I spent over $30 on prenatal vitamins the first time.
This time, I’m going to do things right, I told myself. I’ll exercise the whole time and do yoga and cherish every moment. I won’t complain at all, even when I look like an actual beached whale.
I made a special trip to the health food store — the one that sells ridiculously overpriced foods and every kind of essential oil you could think of. I debated between about 10 different bottles of prenatal vitamins. I wasn’t sure how much more “all-natural” all-natural vitamins could be, but I was willing to pay the extra $20 to find out.
When I lost the baby a few weeks later, the sight of that absurd, oversized bottle felt like a knife to my heart. I couldn’t stand to look at it — the visual representation of all I had hoped for taunting me from behind my cupboard door. But still, I couldn’t exactly throw them away. I had spent over $30 on them, after all.
At school pick-up the next day, I brought the vitamins with me in a bag and handed them over to another mother who was pregnant. We had been due days apart and although I couldn’t answer why she got to keep her baby and I did not, she was still very much pregnant. It took everything in me to hand over the bag to her. “Hey, would you want these?” I asked, trying desperately to keep the tears out of my voice. “They are some fancy all-natural ones, I thought maybe you could use them.”
The next time I was pregnant, I couldn’t bring myself to order any vitamins. At my first appointment, when the intake nurse announced that she would be sending out an order for my prenatals, I begged her not to. I’ll pick them up, I protested. We don’t need to waste any and plus, they’ll just make me sick.
She didn’t listen.
Off through the computer system the order went, and the next day, my phone lit up with the pharmacy’s phone number ready to tell me my prenatal vitamins were ready for pick up.
I couldn’t bring myself to answer.
Day after day, the pharmacy called my cell phone, ringing a reminder of the prenatal vitamins that sat on their shelves designed to nourish a baby I couldn’t let myself believe would make it. I ignored all the calls, focused my anger on the nurse who had refused to grant me just this one reprieve from the constant knot of fear that filled my body.
Eventually, of course, the guilt got to be too much for me and I couldn’t bear the thought that the lack of some essential nutrient would be the cause of my baby’s demise, so a quick Amazon click later, I was the not-so-proud owner of a giant bottle of gummy vitamins. Despite the fact that I needed to down six of them to make a serving, I figured this way, I was protected … in more ways than one.
And as it would turn out, I was right to have chosen the path I did. Because this morning, I finally sent my husband to the pharmacy.
After he left, a cold panic set in when I realized there were two very different prescriptions with my name on them at the pharmacy. Frantically, I rushed to grab my phone.
“Please don’t let them give you my other prescription,” I texted him. Please don’t bring home the prenatal vitamins.
Instead of a bag of medicine to nourish a baby, my husband brought me home the kind to let go of the one that was no longer there. Like last time, my body hadn’t quite got the message that something was wrong; it was still trucking along, churning out hormones and building up a lovely little gestational sac for an inhabitant that had slowly disappeared like the quiet, struggling flicker of the heartbeat I had seen on the screen.
When he got home, the package was open. My husband explained he had panicked halfway through his drive home and torn through the paper bag just to make sure its contents wouldn’t hurt me in any other way than they were supposed to.
It’s almost silly the things that can serve as triggers with a miscarriage, isn’t it?
From the orders we forgot to cancel, the gifts that still arrived, and the advertisements that insist on filling our inboxes and mailboxes to the work bathroom we bled in, life after loss feels like a minefield navigating the unexpected things that will hurt us with fresh pain all over again.
This time, I know the pain will come again when I least expect it. I have tried to protect myself from it in the only ways I knew how. I deleted the pregnancy app. I avoided email lists. I refused to look at dates. I asked my husband not to talk the “what ifs.” I couldn’t — I wouldn’t — let myself envision, even for a minute, what life would look like because I knew it would just hurt more when it was taken from me.
And in this tale of two very different prenatal vitamins stories, I was grateful for just a moment’s respite from the pain of seeing the bottle containing a promise it couldn’t keep. And someday, maybe when I’m ready, those innocent little gummies in the silly colorful bottle can help nourish the four little bodies in my house that I am more grateful than ever to have.