CYCLE OF HOPE

Excerpt from an e-novel

by Sophie Ioannou

As published in In Focus Vol. 10, No. 4, December 2013

SELECTIVE REDUCTION

Monday, January 24

We’ve decided we’ll go ahead with the reduction.

I don’t even want to think about it.

I want to neither think nor talk about it.

This is how I can help two of the three come to this world healthy.

Not one of the three has been absorbed, they are all developing normally, my babies are growing as they should and I must terminate one of them!

Though I had begged to be his mum!

Saturday, January 29

Reduction day approaches. My heart clenches. Which of the three?

The doctor says this will be decided after the nuchal scan, depending on measurements and position in the uterus.

How unfair – even this! Whether you get to live is determined by your place in your mum’s womb, supposedly the safest place!

My baby, my baby, how can I banish you? And how will I be able to live afterwards?

What if I don’t dare to go through with the reduction and they’re born premature and I lose all of them – or if they are born with problems? How will I live with this burden on my conscience, knowing that I could have done something to protect at least two of them?

Wednesday, February 2

The time of parting with one of them draws near… What will I say to it? How will I say goodbye? How will I explain why I’m forcing it out when I had implored for it to come?

Constantinos says I shouldn’t think that way. We have to do what the doctors say, he urges. It’s not our fault, he insists, we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances.

Are we?

Then why doesn’t it feel right?

Still, I know it’s the right thing to do! I’ve always been rational, at least when it came to health issues! How responsible would I be, to risk a triplet pregnancy when the doctors tell me there are very good chances of giving birth to premature and unhealthy babies?

Friday, February 4 

We had the nuchal scan today. All three of them are boys! INCREDIBLE! Constantinos was a bit let down, wanting a little girl as he did, but just for a second. I scowled at him and he snapped out of it.

God, three little boys! And the main thing – they’re all WELL! It’s incredible how we’ve reached the third month without any of them falling behind!

The reduction will be performed on Monday…

Monday, February 7  

I’m not cold, yet I’m trembling from head to toe! I can’t help it; Constantinos and mum try to calm me down. They cover me with a blanket, they give me warm tea to drink, they stroke my feet.

We just came back from the embryologist.

We did it.

We cast out one of our babies.

It was hard. Very hard. The embryologist chose which one according to its place in the uterus. I lay down, he pulled my shirt up, traced the spot on my belly and disinfected it. Constantinos sat beside me, holding my hand.

“Don’t watch”, he said.

But I couldn’t look away. I wanted to see my baby… the baby I had begged to come, the baby I had hoped for so fervently! It was there, carefree in my belly; how could he ever imagine that his mum would hurt him?

The doctor came back with the needle. He was looking at the ultrasound image. I closed my eyes and started reciting the Nicene Creed. I don’t know why.

I reached the third line and then forgot what it said next, I couldn’t focus, the needle had already punctured me, I wasn’t in pain but I could feel it.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

I could feel the needle piercing my skin and moving deeper inside.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…

That’s the farthest I could remember. Why was the doctor taking so long? The needle was still inside me, I could feel it twirling. Oh, the thought of us tormenting it! I opened my eyes. Constantinos, by my side, had leaned over my head, holding my hand tight against his heart, tears running from his closed eyes. I looked at the black-and-white image on the ultrasound screen. Two little fetuses were stirring endlessly; the third was completely still.

It was the first time I felt I would faint from grief.

I saw the needle coming out.

“Alright, it’s over”, said the doctor. “It will be absorbed gradually. You might feel some aching, perhaps you’ll have light bleeding today or tomorrow; don’t be alarmed, it will be alright”, he said.

I was trying not to cry.

“You’ll be fine, don’t worry”, he repeated, “less than 5% of women miscarry, everything will be alright, don’t be scared!”

But I am scared.

I’m scared lest we be punished. I’m scared lest we have intervened in Nature’s way much more than we should.

On leaving there we went to a church nearby and lit three candles, praying that all three of our babies be well, wherever each may be.

Now I’m in bed, incessantly throwing up and hoping he forgives us. I hope he understands why we did it. Then again, I hope they feel nothing yet.

Now I’m carrying twins and we can tell everyone I’m three months pregnant. They’ll ask if we know what we’re having and we’ll say “boys”.

“Boys? Not a boy?” they’ll ask.

