Pizza, Interrupted

It was a cloudless Sunday afternoon. We were driving home through our twisting, small town roads under a canopy of leaves that left the streets dappled with sunlight, and I was daydreaming about what your face might look like someday. Then, it happened. Something shifted, you disappeared, and my heart dropped into my gut.

I knew before I got out of the car that I had miscarried, and yet I still hoped against hope, offering a million silent promises to God, while pulling down my pants moments later in the bathroom. But it was already done. The blood streaked my inner thighs without sympathy or ceremony, and you were gone.

“How do I say goodbye to a whisper?” I thought.

And then I sobbed and Kai knocked on the door. Then we were both crying and Duke couldn’t understand why.

For days after, my emotions, hormones and body swirled in pain. The midwife told me in the examination room it was nothing that I had done; my mother told me on the ride back home it was nothing that I had done; Kai held me in his arms each night and told me it was nothing that I had done.

But none of them could quell my sense of guilt and the deep-seated fear that I had brought this upon myself and upon you in some way.

I’d been working too hard in the preceding weeks: staying up late writing, lifting heavy gear at the farmers market, drinking too much coffee in the morning, constantly worrying about how I was going to do it all and be a mother to a newborn, this time with Duke already at my knee.

Perhaps my self doubt dampened the spark that created you? Otherwise, surely you would still be here and I would still be daydreaming?

The following weekend, two of my closest friends came in from out of town to help piece me back together again, as only old friends, dirty jokes and four bottles of wine can do. We stayed up late, trading wounds and war stories. They cooked me spicy pasta for dinner and scrambled eggs in the morning, and told me once again it was nothing that I had done.

And in between those moments, life went on.

I continued going to work every day, interviewing chefs, attending events, having mundane conversations on the phone and countless email exchanges, all with the secret that you had ceased and that I was grieving.

Because no one but a few confidants knew yet that I had been pregnant. Because our culture is set up in such a way that it’s acceptable for a random mom to ask me at the daycare dropoff when I plan on having our next child, but not for me to answer, “I just had a miscarriage, please fuck off.”

Or at brunch with work colleagues. Or at a casual play date in the park. Or performing an interview with someone I’ve only just met.

Is there such a thing as miscarriage rage? Because I feel it quake inside of me. I feel it most when these exchanges occur and I’m forced to confront the sad little facts in the presence of a stranger who will walk off into the sunset unaware and smiling, while I choke up back in my car.

Seemingly everywhere I go, someone wants to know if Kai and I are actively trying to procreate. Maybe it’s because Duke is so cute and smart.

“Just the one?” asked an elderly man one table over, at a local pizza parlor this weekend.

“Just the one,” I smiled and nodded toward our little man.

“Better get going,” he continued. “Gotta keep up with the Joneses.”

Flinch. Gulp. Exhale.

“I guess… so,” I said, looking away. 

Inside, another version of myself grabbed the cocktail in front of me and threw it, mason jar and all, at his greying aged skull.

I hate everyone, sometimes. Including myself. I know I’ve made these same mistakes. I’ve occasionally overstepped. These people aren’t trying to be jerks, I remind myself.

But, God, it still hurts. And, man, I miss you, whoever you were. Kai does too.

“I was just cleaning and found the pregnancy test on your side of the bed,” I texted him weeks after that bleak Sunday afternoon. “I’m going to throw it out.”

“Yeah. I’ve been holding onto it,” he responded. “I don’t really know why.”

It took me a while, but I think I do. He kept it because in a strange, surreal way that piece of crappy drugstore plastic is the only evidence that you ever existed. That and the stain of magical thinking. 

So we clench our teeth and smile through the unwanted rejoinders, privately still in mourning. Still figuring it all out.

 

I Took a Sound Bath, It Was Loud and Then I Cried

“I think I want to get a sound bath while we’re on the West Coast,” I told my husband as we booked an Airbnb for our planned babymoon.

“What’s that?” came his inevitable follow-up question. In truth, I wasn’t entirely sure.

I had noticed the phrase appearing in an increasing number of lifestyle publications, recommended at spas everywhere from Berkeley to Brooklyn. Many descriptions referred to the practice as a “deep listening experience” that could involve quartz singing bowls, gongs, drums or tuning forks to relieve tension and recalibrate one’s energy systems.

At 7 months pregnant and as wide as a wine barrel, I liked the idea of a spa treatment that didn’t involve getting undressed or anyone touching me. But to my skeptical mind, a sound bath also sounded a bit vague and new age-y. Did one clap at the end? Bow ceremoniously? Leave a tip?

Still, I was intrigued that such a thing existed and hoped it might shake off some third-trimester nerves. So I let my curiosity lead me over the spiritual fence and into the Mojave Desert.

The Integratron is a 55-foot-diameter white domed structure located off a desolate strip of highway in Landers, California -- a roughly 45-minute drive from Palm Springs. For those of us who remember such things, the setting combined with the cupola vaguely evokes Luke Skywalker’s childhood home on Tattooine.

