Last Wednesday night, I was cutting the ChickieNob’s nails before her bath, and I cut her thumb nail too deeply. A dot of blood welled up, and she first started to cry and then changed her mind and looked away from it. She asked her questions as I quickly cut the rest of the nails before I took care of it, trying to keep ahead of the blood which was threatening to run down her thumb. How did I know that the blood was going to stop? And did I think this was a big cut? And have I ever bled before?
Everyone bleeds at some point. Who can even remember all the cuts that seemed important at the time?
She wanted me to tell her about different times I’ve bled.
I didn’t say what was really in my head.
I told her about various times I’ve nicked myself shaving my legs. Times that I could remember falling. And I told her about a time when I was doing an injection and I hit a blood vessel. When I pulled out the needle, an unexpected geyser of blood sprayed onto our apartment’s carpet. We crawled around with a bottle of seltzer trying to dab up the spots.
At least, I thought Josh had been in the room with me. I couldn’t remember what I had been thinking beforehand; only the moment of surprise when I saw the spray of red, like rose petals being tossed on a stage.
After she went to sleep for the night, I took out my diary and read the passage. I had been alone in the room. The reality was that I had been trying to be nonchalant about the injection, telling myself that I was a huge fucking baby for not being used to them by now. I had hurried through it, trying to convey to myself just how comfortable I was with needles. I probably would have hit the blood vessel even if I was going slowly — it’s not as if you can see these things with a sub-q injection. But I blamed my carelessness, my trying to pretend that I didn’t care. This was apparently for my own benefit seeing that I was, after all, alone in the room until after the incident when Josh arrived with seltzer. Apparently, I lied about how infertility affected me even when I was by myself.
ChickieNob got into the bathtub, first holding her thumb out of the water despite the fact that I kept telling her that it was okay to submerge it, and finally holding it rigidly under water as if she had somehow ended up with someone else’s hand on the end of her wrist.
She asked me in the tiniest voice what happened to all the other babies that the doctor had tried to put in my belly. Sometimes I think she is like a shark who can smell blood on the water miles away. She knew exactly what was in my brain when I hesitated as I cut her nails, told her about the shaving nicks, the scrapes, the blood vessel.
“Well, they really weren’t babies. They were zygotes or embryos.”
Sometimes, when I don’t think she really wants the full answer, I throw enough science-y terms at her, and she fills in the blanks however she needs to fill in the blanks at the moment.
She splashed around for a bit and then said, “wow, I could have had a lot of sisters and brothers. If all of those zygotes and embryos had become babies. They must have been just like an egg. It would be like losing an egg. It wouldn’t be like losing a baby. Because where would the baby even go?”
She asked me why some birds leave their eggs in another bird’s nest and asked if birds will always sit on another bird’s egg, keeping it warm for them. She spent the rest of the bath marveling at the idea that a bird could have a strange egg in its nest and not even know until the bird hatches. She told me that she read about this in a non-fiction book.
The diary covers a period of time before we started trying and goes until 5 days before we found out about the twins. I’m not sure why I chose that day to stop writing because I didn’t journal again in any true sense of the word until I started this blog. What was it about that day that made me put the pen down?
The reality is that the twins would not be here if not for all the zygotes and embryos that didn’t make it; the cycles that were cancelled or just failed outright. They would not have been the ChickieNob’s brothers and sisters because if any of them were here, the twins would not be here. And maybe it is because I have that part to the story that I can close the book on those early losses and not think about them. That is only half the truth — an invented truth — just like I lied to myself that I didn’t think injections were a big deal; like I misremembered Josh being in the room. I do think about them. But I don’t wish they were here like I did before the twins came. That sometimes feels like a terrible thing to say; I obviously wanted all of them. But they are the children I don’t know. Would they equally move like a Muppet like the ChickieNob or curl up like a comma as the Wolvog does each night in bed? I can’t imagine life without these particular children.
Right before Christmas, I was speaking to someone about their sibling’s miscarriage, and I told him a brief version of our history, so casual as if we were discussing the best way to make a crepe. I went home and thought about it on and off all night. I hated myself for speaking calmly about that point in time, as if the only proper way to discuss infertility or loss is to scream until my stomach turns inside out and the contents of my body are spewed all over the floor. And I congratulated myself for being able to speak so frankly and calmly about something that had been so emotionally difficult in the moment. Well which one is it? Am I cold? Am I healed?
The reality is that even in the moment, eight or nine years ago, I never named those losses. I didn’t feel attached to them, per se. I never felt the baby kick. I never saw my stomach swell. Those early losses never made themselves known in anything more than nausea. What I felt attached to was the hope that this was finally it. And again, I feel cold writing that, I berate myself for writing that. I don’t feel like I’m explaining it well.
It’s not that I didn’t mourn those losses; I still felt a deep grief over them even after the twins were born. I still light a candle for them on October 15th. But because my story continued, it is something different because to long for those children means now that I wouldn’t have these. So I don’t long for them. I just think of them with the same sadness that I apply to infertility in general. They have fallen backwards, blending with the rest of infertility so it is just one ball of grief rather than a ball of grief with five spikes sticking out of it. It is still a ball of grief; it just doesn’t rub me raw as it used to do.
I am so acutely aware that this is the luxury of not only time, but the story continuing. Of having the twins here rather than being back on that day when the journal ends. They certainly didn’t erase all that came before, but they reframe it; simply by existing. And by existing, they create this dichotomy. I both wish and don’t wish that those other cycles were successful. Which makes me feel cold. Which makes me feel at peace.
And how will I remember this years from now? This conversation with the ChickieNob over a clipped nail. Will I remember Josh into the room? Will I think that this was the conversation when I explained pregnancy loss? Or will it fade from my memory entirely, just like a cut which felt so important in the moment but disappears from the mind by the time the Band-aid comes off? Will I forget it until it read about it here, one night, in the future, after a different conversation?