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06/11/2004

Chickens

This morning I was up at 4 AM, awakened by anxiety. My ultrasound was scheduled for 9 AM. You would think with a 5 hour lead-in I'd be able to arrive on time. Ah, but no. I was my customary five minutes late. This worked out well because my clinic was its customary 45 minutes late.

I usually don't read magazines in the waiting room. I am far more interested in what's going on around me. I am an avid spectator of life's rich pageant. Either that or I'm one nosy sonofabitch. You decide.

Today I noticed a couple who were there for a prenatal checkup. The woman was heavily pregnant, sheathed in bicycle shorts that probably fit like a glove — a latex surgical glove — several months ago. Now they were stretched so tightly that the tensile strength of the Lycra was severely compromised; you could practically hear the twists of space-age polymer pinging under the strain as she settled into her chair.

She was also wearing a T-shirt that fit snugly across her abdomen. It was emblazoned with a flaky-looking iron-on that read, "FUTURE BIKER."

I think I will make myself a maternity T-shirt that reads, "SECOND MORTGAGE." With glitter. And perhaps, if I'm feeling kicky, fringe.

Her partner blew his nose noisily into a Kleenex, which he then crumpled and attempted to loft across the room into the wastebasket. That's right, shooting snotty hoops in a doctor's office. I am sorry to report that from his overly ambitious position way outside the key, his shot was a disappointing airball.

...

Paul and I have grown careless. We started this pregnancy with firm resoluteness: we would be cautiously optimistic. We would wait and see. We would take it one day at a time. We would not, under any circumstances, count our chickens before they hatched.

But since my last hCG test, we have become that most dangerous of breeds: we have become reckless and unapologetic chicken-counters.

It began innocuously enough. First we didn't refer to life after February at all. Then, once we'd dared to begin doing so, we were careful to preface our remarks with, "If this pregnancy continues..."

That felt pretty good.

It snowballed after that. Before we knew what was happening we were planning projects, talking about middle names, agreeing that it would be nice to have a baby in winter when it feels good to hibernate. All of a sudden we were acting like we believed everything would be all right.

It's a happier way to live than waiting for disaster. I believe cautious optimism is impossible — undesirable, anyway. Why would I want to deprive myself of hope or love?

...

Everyone has always been kind to me at my local clinic. I feel well cared-for there, despite the visceral terror I feel every time I step off the elevator; although I've gotten very bad news in those examination rooms, I still trust in the good intentions of the people who work there. Every doctor and nurse who passed said hello to me as I waited, greeting me by name. HIPAA or not, I count on that.

When I was alone with the nurse, I confessed about the blood. I'd had only meager faint staining over the last few days, but early this morning I had a single episode of true spotting, dark brown blood on the paper as I wiped. The nurse looked grave and said she'd tell the doctor.

"I'll tell you what I see as soon as I see it," the doctor promised as I lay back on the table. My fear must have been obvious. (Maybe it was my saying I was terrified that tipped him off.) The wand went in. Before it had even been fully inserted, he said, "Singleton intrauterine pregnancy with a yolk sac, sized consistent with dates."

So far everything is fine, aside from the spotting.

A more leisurely look confirmed the presence a nicely shaped gestational sac; a round yolk sac; and a thickening on one side of the yolk sac, the embryonic disc, the part that will become, um, a person. Everything is measuring exactly according to dates.

No reason for the bleeding was evident, though the doctor murmured something vague about a friable cervix. Any unexplained vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is called a threatened abortion. (Shout out to my friends, you habitual spontaneous aborters, you.) The silver lining to all this — for if there is one, I can be counted on to find it — is that with that diagnosis, I can avail myself of all-you-can-eat ultrasounds, and my insurance company won't turn a hair.

"I'll see you tomorrow," I told my doctor. He thought I was joking, but did look a little alarmed when I asked him how much an ultrasound machine would cost.

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