83 – Spotting? I must have lost track of time in this twilight pandemic life and pull up my period tracker. No, not due for another five da…wait. Scroll back. Sex nine days ago. Rusty gears grind into motion, recalling “fertility math” as my heart rate spikes. Scrollscrollscroll back 4 years…check. 6 years…check. 9 years…check. I’ve had implantation bleeding with every pregnancy.
81 – I forgo the usual Shipt service and venture out for a masked and sanitized drugstore run. Because I need supplies befitting someone a decade younger – a pregnancy test and a box of tampons – and I need to stand in those aisles and overthink my choices.
78 – My urine hasn’t reached the end of the window before the second line darkens. I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant! I leave it next to my husband’s sink and get back into bed. Minutes later he walks in and we both cry cautious, happy tears.
77- I schedule my first ultrasound, and given my “advanced maternal age” and history of miscarriage, I am labeled high risk and will be seen every two weeks.
56 – I cry myself to sleep, convinced I’ll be wallowing in wine tomorrow night.
57 – We have a heartbeat! I allow myself to peek at a future with a bonus kid. I start a secret online shopping list and add an overpriced stroller.
46 – These socially distant BYOB girl’s nights work in my favor – nobody can tell that it’s just soda water in my sippy cup.
42 – Ultrasound #2 is good! My chance of miscarriage drops to less than 3% – this is really happening! I nickname it Gerry (for geriatric), and my shopping list swells with the crazy new baby gadgets that have popped up since our last kid.
28 – Quick drop in to the doctor’s for standard NIPT blood test and doppler check. I remind the lab techs that we DON’T want to know the sex. I’m done in 5 minutes.
24 – It’s the final week of my first trimester. We tell the kids there’s going to be a last baby, and they act as news conduit to our immediate families over Zoom, with our youngest proudly sporting a Big Sibling t-shirt. Happy tears in little screens.
21 – We’re having a BBQ with our covid-bubbled neighbors and I’m fulfilling the barefoot and pregnant role in the kitchen when my phone rings. My heart stops when I hear my doctor’s voice and not front desk staff. I maintain a neutral-cheery tone for others in earshot as I listen. 96% Positive Predictive Value for chromosomal abnormalities. We move my appointment up to the next business day and continue the evening with false smiles.
19 – I have finished the internet arming myself with a new fluency in prenatal testing lexicon. I’m crying myself to sleep again.
17 – My doctor is empathetic and warm as she urgently calls my case in to a high-risk specialist. My window for CVS testing is closing, and the amniocentesis window won’t open for another excruciating two weeks. We discuss this timeline against Tennessee’s pregnancy termination laws. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life.
15 – I read, and re-read everything I can about chorionic villus sampling. I am clinging to my 4%. My new sleep pattern is 1:00-6:00am.
14 – I notice a diamond missing out of my wedding band. The hole is grossly symbolic and I find new tears.
13 – I meet with the genetic counselor for over an hour before she performs a transabdominal CVS. It is fast and painless, just a little jolt as the needle punctures my uterus and an unnerving pumping as they pull cell samples from my placenta. I walk out with a bandaid and a recommendation to call Planned Parenthood to secure a just-in-case consultation as local options are scarce and overbooked.
12 – I have a full meltdown as I contemplate crossing state borders to get the medical care I might need. And to have to do it alone due to the pandemic. My husband is now the sole working, homeschooling, cooking, and cleaning parent as I live between the bed and the couch.
10 – I am nodding as I hear new numbers over the phone; 100% of cells tested are positive. There is no longer any doubt, or hope. Her office attempts to intervene with local providers on my behalf to get an appointment, without success. She sends me a list of vetted out-of-state clinics and shares her private number if I need to talk.
8 – The fear is paralyzing. And constant. I am never not thinking about this pregnancy.
5 – I drive 5 hours alone for a state-mandated consultation. The driveway is partially blocked by protesters with signs. Before today I could shrug them off as fringe extremists – now they are the reason my access to care has been pigeonholed into being hundreds of miles away from love and home at the scariest point in my life. The clinic is calm, the staff are gentle, the doctors are patient and warm. I opt to view the ultrasound for the last time. I drive home with more new words and an appointment.
3 – I am up all night, diving into online forums looking for stories, matching up timelines with my own. A Heartbreaking Choice. The Unthinkable. Ending a Wanted Pregnancy. I cannot use the “A” word out loud, instead opting for “termination”.
0 – We leave before dawn. They allow my husband in while routine labwork is done, and usher him out after I pop the cocktail of dramamine, antibiotics, and misoprostol. After a short wait, I’m led into the OR and twilight sedation is started. I blink. As I’m being walked out of the room I look up at the clock, shocked that I’ve lost 20 minutes of my life. Soon I am stable enough to dress myself – I have no pain or bleeding. I hear another voice enter the recovery hall, singing about pigeons. I cannot see her but I let out a little giggle. I am told that she’s 12 and was raped by her stepfather. I am immediately sober and the nurse calls my husband.
-1 – I wake up and notice that the ever-present fear is gone and am flooded with relief. I recognize my privilege at being lovingly carried through the worst experience of my life by my family, my friends, my healthcare providers, and my financial situation. I’m lucky that my body has decided to play nice and is recovering without the prescribed opiods or overnight maxi pads.
-2 – There’s space in my brain and heart again. I pick up forgotten projects, make a fun breakfast, water the plants, admire the eyelashes on my forever-youngest.
-3 – I’m lactating. I can’t think about my breasts for too long without triggering the familiar let down tingles. This is reassuring in a very weird way, proving that my body was able to do something right.
-5 – My pregnancy hormones crash and finally trigger quiet, streaming tears of loss. I welcome them.