I spent the months afterward reading up on recurrent miscarriage. I made my ever-calm doctor run every possible test, explain every possible explanation. My husband and I saw a fertility specialist. We began to investigate adoption. The accumulated swells of hope and letdown, excitement and disappointment, had become, if not a constant in my life, then awfully familiar. It felt like the sea: the rising tide of happiness, the falling, pulling backwash of mourning. The upswing of expectation and thrill, mounting with each day and week, and then, sure and strong, the downswing of the pit in the stomach, the lump in the throat.
I didn't get pregnant for almost a year, which, given my age and the number of miscarriages I'd had, seemed an unending eternity. To see myself through, I acquired a feisty black-and-white kitten and a skittish full-grown cat with a regal bearing and a fluffed-out tail. I spent many sad evenings burrowing into their comforting fur. And when I went to bed, I dreamed gory, terrifying dreams about babies and cats and rescue and loss and danger.
Eventually, I got pregnant again. This time I was, I think, numb. Long past the traditional don't-tell mark of the first trimester, I was loathe to acknowledge the pregnancy. It wasn't until about the seventh month that I would talk unhesitatingly about it. Up until then, I'd bark at anyone who asked, and, of course, as my belly protruded more and more, people felt free to do just that.
I refused to buy maternity clothes, making do with the huge old button-down shirts of my 6'2" father. My best friend, who after her late miscarriage bore beautiful twin boys, had been stockpiling baby stuff for me, although I'd told her, after the second miscarriage, that I couldn't bear any more discussions of what was worth saving and what should go to Goodwill. She and my mother live near each other, hundreds of miles from me, and together they conspired to hoard the clothes, toys, changing table, and nursing rocker they wanted so badly for me to need someday. They sorted and boxed and arranged, filling giant trashbags with bunnies and bears and Onesies and Polarfleece jackets and battered books full of barnyard animals and babies' faces, crossing their fingers as they worked, hoping that this pregnancy would last.
I can't remember exactly when I started to believe that, maybe, just maybe, this baby would make it. Although I wouldn't permit myself to call it "baby." It was first a fetus, then later, Junior or Future Baby. And, no question, I did not want to know the sex. For if I didn't know the sex, I couldn't refer to it as "she" or "he." And it would stay just a little less real. Which was safer.
But then came the day, late in the pregnancy, somewhere around 32 weeks, when my doctor, cautiously, tentatively, circumspectly, informed me that with neonatal units being what they are today, if the baby were born right then, it would "most likely" survive and be okay. For the first time, I dared to think: Baby. Baby.Around 36 weeks, a decrease in my amniotic fluid provided a bit of a scare and meant that I would be induced a couple of weeks early. But strangely, I wasn't worried, although the drop in fluid did, my doctor said, represent some danger to the baby. I continued going to work. I slowly -- increasingly slowly as the pregnancy wore on -- put one foot in front of the other, at long last calling my mother and my best friend and arranging for a shipping company to come for their hoarded treasure. When the appointed day came and we went to the hospital, the Pitocin didn't kick in the way it was supposed to, and during labor, the baby's heartbeat dipped, but somehow, still, I didn't worry. We'd made it this far, my soon-to-be baby and I. When he, froglike, slippery with blood, was placed on my chest, I asked if it was safe to touch him. And it was.
Now he's here, he's been here for more than two years -- my reallive baby boy, a full-blown toddler with likes and dislikes all his own, talking and dancing and on the verge of being potty-trained -- no hoped-for creature in the process of becoming, no ghostly apparition on a sonogram screen, with features that although they eerily, tantalizingly resemble those of a human being, can at any moment disappear into the sorrow of the might have been. He lives, he breathes, he falls down, he is covered in mosquito bites! He laughs, he crams huge pieces of juicy peach into his snaggle-toothed mouth! And the sadness almost -- but never quite completely -- fades away.
Anne Glusker, a former Washington Post editor, is a writer living in Takoma Park, Maryland.