22 September 2008 | Vol. 8, No. 3
Welcome to the Blighted Ovum Support Group
the well-timed hanger joke
took the air out of the room
so that the instruments pulled at their cords
and my gurney leaned on its wheels
and the residents stopped scratching
the bands of their surgical caps
to look in wonder
that the husband
could have been
was the G.Y.N.'s
real name. no kidding—
my hospital bracelet:
was a kind man, held my hand
asked after my children said, I'm sorry
this is happening and left a nickel-sized
piece of tissue that made me
bleed for weeks until I
up the world
a swaying back-
failed and the meditation
and Maya massage
and folded prayer I put
in the real wailing wall
and herbs and acupuncture and waiting until
we went back to our places, all of us:
residents, jokers, instruments, though
this time through the ER,
so there were other characters and indecencies and I became aware of
how the air was sucked out of all the rooms
aware of how little air there'd been for weeks
and not just because hospital and residents who say abortion
which is technically correct and the nurse with bad
English who leaned in close to what? hug me? her breath
in my ear
the only air,
"he hurt you?"
can barely hear the words didn't make sense, "who?"
says the nurse at the closed door behind which the husband—
"no, no," I say, "he not hurt me,"
and she misses the vein
and flicks at the tube, does it again and again until
the needle finds a rivulet and hunkers down to pump
the joke I make at her expense keeps us moving through space
and time and able to lie still when it is time
and time to wait for the procedure, until a different nurse,
all pink-cheeked and matronly, comes in and asks
"how many weeks along?"
and no one has a joke ready, for this; there isn't one
she thinks we haven't heard, says,
"pregnant… how many weeks?" and I,
"I'm here for a second D & C because the first D & C after a missed miscarriage due to Blighted Ovum resulted in heavy bleeding for the past 6 weeks now I can barely stand up and last night thought I am finally bleeding to death and Arielle said, oh God this doesn't sound good, maybe you should lie down, bleeding like that.. I mean women have babies when they sit on the toilet… I mean the bleeding might be worse there because of gravity and, I don't know, maybe go to the hospital? and Arielle hates hospitals so you know oh God it really did not sound good and I did lie down with my hips up and did not bleed to death at least not yet though there's always a risk with any surgical procedure and no guarantee the D & C will address this bleeding unless a piece of tissue the uterus can't expel and Dr. Jew can get it out now but it's tricky because they can't see anything on the Sono except my uterus isn't empty that's what they keep saying ‘your uterus isn't empty' but they can't see could be tissue could be clots but to answer your question not, they're sure, a baby, maybe never was all they saw at 11.5 weeks was a hearty placenta and empty sac the placenta supporting no fetus and pumping me full of progesterone so I was terrifically morning sick and popped out in maternity clothes convinced a healthy baby maybe a girl this time why else so sick and big and happy…"
but that's not the punch line to anyone's joke
and not what I said. I said
"look at the chart" in a cracked voice and
she did, said "oh,"
not the least bit abashed, walked away
no one has a joke about her.
I wish I'd said "16 weeks and five days fuck you very much" or something, anything, but nothing came to us, out of comebacks, even the husband, my crude beauty, for once, without a punch line.
Welcome to the Blighted Ovum Support Group.
They say "lost" a baby.
The technician says:
This is the sac.
This is the placenta.
This is your bladder and one, and another
ovary. Nothing, I'm afraid.
The placenta just kept on HCG. Have to pee be
sick. Protein. sick. Protein. told everyone. the boys.
naughty fetus, hiding like that.
or invisible or neverwas.
the unfetus or preembryo. scaffold, sac, yolk.
How do you feel knowing you'll write about this?
the husband asks two days after the first sonogram
is the first time someone
asks me how I feel
I take Ignatia for grief.
Acconite for shock.
Chamomilla for anger which out of nowhere like a slap.
Herbs for retained placenta.
Needles for retained placenta.
Needles for weak pulse, for grief, for shock, for disappointment.
I drink wine, coffee and take pills except
I don't, not yet, just in case.
In case hiding. In case mistaken.
Let go I tell the placenta. Go.
but had lost nothing. would let nothing go, nothing.
The next Sono shows the placenta breaking down
and the sac misshapen, deflating?
Nothing was changed then except information.
Still no bleeding, sign, nothing. Not
a baby for weeks or ever
but in a few days, after I see the empty sack,
my belly starts to shrink.
I wash and fold the maternity clothes
to return to their rightful owners. My son
erases the part in his family narrative that says
"______is my ______."
I'd rather write poems about a baby, is how I feel, you motherfucker.
In the prose version I write eloquently about
how important it is for my sons to feel
disappointment like this and survive.
In verse I write nothing which is
an objective correlative of what I've "lost."
When Nathan calls I cannot
get up. His voice sounds like
his voice like nothing's
happened. Sitting with the Post
at the Pastry, wants to know
if I'll come translate
an Ancient Hebrew poem, but
I can't get up.
