Barbara Billinger, Guest Contributor

“You’re Lucky” – by Barbara Billinger

fullsizerenderMy kitchen floor is sticky…again.

To be honest, I’m not sure with what this time. Milk? Apple juice? Do I want to know? It doesn’t matter. “You know,” I say to my husband with a heaving, dramatic sigh, “as soon as I mop this up it’s just going back to a mess in a matter of minutes.” He nods, knowingly, and shrugs with a resigned half-smile.

And as always, whenever I grouse about the little grievances and annoyances that come along with an 8 year-old and a 5-year-old, there’s a little voice in my head that follows. Even when I’m at my yelling beast-mode worst, and I’m at my wits’ end…when the storm passes, and I’m left with the quiet of my thoughts, there’s that voice.

“You’re lucky,” it softly whispers.

Over 10 years ago that voice didn’t exist. It didn’t need to.

I was in my early 30’s, in a happy marriage, wrestling every single day about when the right time was to start a family. Finally, we decided to close our eyes and take the leap into the unknown.

There was, to put it mildly, no soft landing on that particular jump.

To most people, the blue and pink badge that you see on Facebook commemorating Pregnancy and Infant Loss in October is something you post in solidarity, as a kindness, in empathy with people you know or may not know who have struggled.

Maybe you’ve even rolled your eyes at it.

I’ve seen comments wearily sighing about a need for its existence at all, and what’s next, a badge to commemorate those suffering from plantar warts?

I have no response. Every time I try to type something I start off as a true keyboard warrior, and then trail off, because I simply can’t translate those feelings into words.

But I’ll try now.

It starts with a positive test sign. A positive test sign!

Looking at the baby sections in stores, wondering if this is *really* happening. Are we ready? How will this change us? Gotta get some vitamins. Four weeks after pregnancy test, and going to the bathroom upstairs on the evening of a Thanksgiving Monday. Wait, what’s that? That’s’ not…no, it’s just spotting. No. No. That’s not what I think it is, is it? It can’t be bleeding. This can’t be happening.

It was, and it did.

That’s okay, well-meaning friends and family whisper. I’m so sorry. You can try again – and hey, at least you can get pregnant!

These were the ones who were brave enough to say something. Most didn’t want to violate the cone of silence around it, who thought that maybe it was better to leave us alone, who honestly – and fairly – didn’t know what to say.

Round two. A positive test sign! Shit, OK. This will be it, right? Going to be more careful. Going to put my feet up. Water! Milk! Vitamins! Healthy eating! Google “Odds of having a miscarriage twice in a row.”

Whew, that’s reassuring. OK. We got this.

Until one cold, late January morning, we didn’t. Blood. ER. Ultrasound. A heartbeat! I see our baby’s heartbeat! The doctor smiled. “If there’s a heartbeat”, she said confidently and dismissively, “odds are it’s going to be OK.” Feet up, get some rest.

I bled for a week. And then there was no more blood, because there was no more baby.

I have always been a huge fan of statistics, and in terms of probability, the odds of having a second straight miscarriage, combined with a pregnancy that had a strong, viable heartbeat, were shockingly low. It was just our luck to have hit the jackpot on this miserable lottery ticket.

At this point, our family doctor sensed trouble and referred us to a fertility specialist. Cue nearly a year’s worth of tests, appointments, taking my temperature, monitoring my cycle. A precious year. My emotional state at this point starts off from “precarious” and quickly, with the addition of progesterone into the routine, devolves into “bat-shit crazy.”

Another cold January, early in the new year. No pee on a stick for this one, this time replaced by blood work and beta levels and phone calls. And cautious, precarious optimism.

First ultrasound. A few days before Valentine’s Day. Trying to read the technician’s face. She goes from chatty and warm, to quiet. Too quiet. I know she can’t tell me, but when she says I need to talk to the doctor…I know.

Hot tears pour down my face as I get dressed. I head to the waiting room in a daze to where John is waiting, sobs hiccupping in my chest. He gently takes me out into the hallway, but not before I glance at the woman, sitting one seat over, put her hand on her belly….like a talisman…warding off my bad news.

The doctor, studying papers in front of her. Gently saying we have two choices, I could get a D&C or I could wait for events to unfold naturally. Neither is an outcome we wanted. I don’t want the D&C. We had made plans to go on a vacation the following week, and at that time it seemed as good as an idea as any to get away for a bit and let nature take its course. Thousands of miles away from home, I had miscarriage #3 in a bathroom stall at a restaurant. I didn’t finish the chicken fingers I had ordered for lunch.

And just like that, we were at a crossroads. Both of us are emotionally done. Both of us are not sure we can survive a #4.

I struggle with the concept that my own body is a Judas, betraying me in the cruelest way possible. I am in a dark, dark place and I have no idea how to pull myself out of it. I hear in a roundabout way, because nobody can talk to me about pregnancy and babies to my face anymore, that someone I know has accidently gotten pregnant. And with that, I hit rock bottom. I have to pull over on a rural road to cry, because I cannot drive through the blinding tears in my eyes. Why? Why her, not me? Why?

Months pass. We hear from well-meaning friends and family who wonder how we are doing, and gently broach if we’ve ever considered adoption.

John and I dance around the elephant in the room about where to go from here. We each wrestle with our thoughts, our what-ifs, the unknown road going forward. That leap of faith we took so long ago has taken us to a bottom of a terrifying, isolated canyon.

Can we do this again? Hesitation. What if…what if? We are paralyzed by fear, but somewhere in that darkness, we find a small glimmer of hope that refuses to die. We grab it, hang on to it, close our eyes and try one more time.

Blood tests. Progesterone. Positive beta. Betas are rising. We try to digest this from a distance, unwilling to get too emotionally invested.

Week #5…for the first time ever, morning sickness hits me like a train, laying me out on our bathroom floor. As I feel the cold tile pressed up against my cheek, I am, for the first time in a long time…hopeful.

Ultrasound. A heartbeat.

A phone call, later. Good news and bad news. The heartbeat is strong, the levels are where they should be. The sad news…there is another ovum. It fertilized, but it won’t make it. We cling to hope, we cling to that one, singular heartbeat. Come on, baby.

Come on, baby.

That heartbeat is now 8 ½ years old and is sitting on our living room floor, going through his Pokémon cards.

His younger sister sits on the couch beside him, watching a video on the iPad.

The floor is sticky, the house is chaos. But here we are, over a decade removed from that Thanksgiving Monday where a trip to the bathroom changed everything, and changed me.

I look at the handprint turkey art hanging on my fridge and listen to that voice once again.

There are so many of my sisters, most of whom I have never met, who are wading through these same terrifying waters. They are trying not to drown, and I want to do more for them then post a badge on Facebook. I know, I want to tell these unknown women who carry around an anchor of sorrow in their heart.

Even now, I don’t know the words, but I know. It was a different set of sisters who had traversed that river before me, and with me, and who helped me hang on and cross to that other side. They knew, too, and to them, I will be forever grateful.

I’m lucky.

But not everyone is, and sometimes, there are no words for that, either.

 

** Barb is one of my “12”.  Much love to you Barb…for being brave with your story.  Authentic, raw and very #MyBackyard.


 

About Barb:

Barb and I worked together for years at Sportsnet.  She was the glue that held the office crew together, and laughing.  A real penchant for comedy – the Packers – and swearing, her opinion has always been edgy and smart.  She reminds me of Samantha Bee.  A genius of a human.  

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