It’s the hardest thing a person has to do.
I’ve never been fond of having to wait. So sitting and waiting for three minutes is maddening. I know my boyfriend is outside the bathroom, waiting. Just as anxious and worried as I am. As I sit, staring at the white stick in my hand, I’m listening to the other shoppers coming and going, the stall doors falling closed behind them.
Those three minutes I sit and wait seem to last a lifetime. The two pink lines cause butterflies in my stomach and a tightening in my chest. I pocket the test and leave the bathroom. With a single nod, I take my boyfriend’s hand and we leave the mall, heading for home where were both know we’re going to have to talk about this.
Sometimes it can be harder than waiting.
After having a child, you learn what to expect. You learn what feels right and what doesn’t. When something is wrong, you know.
I know when I wake up something is wrong. The sickness, the cramps. The pain. The blood.
Before I make the phone call, I know. Before I make the appointment, I know. As I drive to campus, I know.
I can handle it in small increments.
Forty-five minutes to see my doctor. That’s too long.
The pale white paper crinkles beneath my sweaty palms as I adjust myself. Ankles crosses. Uncrossed. I count the packaged Mr. Potato Head toys lined along the supply cabinets. Twenty-six costumed potatoes looming over me, watching me fidget in my seat.
When my family doctor comes in, I’ve counted his collection four times – 104 boxed potatoes wearing costumes I wish I could slip into.
“The test was positive?” he asks, getting straight to the point.
He stares at me, waiting. My throat tightens, my heart races. I nod because that’s all I can do. His face softens and he nods slowly. No judgement. Just sympathy. Understanding.
I am not alone.
They take six vials of blood from my left arm, and I wonder how much blood it takes to confirm or deny a pregnancy.
“It’ll just take a few minutes,” the nurse lies.
Another thirty minutes. I wait until he comes back to tell me what I already know.
Having someone confirm what you already know is the worst pain of all.
My doctor’s eyes jump from me to the computer screen in front of him as he nods slowly. He rattles off a lot of medical terms that I don’t understand. But the truth is, I don’t need a medical degree to know what he’s telling me.
Spontaneous abortion. Pregnancy loss. Miscarriage. The natural death of an embryo or fetus before is has the ability to survive independently. The most common complications in early pregnancy — 30% to 40% of all fertilized eggs miscarry, usually before the pregnancy is known.
As he continues to tell me the psychological effects of losing my baby, I nod. Numb. A typical response, he tells me when I tell him I don’t feel anything emotionally. He tells me that I shouldn’t be surprised if people don’t understand my pain; people who have never experienced a miscarriage may not know how to empathize. They can’t relate.
“Do you have any questions?”
What did I do to deserve this?
But I don’t ask this. Because I know the answer is nothing.
I shake my head and smile despite the sting in my eyes and the shattering of my heard. “No. Thank you.”
He nods again and leaves the room. I follow, forcing my legs to carry me out the door. Through the parking lot. To my car.
I tap my foot on the pharmacy’s linoleum floor, and my eyes focus on the white square tiles sprinkled with black and grey. The bottle of Ibuprofen, the box of Trojans, and the bag of Maxi pads feel heavy in my arms. My legs shake beneath my weight, and there’s a throbbing in my abdomen. I close my eyes, trying to tame the dull thumping behind my eyes. It doesn’t help, and I sigh heavily.
I glance at the line — four elderly regulars — and I sigh again. I calculate my chances of being able to sneak out the front doors of the pharmacy with my supplies in hand and then release a quiet groan.
I return my gaze to the linoleum beneath me, tapping my foot, and wait until it’s my turn.
I shift my weight from one foot to the other as the cashier drags my items across the scanner. She hums a tune I don’t recognize, but I know that I know her from high school; she graduated the year before me. And I know what happened a few weeks before she graduated. I remember the rumors, the gossip, about the baby she’d lost. She never talked about it, but the rumors quickly spread through the high school.
As she bags my bottle of Ibuprofen, I wonder if she knows I know.
“Periods. They suck, don’t they?”
I stare at my purchase as she taps the computer screen. I scowl, slightly annoyed by her question. She of all people should know why I’m buying these things.
But how could she? My purchase is a basic, generic, girl-on-her-period purchase. It doesn’t matter that she’s been through what I’m going through. It doesn’t matter that we’ve both felt the same pain. The same distress. We are two different people, and no two people grieve the same.
My scowl is replaced by a small smile, knowing I can’t take my pain out on her. She’s innocent. I’m surprised by the light, airy laugh that escapes my lips and fills the space between us.
“Yeah. They totally suck.”
She smiles and hands my the bag. I return her smile and head out of the pharmacy. I’m surprised that my smile doesn’t fade when I turn away from the cashier. It remains on my face, bringing smiles from the people I pass on my way to the parking lot.
As I sit behind the wheel of my car, my smile remains spread across my lips.
The pain is real. It’s worse than any pain I’ve ever felt before. But I know it will fade with time.
They say time heals. But it doesn’t.
I’ve been waiting for two years for the pain to heal. I’ve been waiting two years for the slight ache in my chest to disappear, the whole in my heart to close.
I have been keeping the pain to myself. Despite my knowledge that my family will always support me, I never told them about the baby I lost. I never told them about the pain I have felt. And I don’t think I ever will. There is nothing they can do now. Nothing they can say that I haven’t already heard. No hug will eliminate the loss, and hearing “It just wasn’t your time to have a child” isn’t going to erase the constant blame I carry.
It’s been two years, and I’m still here.
Sara Stevenson was the winner of Best Essay for this issue. She graduated in December 2016 with a major in English and a minor in writing. She is a currently a graduate student in the humanities program. Her work has previously been published in The CapTimes and online at The Odyssey, where her winning essay also first appeared.