“They’re twins!” we’ll laugh.

And it will be the truth. They’re twins.

No one shall know that there used to be one more among them.

Now they’re really twins.

Tuesday, February 8

I woke up this morning and thanked God I didn’t miscarry! My babies are here, there’ s no bleeding, no nothing! One day down. Thirteen more to go in order to escape the risk.

I think of my third baby and feel sad. I urge myself not to think about it. I take the doctors’ advice, that’s how it had to be. One had to go in order to give the other two a better chance. I’m sure he understands, this is what I want to believe! I’m positive – based on what I’ve read, what they told us, that we made the right choice. I mustn’t get carried away by emotion. Now I must forget! I shouldn’t give it another thought, I shouldn’t feel sad again! For the sake of the other two, I must be well and look ahead!

It’s over!

What had to be done is done, now I must take care of my little twins!

Thursday, February 10 

Days go by, I’m meticulously taking a course of antibiotics and thanking God for every day I have them with me! No bleeding, no nothing!

Everything will be alright! Everything will be alright! Everything will be alright!

Saturday, February 12 

On the 14th the two high risk weeks shall be over! In two days we’ll be safe! We’ll cross over to safety. I keep vomiting but less.

We went for a coffee and made plans and dreams – cautiously, still, until these two scary weeks are finally over!

Monday, February 14

The two high risk weeks are now over! I’m so happy everything’s going well!

I was sure, I was so sure! I was optimistic inside, I just know these babies are here to stay!

The day after tomorrow I’ll have the cervical cerclage just to be on the safe side. I have to be at the clinic at 9. The doctor said I shouldn’t worry, many women undergo this procedure.

•    •    •    •   •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •   •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

IN GOD’S HANDS

Wednesday, February 16

I don’t want to believe in anything, nothing of what I’m going through!

Everything’s so unfair, unfair, unfair!

I’m at the clinic, but not for a cervical cerclage. I’m bleeding! It won’t stop! And I’m having contractions too! They won’t say it, but I see it in their eyes, both the doctor and the nurses know it’ll all be over. I was scheduled for a cerclage at 9:00 am. I woke up at 7:00 feeling a fluid running down my legs.

“It’s my period” I thought in my sleep.

And then I jumped right up. I can’t have my period, I’m pregnant! I went straight to the toilet and indeed there was bleeding. I woke Constantinos, he panicked; I didn’t. I knew that many women have light bleeding at the beginning of pregnancy.

“What beginning! You’re now in the fourth month!” Constantinos yelled. “Don’t be alarmed, it’s probably placental abruption”, I said.

We got dressed in a hurry, I got the handbag I had prepared for the cerclage and called the doctor.

“Come straight away! I’m leaving for the clinic now!” he said and the sound of his voice reminded me of August, when my beta-hCG level kept dropping and I miscarried.

He examined me. All was well. The babies were fine, my cervix closed, no sign of abruption.

“Today you’ll stay at the clinic”, he said, “there won’t be any cerclage. I’ll send for some tests”.

Now I’m in room 12. Constantinos, mum, dad and Evi are with me.

The blood tests showed increased levels of CRP, which equals infection. They had a medical council and told me it could have increased because of the reduction, since there’s a dead fetus in the womb.

My urine exam and the vaginal swab turned out clean.

“We’re waiting, just waiting”, the doctor said.

“What are we waiting for? Will it pass? Will everything be alright?”

He looks at me and even though he tries to appear agreeable – I’ve known him for so many years! –the look on his eyes is forlorn.

“We’ll see”, he says. “Get some rest”.

But I can’t accept it, I won’t! I didn’t make it to this point to now be at risk! I didn’t go through the things I did to not know what’s going to happen! To lose this pregnancy.

“Could it be because of the reduction?”

“It could be”.

“But the two high risk weeks have passed! They’re over. We were safe! Why now? The two weeks have passed!”

I try not to yell but my voice sounds louder than I would have liked.

“Unfortunately, Hope, there are no certainties in medicine! Get some rest and we’ll see!”

No certainties? No certainties?!

And why didn’t they tell me this before? Why didn’t I know about it beforehand? Why was I under the impression that if we can walk on the moon then we can easily save one pregnancy?

