Embryo

I have procured permission to write about both the current pregnancy and previous miscarriage. Rather than staging the ornate gender reveal I always dreamed about (boy), I would rather focus on the dead one.

It’s more interesting and instructive than the never-ending feed of indistinguishable babies and eight-month birthday celebrations. Wait, did I miss Month 7? Can you please repost because I am riveted by this comprehensive journey through time?

Of course everyone wants to feel like a good person and wish health and happiness for all. But it’s OK to admit you also love to hear about breakups and divorces, drama and infidelity, struggle and conflict and loss. It lights up the dinner table conversation in a way that first-day-of-kindergarten pictures cannot. You skip the long articles about Amazon with substantive news and teachings, but can’t click fast enough when Jeff Bezos gets divorced.

Miscarriage announcements — if there were such a thing — undoubtedly would be more stimulating fodder than pregnancy announcements. And productive. I had no idea these biological misfires were so common because people don’t really talk about them. To me, that makes them a bigger deal than they need to be.

But I understand people feel different things in the same situation. The way I perceive my world, and the way I write about it, might not be the best fit for the overly sensitive subject of miscarriages. If you experienced one or more and don’t want to hear the sporadically tactful perspective of a guy who will never know what it feels like to carry a baby, maybe sit this blog post out. I do appreciate your reading in general though.

A year ago this month, we removed the goalie and I happened to have a monster load saved up from being away for the holidays. This was like a Ronaldo penalty kick against Stephen Hawking in goal. Ring that up and keep the change.

So we got a positive test that first month, the day after my wife’s 33rd birthday. I remember curling up in an apt fetal position after looking at the pee stick. The Tim McGraw song “Live Like You Were Dying” popped into mind.

It was a little scary and reminiscent of signing the lease when she and I first moved in together as my hand was uncontrollably shaking. My mind tends to race with overzealous prognostication.

Every night for about a week straight, I woke up in the vicinity of 4 a.m. and just lay there in bed. I wasn’t really thinking about the baby and didn’t feel all that stressed, but I do recall a weak sensation that rendered me unable to clench my hands.

Did you know the number of weeks of a pregnancy starts counting from the last period? That is rudely misleading for first-timers and should be integrated into common knowledge. I thought we were six days in when it was already six weeks.

Gradually, I started getting a better handle on this ticking bomb deployed to eradicate my life as I knew it. I even left a Super Bowl party overrun with frolicking children feeling confident and excited about the challenge.

Four days later my wife called me at work, emotional but calm. I remember it was 10:59 because I had an 11 a.m. meeting about content optimization. I know it was Feb. 8 because the Cavs had just traded away half of their team before the deadline.

The spotting my wife noticed earlier that week had turned into an all-out flood, and she found what looked like a membrane thingy in the toilet. Her breasts almost instantly went from intensely painful to completely normal, as if a faucet of hormones had been shut off.

I got through the meeting and the rest of the workday only mildly distracted. At home, my wife was rattled but in good spirits overall. We took a walk to Trader Joe’s and didn’t need much time before cracking jokes about our embryo hanging out in the sewer, the waiting period before I could go down on her, and not having to waste the second pregnancy test that came in the box. (I might have been the only one doing the joking, but she was totally cool with it.)

My wife even brought our baby home, wrapped in toilet paper instead of a fuzzy blanket. By then it had dried into something not as striking as the picture she took while fresh. She showed me on her phone but refused to text it out of justified concern I might share too liberally.

I can’t really remember what it looked like, something vaguely resembling peanut butter and jelly with a grayish Tootsie Roll center, or maybe I’m completely off. It made me a little queasy while putting down chicken and broccoli for dinner. She still has the picture if you want to reach out directly; this would be a perfect use case for Snapchat.

I should send it to my mom, who continues to baffle me by referring to the first pregnancy as not real. The positive test and doctor would indicate otherwise, crazy Asian woman. If she keeps this up, I am going to frame an enlarged picture of the dead embryo for her.

On the subject of callous immigrant parents, I try to speak only in Chinese to mine for practice. When I don’t know a word, which is pretty much every sentence, I refuse to give in and instead describe or talk around it.

My vocabulary is like a third-grader’s and certainly doesn’t include “miscarriage.” So I use words to the effect of “the kid died.” After hearing this repeatedly over multiple conversations, even my mom couldn’t take it anymore and told me to stop phrasing it that way.

