Seems like those three words should be words of comfort. Someone is concerned about you and they want to hear how you are. The difference lies in who is doing the asking. Close friend? Sure those are words of genuine interest and concern. Receptionist at the RE’s office the day of your D&C? Empty greeting.
It isn’t that she, or anyone else I encountered who I didn’t really know or who didn’t really know me and what was taking place for us that day, intended those words to be hollow and empty. I know it sounds crazy for me to take out my frustrations on a random stranger or chance acquaintance, but could she not see all of the blood had been drained from my face? Couldn’t she see that my heart was breaking and the rest of me was crumbling right there with it? Couldn’t she see it was all that I could do to put one foot in front of the other and walk into that office, the same office that had given me life and now was going to clean up what remained of that life? And to be fair, it wasn’t just her. It had been a build up of people from the moment we found out that we lost the heartbeat at the ultrasound on Tuesday. As soon as we stepped from the exam room and made the appointment for the D&C, those words, “how are you?” became knives I wanted to throw.
On the day of our ultrasound I was 7 weeks and 3 days along, but our baby was 6 weeks and 5 days. It isn’t that we had taken for granted the miracle that was taking place inside of me. Having had a slight scare with bleeding around week 5, but a good ultrasound and no bleeding since, the signs weren’t there. The week prior, we’d seen our little peanut a second time and the RE was able to pick up a heartbeat at 115 bmp. When I climbed up on the exam table and the RE began the exam, I guess we both just expected to see a similar picture of the previous two times, maybe a bit bigger and with a stronger heartbeat. Instead, the RE’s face turns grey and she grows quiet. Our little peanut was difficult to see and find; even after a great search, no heartbeat was present. There were white lacey streamers in the gestational sac and the RE wasn’t sure, but felt that it could be blood.
I sat there, devoid of feeling, while she talked about our options. I call them options, but really there was only one. Her immediate suggestion was a D&C. There was talk of sending the tissue off for pathology. If it was chromosomal, we could check the other embryos. If it was something taking place within me, we could run tests and start different medications. This all washed over me. I was numb.
So by the time we made it to Thursday morning and I was signing in for my D&C, the words “how are you?” in a chipper voice and a smile didn’t have the effect that they should. I’d reached my limit with those words. I am not okay. I am not fine. I will not be okay today and I will not be okay tomorrow. 5 years from now or even 30 years from now, there will be a place in me that will never be okay.
The issue is that you can’t wear a sign around your neck that announces to those who have no idea what is going on for you under the surface how you are doing. We kept this pregnancy to ourselves for the most part. We’d only shared with our close friends who knew about our day to day journey with infertility and our parents and immediate family. Beyond that, no one really knew we were expecting and of course I wasn’t showing. I think that in some ways that is the most difficult part. With the first pregnancy, we were open and shared it with people. When it failed, we weren’t sure if we’d make the same choice again if we were able to have that choice. It was difficult to have to have a similar conversation with everyone when they asked about that failed pregnancy, and we didn’t want to go through that again-or so we thought. When we found out that this last round was successful, we kept it pretty close and were cautiously optimistic. While I have been surrounded by those who know and I am eternally grateful for those people, I have had great difficulty acting like life is normal with those who don’t. I believe that is why those three words are so difficult for me to manage. It isn’t that I want to have people feel sorry for us or anything like that. I just need to be able to be honest with them when they ask, “how are you?”