Finding out I was pregnant was anticlimactic. Because here’s the rule: you can’t tell anyone until you know it’s a viable pregnancy.
Actually, you can tell people, sure, but since 1 out of every 3 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you run the risk of having to un-tell them later. Possibly while sobbing incoherently.
So I was stuck in this no-man’s-land of being pregnant – maybe – for two weeks while I waited for my obstetrician to officially confirm that a) my pregnancy tests weren’t liars and b) the embryo had a heartbeat.
Normally the only people you’d tell that early are the girlfriends or family members you’d tell you miscarried. Like your mom. Except my mother was dead.
My BFF, M, had already had five heartbreaking miscarriages of her own. I was too chicken to tell her I’d gotten pregnant easily. Of course she’d be happy for me. And yet…how would I feel if I’d wanted a baby for years and someone who’d been pretty ambivalent about having kids got pregnant right away? I’d be happy for my friend, but I’d also be bitter enough to flip off the universe. And maybe my fertile friend, too, while she was looking in the opposite direction.
It’s kind of how I feel about writers who get their first book or screenplay published or sold immediately. Happy for them while also screaming “why not me?!” at a smirking universe.
I stayed quiet, waiting. Waiting for the moment you see in all movies, TV shows, and commercials, where the doctor holds the ultrasound wand on a pregnant belly and announces, “There it is!”
Or, alternatively, turns white and runs out the room to get a specialist because something is very wrong. (Since I’m always imagining scenarios with my close friend catastrophe, I was sure we were headed for that second scenario.)
Only my husband Andy knew about my pregnancy.
I didn’t feel sick and I don’t drink alcohol. No one suspected a thing.
Six weeks after my last menstrual cycle, we visited the OB.
It’s not like TV. Turns out, when the embryo is barely 4 weeks old, it’s hard to pick them up on a regular abdominal ultrasound.
Enter the wand. Yes, the transvaginal wand, which goes exactly where you think. The transvaginal wand even gets covered in a condom and lubed up before insertion. Maybe someday it’ll vibrate, but until then, Mr. Wand feels about as good as you’d expect, which is to say, not good at all.
Though not as bad as the curling iron/ vise the OB uses for your annual pap smear and woman’s wellness exam, at least. (Yes, I know it’s technically called a speculum, but that’s not remotely descriptive enough for that particular instrument of torture.)
But back to the exam room where a paper sheet covers my lower half and allows Andy, me, and the OB to pretend there’s no wand up my vaginal canal as we stare at the ultrasound monitor.
“Relax,” the OB tells me, moving the wand.
I glare at her, because never in the history of women being penetrated by a foreign object has ANY WOMAN EVER managed to relax just because the twerp initiating penetration simply suggested it. I settle for taking a deep breath and imagining shoving a wand in some of her bodily orifices. And maybe Andy’s too, since I know this is just the first of hundreds of poking and prodding indignities that I will endure while being pregnant.
“Good,” she says.
Apparently, I find images of violence relaxing. I file that away for the next appointment. Then I stare at the screen, willing an image to appear.
It does. A tiny blob, smaller than a pinto bean, vibrates on the screen.
“That’s it,” says the doctor. “There’s the heartbeat.”
At that age, the barely-an-embryo is nothing but a heartbeat, beating almost twice a second. It’s not as complex as an earthworm, let alone an ant.
“That’s it?” Andy asks the OB.
I take immediate offense, answering, “Of course that’s it! It’s not even a fetus yet! What did you expect, a wave? It doesn’t even have arms! Or a brain!”
Andy asks again, “I meant, there’s only one, right?”
The OB says, “Yes. Just one. Were you hoping for more?”
Andy and I respond together: “NO!”
The OB looks startled, and so I explain, “My mom’s second pregnancy was triplets, but she lost them.”
“Ah. No, just one here.”
“Dodged that bullet,” Andy murmurs.
“Seen enough?” asks the doctor.
Andy, entranced by the vibrating bean on the screen, doesn’t answer. I tell the doctor yes, and breathe a sigh of relief when the wand withdraws.
I scowl at the vaginal violator as the doctor strips off its condom and ask, “Are you going to be using that thing for the next ultrasound?”
The doctor laughs. “No, no, as long as there are no complications, next we’ll listen to the heartbeat, then regular abdominal ultrasounds.”
And eventually, there’d be a baby.