Can only troll the web for tales more dismal than my own
and there are
Welcome to the Blighted Ovum Support Group.
There are 3 new members.
Welcome: There are 4 new members.
They say the first thing I asked
after the procedure was
what was in there?
when I was still on the table
but I've no memory of anything before Recovery
where I woke up crying.
Picture every alien abduction movie
where they experiment on earthlings:
that is the O.R.
Umbrella-sized movable lights like obscene poppies,
fabric strap stirrups hanging from the ceiling:
"slide your bottom down… down… down, no, too much…"
Dr. Jew holds my hand.
"It's hard to have it all be over," I say
not knowing then that when I wake up
it will not be over.
At first everyone says sorry you lost a baby
and my father has a nightmare: he's riding
a city bus and sees something beautiful
through the window but can't get off
and strange hands come to snatch it away—
he is sorry I lost the baby
and my sons weeping—
the older I can't take this—
the younger but where did it go?—
and some mother at the school says
that's why you shouldn't say anything
for at least some many weeks it's so
But I didn't.
I held on and on to the sack had to have it
scraped out then could not stop bleeding
the shots and pills and herbs and pellets
even a woman singing and praying over my uterus
and others lighting candles for me, saying,
you need to let it go now
whatever's left just let it go
I could not believe
what bloody else
could be left
I'd let everything
until fell down
goes the world
filling the toilet
the stream of it
if I can't have the baby what have I—
When I looked in the notebooks there was nothing there.
I assumed I'd been writing things down and poems would tumble out.
Instead I found instructions of what to do for back labor:
assume a semi-prone position, or knees lower then hips, then lie on the side of the baby.
Fuck the notebooks.
C took her embryo to the doctor's office in a Tupperware.
A had a perfectly good baby stuck in her fallopian tube they used chemo because "any fast growing cell" but had to blow her up like a balloon and take it out laparoscopically when the tube burst anyway.
B had a rush of bleeding while teaching.
P's water breaks at 16 weeks on her way back from the Cape.
J has a miscarriage in an airport bathroom.
They sustain me with stories so gory I was almost envious back when I was still waiting for something still technically pregnant but without a baby and not one drop of blood or pain to show for it finally agreed to the first D & C because "a relatively predictable outcome" and I was flying to Israel and wouldn't want to end up in hospital so Dr. Jew nice Asian man holds my hand, I say it's hard for it to all be over thinking it would be and he says he's sorry this is happening and I wake up in Recovery crying and they say to expect spotting and the husband and I get drunk and go out dancing because we are still alive and I've had a procedure which has given us closure and we fly to Israel and the bloodletting begins and nothing will stop it and I'm in the middle of my own very gory story but too anemic to write it up properly for the all ladies who are waiting and waiting to miscarry or for their procedures who have dead fetuses or empty sacks inside them or are trying to conceive or are pre or post D & C or are writing to say this is the anniversary of the EDD for the neverwas baby and they are calling themselves angel mothers and I am too weak to be snide about this and they are arguing about whether a woman can post to the list who has recently had a miscarriage but not from blighted ovum if she's had three blighted ovum pregnancies in the past
There are 4 new members.
There is 1 new member.
There are 5 new members.
I'll tell you all what happened, properly and in order, when I'm not so dizzy, if I'm ever more with it, when the bleeding stops and it hits me what I've lost, when sadness finally gets up the nerve to come calling and settles like a scab where they've scraped away the last nickel-sized piece of tissue, a scab too easily dislodged by the sight of pregnant women or newborns or thoughts of last New Year's Eve when we watched the fire works from our apartment naked after saying and doing crude things to each another and making what would not be born October 1st or worse, the moment we had no answer for how many weeks along when we'd lost everything even our last rusty hanger abortion joke—
how many weeks?
One, but the light bulb really has to want to change.
Goldberg, iceberg—what's the difference?
Three: two to hold down the giraffe and one to kiss the fish.
Oy, vas I tirsty!
Stupid genii thought I asked for a 12-inch pianist.
Would I! Would I!… Hair lip! Hair lip!
That? That could lead to dancing.
Keys, wallet, spectacles, testicles.
Bok? Bok?… Readit. Readit.
I said go down on the wharf!
Don't worry, Rose, it's something to do with the gentiles.
Because seven ate nine.
The phone's for you, cocksucker.
About the author:
Rachel Zucker is the author of three books of poetry, most recently, The Bad Wife Handbook. In high school she ran for student body president and lost. Since then she has applied for many grants and fellowships and has been turned down by most of them. She has never been awarded residency in a writer's colony and has never held a tenure-track teaching position. She has three wonderful sons whom she co-parents with her brilliant and complicated husband. She is a homebirth activist and a labor support doula. Please visit her website: www.rachelzucker.net.