On Friday my doctor called and left a message. “I just got your pathology report back and I wanted to talk to you about plans for this weekend and next week. So if you could give me a call back as soon as possible, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!”
Honestly, I had no idea what a pathology report was. I mean, I figured it was test results, but I didn’t know what had been tested. The fact that she wanted to talk to me urgently about “plans” for the weekend and days following worried me. It’s never a good thing when your doctor has immediate plans for you and you haven’t even been consulted yet.
I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the sink. Hands shaking, I dialed her cell number and listened to it ring. I almost hoped she didn’t answer.
But she did.
“I’m so glad you called back. Your pathology report shows that the tissue retrieved during surgery did not contain fetal cells. This happens frequently because they get a large sample of tissue and can’t test every cell, so if the small portion they do test doesn’t happen to be part of the fetus, the test will come back negative. I am very confident I removed all product of conception during surgery, but just to be sure, so we don’t risk infection, I’m going to call in some prescriptions for you. We’ll also do an ultrasound next week to make sure the uterus is clean.”
I think I said “okay” about 16 times as she spoke, and that was probably about it. She prescribed some cytotec to clean out anything left behind, and added a week to the two-day antibiotic round she’d originally prescribed.
I hung up the phone feeling nothing but dread. I had opted for the surgery, in part, to avoid cytotec and what it brings with it, and here I was being told to use it anyway.
By the next morning I had decided that four more days wasn’t going to kill me (most likely), and that, based on the confidence my doctor had that she had been successful in removing all “product of conception,” I was likely going to be just fine between then and the ultrasound. If something showed up on the ultrasound we’d revisit our options and I’d do what needed to be done at that point.
My ultrasound was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Husband decided to come with me for moral support. Of course, as luck would have it, both girls got sick on Tuesday and we had to keep them home on Wednesday, meaning I would have to go to the ultrasound alone. Again.
I wasn’t too bothered by this, actually. I’ve done difficult things on my own before and then found comfort in the care of others afterward. This would just be one of those things.
All Wednesday morning as I prepped for work, sat at my desk with one eye on the clock, and drove to the clinic, my mind was trapped in the room in which I’d had my last ultrasound. It was grey. All of it. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the window covering, my gown, the equipment…even the doctor’s face. The only other colour was black–my doctor’s clothes.
I pulled into the clinic parking lot with my heart pounding. I didn’t want to do this again. I walked up the slight incline to the clinic door. I don’t want to do this again. I pulled open the door and walked inside the lobby, built and decorated in the late 1980s or early 1990s with pastel pinks and teals and awfully cheesy faded posters on the walls. I don’t want to be here. Not like this. Somehow I held my voice steady as I checked in at the desk, and I managed to sit down near the edge of the room, looking out the windows and ignoring my shaking hands. This sucks.
Baby registry, pregnancy, and newborn magazines glared at me from every flat surface in the room. A young woman probably pregnant with her first stood at the desk scheduling her weekly appointments from now until her due date, June 6. She laughed and chatted with the receptionist. I looked away and focused on the television.
Morning TV talk shows are drivel.
I heard my name from the doorway to my left. Automatically I rose from my seat and walked toward the voice. A woman close to retirement age led me to the scale, her office, the exam room. Her glasses were really big. They were probably new around the same time the clinic was. Maybe before.
A gown. The table. A paper sheet. Stirrups.
“This will be cold…” said Big Glasses. Like your voice?
I stared straight at the ceiling while she did her thing. My head naturally wanted to turn to watch the images on the screen beside me. Every other time I’d done this there was a squirming baby, a beating heart, a little face and arms and feet. This time, I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to see The Nothing.
One hot tear crawled down each side of my face and tickled the inside of my ears. I pressed my teeth into my inner lip so I could focus on that pain instead.
Though it probably was quite short, the ultrasound felt like it lasted forever. Finally it was over and I sat up. She left. I dressed. I sat in a chair.
Twenty minutes passed. Thirty.
A poster on one wall showed the developing fetus each month of pregnancy. Another advertised 3D ultrasound imaging. They should have a room free of this paraphernalia, just for people in a situation like mine.
Still I waited.
Big Glasses had called me “sweetie” when she’d left me and her voice was tender. Did that mean she saw something? Was she trying to make me feel comfortable before I got the bad news? Was that pity in her voice?
Finally, the door opened. A woman I’d never seen before walked into the room with one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. Not because her teeth were unnaturally white or shiny, but because the sentiment behind the smile was real. She meant that warmth and care and approachability. She meant every iota of it.
My gut ached. I had no idea what she would tell me. For half an hour I’d sat expecting and imagining the worst case scenario–she hadn’t gotten it all; I could pay for another surgery or take the cytotec and go through the hell I’d tried to avoid at home.
“There’s a scant amount of fluid in the uterus, but everything looks good.” She asked about any bleeding I’d experienced, if I’d taken the medications prescribed, how I was feeling. Her energy surprised me. Everyone else in the office seemed to find it too big an effort to smile and instead chose to hone their focus on everything business. But this doctor…her reddish blonde curly hair was pert and she was shorter than me (that’s saying something). The smile never left her face for a second while we talked in that dim exam room, and her posture was open and friendly toward me–a patient she had never met before.
My emotions were stormy at best–I couldn’t decide how to feel in that moment. Again, the numbness. I almost couldn’t even smile. I felt frozen and stiff and overwhelmed.
With a cheeky twinkle in her eye she leaned forward as though she were sharing a secret and asked, “When do you think you might try to get pregnant again?” It wasn’t an inappropriate question, and she asked it as though she were my best friend–and in that moment, she almost was. Honestly, I appreciated her approach. I told her I wasn’t sure. “We haven’t talked about that yet.”
Business concluded, she opened her arms like a happy grandmother and gave me a sincere hug. She wished me well and opened the door, pointing me toward the lobby.
In a daze I checked out at the desk, then pulled open the door to the sunshine. Though I fought hard, there was no stopping the flood blurring my vision. I managed to get into the driver’s seat before completely losing control. I sat there in the parking lot, surrounded by trees and singing birds and all things spring, crying for a reason I wasn’t sure I understood.
It was over.
But the relief battled with the devastation of finality, and I cried because the war had to exist at all.