Thursday, February 17

I’m on intravenous antibiotics, even though we don’t even know if there’s indeed an infection since only my CRP is high, which could be due to the reduction. Other than that, everything’s clean. The doctor said, if the infection is in the womb, then it can only be traced with an amniocentesis. And if I do this now, I’m bound to miscarry. So we’ll wait and see.

I can’t stand waiting, I can’t stand holding my breath to see what will happen, I can’t stand hearing that I might miscarry!

I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe what I’m going through again!

Friday, February 19

All of my friends pass by and try to give us strength. I have no strength but I act strong. I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, to think “poor girl, look what she’s going through now!”

I act strong but I’m broken inside. The doctor comes to see me every morning, at noon and at night before he goes home. He has nothing new to tell me, we just wait to see how my body will react. We can’t even know if all this is due to the reduction. Perhaps, they tell me, probably! Haven’t they bothered to do research on whether this is what happens after a reduction? Is it not a case of everything being fine if the first two weeks after the procedure do not result in a miscarriage? The doctor can’t give me an answer, probably because I belong to the second category. I’m in a single-bedroom, thankfully. I wouldn’t be able to tolerate strangers, people talking about their healthy newborns which they’re getting ready to take home with them.

I can’t describe how I feel.

Defeated.

Time 1.00 AM.

The worst night in my life! I feel as if my heart has been ripped out. Out of the blue, even though the bleeding had become lighter, at 23:30 I went to the toilet and I almost fainted upon seeing so much blood! I was scared breathless but fortunately I kept my calm so as not to panic Constantinos and mum. I called the nurse and she called the doctor. We talked, he told me to lie down and stay calm. He asked if I was in pain, I said no and he added if I felt any pain I should call him immediately. Then he talked to the nurse and I could see her forlorn look, I could hear her curt answers – “yes, doctor”, “fine, doctor”.

Mum and Constantinos were pale from fear. The nurse came back with a syringe, she drew blood.

“A blood sample at this hour?” Constantinos asked anxiously.

“We’re double checking her blood group, just in case”.

“In case I miscarry!” I said, making a superhuman effort not to show I was already crying inside.

She stroked my hand.

“Perhaps. You’re in God’s hands, dear! We’re doing absolutely everything there is to do. You’re on antibiotics, you’re on saline solution for the contractions, you’re lying down. You are in God’s hands now. Just wish that whatever happens, happens quickly so that you do not suffer.”

And she left to other wards where women had already given birth to their babies and were happy.

As for me, I stayed in that room, forced to accept that I could lose everything, everything, my whole life, everything I’d ever asked for, hoped for, everything I’d wanted the most in this world! And as if that wasn’t enough I should be praying for all this to happen quickly, so that I wouldn’t suffer.

I’m in God’s hands!

I’m in God’s hands, for crying out loud! What God’s hands? I don’t want to be in God’s hands! That’s just a line from movies and when someone says that then things are definitely taking a turn for the worse! I don’t want to be in God’s hands, I want to put aside these mystical things, I want stern scientists declaring that life is just cells put together, who know that one plus one equals two, who can find out what’s wrong and fix it. Because if it isn’t so, then I’m in urgent need of a Miracle, and if memory serves me right, miracles are hard to come by!

How did I suddenly end up in God’s hands, when the miracle of life we managed was thanks to science? Or was that never the case? Was I always in God’s hands and failed to realize it?

I want to cry, I want to yell it’s unfair! I can hear the infants that have just been born, I can hear them crying, I listen to their kin’s joyful voices, the footsteps of the nurses taking them to their mothers and I want to scream, why not me? Why not us? What have I done to be in this position? Why do I always have to end up in the same place?

And it’s worse now, God, it’s so much worse than last August! Now I have been carrying them inside me for 14 weeks… We had supposedly reached a safe point…

I want to scream at the top of my voice so that God hears me, in case he hasn’t grasped how much I want my babies, in case he hasn’t realized what is going on here! I want to scream at him that now is the time for a miracle! But then I remember the rock in the sea and I become aware of the truth.

Nothing.

There’s nothing I can do! There’s no point in crying and beating myself up. Nothing in the universe will change. Only that rock tells the truth.

And the truth is, you beat me again, Nature! There’s nothing we can do if you want to end my pregnancy. So, I give up! How can I fight you? It’s unfair, uneven! There’s no more strength left in me, no more power.

Whatever it is, just let it be.

Translated by Despina Pirketti

Edited by Helen Stavrou

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