Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Amalia was one of my students at my previous job, when I taught English to women from other countries. She was my first Romanian, a quick learner who wore her heart on her sleeve like few people I've known. She and her husband worked at a gas station, often on the night shift before she came to class. She had plenty of stories about the customers, some of whom were very sweet to her, and others who were right assholes. (Just like people.) She got so worked up once about someone who'd been awful to her the night before that she started to cry, right there in the classroom. She let her emotions come right to the surface, and she dealt with them, and very soon let the negative ones go. Soon after she cried, she was laughing about what a jerk the guy had been.

Last time I saw Amalia was a year and a half ago, some time after she'd finished English school. She'd dropped by to say hello and to share her happiness in just having found a job at one of the big banks. Her pleasure was contagious. She hugged me at least twice, and then asked shyly, "Baby?"

It was at the end of the week after I'd told my class I was pregnant. I nodded. She touched my cheek with one hand and my belly with the other, with such tenderness I thought I might cry, and she beamed and then hugged me again.

I've thought about Amalia a lot since I lost that baby a couple of weeks later, and taken some consolation in the idea that in her world, I have a one-year-old by now. I know it's silly, but when I'm low I can't shake the feeling that I let people so many people down. It was oddly comforting to know that there was someone out there who still believed.

I'm writing about her now because we ran into her on the streetcar this morning. Hugs galore. She looks great. She still has the job with the bank, and her husband is working in his field (programming) as well. She apologized for not visiting the school recently, and was surprised to learn I don't work there anymore. I told her I was happy at my new job. We asked about each other's husbands, and she finally asked gently about babies. I had to say no, no babies yet. She said the same for herself, but that they're trying. I couldn't bring myself to tell her I was pregnant again.

I told her it was great to see her, and I meant it.

Yesterday we went to the first appointment with the midwife, who works in a private practice with six other midwives in a creaky old Victorian house in which you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the reception desk. It's a warm, welcoming place with dozens of photographs of infants on the walls. It was the first time I'd been there since before the miscarriage. As soon as I sat down in the living room (waiting room), I was blinking back tears.

There was another couple who looked to be from Central Asia. She was wearing a headscarf, and he was in one of those classic Russian fur hats complete with earflaps. Their small son's play with the clinic's toys began with dumping all of them out on the floor, because that's what you have to do when there's a bin of toys to be played with.

The person who talked to us the most was not the midwife herself, but her student, who will finish her two and a half years of clinical training at the end of next month. She (the student) told us that if I do have one of these clotting disorders, they are pretty much required to turn my care over to an obstetrician. Joy.

We go back there in three weeks.

Today we went to the pregnancy unit at Mount Sinai Hospital. It's all reception desks and fluorescent lights and vinyl chairs and magazines featuring people who wear $1100 gloves and have different bedrooms for different seasons. No lending library, no comfy couches, no peeling paint, no bins of toys. I've never seen so many pregnant women in one place in my life. We saw a genetics fellow and his supervisor the geneticist. The fellow was quite baffled by my mother's blood results (and relieved to hear that her hematologist was too). The geneticist was glad to hear that I already have a referral to a hematologist in the Special Pregnancy Program next week, and she decided to take blood from both of us to get the testing started. She said that if I have a clotting disorder, small clots could hit the placenta in the third trimester and cause a stillbirth. She also said that most people don't get tested for these blood abnormalities until after a pregnancy ends, and that there are treatments available (such as injections of blood thinners) that would prevent such clots. So, yay.

Best case scenario is that I'll test negative for everything, stay with my midwife, have an uneventful pregnancy, and deliver at home. Next best is that I test positive for one or more of the disorders, have an obstetrician who specializes in placental abnormalities keep a close eye on my pregnancy, keep the midwife, and deliver in the hospital. There are dozens of other possibilities after that, but the worst is that Dave and I both test positive for the same disorder, and the baby doesn't live for very long after delivery. That one's highly unlikely, and not worth thinking about right now.

One advantage of getting the medical side involved, though, is that they're willing to schedule an early ultrasound. So we might be able to find out whether the heart is beating as early as next week. Once I hear a heartbeat, I might actually start to let myself think there might be a baby at the end of this.

Tomorrow I have to teach about conditionals (which I've never taught) and participial adjectives ("I am interested" vs. "I am interesting"). Eep.

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