The morning I went in for my follow up ultrasound I felt like the world had been drained of oxygen. I was frozen with fear as snow pelted down and I took a slow motion cab ride uptown to the hospital. I had prayed and prayed for the week from Hell to speed by, but as it did, and as I got closer to the day of my appointment the dread built to a fever pitch. Would my greatest fears be confirmed or would I be given back hope? Keeping positive energy flowing felt like a battle and I was never more than a deep breath away from sobbing.
The way it all unfolded felt quite unremarkable for all the drama and build leading up to it. I felt oddly grateful that the ultrasound room was less foreign this time although the silence of it was still deafening. I stripped from the waist down and draped myself with a scratchy hospital gown. As I sat on the exam table I sent a last-ditch effort blast of positive energy toward my uterus. I steeled myself for what was to come and leaned back. When the ultrasound tech told me to hold my breath I was confused, first of all, because I was sure I hadn’t breathed in days anyway, and secondly, because they did not ask me to do this at my last appointment. I focused my eyes on the screen perched above me to see something flickering on the screen. They were asking me to hold my breath so they could count the beats. Even though intellectually I knew that flicker on the monitor was a heartbeat--the thing I had longed so desperately to see--I could not accept it. Chris squeezed my hand and lifted his eyebrows in excitement, but I returned his glance with what can only be described as deer-in-the-headlights eyes. I simply wouldn’t let myself feel excited because I was so desperately trying to protect myself.
Another ultrasound tech entered cheerfully stating “sometimes it’s nice to have a second set of eyes”. I wasn’t buying. Something was wrong. I felt it. The doctor came in and with a tentative look said the baby was there, but measuring two weeks behind what they would expect at my calculated eight and a half weeks and that the heartbeat was a bit slow. "Slow for six weeks or for eight?" I asked trying desperately to piece things together. Then the doctor said that the “other sac” now appeared to be empty and not viable. I stared at him like he was suddenly speaking Mandarin. “The other sac?” I managed to choke out. Apparently this was a twin pregnancy that no one bothered to mention to me at the last ultrasound because they were pretty sure I was miscarrying. My mind was beyond blown. I laugh now remembering that I asked, "Is that normal!?". I guess it took my dumbfounded self a moment to recognize that two sacs meant twins. The doctor chuckled humorlessly and said, "Well we see it all the time". A wave of foggy information washed over me about something called Vanishing Twin where one sac ends up being reabsorbed or miscarried and the other one usually goes on to develop normally. I was only half able to hear. In an instant I was forced to simultaneously process that I was pregnant with twins, but now I am not. More waiting was prescribed. We’d know better how the remaining embryo was doing in ten days I was told. Ten more days of limbo.
When we walked into the waiting room my mom leapt up and asked for the report. We told her and she looked overjoyed to hear there was a heartbeat. I wanted to be excited too, but anger came out instead and I brusquely insisted we should not get our hopes up. I told my sister and closest friends and everyone's instantly positive outlook felt like a threat to my tightly-gripped delusions of rationality and neutrality about the matter. It took days for the icy defense mechanism to melt away and before I decided to give myself permission to feel hopeful. There was nothing there before and now there was a heartbeat. That was a clearcut move in the right direction. I was even able to fairly quickly make my peace with the fact that the one twin was never meant to develop. All my energy was turned toward "The Shrimp" as we affectionately nicknamed the embryo.
So those ten days of waiting took on a different quality. During the previous week of waiting, it hurt too much to acknowledge even in the smallest way that I was pregnant for fear that it just wasn't true. During the ten day waiting period, however, I knew that I was pregnant and whether it was for the next eight months or the next eight minutes, no one could take that fact away from me. There was a heart beat flickering away inside my body. I let myself lovingly rest my hand on my belly, I allowed myself to take small glances at the pregnancy apps on my phone, and I unlocked fantasies of baby names, cribs, and due dates. I let myself refer to the baby like I knew she was coming and it felt good.