June / It Happens Like This Christine Simokaitis
I think I’m having a miscarriage. Yesterday morning I took the pregnancy test and told Tim the happy news, but then at the park, after dinner, the cramps began. We were watching Caleb on the curly slide, and I had to sit down all of a sudden from the pain. Back at home there was a little pink when I went to the bathroom. Once I was up this morning the blood was brighter, and there was more of it.
I call my O.B.’s office. A nurse asks the reason for my call. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I tell her about the cramps and bleeding. She says sometimes that’s normal, but I should come in any way for a blood test. As I’m getting ready to go, the phone rings again. It’s the nurse. She tell me that she’s had time to pull my file now, and that they no longer accept my insurance.
“Didn’t you get the letter?” she asks. The letter, the letter. I’m trying to think. There was something, yes, a while ago, but I had not thought too much of it, since I was planning to switch to a midwife practice. I had not yet made the necessary phone calls. I thought I had plenty of time.
At the nurse’s suggestion, I call my general practitioner, who is someone I’ve never actually met, since each time I go, I get a resident. When the receptionist answers the phone, I tell him I think I’m having a miscarriage. He seems startled and asks about my OB, and I tell him about the insurance, and he says maybe I should go to the ER. “The ER,” I say, and Tim looks scared. The man on the phone says, “Or come here, to the office. Or the ER.” I hear a rustling of papers on the other end of the phone, and then he says, “No, come in, I guess. Here to the office.”
There is a woman behind the desk and she asks why I’m here. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” She gives me a form to fill out. We wait.
Everything had seemed so dire all of a sudden the the mention of the ER. Tim had wanted to come, and so Caleb is with us too. When my name is called, I’m led down the hallway to a room where I wait some more until a resident comes in, holding my chart and asks why I’m here. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I tell him about the cramps and bleeding. He draws blood and leaves. A minute later he returns and says his supervising doctor wants to know how pregnant I am. I say just barely, that it’s only a couple of days past when I should have had my period. He nods, leaves, and a minute later he returns again and says that his supervising doctor wants to know the first date of my last period.
I’ve been dreading this question, because for me it’s complicated. I explain to him about my periods, about how they’ve always been irregular, which is why I take my temperature every morning and chart my cycle, so I know what’s going on. In fact, I even have my chart with me, evidence that I know what I’m talking about, that I know my own body. I unfold it and show it to him, the numbers and dates and circles, and I point to the place where the line connecting the circles jumps up suddenly and tell him that’s when I ovulated, about two weeks ago, and two days ago was when I should have had my period. I say, “So that’s what you need to know. That’s how pregnant I am.” I hold the paper out to him in case he would want to show it to his supervising doctor, but he just blinks twice and says, “So what was the first day of your last period?”
I give up and tell him the date. He leaves.
When he comes back he seems excited. He says that really I’m six weeks pregnant so I need to go to the ER because six weeks is when the fetal heart is developing. There could be problems.
There is a woman behind the desk at the ER who asks why I’m here. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” She gives me forms and tells me to have a seat. Once I’m settled, Tim leaves to take Caleb home because it’s time for his nap, and this is not really a place for him.
I follow a nurse to a cubicle where she hums quietly to herself as she takes my temperature and blood pressure and looks sympathetic as holds out a small plastic cup and tells me that the bathroom is across the hall.
I wait some more in a different cubicle until a young resident comes in. She’s holding my chart, and her voice is tentative when she asks me why I’m here today. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I tell her about the cramps and bleeding. She asks a lot of questions and then looks at the ceiling and quietly says, “What else should I ask?” To me she says, “Just a minute,” and leaves through the curtain. Then another woman comes in who says she is the on-call OB. She has on freshly applied lipstick and smiles as she shakes my hand and asks how I’m doing and why I’m here today. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I tell her about the cramps and bleeding. “We’ll probably want to do an ultrasound,” she says, and then disappears out of the cubicle.
I’m starting to feel a little light- headed and dizzy from all the people and questions and from not having eaten before I left the house, not knowing I would be gone so long. I don’t even know why I’m here, really, since, and as far as I know, there isn’t anything to be done about it if I am having a miscarriage, which itself is still a question. The resident comes back in and asks if I gave a urine sample, and when I say yes, she sticks her head out of the curtain and says to someone I can’t see, “She says she gave one….did you look on the shelf?” She steps all the way out and lowers her voice. She says, “Well then I don’t know where it is.”
