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06/06/2004

Ducks

I live half an hour from a small city by a big lake. We're there a lot for shopping, dinners out, and visits to the local RE. I love the lake; since the shore is only a few blocks from downtown, we visit it often, watching the boats bobbing in the marina, kids playing in the sand of the tiny man-made beach, and the squadron of mallards who nest in the rocks.

Last summer, on a sunny day when I was about seven weeks pregnant, Paul and I went for an ultrasound. We saw the heartbeat, just as we'd hoped, then went to see the ducks.

Hatching happens late up here; by mid-July the ducklings are still small and downy, entirely dependent on their mothers, staying very close to shore. We watched those tiny ducks for hours, not talking much. But then we didn't need to talk, since we knew each other's thoughts — we were happy, we were hopeful, and we were finally part of the business of life in a way we'd never been.

C'mon: pregnant. Heartbeat. Ducklings. Sunshine. It doesn't get better than that.

Two weeks later, everything was different. We'd lost the heartbeat. It's what we expected; we were prepared. We asked for a D&C.

I could have one that day if I stayed nearby, waiting my turn for an empty OR, so we didn't drive home. We waited downtown, the longest wait of my life.

And of course we watched the ducks. They were two weeks older, a little less downy and a little more assured. They swam farther out from shore and picked fights with each other. When their mothers approached to deliver a disciplinary peck, they tried hard to swim away. We could see their tiny feet churning fast in the clear lake water.

And again, we didn't talk much. Again, there was little to say.

I didn't see the ducks again before winter came in. I thought I would today. We went to town for brunch and shopping. Before we ate, we changed tables at the restaurant to get a better view of a sleeping infant. As we shopped, we slowed (though did not stop) as we passed the baby clothes. Then we split up, agreeing to meet in an hour's time.

As soon as we'd parted, I went to the bathroom and saw that I was spotting.

There was only the faintest tinge of beige on the toilet paper, more staining than spotting, thin and very light in color. I sat in the stall staring at the paper, reminding myself of what I already know: brown blood is old blood, less ominous than red. Many women spot throughout successful pregnancies. Bleeding isn't necessarily a bad sign.

But I also know that blood of any color is never a good sign. I know that about half of the women who experience bleeding will go on to miscarry. I know there's nothing I can do but wait.

So I sat in the stall and I cried for a while. I thought of Melissa, I thought of last year, and I thought of the ducks on the lake.

When Paul and I met once the hour was up, it was chilly and looked like rain. We decided against going down to the shore and came straight home instead.

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