Monthly Archives: October 2012

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.

Good one, universe.

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. Poppy, for short. 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 appointment. Once we made sure there was little chance of any sort of just in case.

Well, there doesn’t seem to 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 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 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 never-ending 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 where I dress 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. Him helping 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 twelve of healing vodka, we’ll be able to try again.

And I can start to dream again.

Project Ducky Wip

This past weekend, my husband left me for four days.

Alas, it’s not what you’re thinking. Although granted, that would make for a much better essay, the whole troubled marriage thing and “two people who love each other but grew apart and are trying to find their way back to each other.”  But no, my stupid husband is perfect. Which makes for very boring writing on my part. In fact, if we ever do get divorced, it’s probably because he’s single-handedly killing my writing career by being nice and emptying the dishwasher without having to be asked.


Anyway, as I was saying, my husband left for four days to go to an IMPORTANT FANCY PROFESSIONAL PERSON conference in Cleveland. No big deal, right? Sure. Except for one very important freaky detail of our relationship…

Somehow, in our entire five-year courtship and subsequent two and half years of marriage, we have managed to never leave me at home all by myself. Now, this could either be because 1. my husband (probably rightly so) doesn’t really trust me home alone since I have the common sense of a five-year-old child on meth (“Babe! I invented a new game! It’s called Potato Fire Ball! Here…CATCH!”) or 2. Circumstances have simply never aligned for this particular situation.

That’s not to say we’ve never been apart. But it’s usually me leaving him to go to yet another friend’s wedding or to go visit family or to spend a night in the drunk tank (kidding…that’s only happened, like, three times, tops…speaking of which, Best. Arbor. Day. EVAH.) while he stays behind and does IMPORTANT FANCY PROFESSIONAL PERSON stuff.

So naturally, I was SUPER excited to finally be left to my own devices. And that feeling lasted for all of 45 minutes after he left until I realized how utterly boring it is. And how utterly boring I had become. It quickly dawned on me that we had become that couple that do EVERYTHING together. And now that we’re both in our 30’s, EVERYTHING constitutes sitting around in sweatpants and doing activities that can be done mainly from the couch. Which is fun as a twosome. But just sad and pathetic as a onesome.

So I passed the time as best I could. I had numerous Netflix marathons (“iCarly” is seriously underrated, you guys). I started reading “Wuthering Heights.” I fell asleep reading “Wuthering Heights.” I tried teaching my dog to fetch beer from the fridge. I spent a good couple of hours nursing a drunk dog, holding back his ears back and whatnot.

My boredom finally got so bad that I was reduced to taking on a PROJECT. You know what I mean. Not some rinky-dinky little project you do during a rainy afternoon because it will be fun. No. A PROJECT. An undertaking so big, only people on the brink of insanity caused by boredom would ever even think of taking it on. And the kind of thing you take on that HAS to be FINISHED that day in a manic flurry of activity or else it will never, ever be completed.

We’ve all been there. It’s why kitchens are re-tiled and garages cleaned out and living rooms re-arranged.

And my PROJECT was a suicide mission. But with nothing much left between me re-enacting the majority of “Grey Gardens” in my living room and me actually turning into Edie in real life, it had to be done.

So, I decided it was high time to finally organize the decades-worth of photos from childhood through post-college I had that were just lying around all willy-nilly in my closet in numerous shoeboxes.

No big deal, right? WRONG. Cause see, I have quite literally documented every moment of my life. Ever wonder what you ate before homecoming your freshmen year? Well, I don’t have to. I have a photo of it (cheeseburger and fries). Oh, what’s that? What beer was I drinking at my best friend’s 18th birthday? Natural Light, thanks for asking. And as for what Geoff was wearing at my first boy-girl birthday party in 8th grade? A striped polo shirt and backwards baseball cap.

I even kept all those wallet-sized school portraits. I have like three from elementary school of some girl named Suzanne that I don’t even remember.

So, starting out on my couch, I started going through them, putting them into different envelops organized by event and time period and how I good I personally looked in them. Four hours later, I was on the floor, photos scattered all around. Four hours after that, every surface of my house was covered in photos. And they were never-ending. Those photo boxes were like clown cars. Just when you thought they couldn’t possibly contain more, 300 from a college toga party poured out.

