Faking my happy.
Lifting my thumb to my mouth, I bite my nail and mutter, “What’s taking so long?”
Ash sighs. “Not sure, baby. Hang in there.” He tries to put his hand on my shoulder, but I move away from his touch. I don’t want anyone to touch me.
His hand stills mid-air, closes into a fist and pulls away. I know I’m hurting him but I don’t know how else to be. This is hard and emotionally draining.
The door opens and I sit straighter. Dr. Tanya Rowley, a mature sweet lady, walks in and greets us with a small smile. I like Tanya and I’ve been seeing a lot of her. Enough to know that today’s news is not going to be good.
The bridge of my nose tingles and my bottom lip quivers. Tanya says softly, “I’m so sorry.”
My heart is breaking.
I give up.
Ash puts his arms around me and this time I let him. This is hurting him as much as it’s hurting me. I sob quietly into his chest and Tanya says, “Two miscarriages in such a short time are too many. We need to be thinking about you and your health, too.”
Nodding slightly, I look up at her. She hands me some tissue and explains, “The first natural conception can often lead to a miscarriage. You would be surprised – quite a lot of first pregnancies end in miscarriage in the early stages. While your first round of IVF worked for conception…I’m sorry, but I don’t recommend we use IVF again.”
Looking right at me, she says, “I can see the effect this is having on you, Natalie. The state this whole situation is putting you in…I think you need a break. I wish the circumstances were different, but with the aggressive type of PCOS you have, conceiving will always be difficult, and there is no guarantee you’ll ever make it to full term. This is no longer a question of whether you can conceive. We know you can. The problem lies with carrying to term.” She sighs and looks between me and Ash. “By the emotional state you’re in now, my recommendation is to give it a rest for a while before we discuss more options. Take a month to yourselves without having to worry about this. Reconnect as a couple and talk through what you’re feeling.”
I dip my head. I know she’s saying this to me, not Ash. It’s true. I’ve been pulling away from him.
After I miscarried the second time, I left, went back to Cali without even telling him. I called him when I got there and he was dumbstruck. He was so disappointed in me, and I could feel it radiating off him even through the phone. In anger, he told me I was selfish and acting like a spoilt brat.
He was right.
When he calmed down, he begged me to come home. I could hear the strain in his voice. When I refused, he asked me if I thought that I was the only one being affected by the loss, but I couldn’t answer him. All I could think about was me. When I’m hurting, I become irrational and selfish.
My parents and sisters tried to reason with me to no avail. It got to the point where Helena, who is normally my champion, yelled at me to stop being self-centered and to think about what I just left my husband to deal with on his own. I burst into tears at that. I was so caught up in my own emotions that I forgot all about Ash not having family to talk to about it. I know he has Nik, Max and Trick, but he doesn’t talk emotions with the guys. I caught the next flight home and as soon as I walked through the door, he looked up at me from the sofa through glassy eyes and stated in a whisper, “I’m losing you.”
Unsure what to say because I felt so lost in my own mind, I walked over to him. Standing between his open legs, he crushed me to him and I felt the warmth of his breath through my clothes on my belly. He kissed my stomach and whispered over and over, “I’m sorry.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that he might have felt responsible for me miscarrying. If I hadn’t been so selfish and stayed with him when he needed me, I would have seen the guilt he shouldn’t be carrying. His heart was just as broken as mine was. I promised, as he did, to love each other for better or worse, and I vowed that I’d remember that.
Having a baby is just something my body was not meant to do. I see that now, but when I found out that I was pregnant that first time, it sparked some hope in me. That hope grew to something more. I was optimistic and managed to carry that baby for another week before I woke up bleeding heavily. I’d just told Ash that afternoon because I’d wanted to see an Ob-Gyn and I did. I had a scan that day and everything was fine. So I went home and told Ash that we were going to have a baby. You wouldn’t believe how happy he was. He kissed me, hugged me and swore he’d be the best father.
