I sat quietly in the obstetrician’s waiting room.
My mother, who had travelled from the city to attend the appointment with me, was sitting on my left.
Every other woman in the room had rounded and protruding bellies, which any infertile knows is pretty much the worst case scenario when it comes to doctor’s waiting rooms.
The instruction to “go home and wait to miscarry” had been followed, but the prediction had not come to fruition. Instead, I had endured eight days of solid excruciating menstrual cramping but nothing close to a period. Just bucket loads of clear, odourless discharge.
Clear discharge is common in early pregnancy because the mucus plug is forming, my brain cruelly whispered to me as I lay awake stressing each night.
Did I say stress? Well let’s not even mention the constant crying. Cooking dinner was cry time. Showering was cry time. Bed time was cry time. Lunch break at work was cry time. My anxiety levels were well and truly through the roof.
Every little thing had been harder. Sleeping, eating, working, especially taking prenatal vitamins even though the simple act of swallowing the tablet made me feel like a dickhead.
It was all so much harder because James, who was still occupying my front bedroom, had no idea what I was going through. My mother, who was my main support, was two hours away and none of my new friends in Paradise had any idea I was even infertile.
In reality, I had to remember I was lucky that this whiz-bang obstetrician was even able to fit me in for an emergency appointment at such short notice. I mean, it wasn’t a real emergency. Nobody’s cat was stuck up a tree, I just hadn’t started my period.
Sitting in that room, surrounded by smug pregnant woman (note: they probably weren’t smug) I realised suddenly that this was the first time I’d ever visited an obstetrician. I’d seen basically every other type of doctor, but the coveted prize of the obstetrician had always been outside my grasp. Or…my uterus’s grasp.
By the time my name was called, my protective shell was well and truly in place. To out-of-context quote Pink Floyd, I was comfortably numb.
The obstetrician I met that day is someone who I’m going to call Doctor Eminem.
Not because he was a prolific white rapper from the wrong side of the 8 Mile Road, but because he was supremely meek and mild. Almost like a kitten wearing a lab coat.
Actually, after we left that day my mother said that he spent the entire appointment looking like he may burst into tears at any moment because there was just so much beauty in the world. You know, one of those types…
After Doctor Eminem called me into his office and shook my hand, he started flipping through the notes in my file while I sat on the other side of his desk nervously wringing my hands.
“Sadie I must say I’m extremely confused.” The doctor said. “Based on your previous history you shouldn’t be sitting here today.”
“I’m aware…” I replied. “Look, the truth is I was told to go home and wait to miscarry, but I’ve not yet had my period. This isn’t my first time at the miscarriage rodeo and I know the drill here. So if you could just confirm there’s no viable embryo and book me in for a d&C I’ll be on my way.”
“Of course.” Doctor Eminem said meekly. “Please follow me next door to the ultrasound room.”
I opted for an internal scan, as the external scan hadn’t even shown the sac the previous week. As predicted, he was the kind of doctor who apologised profusely right before he inserted the dildo cam. I was so nervous I couldn’t even look at the monitor.
“Okay I’ve seen it.” he said, after all of about three seconds.
Wait, that was it? A couple of seconds was all he needed to diagnose me?
“I see it too.” said my mother, who was standing at my side with her fingers digging into my bicep in some kind of supportive gesture.
“See what?” I finally asked, flicking my eyes up to the screen.
“The baby’s heartbeat.” Doctor Eminem replied.
The what now? The what? I’m sorry, the what?
Looking at the screen I could see that the gestational sac had grown larger, and that there were several blobs in there. The ultrasound machine wasn’t as new or fancy as the ones I was used to in the city and everything was slightly unclear.
“What am I looking at?” I asked, confused.
“Well it looks to me like twins.” Doctor Eminem said. “Here’s twin A and yolk sac, and here’s twin B and yolk sac. But only one has a heartbeat.”
He measured twin A (the one with the hearbeat) and announced that the baby was measuring 6 weeks and 2 days with a heartbeat of 122bpm.
“No that’s not right.” I said. “My hcg levels were 5500 ten days ago. I should be like…seven and a half weeks.”
“Well I’m going to hazard a guess that the reason the gestational sac was empty last week was because you’re only six weeks along now.” He said. “Twins would make your hcg levels higher than average.”
Next, the doctor examined twin B. It was measuring the same age, but as he’d previously stated it was without a heartbeat.
“I’m going to be honest with you Sadie and outline some different scenarios.” Doctor Eminem said.
First of all, there was the possibility that the second baby was just a few days behind developmentally. Normally the heart started beating at around six weeks gestation. That second heart may begin to beat very soon, although this was highly unusual as identical twins tended to develop at the same pace in early pregnancy.
Secondly, the unviable embryo would be reabsorbed back into the uterus. This was called vanishing twin syndrome. The healthy embryo would develop as a normal singleton pregnancy.
Thirdly, as the two embryos looked to be sharing a gestational sac, my body would recognise the need to flush the unviable embryo and I would miscarry both.
Doctor Eminem told me I needed to go home and wait again. If I hadn’t started bleeding, I should come back in ten days and he would scan me again to check on progress.
I couldn’t believe I’d been put into yet another high stress waiting situation.
Doctor Eminem could see I was visibly upset. “What can I do to make this easier on you?” he asked.
“Well the truth is,” I said. “Last time I miscarried only a couple of hours after seeing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I’m just sad I didn’t have any proof that baby existed, even though I saw and heard it’s heart.”
“I understand.” Doctor Eminem said empathetically. “Go and get your phone and we’ll do a recording of the heartbeat for you to keep.”
It was a perfect idea and I was so very grateful for his sweet suggestion. So my mother raced next door to his office and came rushing back with my phone.
Then he let the heartbeat play for about 30 seconds, while I kept the phone’s camera focused on the screen.
“Good luck Sadie,” he said as we ended the appointment. “I hope to see you again in ten days.”
And so began another torturous wait…