My stomach is a collage of red, yellow, and purple. Spots of it are hard to the touch, like how I imagine a pregnant belly might feel all over. Other spots are tender to the point that if I bump against a counter, I wince in pain.
It’s normal, Dr. L, the hematologist, said. The twice-daily injections of Lovenox will bruise. The needle will sting, the fluid will burn as it spreads into your body, stopping your blood from clotting and killing you.
It used to feel purposeful. Each time I broke the plastic syringe out of its disposable packaging, I whispered to my stomach, “It’s worth it, Baby.” Now I’ve given up my mantra.
Absentmindedly, I follow my routine:
Prod pinches of fat, looking for a dull area.
Prick the skin.
Try for another spot, one less sensitive.
When it all hurts, give up and go with wherever the point lands.
Slide the needle fully into the fat.
Slowly depress the plunger—going too fast will just make the bruising worse.
Pull the needle away.
Click the plunger down to safely cover the sharp edge.
Drop the empty syringe into a repurposed juice bottle.
It’s a terrible grace just in case we try for—and succeed in—forming a biological child.
My husband and I met Dr. L about a week after the empty ultrasound, shortly after the bleeding stopped and when I was still avoiding daylight and people. She asked questions about my first blood clot, the one that nearly killed me a week before our planned wedding. Like every other doctor, she shook her head at my chart, marveling that I’d survived. I nodded along, agreeing that yes, I had been very, very sick, and yes, it was marvelous that I lived through an emergency open-heart surgery that few surgeons would even try.
But a seven-years-old miracle brings little comfort after a death a few days young. And my miracle of survival meant blood thinners, regular blood tests, visits with hematologists, and doctors, and nurses, and pharmacists constantly reminding me that pregnancy carried high risk. We just wanted something we could work with—a percentage, a likelihood, factors we could assess with wisdom and judgment rather than fear. So we asked Dr. L all the questions we could muster.
While she smiled often, the doctor’s tone was direct, matter of fact, as if she knew a future we couldn’t see. Yes, you can get pregnant. You will be on injections while you’re trying to conceive, throughout the pregnancy, and a few weeks after. You will visit every trimester for blood draws and dosage adjustments. You will see maternal-fetal medicine. You are young, you have time—you will get pregnant again.
We told her I’d been on oral blood thinners when our child was conceived. Her face filled with the professional anger I recognized in doctors upset by medical misinformation.
“You can never be on Warfarin and pregnant—not even for one day.”
“But my other doctor said . . .”
Perhaps I was imagining what I wanted in a doctor, but she looked so empathetic.
“It’s terrible what happened. But I’d have hated for you to see deformities on the three-month ultrasound.”
I wanted my child back, deformities and all. But somehow the hand of God, even when it worked so unlike what I wanted, still brought some strange, terrible consolation.
Now five full bottles of used syringes clutter our bathroom floor. I don’t know why I’m saving them. Perhaps one day they’ll be a testament of the pain gladly taken for my child’s sake. Maybe I’ll be forced to dispose of every bottle without a positive pregnancy test.
On the best days, my soul feels at rest with the fact that either of these results could be God’s grace. Other days, it’s grace enough to go through these steps as just a routine, a habit I don’t need to ponder.
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