A late night visit to the emergency room confirmed my suspicions. The baby was gone. It left me feeling like a failure. I mean, there’s one big job a woman has in her life and that is to make life. We’re meant to be these glorious creatures. Goddesses of creation and all that shit.
You’re damaged goods.
Running my hands down my face, I realize just how tired I am. I don’t sleep much the night before doctors’ appointments. Nodding in resolve, I say quietly, “So these other options, they won’t include me being the one to carry the baby, right?”
Smiling sadly, Tanya replies, “No, honey, I’m afraid not.”
My lip quivers and she states, “Nat, think of the big picture. Even if you aren’t the one to carry your baby…” with a wistful smile, she goes on, “…just think of how you’ll feel when you hold a piece of you for the first time. It doesn’t matter how you get that baby, what matters is that it’s yours.”
Tears fall down my face and I whisper, “I’m a failure.”
Ash wraps his arms around me. I turn to face him and his soft brown eyes blaze in determination as he says fiercely, “No, you’re not. Don’t ever say that. You’re perfect.”
And I know he means what he says. I see it in his eyes.
How can he still love me? I’m nothing but a disappointment.
Defective. Faulty. Flawed.
Tanya clears her throat and states, “Around ten percent of women in the US have troubles with conception and infertility. Ten percent, Nat. You’re not alone. I really wish you’d go to the counseling group I recommended. You’d get a glimpse of what life is like for those women and just how they dealt with similar feelings to what you’re feeling right now.”
Moving to stand, I tell her, “I’ll think about it.”
Tanya stands, walks toward me and takes me in a tender and motherly hug. She says, “A month. Just one month off, then we’ll regroup and go over what options are there.”
I squeeze her and say sincerely, “Thank you for everything you’ve done. I’ll never forget it.”
Taking Ash by the hand, we walk out of Tanya’s office and I tell myself I’ll never go back.
My heart just can’t handle it.
Alternating watching Nat sleep on the sofa, doing research on the laptop and playing with the dogs, I wonder if there’s anything humanly possible I can do to help my wife.
I made a decision this afternoon.
It’s not something I want to do but it’s seriously the only thing I can think of.
I’m startled out of my thoughts when Nat crawls onto my lap and wraps her arms around my neck. Resting her head on my chest and playing with the hair at my nape, she says softly, “You’re thinking so hard I can hear the gears grinding, babe. What are you pondering in that mug of yours?”
This is it. Now or never. Don’t be a pussy. Just do it.
Enveloping her in a warm hug, I tell her, “I’m going to go to therapy.”
Her body goes rigid in my arms, and I wait for this to backfire. She looks up at me with a sweet smile, “Really?”
Nodding, I say, “Yeah. I thought we could do it together. Separately, I mean. I could do sessions about what happened to me and you could do sessions about the pregnancies.”
Her face falls a little. A few moments pass and her small smile reappears. She asks, “Is that something that would help you go through with it? If I were to go too?”
I smile softly at her, “Yeah, girl. I think so.”
A beautiful smile graces her gorgeous face. The first real smile I’ve seen her wear in a long, long time. She dips her face towards mine and kisses my lips gently. There’s an apology in this kiss and I’m taking it. I pull her deeper into me and put my heart into this kiss. I say against her lips, “No matter what happens, I love you. You’re all I need.”
Her arms tighten around my neck and I feel her tears fall onto my cheeks. Her voice trembles when she says, “I love you too. I just want to be perfect for you, but I’m failing at the one thing I should be able to do. I’m so sorry, Ash.”
Burrowing my face into her neck, I speak against the side of her throat, “You are perfect, babe. You were made for me.”
She whispers, “God, I love you so much.”
And somehow I know everything is going to be okay.
My phone vibrating breaks us out of our deep moment. When I pick it up to check the display, I smile and answer it. I listen to the crazy-assed man ramble for a while before I answer, “We’re on our way.”
Nat searches my face, smiling, “It’s time?”
Nodding slowly, I nod and smile back, “It’s time, babe.”
We all stand around, chatting excitedly and waiting.
