It was a long week that week. It ended up all being fine, of course, but not without some unnecessary panic (per usual):
A couple of weekends ago, after a most magical evening of sunsets and whiskey and champagne and a fantastically sexy dress and a general bubble of love radiating between boyfriend and myself (definitely because of the dress), I spent several hours in the emergency room, directed there urgently after a kidney ultrasound (we were originally on the hunt for kidney stones) turned up what the imaging department assumed was an ectopic pregnancy. I knew something was up when the ultrasound technician stopped joking with me and stood up and mumbled something about a phone call, and after a very pregnant pause (ha), I was ushered into a small office and told to speak to an emergency doctor on the phone.
I tried to take a deep breath, a futile attempt at remaining open to whatever was coming. She asked me if I was sitting down (that’s never good news); I said no; she told me to sit down (again, I thought, if I remain standing, will the news become less heavy? Can I keep it at bay by remaining vertical?), and then told me that it was an emergency situation due to the fact that it was an ectopic pregnancy (for the uninformed, that’s when an egg gets fertilized but doesn’t implant in the uterus as expected – instead, it finds another place, which is dangerous and problematic). They imagined I was 8 or 9 weeks along.
I was numb, not overwhelmed, but informed and unfeeling. I had the nurse go find boyfriend, and he came in and held me, not knowing why he was holding me, but holding me nonetheless as I stood, no longer feeling as though I could be confined to chair, not yet shaking, clutching a phone, saying, “Uh huh,” and “Mmmhmmm” over and over again, robotically.
I’d stopped listening to the doctor the minute she’d uttered the words “ectopic pregnancy,” and she was attempting to reassure me that it was all right and that she’d had one at some point and blah blah blah. I froze, then, my eyes no longer focusing, my brain no longer thinking, everything shutting off; the main reactor had shut down, and the rest of my processes were losing power.
I went into handling mode, the part where I make a plan. We were going to get a copy of the ultrasound to take with us to the emergency room. I offered to take an Uber so boyfriend didn’t have to go with me. (He told me I was being ridiculous, of course he’d take me.) I cried a bit, as it settled over me. I look like Voldemort when I cry – my eyes get red and squinty and I’m cursed with a genetic predilection towards swelling in the eye-region, so the redness and the swelling join forces for the ultimate in anti-attraction.
Some people cry daintily, or prettily. I am not one of those people. I cry like a banshee when I really let it go, hiccups and snorts and the whole shebang. But that was not a let-it-go moment, instead, I just turned red and swelled, wishing I hadn’t worn mascara, excusing myself to stare at my face in the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, not feeling like I was looking at myself at all, staring into the face that wasn’t mine, but had to be, in the mirror. Alone.
He took me to the emergency room at the hospital nearby; my doctor’s office had called ahead. I made jokes the whole way over. At one point, I looked down at my flat stomach (I’ve been doing so much acro yoga and biking lately, and I’ve been proudly declaring that I’m getting “an ab” – which I totally am), and murmured, “We made a thing.” A tiny thing that was not viable, and thus was not really a thing at all, but still…a thing. I’ve never made a thing before. He repeated it. “We made a thing.” And he held my hand, or put his on my thigh, squeezing gently, reassuring me.
I sat there, numb and businesslike, alternating between attempting to breathe and fighting back tears. The guy who checked me in at the emergency room knew sign language, and I told him my favorite story about the teacher whose personal sign in the ASL dialect is a K swung back and forth to mimic the way her arm skin swings when she writes on the board. He told me that his sign was an L held against his forehead. We laughed when he told he was quite young when he picked it and that at that time, he didn’t know that it also is a common sign among kids that denotes that one is a “loser.” (It’s generally directed at the loser, by means of silent insult.) (When we left the ER, I called a goodbye, putting my hand in an L on my forehead, making him laugh.)
They hooked me up the IV quickly, dating the thing. That’s a bad sign. They don’t date the thing if you’re not going to stay. I laid there, in my jeans, stabbed in the arm and hating it. They were sending off bloodwork to figure out how far along I was, how high the hormone levels were, and if we were going to have to do surgery or if it could be handled by a pill. I changed into one of those extremely odd gowns, all buttons and strings in strange places. I think there’s got to be a better way (a better way, yeah-ah) – I’m thinking plush fuzzy bathrobes with access slits for medical procedures?
The nicest woman I’ve ever met came in and patted me on the leg and called me Honey and asked me how I was doing. I respond so well to mothering. She commiserated and gave boyfriend the “take care of her” talk and then told me that I wasn’t already adopted, she’d adopt me. I loved her immensely and immediately.
Then there was the doctor, a wonderful woman who came in and introduced herself and then said, “We’re already at panic level 100, but let’s dial it back a notch and make sure you’re actually pregnant first.” I laughed, because you’re right, here we were at threat level orange when maybe this could have been a threat level blue situation. She sighed because they’d sent the long-form blood test out instead of the short-form quick result test, so we were in limbo for the foreseeable future.
We hung out, joking about stuff. A couple weeks before, I’d been grumpy with boyfriend about everything, and had told him that I wanted him to be nowhere near me but also to hold me. He’d been very confused. That was – and remains – a completely accurate description of how I felt in that moment. I was happy to be able to say, aha! The reason I felt that insane juxtaposition of feelings was because I was pregnant. It was a nice excuse.
Alas, it was not the case. The test results finally came back: not pregnant, no ectopic pregnancy. Relief flooded through me, then confusion. So now what? As it turns out, it’s a cyst, totally normal (well, mostly). It’ll either go away on its own, or it will burst and send me back to the ER with horrible, unbearable pain, or it will grow and then they will have to surger it out of me.
We missed the gala that we had been planning on going to that night. I was disappointed, because I’d been looking forward to going. We went home instead, me exhausted and over-wrought, emotionally turbulent. I needed fifteen minutes to cry, and so that’s what we did. He laid down on his bed and his nestled me into his shoulder nook and I sobbed (the pure sobs, gulping and pulsing and hot, my entire body shaking as I let it all pass through me, out in loud wails and snorts, hot tears streaking my face). When I felt the calm settle back over me, I pushed up and off of him and went to wash my face so we could still make it to the second of our planned evening events, a comedy show, which we did. Turns out a bit of foundation and some well-placed blush with a few flicks of a mascara wand can turn even the puffiest of people into mostly gorgeous members of society.
After that, there was a deep sleep. I faded into the nothingness of unconsciousness gratefully and smoothly that night, no time allotted for lying awake, a welcome respite from the flood of things and the day itself.