But that’s not the Integratron’s only connection to the stars.

The building was erected in 1959 by ufologist and self-proclaimed contactee George Van Tassel, who claimed that visitors from Venus had instructed him to do so. Funded primarily by UFO conventions and private donations -- some which notably came from reclusive industrialist Howard Hughes -- the intended use for the structure was to facilitate time travel.

Van Tassel died unexpectedly, however, before the Integratron’s official completion in 1978. So instead of bridging time and space, the building was left fallow until 2000, when it was purchased by three sisters -- Joanne, Nancy and Patty Karl -- who found a new purpose for its unique architectural characteristics: sound baths.

“The building is built entirely out of wood, no nails,” said our bath facilitator, Drayton, while giving me and my husband a tour before our appointment. “So it’s basically like sitting inside of a giant guitar.”

The combination of a curvilinear dome and reverberating Douglas fir creates an acoustic amplifier, he said, which guests can test out by standing above a carved hole the size of a tennis ball positioned directly below a circular skylight in the center of the space. There, even the most gentle voice thunders like Thor. Move five inches in any direction and you’re back to normal.

As we settled onto individual blankets set up across the floor, Drayton described how he would be playing a series of quartz singing bowls, each keyed to a different chakra to release blocked energies and promote inner harmony during our 60-minute session.

Some guests had even been known to have out-of-body experiences, he told us. Others connected with deceased relatives.

Um, I’m not looking to have an out-of-body experience, I thought. I’m pregnant. I want to remain right here with my son and husband. I just wanted to chill out a little bit.

As if reading my mind, Drayton then said the elevated awareness also could help foster a bond between mother and child.

“If you’ve already connected with your baby, which I am sure that you have,” he went on, “This will be like rocket fuel.”

I was suddenly very excited.

With the exception of feeling his jabs, kicks and flips in the preceding weeks, my baby remained in many ways a very abstract little guy. He was there, but he was not there. I would talk to him, sing to him, and direct my thoughts toward him at night but it was a one-way channel of communication. Maybe the sound bath would stimulate something else?

As Drayton began playing the bowls, a series of high-pitched waves filled my ears and I let the muscles in my back settle into the blanket. The baby fist-bumped my stomach in response to the first note then shifted his position slightly inside of me, seemingly getting comfortable too.

Over time, the tones grew progressively deeper and louder, their vibrations rippling over me like a sonic massage.

This is pretty intense, I thought, and wondered which chakra the bowl was hitting at that moment. Then a second, new sound entered the aural periphery, one that I immediately recognized: my husband snoring.

Typical.

Trying to block out the love of my life’s turbulent airflow, I cleared my mind and gave in to whatever images the ringing quartz bowls conjured.

A dream-like sequence of walking through the hills just beyond the Integratron’s grounds followed: I was holding the hand of my son as we followed a wolf toward an unknown destination. Something in the pulsing drone promised that everything would be OK.

Was I starting to fall asleep too? Or was I entering an out-of-body experience? Could this be an alien-assisted glimpse into the future? Just contemplating the latter two options jolted me out of my impressions and back into the present. Accepting it as a weird pregnancy dream was much easier.

But if nothing else, I had to admit that my body felt lighter and calmer than it had in months; the notion that everything would be OK remained. I began to tear up with emotion, and mentally catalogued everything I’d seen on that mystical sleepwalk to write down in my journal later. Just in case.

The hour had come to an end.

Drayton was no longer in the room and my husband was staring out one of the 16 windows to the desert beyond. I still wasn’t entirely sure what a sound bath was.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

Round and Round We Go

 

 Joni Mitchell once famously sang that, "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone." I think of this line often when staring at my reflection of late.

Where once my collarbone softly spilled into my chest, two ballooning orbs now float and bob. Where the curve of my waist used to nip inward it now swells, soft and round where it had been slim and taut. My thighs have thickened, my feet are puffy, my face appears fuller than it has in years. Even the skin along my back has acquired a layer of padding. A plush toy that swallowed the action figure.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this transformation is that I must submit to it. I have ceded control of my body, and there is no alternative. No juice cleanses, no calorie restrictions, no strict running regimens or intensive workouts. Not now and not for at least three more months.

I cannot even drown my sorrows in rosé.

But the tradeoff for all of these indignities, well into my 26th week, is the miraculous sensation of activity from within.

At first, the taps came softly—a private Morse code only we two could share. Then one morning, half-awake as the sun peeked through the curtains, Kai was finally able to feel the gentle thumps I'd been describing to him for weeks. Now I receive kicks and pokes so regularly and so powerful, at times my stomach visibly vibrates and sways.

Such movements startle me from lingering too long in any self-conscious inner dialogue and, with a swift right foot to the hip, command, "Hey, snap out of it!"

It's all just part of the process, his rhythmic punches duly remind me. A blip in time, thrum his tiny feet. A temporary cosmetic discomfort, jab those littlest of elbows. Don't sweat it. Have another piece of cake. Enjoy the softness while you still can.