It was like they were multiplying. A prom photo of me and my ex-boyfriend mated with a photo of my college buddies Curt and Tim to produce a ducky-wip picture of my cousin.

It was madness, I tell you. MADNESS!

And to make matters worse, I also thought now would be the opportune time to reorganize my eight (EIGHT!) photo albums.

Sixteen loooong hours later, the PROJECT was finally done. Every photo catalogued and filed away (or thrown away if I happened to have a double chin in it). And every slot in my albums filled in a somewhat narrative order (for instance, sober to drunk for most nights out).

And despite the backache that is still bothering me from being hunched over for hours on end, the PROJECT served its purpose. Before I knew it, my husband was back. And our boring but happy life together continued as before.

And he’s now never allowed to leave again. Because I have about 10,000 photos from the past eight years stored on our computer in about 37 scattered, unhelpfully-named folders.

And that’s simply a PROJECT I don’t think I’d survive.

Playing Russian Roulette with Nature

So, awhile back, my husband and I made a horrible mistake. We decided to casually try for a baby.

Now, you may be thinking “how do you casually try for a baby?” Well, it’s very simple. Casual baby-making means you stop actively trying to prevent pregnancy but aren’t necessarily aiming to get pregnant. But if you do get pregnant, you’d, like, totally be cool with it. Also, you have to both wear fedoras during your “maritals” to up the casualness factor.

Sure, it may not be the most effective method to conception but it’s perfect for a couple like us who want to start a family but are also utterly terrified of the prospect at the same time. So instead we play Russian Roulette with nature and let Fate decide.

(Plus, we really like to wear fedoras.)

Now, kind of, sort of, maybe-ish deciding to try to have a baby wasn’t the horrible mistake we made (although I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would disagree, including anyone who has ever met our dog, who is in desperate need of canine therapy). No, the mistake lay in telling people about it.

As it turns out, when you start contemplating entering this new and monumental phase of your life, everyone has an opinion about it. Forget that whole “it takes a village to raise a child” idea. The village is much more interested in helping you conceive.

For example, here are some of the responses we got from family and friends (or what I like to call “What to Expect When You Think Maybe Sorta Kinda You Want to be Expecting”):

“Ooh! How exciting! When was the date of your last period? I’m going to chart when you’re most likely ovulating.” –my cousin

“Oh…wow…why?” –our childless friends

“Have you started taking folic acid? You have to take folic acid. Like, now. I’m going to send you some folic acid.” –our pregnant friends

“Are you pregnant yet?” –our co-workers

“Oh, you’ll LOVE being parents! It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, you’ll never sleep again and will constantly be covered in poop and puke. But it’s WORTH it. Trust me.” –about half of all parents we know

“Do as many things as you possible can before you have a baby. Because once it’s here, you’ll never be able to do anything ever again.” –the other half of all parents we know

“Are you pregnant yet?” –our former co-workers

“Make sure you don’t have sex EVERY day. Do it every OTHER day. Otherwise you deplete his sperm.” –my cousin again

“Better hurry. You’re not getting any younger.” –my aunt

“MAKE ME A GRANDMA! I mean, you know, on your own time. No rush. Also, check out this cute onesie I bought eight years ago when you guys first met.” –my mom

“Are you pregnant yet?” –my mailman

“OK, according to my calculations, your best bet is the third of the month through the seventh, so…get busy.” –again, you guessed it, my cousin

Now, I’ll admit, at first this outpouring of responses surprised me. I considered this a very personal decision between myself and my husband. We were the ones who this decision affected, not everybody else. So why was everyone so eager to get all up inside my uterus, verbally kicking the tires and checking under the hood of all my lady business?

But then I slowly came to realize that when and if we ever do get pregnant, while it will completely upend our lives, the ripples will also reach out and touch everyone else. Parents will be turned into grandparents. Siblings become aunts and uncles. Nieces and nephews become cousins. Aunts and uncles become great aunts and great uncles. Cousins become godparents. My mailman will probably have to deal with a lot more care packages. And close friends become honorary family members.

So, as it turns out, it’s nice to know that there is an entire village waiting with bated breath to see what happens. It has the effect of making one feel very loved, if a bit uncomfortable with the sheer number of people in your life who are comfortable casually discussing your uterus.