I’m at the hospital, six days after a dating scan and five days after I miscarried. It was supposed to be an appointment to discuss the degree of riskiness of the pregnancy, but after miscarrying I was told to keep the appointment anyway so that my uterus can get checked for clots.
I get asked if a student might accompany us, to observe the interaction. My Dutch is bad at the best of times, I’m numb and confused and I agree because nodding usually gets me through these half-understood conversations. The student sits in the corner and smiles at me.
So. Says the doctor. What shall we do now?
I… what… can you repeat that, but more slowly please?
Your baby had no heartbeat on the ultrasound. Now what?
Well… I’m here? I’m feeling a little wiped out, but generally OK…
Yes. You have to decide on our next steps.
And then it dawns on me – she thinks I’m still carrying a dead baby. They didn’t update my record to include the miscarriage that happened under their care. And she didn’t think to ask whether it might have happened in the meantime. And, they see it as my job to read up on my options on the Dutch health care pages, and come ready to bargain for the one I would prefer. I point out that what needs to happen has already happened, and the student instead gets treated to a bloody vaginal ultrasound. All is well.
Once my clothes are back on (I ignore the blood on my legs), I ask the thing I was preparing all week with dictionary in hand. It’s the third pregnancy to go wrong, and it went wrong at a point when it wasn’t expected (a previous scan showed a heartbeat) – could some tests be done? And she says, perhaps, but I would need to book another appointment to discuss that.
And then, feeling compelled to try to dissuade me in advance, she adds that in all likelihood my next pregnancy is going to be Just Fine.
We’re in the UK, and it’s time for the dating scan. I’m tense with fear, because the previous two times I saw a dead baby on that scan. I’m a bit lost in thought, a bit uncommunicative. The sonographer is the most boisterous lady I have met, and this scan (probably the thousandth she has done) is the most exciting thing she has ever experienced.
I’m trying to brush off her cheerful questions as quickly as possible, I want to know whether I am again carrying a dead baby or not. She just doesn’t stop, and I’m starting to wonder whether I should tell her I’m on the verge of tears, and really scared to know if there is life inside me or not. I instead breathe deeply, and I quickly search for that pulsation on the screen. My baby is alive.
I just want to cry in relief, but the sonographer is asking me what I had for lunch because look at that baby wriggle! Was there ketchup? It’s important to know if there was ketchup.
I cry, clutching the ultrasound pictures, as soon as I exit the hospital.
It’s the post-mortem appointment following my baby daughter’s death. It’s clear the problem is genetic, though the particular genes have not been pinned down yet. I already combed the literature and have a hunch as to what type of finding we’ll be looking at after the genetic tests are back. I’m insanely worried about my son, because I know, if one of us carries what it looks like we might carry, that our children will have a one in two chance of inheriting it. I also know that the disease, if it expresses itself, is practically untreatable – and fatal.
And I am told, amidst all these results, that, in all likelihood……….. my next pregnancy is going to be Just Fine.