“Well that’s it, I’ve finally flipped,” was all I could think of as I spent the 45-minute commute into my office obsessing over the fact that we didn’t have enough life insurance on my husband.
I couldn’t understand why I was obsessing on this, considering that our family was Joe, me, and our cat.
Obviously it was time to take my fertility doctor up on her offer to give me some referrals to a therapist familiar with infertility issues. It finally happened, I’ve slipped into the abyss.
The past year-and-a-half we had gone through four miscarriages, fertility tests, genetic testing, and three attempts at assisted reproduction with drugs. We’d had it.
The previous month, we made the decision to get off the baby roller coaster and concentrate on us for a while. We even started looking into adoption. I liked the sense of calm I’d been feeling the last few weeks, I was in no rush for a ticket back to crazyland.
As I got closer to my office, I made the decision to take one more pregnancy test. I wasn’t even really late, but I knew I would rest easier once I knew for a fact that I wasn’t pregnant.
I paid for the familiar pink package and made a deal with myself. Once I got the negative test result, I’d call the doctor and find a really good therapist.
Now at my office I went right to the ladies room and took the test by rote. Then I stood in shock as the two lines appeared.
Joy and dread filled me at the same time.
I quickly went to my desk and called my doctor.
“Come right in. We’ll take some blood.”
In the time it took the cab to drive the 20 blocks to her office, I’d gone through the possibility that this could finally be the miracle I was praying for.
I also realized that I might have to endure a fifth miscarriage.
My doctor popped her head in the office where I was having my blood taken. She smiled and said they would call me as soon as they got my blood levels.
I was going crazy sitting at my desk waiting for the results. Especially since I couldn’t get in touch with Joe.
Then I got the news I didn’t want to admit I was desperate to hear.
“Yes, you’re pregnant. The levels look great. The doctor wants to see you in a week, and of course call if you need us.”
I hung up the phone in a delicious fog. I couldn’t help myself, I was thrilled out of my mind.
I tried Joe one more time. It was so good to hear his voice.
“Hi, I just went to see the doctor.”
“Oh gosh, are you alright? Is everything OK?
“Yeah, I’m fine… everything… is really great.”
Joe started to laugh. He knew.
We were both scared but beyond happy. One week away from our fifth wedding anniversary, this was the best gift we could possibly get.
A week later I found myself in agony, curled on the bed in the beautiful hotel room we had booked for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary.
We had an amazing time the night before, with dinner at Windows on the World on top of the World Trade Center. But now it was morning, and I felt as if I was being stabbed.
How could this possibly be happening? Again.
Tears flowed down my face.
We ordered room service, trying to maintain some semblance of the romantic getaway we had planned.
The phone rang and it was the weekend call doctor. It’s a bit odd how fast your call gets returned when you say you think you’re having your fifth miscarriage.
I knew this early on in the pregnancy there wasn’t anything that could be done. But it did feel good to touch base with someone, even if it was a doctor I’d never met. He gingerly asked me to go over my history and symptoms.
“How bad is the bleeding? Are you OK?”
“Actually I haven’t started bleeding yet. I’m just in tremendous pain.”
There was a pause on the phone, and then the doctor’s voice was very gentle.
“Mrs. Radigan, I can’t promise you anything, but I don’t think you’re having a miscarriage.”
“No, I am. I have been through this four times before. I’ve never had pain like this.”
We both started to laugh and agreed that maybe that was a good sign. He hung up telling me to make sure to call my own doctor on Monday and to call him back if anything got worse.
Monday morning, I’m back in my office. As soon as I get to my desk the phone rings, and it’s my doctor telling me to come in.
One cab ride later, I’m back on the examining table, the familiar sonogram machine in front of me. I told the doctor I wasn’t going to look. The nurse held my hand and we all held our breath.
“Kathy… It’s OK. You can look.”
“It’s OK. There’s a heartbeat?” I was crying.
“A really great heartbeat.”
I looked at the screen, and there it was, my baby’s heartbeat blinking away.
“Do you want a picture?”
Now in a cab back to my office, I spent the whole ride staring at the picture of my little lima bean with the really strong heartbeat.
Today that lima bean is in his senior year of high school.
My happy ending was really just a beginning.
*A version of this essay is in the book Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother.
If you would like to read another piece on miscarriage, I am honored to have been interviewed by Katherine Martinelli, for her piece, Miscarriage Is Common. So Why Is It Such an Isolating Experience?, Washington Post, October 13, 2016