October 20, 2008

Once upon a time, I didn’t have an answer to the question, “What was the worst day of your life?” There were several contenders, all of which were very personal but none of which was truly horrible. Since my first miscarriage, I now have a real answer to the question.

The year was 2004. Britney Spears’ Toxic was climbing the charts. Kerry was in the process of clinching the Democratic nomination. During the two week wait of the pregnancy I’m about to describe, Janet Jackson’s boob shocked the nation and renewed American interest in censorship. I had experienced two years of infertility, and after eight months of treatment including Clomid, IUI, trigger shots, and progesterone suppositories, I was finally pregnant.

Pregnant! It was fantastic. I was nauseous — not too much, just enough to feel really pregnant. I had told a few friends, but no family — we didn’t plan to tell them for weeks. DH had a male bonding trip with a bunch of buddies coming up and doubted that he could keep the secret from all of them. I experienced the most blissful moment of my life (more on that sometime in the future). My betas were rising beautifully. Eight days of joy after two years of sorrow.

And then, the betas started falling.

23 DPO, I got a phone call from the RE’s nicest nurse, the one who had experienced and conquered infertility herself long ago. The call came later in the day than usual, which was a little suspicious. I was about to head into a meeting, so I let the call go to voicemail. When I finished the meeting, I called the nurse back.

She said that the beta had gone down. It wasn’t 100%, but it was likely that I was losing the pregnancy.

Okay, thanks. I moved on through my day calmly.

I was headed to the mall in the evening with a friend, along with her 3-year-old daughter and her 8-month-old pregnant belly. This friend had been with me every step of the way, and had experienced almost a year of secondary infertility and an early miscarriage before conceiving her second daughter. She was the first person I’d shown my pee stick to, hours before I showed my husband — just as I’d seen her pee stick a couple of days before she showed her husband. She was with me every step of the way.

As we got in the car, I told my friend about the nurse’s phone call.

“Do you want to skip the mall?”

No, things like this shouldn’t interrupt our plans. Let’s go.

My friend said one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard:
“We can talk about it if you want. Or, if you want, I won’t mention it all night and we can talk about anything else. We’ll do anything you want, and we won’t do anything you don’t want.”

She is always like that, but she was extra-fantastic that day.

We shopped and had dinner. We mostly didn’t talk about it. I was a little off, but it was fine. Strangely, we ran into a friend of DH’s — one that I never particularly liked. It’s not strange to run into someone, it’s just strange that he ended up making his way into the story of my big day. But there he is.

Anyway, we finished our pleasant outing. I dropped off the ladies and drove home. I held it together for the 20 minutes it took to drive home. I held it together for the 90 seconds it took to get from my car to my front door. I held it together while I opened the door and walked through.

And then I lost it.

My husband found me in a heap against the front door, sobbing like he’d never seen me in the 10 years we’d been together.

“Oh my G-d! What happened???”

I coughed out between sobs: I-lost-the-baby.

He was so sad too, but brave and sweet for my benefit. I’m sure he felt the loss as much as I did, but he never got a chance to express it.

Until October 20.

While I was pregnant, I had put a little post-it flag in the calendar on the due date, October 20. It was a weekly calendar in which we charted our exercise, so the flag wasn’t apparent until you turned to that page.

On October 20, he turned to that page and saw the flag. “What’s this flag for?”

That was the baby’s due date.

“Oh.” We hadn’t talked about it for months. It went from a mundane moment of charting his workout to a knife in the gut. We cried and hugged.

I remember so many things about that day, and about the moments of sobbing in a heap. I don’t remember the exact date it happened (though I have it written down, so I do know it). But I have never forgetten October 20.

Even though I always know the date, I sometimes forget the year. I just have to think of the age of my friend’s daughter, who was born a few weeks after my miscarriage. She is 4 now. She is starting to read.

I don’t even know the due date of the pregnancy that I lost only a few months ago. After my first loss, I just couldn’t put my heart into the next pregnancy, even four years later. When my next pregnancy happens (not if, but when, dammit) I will try to put my heart into it, but it may take a few milestones to really convince me that this one is here to stay. Several betas, certainly. Ultrasound with heartbeat? Maybe. Past the age of viability? Perhaps. Birth? Possibly. High school graduation? Definitely by then.

I will have many other dates to remember in the future, hopefully mostly good. But no matter how many dates make it into my calendar and my brain, I don’t think I can ever forget October 20. And since I can’t forget, it means that baby will always be remembered.

Thank you for remembering with me today.