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Mommy Wannabe, Part 1
a blog by Suzanne Rico, April 9, 2012
I got an email from a friend the other day who is four months pregnant after undergoing several in vitro fertilizations (IVFs). The subject line said “problem,” and my stomach flipped. I knew what her email would say without reading it. I knew because I’ve been there.
Ethan and I started dating when I was 36. Three weeks into our courtship, in the midst of a madly sexy moment, I thought it a good idea to tell him I wanted a baby … like now. The fun stopped as Ethan contemplated information that would send most men running for the hills screaming, “Lose my number!” But when he finally spoke, it was the sweetest sentence I’d ever heard.
“I’ve never really thought about having kids before,” said the man who would become my husband. “But with you, it seems right.” The fun started back up.
A year later, sex had become all about baby-making. We tried Clomid coupled with decidedly un-sexy IUIs (interuterine sperm injections) and bought a fancy ovulation timing device. All the doctors could find wrong with me was that I was 37 with old (and possibly rotten) eggs. Advice on how to get pregnant poured in.
“Go out to dinner with your husband and don’t wear underwear,” said the physician’s assistant at my Ob/Gyn’s office. “Then have sex in the back of the car.” Her point was that I needed to relax.
“Cut out wheat, dairy, sugar and alcohol,” said my acupuncturist, and her point was that my body must become a maternal temple. Neither strategy worked, so we decided to go high-tech, conceiving in a petri dish on our first try. Thrilled, I told everyone — my mother, sisters, friends and the woman making my decaf, soymilk chai latte at Starbucks — and then miscarried in the first trimester. When we tried IVF again — another positive line on the pregnancy test! — again the ultrasound showed nothing inside the tiny, black pregnancy sac.
“You’ve got what’s called a blighted ovum,” said my fertility doctor, who had the bedside manner of a chair. This horribly descriptive term conjured up death, devastation, and frustrated hope, all of which fit perfectly. And just in case I’d missed the message that I would miscarry this pregnancy too, he dumbed it down for me. “You built the house,” he said, “but no one’s home.”
I remember wanting to smack this man in the head with the plastic model of a uterus sitting on his fancy desk. I remember walking out in shock, Ethan trailing behind me, afraid that if he touched me I might break. But what I remember most is running into the lab technician who had taken my blood a dozen times — a Rwandan refugee with dark eyes that understood pain. When he reached out to hug me, I clung to him as if he could somehow fix me, sobbing into the arms of this relative stranger. That office, with its hushed and haughty grandeur, was for me a place of broken dreams.
I continued crying for a week, dry eyed only at my job as the morning news anchor at KCBS-TV, where the airbrushed make up and studio lights hid the dark circles under my eyes. I welcomed the chance to pretend I was a normal, fertile woman, not some failed mommy-wannabe. But every night, curled up in a ball in a dark room, Ethan lay next to me — his own pain stuck in place as he attended to mine — trying to talk me back into the light.
“Why am I not enough for you?” he asked, as my misery consumed our happiness.
“I don’t know,” I answered, speaking the cold, cruel truth, “but you’re not.”
Despite long runs through the Hollywood hills and medicating my emotional distress with wine, I did not miscarry. Wanting to get it over with — to be done with this faux-pregnancy so that my heart could start healing — I finally scheduled a D & C. But my gynecologist would not do the procedure without one last ultrasound.
Shivering in the cold, sterile exam room, the grainy image of my womb flickering on screen, the black hole where my child should have been looked larger but just as empty. June 8th had been the projected birthdate — the same as my late father’s — and I was thinking about him when the doctor let out a low whistle. On the screen, a second pregnancy sac was clearly visible in the sea of grey. And in the middle there was a steady flicker, radiating like a beacon in a storm. I knew what it was even though I had never seen one.
“That’s a heartbeat, honey,” said my doctor, pointing at this unexpected and amazing little pulse of life. “Didn’t you know you had twins?”