A Second

I felt the urge to share this story a few months ago. It’s one we’ve kept really close — sharing with only a handful of people. I felt the urge to share, and then the world turned upside-down. But in the quiet moments every day., I still think about it. So, I’m here to finally share it.

We nervously sat in the all-to-familiar fertility clinic waiting room. I clenched my jaw and tightened my fists — holding all the tension bottled up within me. This trip to the clinic was different. For the first time — ever — we’d had some good news and some reasons for hope. 

A couple weeks earlier I had seen — for the first time ever — a positive pregnancy test of my own. A couple blood draws later confirmed the pregnancy. 

So there we sat awaiting our first ultrasound that would ideally look at an actual baby. Infertility is a teacher of a lot of things. Some good. Some bad. One thing it taught me was about hope. 

The bad: It taught me to be hesitant about hoping.

The good: It had me clinging desperately to hope every single day.

Life is wild, isn’t it? There is no end to paradox.

So there we sat. Waiting. There’s a lot of waiting — seemingly endless waiting — when you have infertility. As we sat, a couple emerged from the back to the front desk. They were holding a stack of papers with equally dazed and determined looks on their faces. They were asking all those familiar questions. Where and how do we schedule the HSG? What about the semen analysis? What are the next steps? Who do I call?

They were us years ago.

Suddenly it all came flooding back. All the appointments, the negative tests, the giving up, the trying again, the reworking of plans, the days, the weeks, the months, the cycles, the years, all seven of them. I felt my chest tighten. I felt myself hold my breath. I felt tears well up inside me.

Then my name was called.

Pulled back to this moment, I looked up. A friendly face in a lab coat held a clipboard and looked at me. Jeff and I stood up.

“Follow me,” she said.

We walked down the fluorescent corridor. “How are you both?” she asked. The tears started to spill over. 

“Really nervous,” I answered, following with a quick “I’m sorry.” I unsuccessfully tried to catch the lump in my throat.

Then we were in the room. Table. Gown. Stirrups. Transvaginal ultrasound wand. Screen.

“Let’s do this quickly so you don’t have to be nervous anymore.”

I had been in stirrups so many times and had so many ultrasounds. None like this, though. There was so much riding on this one. So much to lose. What if it’s ectopic? What if there’s no heartbeat? What if something is wrong?

I squeezed Jeff’s hand.

“Alright, there’s the heartbeat.”

Relief washed over me. I smiled and sobbed. I almost didn’t hear this next part.

“We’ll do a quick scan of the uterus. And there’s a second heartbeat.”

Jeff laughed. I cried. The doctor? Totally pleasant nonchalance. Oh, to be a doctor. 

“You’re crying because you’re happy now, right?” our doctor said with a smile.

“Yes, so happy!”

“How are you feeling about twins?”

“Great! Let’s do this!”

The doctor went on to explain that Baby A was measuring to size with a strong heartbeat. Baby B was measuring small but still had a strong heartbeat. She said that it’s possible that we will miscarry Baby B. I may have some symptoms of miscarriage, or I may not. She said she’s also seen babies survive measuring small like that. 

We were scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound.

For two weeks, I let myself get cautiously (read: infertility problems) excited. I thought about how huge I would be. How much it would cost. How we would fit two babies into our condo. But I always prefaced my excitement with the thought ‘if this baby survives...’

If you know me, you know what happened. 

At our next appointment, there was just one heartbeat.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said.

“At least there were two,” I replied. “Is that weird to say?”

For the record, I wouldn’t recommend you say that to anyone who experiences this. But it’s genuinely what I thought at the time. At least we still had a chance of having a baby. At least there were two, so that there could now be one.

Vanishing twin syndrome. It’s weird. It’s technically miscarriage, but it doesn’t feel like one. The proof just disappears. It’s complicated. Should I feel sad? Relieved? Shouldn’t I just be grateful I’m pregnant at all? 

Jeff grieved right away. I wish I could have done that.

I thought about Baby B a lot during pregnancy. But this episode was just the beginning of a total roller coaster pregnancy. Baby A (now Theo) really preoccupied most of my body, mind and soul. I was so focused on getting him here safely, and overcoming all the hurdles we faced to do that.

Then…

A couple months postpartum, I was leaning over Theo as he was playing on the floor. He wiggled and smiled and looked up at me. And I cried. It was like I knew there was a part of the picture missing. After meeting Theo, I was finally able to mourn the loss of our other beautiful baby. Sometimes I think Theo was so small because he was leaving room for two. There’s this part missing that I feel compelled to share. To remember. To make it real. That heartbeat was there. I heard it. I saw it.

I don’t know what any of this means. I’m not really interested in anyone else’s interpretation, either. I don’t know if Baby B is gone from us forever. I don’t know if Baby B was ever really meant to be a part of our family. I don’t know if Baby B will come later. All I know is that there were two heartbeats. And then, two weeks later, there was one.

Somewhere deep inside me, I think Baby B is coming later. I recognize this feeling, though. It’s that feeling I know well after seven years of infertility. It’s good and bad.

It’s that awesome sting of hope.

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