Everyone is in a great mood and I have to admit, I missed feeling this way. Today I’m not faking my happy. I am happy. But I’m nervous too. So nervous that my stomach is in knots and my palms are sweating.
Ash comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me.
I’m so lucky to have him. I love him so much.
Turning to face him, I look into his soft brown eyes and state, “I’m happy.”
He smiles down at me before kissing my forehead. He sighs, “That’s all I need to hear and I’m good too.”
Rocking me gently, he whispers into my ear, “We really gonna do this therapy stuff?”
I fight the urge to shudder. From the time we got married, I’ve brought up the subject twice. Twice was enough to know he’d never do it. The first time, he just looked at me like I’d lost my mind and walked away from me. The second time, he went on about how he wasn’t going to let some quack tell him how fucked up he is because he already knows it. Both times I felt like shit for even bringing it up and eventually let it go.
Pick your battles.
Looking up at him, I nod, “Yeah, babe. It’ll be good for both of us.”
And it will be. I feel it.
Ash cups my cheek, running his thumb over it and just as he opens his mouth to speak, he looks at the end of the hall and smiles.
Nik comes down the hall looking smug and announces, “It’s a girl!”
We all cheer and whoop. I walk over to Nik and wrap my arms around his waist. He hugs me tightly and when we pull away from each other, he sees my face and expression crosses his, almost as if he wants to apologize for being happy. I flash him a watery smile. “How’s my girl doing?”
Nik sighs. “Tired but good. She’s happy and excited. I think she just wants to get home. She hates it here.”
I don’t blame her.
Hospitals don’t exactly bring back cheerful memories for Nik and Tina.
“Does she have a name yet?” I ask.
Nik smiles. “Yeah. We named her Eva.”
Mimi comes up behind me and tells Nik, “That’s a beautiful name.”
Lola smiles. “Just perfect, Niki.”
Max asks, “So when can I see my little niece?”
Nik explains, “She was a little early, so she’s being incubated.” Our faces fall and he laughs, “She’s completely healthy, guys. Really. It’s just a precaution.”
Trick smirks. “Oh damn, Nik. Living with three girls. You’re fucked.”
Ash chuckles. “Don’t worry, Nik. I won’t tell anyone about the tea party you had with Tatiana last week.”
Nik laughs then says, “Laugh it up, guys. I’d have ten tea parties a week if it kept my girls happy.”
And he means it. Nik is a good daddy.
Smiling to myself, I ask Nik if I can see Tina alone. He smiles a sad smile and tells me where I can find her. I walk down the hall and to her room. I knock gently and hear Tina say, “Come on in.”
Walking past the privacy curtain, I find Tina sitting up in bed holding little Eva.
I’m suddenly overwhelmed.
Dipping my chin, I try to hold back my tears, but they fall in fat drops onto the floor in front of me. Tina says softly, “Wanna meet your niece, Aunt Nat? I only have her a few minutes before they take her away again.”
Nodding, I choke out, “I’d like that.”
I move to her bedside and sit down next to her. Eva is small. Smaller than Tatiana was. But just as beautiful.
Tina puts the little bundle that is Eva into my arms and I breathe in a shuddering breath. I’m in awe of this little creature. I whisper, “She’s so tiny.”
Tina rests her head on my shoulder and yawns, “Yep, she is. But she’ll grow quickly.”
My chest pangs in agony. I ask her, “How did you do it?” She looks up at me questioningly and I clarify, “Live past Mia’s death?”
Her face softens and she whispers, “Time heals all wounds. I promise, it does get better. You were there with me, you know it.” I nod and she goes on, “I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but there will be a day where you wake up in the morning and colors will seem a little brighter, the sunshine will stay out longer, and the birds will sing just for you.”
My vision blurs and I lower my head.
Tina whispers, “It’s gonna happen for you, honey. I promise.”
Three months later…
Ash grabs me around the waist from behind and I burst into laughter. His body shakes with silent laughter and he says, “You think I’d let you get away with that, pretty girl? I don’t think so.”