Evidently I felt no connection with neither the picture nor embryo my wife later unceremoniously flushed away. A miscarriage at seven weeks isn’t materially different than if I had worn a condom that month. I wonder what point that feeling changes, which obviously depends on the person. I wonder what my hypothetical graph of sorrow would look like from seven weeks to nine months.

Surely the potential disappointment would grow with more time invested, like anything. But it’s not like we’re interacting with the fetus during pregnancy and would know the person we lost. I felt a surprising exhilaration when hearing the heartbeat of the current one, but I wouldn’t be mourning a being with any semblance of identity if we lost it too.

For me, the pain of this compassionately early miscarriage resided not in loss, but rather in one of my OCD personality traits. I have a lot of trouble accepting outcomes without the feeling of maximum effort given. I will torture myself with second-guessing and futile analysis to no end.

In this case, our lackadaisical approach after the positive test perturbed me in hindsight. We didn’t even bother to google hot yoga, which is a no-no during pregnancy. My wife felt extremely faint during her last session, and the next day she started spotting.

She also lugged equipment for work halfway across downtown Santa Monica. The doctor assured us these things did not cause the miscarriage, but my advice to anyone with neurotic tendencies is to leave no room for doubt.

To be unequivocally clear, I share these thoughts with zero-point-zero intention of creating guilt. Nature and the human body are so sublimely skilled, it’s a good bet most miscarriages happen for good reason… the optimal outcome for suboptimal pregnancies, part of our infinite biological safeguards.

It could happen again with this one. We’re 16 weeks in and feel more stable being out of the first trimester. I joke about this one dying, which usually draws a pinch from my wife.

I don’t believe in jinxes or superstitions or karma. If I have the power to cause a miscarriage by joking about one, then help me brainstorm some material on winning the lottery and we’ll split it 60-40.

I do believe in the value of talking honestly, for the talker and listener. Check out this pregnancy announcement my wife showed me, my favorite of all time even though I’m not familiar with the celebrity:
 

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As some of you know, @jeffreydeanmorgan is off in Europe getting ready to do some big conventions. And he's self aware enough to know his track record for "spilling the beans" isn't so great (bless his heart!). So before he starts tripping up in an attempt to maintain our privacy, he asked that I go ahead and post something about our little girl's birth. But before I do that, there's something I really want to say to all the women out there who are trying….. It took a long time for Jeffrey and I to have this baby. The first time I got pregnant, it took a year and a half. I surprised him on Christmas with baby Seahawk booties. We cried. We celebrated. We picked out names. And we lost that baby. More losses followed, and as so many couples know, it was heartbreaking. It still is heartbreaking. And every morning of the five years it took us, I'd open my computer at the kitchen table and see the news and I'd grow bitter over the endless parade of celebrities showing off their bumps and babies. I'd weep out of jealousy for how easy it was for them. Didn't they know something could go wrong? Didn't they know that there were other women out there struggling? It pained me to see the corporate sponsored baby showers and magazine covers capitalizing on this human miracle that wasn't happening for us. So when this pregnancy started, we were cautious. I didn't want to celebrate for fear of jinxing it. I didn't want a baby shower. I checked her heartbeat every day, up until the day she was born. And now that she is here, I just stare at her in wonder all day. I see her in her daddy's arms and I don't take any of it for granted. She screams bloody murder and I smile because she is so wildly alive. So now that folks know she's here, I don't want her birth to cause any other woman to weep at her kitchen table. If anything, my wish is that she would restore hope for others. Fertility is a fickle thing. And for the other couples out there who have had dark days, we want to introduce our miracle baby to you and send you our love and support in finding yours. Please meet George Virginia Morgan. She was born February 16th. Her daddy delivered her. We love her very much.

A post shared by Hilarie Burton Morgan (@hilarieburton) on

 
Well that really takes the air out of my 1,500 words on a seven-week miscarriage. But I will think of it, and appreciate it, should the time come again.

For now, a beautiful silver lining from losing the first one is I am so excited for this one. I got some bonus time to mature and make my peace. A dirty little trick Mother Nature played, taking something away so I would realize I want it. Phoebe did the same thing with Rachel’s pregnancy test if you recall.

The morning after the miscarriage, I lifted weights and played tennis. With endorphins running and the sun shining, I felt like I had a new lease on life because there was no baby. Now I feel like I have a new lease on life because of this baby.

Good luck little fella! I have a feeling you’re going to be the second-best thing to ever happen to me, behind your mother. And if you don’t make it, we’ll get the next one.
 

 
 

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