“It’s nothing you did,” she tells me. “It’s nothing you did, and it’s nothing you didn’t do.”
I nod because I know she’s supposed to say this. I nod because I know it’s true. I nod because I sense that I am supposed to respond, but I cannot yet speak.
I wonder whether she’s said these words to anyone else today. I wonder how many times during an average week she has to look into eyes full of hope or resignation or agony and say, “I’m sorry. You’ve had a miscarriage.” I think there must be a lot of joy in her job, but also this. It makes me want to hug her, to pat her back and say, “Oh, hunny. This must be tough for you to do all the time. Don’t you worry about me; I’m totally fine, I promise.”
Instead, I keep nodding.
It occurs to me that I will owe a co-pay. The receptionist hadn’t been sure whether to collect my $40 when I checked in an hour ago. If I’m pregnant, it’s covered; if I’m not pregnant, I pay for the visit. She’d even asked me what my preference was – to pay or not to pay. I wanted to respond that my preference was to keep it – both the money and the baby, if that was ok with her – but I simply stared back at her. “We can skip it for now,” she answered to my silence. “We’ll collect it later. You know, depending.”
I fantasize now about throwing my credit card at her when I walk up to her desk as one person instead of two.
My doctor is still talking. Well, she’s not my doctor but a random fill-in because my doctor was too busy today to tell me it wasn’t my fault. Anyway, sympathetic fill-in doctor is saying something about how clear everything looks. The ultrasound, she says, is totally clear. That’s good, she says, and I nod in agreement even though I’m not in agreement. I don’t want clear. Clear means empty, and I’m not quite ready to face empty. Is anyone ever ready to face empty?
I wonder whether I’ve spoken any words aloud to Dr. Sympathy. Did I say “hi” when she came in the room? I think I must have, but now I wonder whether she thinks I’m both clear and rude. Or mute, maybe. Dazed, I decide. I probably look dazed, which makes me nod a little harder and give a little “mmm” in agreement. This makes me look a little less dazed, I’m sure of it.
Cash would be better, I think. It would make more of an impact to throw a couple of twenties at the receptionist as I rush out. “Everything is clear now,” I could say.
No, wait. Forty one-dollar bills. Yes, that would be the best-case scenario: forty dollar bills raining down over her styled blond hair and her manicured fingers that continuously tap away on her keyboard. I’m not sure why all my fury is being directed at her, but I decide I will appoint her Official Miscarriage Scapegoat. I don’t allow myself to consider the idea that it’s possible she’s had her own miscarriage at some point, given that there is actually very little about this situation that is unique.
Dr. Super-Nice tells me it’s ok to start trying again essentially right away. She either references my 35 years of age or I imagine she’s thinking it. Regardless, we both know time is a little less on my side with each passing year. At 35, a pregnancy isn’t just a pregnancy. It’s a geriatric pregnancy. Did I just have a geriatric miscarriage? I can’t put my finger on why that sounds so much more disturbing, but it does.
Dr. Seriously-Stellar-Human apologizes to me again, and I’ve officially had enough. I picture the handful of unused tissues sitting on the passenger seat of my car. I came prepared, just like I always do. I’m the sort of person who always has Band-Aids, wet wipes and two or three tiny plastic toys in my purse. Just in case. I didn’t know exactly how this would end, but I knew to be ready for tears of some kind, either of relief or of sadness.
I pay my co-pay. (I pay it nicely, ok? No throwing of cards or dollars; I even manage a polite smile, which I think we can all agree counts as my good deed for the day.)
I walk outside. It’s a beautiful day. Warm and sunny with a sky as clear as I now am.
I sit in my car. I slowly and systematically work my way through that pile of tissues. And then I turn the key in the ignition. There’s nothing else to do now but move on.