I could smell the antiseptic odor of a medical facility when the diagnosis goes wrong. The shiny, laminate-tile floors drew me toward them; exaggerated, long, and tilting wildly out of proportion. An army of medical utensils on the counter stood witness to my pain with sterility and lonely stillness. We were having twins again so the doctor’s words held twice the impact.
“The ultrasound doesn’t look good. Take these pills and lay low for the weekend. The medication will induce cramping and that should clear out all the remaining bits inside your uterus.”
A nurse appeared in the doorway just in time to deliver me from a manic, uncontrolled flight into delirium. She seemed misshapen and slow through my still blurred vision, but she put her arms around me and cried.
“Honey, I am so sorry.”
A dam of emotions I couldn’t identify or control released without warning, and we wept there; strangers tied together not by any intra-uterine bits but by two dying children.
I left with a prescription and strict orders from the doctor.
“Lay low. No physical exertion. Call if you have any problems.”
His pen thundered the final period and the prescription tore from the pad in one frightening tear. A prescription in one hand, the bill in the other, I lifted heavy feet giving them the command to walk toward the exit. Moving through the waiting room, joyful eyes danced to meet mine and share their bliss, but I could no longer connect with their overwhelming cheer. Woman after woman, surrounded by a maternal glow, all rubbed their tummies in unison, and the room began to sway while I waded through what seemed like an eternal thickness. As if deaf I heard no words as lips moved in silent animation.
The sunshine of the parking lot weakened my stomach, and I sat behind the wheel of the car not knowing how to make it drive me home. What bits are inside my uterus? This is my child, no, my children we’re talking about! How can I take a pill to get rid of them?
Question after question continued to haunt me that night as I stared at the bottle of medication he had prescribed to get rid of the bits. What if the doctor was wrong? Should I ever question a professional? He wouldn’t prescribe this if he weren’t sure about the diagnosis.
Two weeks later I returned to the very room where I had wept with the only nurse I could find who knew my babies were not bits. White paper lay freshly unrolled on the table, but I sat quiet on the edge, one foot on the floor, to prevent the loud crinkly noise from cutting a profound incision through my stomach. Ultrasound number three was to confirm the uterus was clear, and I waited with nervous anxiety. What would the doctor say when he saw the results? What would I do when I saw the results? Deep emptiness began to grow inside where there should have been life.
The doctor looked as shocked as I did. After weeks of struggle, pain, and not knowing what to do, I now sat on a fresh examination table holding in my hand the ultrasound picture of our son, healthy and growing. I could almost hear his tiny little heartbeat resounding from the sonagraph photo.
“You didn’t take the pills, did you?” the doctor asked.
“I couldn’t” was all I could squeak through tears of excitement and relief.
Many nights I still wake up and wonder what would have happened if I had taken those pills to clear the bits. One twin had died, but the other held firm with rapt attention through his brother’s turbulent passing.
Patrick was born a few months later weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces. Now, he’s 17 years old and peacefully sleeps as I tiptoe into his room and place my hand over his thick locks of blonde hair. Morning dawns and he never knew I wept by his bedside again; praying for a future he may never have had if I too had mistaken him for bits.