been detected by ultrasound," Warnock goes on to say, "the chance of miscarriage is usually less than 10%."
Holy powdered ham, people, I may be having a baby after all!