I stared at the screen. Allyn quickly said “there she is,” but I couldn’t tell, couldn’t be sure.
I was sent to the doctor yesterday out of fears of infection or blood loss, or things being stuck. When I called to make an appointment (as a new patient), I was immediately transferred to the nurse, who asked a lot of questions and wanted to consult with the doctor. Within half an hour I had a call back. “Can you come in today?” My appointment was for 1:30, an hour and a half after the office was supposedly closed.
While I was pleased that the process would not be delayed, I didn’t like the sense of urgency. This must be bad, right? Doctors you’ve never seen don’t get you in immediately unless it is bad. It didn’t help that I was going to see a doctor I had never met—to be examined, poked, and prodded by a stranger during this vulnerable time.
Allyn left work early so he could take me. And as I struggled to collect the necessary items to bring—insurance card, box of tissues, Naming the Child for the waiting room—I realized how thankful I was, as I was not convinced I’d be able to drive myself there. I asked the digital world to pray, and began singing “Jesus, Rock of Ages,” trying to remember the beautiful, mournful version I heard at church on Sunday. I could only remember the first line properly and sang it over and over again—Jesus, rock of ages, let me hide myself in thee. Of course, now I’m remembering that the hymn is traditionally “Rock of ages, cleft for me . . . ” and that perhaps my memory of the words is wrong. But sometimes the personal plea is far more necessary. My repetition formed a prayer of the only words, the only thoughts I could find.
At the doctor’s office, I didn’t know where to look. On one wall was a picture of mother and child. On another was a chart showing development week by week. On the shelf was a Doppler heart monitor. I choose to stare at the corner, which featured only a box of gloves.
The doctor was great. When he stepped into the room, he apologized that we had to meet under these circumstances. He saw my midwife’s name in the chart and began praising her, saying that they were kindred spirits—that he was meeting her on Friday to see the new birthing center. He began talking about how he supported natural childbirth and how he is thankful that women get to make the choices best for them. He is disappointed that the birthing center is 32 miles from his office—exactly two miles too far for him to be able to legally collaborate with the birthing center.
He began asking questions in a way that made me feel I was telling my story, not simply listing medical facts. He then asked if I would be comfortable with an ultrasound.
Strangely enough, I longed for one. And I feared much the same things that I did with the first—that my uterus would be empty. So when Allyn said, “there she is,” I was fearful that he was wrong, fearful that Avelyn had slipped away without my knowledge. But the doctor confirmed, measuring her little body, printing out images to hand to me. While the last time I desperately wanted the photos but was too scared to ask (too scared my voice would fail me, that I wasn’t ready to actually hold the images, that I would simply break into a thousand pieces on the floor), this time they were handed to me without question. Our doctor has apparently been though four miscarriages. He proceeded to tell us what each was named and asked if we had named our child. When we responded that we had, that her name was Avelyn, he asked, “How do you spell that?” And in that moment, the medical community held our little girl with us.
While he indicated that waiting was still my best option, I asked about my fears for the D&C: If I end up needing or choosing to go that option, can I have the tissue, the body? “Yes. In fact, for those who do not want or request it, the hospital holds a burial plot at a local cemetery.” They bury these tiny bodies. I should have anticipated that, being a Catholic hospital, but I tend to assume that most of the faith traditions of hospitals (be they Christian or Jewish) are more historical connections than current convictions. While I still hope and desire a natural end, there is much relief in knowing that if I need a D&C, it will be performed by a doctor who knows my daughter’s name, who honors her very short existence, who will place her in my hands.
Author’s note: This is the twelfth post in a series on pregnancy loss/miscarriage. Read the first post, “First ultrasound,” here.