I watched the blank screen with still breath, waiting for the signs of life.
"There's no sack. There's no heartbeat." I looked at Ben with horror, searching him for a different answer, as though he could right this hideous wrong. "These things just happen." I recall that the doctor had more to say, but every word was cold, her lack of compassion chilling.
My first child was gone. I would never hold him or her, never see his or her face, never even hear his heartbeat, silenced on this earth.
The absence of that first child remains the greatest absence in my life. The unanswered questions fill my days and have left me with an ever-present longing. I suppose it was because of the miscarriage that one of the most vivid memories of my pregnancy with Gabriel continues to be November 8, 2010. That was the day I went for my first pre-natal visit. I was surprised that they would be able to pick up a heartbeat then, and the nurse practitioner warned me that at that early stage, I should not be disappointed if they could not. When the Doppler quickly picked up its sound, and its sound filled the room, the tears spilled uncontrollably from my eyes. That sound was the answer to a prayer. That memory could never be taken from me. Not even anencephaly could rob me of that moment. When I think of that pregnancy, its ups, its downs, its heartache, my mind always comes back to that day when I heard my son's heart beat for the very first time.
Tears of joy have been forced from my eyes with the sound of Eden's heartbeat too, and last Monday, when I heard a heartbeat for the first time this pregnancy. There's nothing in this world like that moment. There is nothing like that sound.
Looking back, I suppose I overreacted when, last Tuesday while at work at the bar, I saw the blood. My mind flashed back to that day back in May 2010, when the miscaige began. With barely a word I gathered my purse, murmured to the day shift girl that I had to leave, and walked out of the door. I'd never done that before and my mind felt conflicted, even as I drove across town with the aching in my abdomen, wondering if I should turn back and finish my shift. If my fears were being realized again, there was probably nothing that a doctor could do. But I had to know, and I had to know that night, so I kept driving and checked in at the Urgent Care center where I was immediately triaged, then informed I was likely looking at a three hour wait.
I was joined shortly by Marcos, and together we waited until we were among the last three patients to be called. My mind knew why - All the doctor could do was check for status, but he couldn't "fix" anything. Even while my heart pled with God, my brain began preparing for the loss and planning what unpregnant Andrea would do with her weekend, defending me from another hurt that might just shatter me.
We were called back to a room sometime around midnight, and were immediately told by the doctor that in 50% of cases where there is bleeding during the pregnancy, the result is miscarriage. The odds did not seem to favor me, but even when they have, I have a history of ending up on the wrong side of them anyway. I began saying my goodbyes to my unborn child.
He did a Doppler scan. Nothing.
"We'll do an ultrasound." Marcos and I were led to another, brightly lit room. I was given a hot sheet by a sympathetic male nurse who said, "I know it's cold." I thought back to the cold of the room five years ago, and the empty screen, as they seated me for the ultrasound.
The doctor began opening drawers and cabinets. "I can't find the gel," he muttered, presumably to himself. "Where's the gel?" He looked out into the hallway, my anxiety growing with every second, and called, "Where's the gel?" The male nurse returned and located it for him. I could feel my body shaking under the hot sheet as he squeezed the warm gel across my belly and applied the ultrasound wand.
Immediately, I could recognized the shape of the tiny baby that I had seen for the first time just the day before. "We have cardiac activity." The doctor pointed at the screen at a pulsating blur. At almost the same time, the tiny stump of an arm moved. I could see the skull, bright, white, with some dark shading where the baby's soft spot will be until sometime after its born. My body relaxed with relief, tears falling and sobs coming uncontrollably from my mouth.
The bleeding, never as severe as what I experienced during miscarriage, stopped the following day. The abdominal cramping, never anything more than what I have experienced with every pregnancy, no longer triggers alarm. I followed up with my nurse practitioner the following day, and she seems to think everything is fine. At 12 weeks, I have begun to feel the earliest flutterings of fetal movement. We seem to be over last week's hurdle. I've told my parents, close friends, a couple of co-workers, but have otherwise wanted to gloss over the moment until now, when I feel safe.
It is one of the earliest signs of life, one of the things that makes us alive. My heart beat for 28 years but I never had a heartbeat song until the day someone else's heart beat inside of me. This is my heartbeat song.