I'm waiting. Waiting, worrying, and wondering, much as I have been doing for nearly four weeks now.
In the beginning, it was a wait for more information. A few days before Christmas, I went in for what should have been my first prenatal appointment, the dating sonogram. Only, the doctor couldn't find a baby to measure. This was unusual considering that I should have been (according to my own calculations) nearly seven weeks along by this time. I was sent for a more thorough ultrasound, and the results were somewhat inconclusive.
A small sac was measured, a fetal pole perhaps seen, but it was not definitive. I was assured that I was probably just early, but these words left me no comfort, sure as I was of my own timeline.
I was desperate for more information, for explanations other than incorrect timing to explain the issues that were encountered. I was unable to get sufficient answers. My doctor saw no reason why the baby shouldn't have appeared if it was there, and finally admitted to me that if I was sure of my dates, it was "looking like a blighted ovum."
Looking like a blighted ovum.
Those were the words that haunted me for two-and-a-half weeks as first our travel plans (which we canceled) and then the holidays and my own doctor's vacation schedule made it difficult for me to get any follow-up. I agonized over what they might mean. If development had ended before it began, had I truly lost a baby, or just my dreams and expectations? Was there truly nothing there beyond a yolk sac, or was there some unconsidered reason why my still-so-tiny baby just could not be seen?
I tried to cling to the most positive outcome, but was too afraid of disappointment to truly embrace it. I wanted to enjoy Christmas despite the constant weight on my soul, but I could barely take in what was going on around me, numb as I was becoming to it all in a mindless attempt to simply survive each day.
The night before the long-awaited third look, I kept running both scenarios in my head, but I could really only imagine the happy one. I just could not fathom how I would ever cope with the news that I had endured almost through the tenth week of pregnancy only to suffer loss. I didn't want to try.
As it turns out, I still don't know how I will cope. I didn't know it when the ultrasound turned up empty again. I didn't know it as my doctor's words of comfort rang hollowly in my ears. I only remember the wind being knocked from my lungs, the thoughts floating far from my head, and my last-minute fixation on the printouts that my doctor folded in her hands as she started to walk out the exam room door. I had to stop myself from asking for a copy. They don't give you pictures of an empty uterus, after all. What would be the point?
Despite weeks of consideration, I was wholly unprepared for the thoughts or emotions that came next. My brain, in some unfortunate attempt to comfort me, began listing all of the reasons why this outcome was perhaps "better." Our hands are already so full, after all, and there are any number of things that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to do with another pregnancy; another baby, so close behind the first three. The end result of the mental barrage was a rejection of all suggestions, and the immediate personal reassessment of myself as an Officially Horrible Person for having thought such things. No matter the circumstances, I would never and could never wish a baby of mine away.
But the grief? Though it's slipped through in spurts, it remains largely on hold. The loss, after all, is still waiting to physically occur.
As it has waited, I've had one last ultrasound, one more blood draw. The pregnancy hormones are finally beginning to decline, along with the last vestiges of doubt that I ever held about what multiple medical experts have been trying to tell me. How could I not doubt? I've had no bleeding or suspicious symptoms. When I look down, I see a swollen belly. Throughout the day, I'm still feeling those familiar waves of nausea. The all-consuming exhaustion has yet to let up.
As for that ultrasound, it has delivered perhaps the most painful news yet. There was a baby, after all, who spent a mere four weeks striving for life inside of me before succumbing to I'll-never-know-what at about six weeks' gestation. There is a baby, still, and as the self-blame begins its cruel attack (Was it something I did, ate, drank, took, omitted?), I find that I have difficult and important decisions now to make.
I'd hoped to let things proceed naturally; the surest proof that there was, indeed, never any doubt of the outcome. I argued for it despite my fear of the level of pain, the unpredictability of the occurrence, the potential mess and discomfort. However, some other details that the ultrasound has revealed are a bit concerning, and make a strong argument for a procedure instead.
If I make this choice, it will mean more control, less waiting. It will also mean taking more responsibility, which I'm not sure I'm comfortable with doing. But it will ultimately mean an end to the hellish limbo, a closure that is long overdue.
Perhaps then, the grief will truly come. And then I will likely learn that waiting wasn't really the hardest part at all.