She didn't smile and she didn't look at me when she opened the door to the beige examination room where MJ and I were waiting. It was then I knew it wasn't good news. You can't miss good news on a face. A face that's got good news to tell you lights up like dawn, it's eyes uplifted and ready to meet yours. Bad news looks at its own shoes, and the doctor just couldn't quite make eye contact when she first opened the door. Thud. That's how I've always felt when a doctor doesn't look at me like that.
I sank in my chair and reached for MJ's hand, because I knew that hers would be seeking mine as soon as the doctor said what I was now sure she had to say. MJ and I had just come over from the hospital where MJ had just undergone a strangely silent ultrasound.
Fear confirmed is an odd thing. Emily Dickinson had it right when she wrote, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes..." A certain discreet propriety surrounds the open wound and scabs it so fast the whole organism can survive, and only that little bit that you invested dies. I guess I feel like that now. Then, what is left but a mass of cells to be removed in a quick painless procedure?
It's a pretty common thing, as common things go, for two people to have an unsuccessful pregnancy. The funny thing is, I don't know what to do. I'm not sure what to feel and I don't know what's expected of me. MJ is at work today, and she carries on, and I am amazed. I am sitting here at a loss for words.
A lost dream
I was not aware I was looking so forward to playing with my two sons. I think he would have been a boy, although every one I told -- men and women both -- about our pregnancy, said he would have been a girl. Harrison would have been his name, and he would have looked up to his big brother. He could have been tailback to Will's ground-pounding fullback when we played the 'Patriots are losing at half-time' game, each of us grimacing and rolling in laughter after the balloon that served as our ball as we blocked and tackled our way across the living room rug.
I wasn't aware that I was looking forward to that quite so much, and now that I realize I was, I'm a little surprised. I don't know what to say to people. Men aren't expected to be very involved in pregnancies, anyway.
Our pregnancy, our loss
I always said that "we" were pregnant. It was comical to watch the looks cross many women's faces when I would say that; I would feel a little insulted. It was as if they said to me, "yeah right, you're pregnant." Many women seem like they think I wasn't there for the back aches and the swollen ankles the first time we were pregnant, or for the surprise and delight of feeling our baby kick as he stretched for room; like they believed I had no connection to our baby until he was running over me on the living room rug.
But I was with MJ when she had her first ultrasound, and I heard for the first time my son's heart beating, and I was with her again the other day when the ultrasound told us the heart of our new baby was not beating any longer. Now, here I am thinking just like I thought I didn't.
I was going to say that women need to give men more credit for understanding what it means to carry a life in your body, but maybe I won't. I don't know what it means to contain a life. "The baby is growing in all our bellies!" was how Will chose to look at what almost came to pass in our family, but I need to claim this for myself.
We were pregnant, and now we're not. I was there at the beginning and I was there at the end. Maybe men can know and understand many things about women, and maybe women can know what it is to be a man too, but if I don't know what it means to carry life inside my body, I do know what it means to carry that life in my day dreams, and in my consciousness, and in my heart.