Tucker is seven today.
I’ve never put pen-to-paper on his story before because I still can’t believe it happened. And I also have too many friends with raw hearts. But, here it goes.
Tucker’s story starts with his parents. Us. We were two plus years into our marriage, on a (mental) permanent honeymoon, broke and blissful.
We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving with Jeff’s dad in the mountains—we had four-wheeled down Spill Corn, filled up on 3 southern-squared meals a day and breathed in a big dose of pure North Carolina goodness.
Back home in Tampa, while we were unpacking, I realized that I was late.
How late? Jeff had asked. Since I didn’t keep track, we had monthly freak-outs.
Late, I promised him. He went to the store and bought a box of pregnancy tests. We watched the pink results flood across in instant slow motion. An indisputable positive.
I didn’t have time to think because Jeff said: Take another one. (Don’t worry. I still haven’t let him live down his first words to me.)
A box full of pink pluses later, we locked eyes. We grinned. And cried. We had made a person.
I could not keep my hands off of my belly. Sitting, standing, breathing. Everything felt brand new.
We made an appointment with the doctor. He didn’t need to see me until I was a little further along. But my mom was coming to visit us that weekend and I couldn’t keep it from her. We told her that she was going to be a grandma. And her elation made our surprise feel more like a reality.
To celebrate, Mom and I went shopping. And then I started having a few unsettling symptoms. So, I dialed the on-call doctor and explained what was going on.
Do you feel pregnant? He had asked me.
I was quivery and loopy and terrified. I’d never been pregnant before. How could I know what pregnant felt like?
I don’t know, I told him, apologizing. He asked me to come in first thing the next morning. I tossed and turned and clutched my stomach all night.
We went in the next morning and filled in stacks of paperwork. After measurements and samples were taken, a chipper ultrasound tech whisked us into her room so she could “take a look.” She sang out pleasantries in her outdoor voice.
Let’s take a look at this baby, she sung.
Here’s the sac, she cheered, pointing to a shape that we absolutely saw. Joy flickered.
Now, we’ll turn this on and listen for a heartbeat. She did. We listened. She was bright-eyed and wide-smiled as she maneuvered each angle—and as each hour-long second crept by, my heartbeat quadrupled. As if it could pump enough for me and the blob shape. After a few minutes, though, our tech dropped her smile and her outdoor voice.
You go ahead and get dressed and I’ll get you back to the doctor’s office.
My limbs, heavy with worry, made dressing slow and clumsy.
My hand clung to Jeff’s, our fingers laced, mouths closed, as we walked into the doctor’s office. There we sat, we two, waiting on a doctor. My doctor was not in that day. That day, we saw Doctor G. He came in, shook our hands and sat down, making it a professional point to lock eyes with both of us.
His room was cold and alien, like an out-of-date space station, and the overhead lights buzzed as he confirmed, out loud, what we already feared.
There’s no heartbeat and, with your symptoms? I think, he said just so, as if he was reporting the 10-day forecast, you have miscarried.
I took it in as if it were a spoonful of cough medicine—swallowed quick, shuddered, shook my head, answering in silence.
You have options, he had said, diving straight into his speech.
We can wait a few days just to see if your hormone levels change. You can let this happen naturally. Everything will pass, but it may take a while and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Or, we can do a procedure here—as soon as tomorrow—called a D&C. That way, you don’t have to wait through it.
He lifted his hands off of his desk as if he were throwing good options before us.
I’m going to let you talk about it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.
He left. I slumped. Jeff just rubbed my hand with his thumb. What could we say? There was nothing to say.
I didn’t cry until I opened my mouth to speak. My eyes were drowning in indecision—a deluge of hot doubt soaked my shirt and our interlocked hands.
I guess the procedure will be the easiest, I told Jeff—saying it, but asking him. I don’t know if I can do it naturally. It sounds awful.
I’m okay with whatever you want. I’ll be here with you.
So, we agreed on the D&C. He wiped my face with his shirt. The doctor came back in.
A chill raced through my veins and across the tops of my arms and seized my stomach—an alarming chill. Something whispered. Something Holy. Something snapped. Something understood.
I want to wait.