Now the supervising doctor has come. He asks what beings me in today. I say, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I tell him about the cramps and bleeding. He listens as if he already knows the story and is waiting for me to get to the punch line, and when I finish, he says, “Well, the urine sample you gave shows the you are not actually pregnant.” I stare at him for a minute and then he asks, “How positive was the pregnancy test you took?” He’s grinning like he’s got me all figured out: I’m a hysteric.
I start to panic. My mind races, retracing the circles on my temperature chart, and I think that maybe I was wrong. I might have misread the chart, or the test, or the chart and the test. I wonder if I’m crazy, if I imagined the pregnancy. Maybe there’s a mental disorder that causes women to think they’re pregnant when they’re not, to imagine all the symptoms and misread pregnancy tests just so they can tell their husbands the good news and then dance around the kitchen together and try out names.
The doctor is waiting for an answer and I say, “I don’t know – there was a plus sign.”
The OB resident says, “There is a slight chance that it wasn’t your urine sample.”
The supervising doctor nods and says, “Right, right, well in any case we want to do a blood test to see if we can’t figure out what’s really going on here.”
A nurse comes in to draw blood. She takes the tube with the blood in it off my arm and then sticks an empty one on and says, “In case they need more.” I ask her for a glass of water and she says she has to ask the doctor if it’s okay. She leaves and doesn’t come back.
I try to get comfortable but can’t with the needle and glass tube in my arm. I lie down and stare at the ceiling and try not feel because this is not the place to do that. I go out in the hall and come back. I sit. About three hours later, the OB resident comes in and stands over me as I sit in the chair in the cubicle. She informs me that I was pregnant but that I seem to have passed all the tissue. She says this with air quotes. “So there really isn’t any need to do an ultrasound now,” she says. Since we seem to be done, I ask her to take the tube out of my arm and she looks a little offended and says that the nurse can do that and that there will be paperwork. I call Tim and tell him to come and get me.
Now I’m waiting again, but I don’t really know what for except to get this thing taken out of my arm but there is a feeling rising in my chest and I have to get out of here, now. I change my clothes, being careful not to catch my shirt sleeve on the needle in my arm and pick up my bag. I’m out in the hallway pacing. My breath is short and quick. I think I might be sweating. No one comes. There is a nurse behind the counter who looks up but then looks away quickly like a waitress with too many tables who doesn’t want to know that I need more coffee. I ask a nurse wearing jazzy scrubs how to get out and she says to take a left down there. She points down a hall where there is a door and I walk, almost run, there, and push the door open. Outside, as I march past a security guard, I see Tim’s car at the end of the driveway, just pulling in. I have to get to him. I start to run. I am rushing down the hill that leads to parking lot, and I hear the security guard behind me saying, “Ma’am, ma’am!” He’s running after me now, and I only want to get to Tim but the guard stops me. His hand is on my shoulder and he says, “Ma’am, it’s illegal for you to leave with that thing in your arm.”
I tell him I’m fine and that I can take it out at home but the guard steps in front of me, blocking the sidewalk. I try to see around him and say, “That’s my husband right there he can take it out we’ll be fine we’ll just go I’m fine.” But I hear my voice and it’s ragged and frantic. By now Tim has seen me and the guard waves him over. My bag slides off my arm to the ground and my shoulders curl forward as I feel myself start to crumple. A sob escapes from my body. Tim’s arms are around me. The guard takes a step away from us and lets us have this.
“Just take me home,” I say into Tim’s chest, but I know I’ve lost.
“She needs to have that thing removed,” the guard says from over where he is by the car. He is apologetic. “Why don’t you go in with her and I’ll park the car for you,” he says. I hold Caleb tight as we walk back up the hill.
Inside, I am readmitted. There is new paperwork to fill out, and I have to present my insurance card again. When the woman asks me the reason for my visit, I point to my arm and say, “I have to have this tube removed.” She looks confused, so I add, “I need to be discharged.”
Christine Simokaitis‘ fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared in Calyx, Natural Bridge, Matchbook, Frigg, and many other print and on-line journals and the anthologies, Are We Feeling Better Yet? Women Speak about Healthcare in America and Mourning Sickness. Her story “(A)vocation” was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. She currently teaches creative writing and composition at Northeastern Illinois University and lives in Chicago with her two sons.