When the week was finally over they went to the clinic to see Dr. Kawasaki. They were both extremely on edge and the several minutes the spent in the waiting room seemed eternal. “This,” thought John, “is what purgatory must be like. On the lower levels anyways.” The same friendly nurse led them into the ultrasound room where Laura disrobed and hoisted herself into the stirrups. John ignored the chair in the corner this time, choosing to stand nervously next to her within easy hand grabbing distance. “Come on Eunice,” Laura murmured quietly, “please be ok.” He put his hand on her shoulder in solidarity and exhaled deeply, hoping she didn’t notice as he wiped some of the sweat off of his palm onto her shirt.
Dr. Kawasaki entered the room with his usual near-martial force and efficiency, the nurse pattering in behind him. After seating himself and giving Laura’s file a look he said, “Ok, so we’re going to have another look at your uterus today and see how the fetus has developed in the past week. Could you please slide down a little? Good…now here we go…” John’s breathing came sharp and shallow and he concentrated to avoid hyperventilating. Laura reached up and gripped his hand so tightly he could see her knuckles whiten. They both stared unblinkingly at the ultrasound screen as the doctor adjusted and maneuvered the wand inside of Laura. There was no heartbeat. There was only a dark circle in the middle of the screen.
“What…is…I-I don’t hear the heartbeat,” Laura said in a quavering voice while re-tightening her grip on John’s hand. Dr. Kawasaki’s voice was gentle when he answered, “No, in fact there is no heartbeat now. You can see here the pregnancy sack, however…we cannot see the fetus developing inside.” John felt cold and opened his mouth to ask a follow up question but nothing came out. Laura let him off the hook, “Does that mean that the baby is…gone?” Dr. Kawasaki gently removed the wand and leaned forward, “Unfortunately it appears the pregnancy has stopped developing. Frankly I was worried after last week as the development was not proceeding normally, and now we unfortunately confirmed that there was a problem.” Tears squeezed past Laura’s defenses and slid down her cheeks; John managed to hold his back in watery eyes while he tried to swallow the apple-sized lump in his throat.
Dr. Kawasaki continued to be uncharacteristically gentle and sympathetic, proffering a tissue to Laura, “I’m very sorry for this.” Laura took the tissue and swiped at her nose while sniffing, “What…why did this happen? Do you think it was a problem with the sperm, or my system? Or do you think that maybe I didn’t handle my diet right?” He shook his head, “Honestly, this just happens with pregnancies sometimes, we don’t really know why. But please don’t blame yourself or worry about that, because there was certainly nothing you could have done about it.” John finally got his voice working again, “So, what happens now?” “There are several options. Basically you can wait for the body to naturally take care of the situation, or we can give you some medicine to trigger the process. I would strongly recommend the medicine, but there is no hurry of course. If you would like to wait a week or so, that’s fine.” Laura asked, “Would…but you are quite confident that the pregnancy…has failed, right? I mean even if we wait a week it doesn’t mean that…there could be more development?” He shook his head, “I’m sorry, but the pregnancy has definitely stopped developing.”
After a long pause punctuated by Laura’s sniffling she looked up at John, “So, let’s take the medicine, yeah?” John nodded, “Ok.” She turned to Dr. Kawasaki, “So, when can we try again?” The doctor was cautious, “Well, it’s important not to rush these things; it’s better to give your body and mind time to deal with this. I would say the earliest would be 2-3 months from now, but we need to monitor the situation and help you make the best decision. You are still young, so there’s really no need to push things.” Laura, “Ok, but that seems like a long time. I-we have been trying for so long we’d like to get on with it.” “I understand, but sometimes waiting awhile is the best thing. So, we’ll get you the medicine and a nurse will walk you through the procedure. There will be some discomfort and pain, maybe the equivalent of severe menstrual pain. We’ll need to have a look again 2 days after you start the medicine to check on the progress. I’ll issue you a doctor’s note as you will need some time off work, at least while you’re taking the medicine. Of course I won’t mention any specific problem on the note. I’m very sorry again.”
Laura used the medicine on Saturday morning in an attempt to avoid missing work. John joined her on the bed, the two of them reading and waiting in silence. He also continued his nursemaid act, getting her tea and snacks. When the cramping and bleeding started he hovered, not sure whether to cuddle, rub her back, or just give her some space. For her part Laura barely noticed his actions. She was lost in the loss. They had received some literature along with the medicine, and she found her eyes often going to the title of one of the pamphlets lying on the bedside table, “Miscarriage Information.” Miscarriage. It was the word no one wanted to say, but there it was, plain as day.
John was in the kitchen heating some water for tea when Laura called to him with an edge to her voice. He half ran to the bedroom to find her with her pants down, holding a feminine napkin in her hands and examining it. He instantly felt cold again, “What is it?” She looked up with tear-filled eyes, “I think…I’m sorry, but could you have a look with me? I think this might be…” He approached slowly and saw blood and a white glob in the napkin. He fought the queasy, dizzy feeling that came over him, “Uh, yeah, I think…I mean I’m not sure but that’s probably…the baby.” “So,” Laura sniffed, “this is Eunice.”
After some discussion and checking online, they decided to place the tissue-wrapped remains in an empty tin of Godiva chocolates John had bought for Laura last Valentine’s day. Unsure of what to do next, they put it in the freezer until they could decide. Laura’s cramping and bleeding continued, but by Sunday was greatly reduced. They curled up together on the sofa on Sunday afternoon. Laura began, “I hate this. I barely had time to start getting excited about the baby and then…this. Such a short window of hope before sadness. I don’t even know what to call things. After such a short time, can we even think of…I mean did I have a baby inside me or not? Obviously I’m not a mother, but was I an expecting mother?”
John, “Honestly, no idea. But I think that…Eunice was real to us. I mean of course whatever you call it that’s true. But I mean she was our baby-to-be, no matter how briefly. So maybe we never got to hear a heartbeat, or know whether she was in fact a she or not; but in our hearts that was a little piece of us. It’s possible that the only soul in her was the pieces of ours we poured into her, but that doesn’t really matter to me. For me, that was Eunice; our little princess that never was.” Laura wiped away a tear, “Thanks. I…I guess I feel the same way. I mean I’m frustrated and mad and sad and all that, but maybe that helps show that she was real. I mean if I feel loss, that must mean there was something to lose. Although to be honest it feels even bigger than that. It’s like losing memories that we’ll never have a chance to make. All those hopes and dreams and fears we had for…Eunice.” John embraced her tightly, “But hopefully we will have a chance to make those memories, just not with Eunice.” Laura nodded, then sighed, “How can it be so hard to let go of someone we never even got to hold?”