The words popped up—and there they sat—between a surprised doctor and husband.
I just—I can’t do it tomorrow.
I understand, Doctor G said, without any understanding. I’ll wait with you. But I have to tell you that I’m 99.9% sure you’ve lost the baby.
The baby. My free hand found my belly. We had to wait.
Follow up appointments were scheduled and we slipped into waiting. Grief’s breath is strange. My nerve endings felt short-circuited, unplugged. How many days ago had they tingled with shock and promise?
I stayed home from work for a few days, nursing my numbness. How could this unplanned blob shape stir so much? The fraction of ounces was lead in my gut. I couldn’t taste, listen or focus, but each twinge in my belly felt like a violent convulsion.
Jeff was spoon-feeding me smiles, trying to.
We would’ve been good parents, I cried into his lap.
We will be, he said.
We went back to the doctor. They took more measurements and blood.
And then? Then? A miracle.
My hCG levels had increased. Two days later, they took more blood. The levels had doubled.
Nerves were tingling again.
One week later, that same sweet tech ushered us into the room for another ultrasound.
There was the sac. And there, I swore, was movement. An eye twitch? A glitch?
The tech found her outdoor voice. THERE’S THE HEARTBEAT!
She turned on the sound and a strong warble flooded the room. It was a symphony. An opus. My breath quickened to its beautiful beat. We were all crying—me, Jeff, the tech. And the baby’s heart, muscular, alive, kept pounding. We had waited.
Now, Doctor G was not at that office that day. I had not seen him since we’d sat at his desk. My own doctor was there, though. He took us through the packet, the appointment schedule, the new parent track. He explained that I would see all of the doctors in the office in a rotation because any one of them could be in the delivery room on the baby’s birthday.
I did not see Doctor G throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was angry. And I don’t get angry. Forgive him 7 times 70 times? No. That’s how many times I wanted to punch him. The memory of his face, his voice was bitter. Soul-corroding. I went out of my way to stay out of his.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy happy, healthy. I ate 3 watermelons a week and held on to my belly for dear life.
On an evening in early August, we I was watching SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE while a summer lightning storm fumed outside. I’d been having contractions all day, but now they were taking my breath away—every few minutes. Still, I insisted on finishing the show, taking a shower and putting my make-up on before we headed to the hospital. I was in labor all night, but my doctor—my own doctor—was on duty the next morning. And he delivered our baby boy.
Suddenly I was holding Tucker’s warm weight in my arms. The perfect fit. I put my palm on his teeny chest until I could feel his heart thumping beneath my fingertips.
Jeff’s lips were thick with prayer, a grateful murmur only God himself could understand.
We locked eyes. We grinned. And we cried.
What a boy.
Unreal combinations of Jeff and me, our best bits, wrapped up in one big, blonde, beautiful boy.
By the time he was two (oh, how much do you love two?) we decided that we really needed to do this again.
My second pregnancy was planned, expected, easy. I sailed through the doctor’s appointments, still avoiding Doctor G. We knew we were having another boy. And, though the world didn’t know it yet, we knew his name was Case.
I had an appointment to be induced and I planned to have Case naturally. Everything was set. We had the sweetest nurses—troopers, really—who were coaching me through labor without drugs. I was really close to being ready—in the throws of acute active labor—when the doctor on duty walked in. Doctor G.
He was not part of the plan.
I tensed to my toes, the acidic bitterness more painful than the contractions. I stared Jeff down, silently begging him to do something. Anything. He knelt next to me.
It’s going to be fine. Think about Case.
Doctor G did not recognize us. But he talked with us—with us, not at us. And then? Then? He was encouraging me. He said he’d get me anything I needed. He made me smile.
I did not want to smile.
I only pushed for mere minutes, five times, and Case was born. Doctor G was intent. He was kind. He was amazing. He melted my anger. I hadn’t realized it had calcified in my gut—an impassable block—until I felt it dissolving. Doctor G delivered our little one. And I’m so grateful he did. Because I forgave. Freely. Easily. Gladly.
Then, I was holding Case, feeling his warm weight in my arms. Jeff and I locked eyes. We grinned. We cried. And we prayed.