I was making a list of names.
I was at my desk at work, procrastinating by making a list of baby girl names on a Google spreadsheet that I was intending to share with Ryan. We'd discussed and previously settled on Joanna Jane since it'd be naming Baby Girl for my grandparents and his grandma, but the more I thought about Joanna the more it didn't feel right. Someone once told me "Joanna is a horse girl name," and I simply couldn't erase that image once it nested in my brain.
And more than that, it didn't feel strong enough. I had had a session with my therapist where I admitted to having complicated feelings about having a girl. "Being a girl kind of sucks," I said, before listing the various sexist situations I face daily. "But what if she becomes a kick-ass advocate?" my therapist countered.
I allowed myself to drink in that daydream -- Baby Girl as an adult, with a megaphone, riling up a crowd of protesters. So I was making a list of names that sounded befitting of a kick-ass advocate. The last one I'd written was Elodie, which is French and means "foreign riches." When Ryan and I went to Paris on our honeymoon, the woman whose apartment we rented from Airbnb was named Elodie. She was rail thin, a cigarette-smoker, and just so impossibly French. She struck me as so cool. I'd all but decided in that moment that I was going to go home and persuade Ryan to let me name our daughter Elodie Jane Walsh.
As I made that decision, a cramp bore down on my lower abdomen. I'd been cramping and having lower back/abdominal pain basically the whole time I was pregnant, but this was particularly intense. I hadn't eaten lunch yet and walking always alleviated my pains, so I got up, intending to take a lap around the building before picking up a sandwich at my office's grab-n-go shop.
As I walked around, I felt a little liquid between my legs. Another symptom of pregnancy I'd been experiencing is increased discharge, which was always disconcerting -- it feels like a period coming out. But I'd always gone to the bathroom and found no blood, just messy regular fluids.
This time, though, between the intense cramp and the liquid, I felt ill at ease. I decided to stop in the bathroom before I hit the shop just to clean up and prove to myself it was nothing to be worried about.
My underpants were soaked in bright red blood.
"Oh no no no no no no no!" I said aloud as I frantically wiped blood from my body. As soon as I could I ran outside to call my doctor.
"I think I'm having a miscarriage," I said. After a few minutes of negotiating with the nurse, I was in my car and on the way to my doctor's office, an hour away through brutal D.C. traffic. Ryan was on his way, too.
"Hang on, Baby Girl," I said to her aloud between sobs. "Stay with me. Stay in there."
When I finally made it into the examining room, it looked like we had been granted a miracle: Baby Girl was still in my uterus, and her heart was beating. My doctor said he couldn't explain why I was bleeding. "I think you'll be OK," he said as he sent me home for the night.
Ryan and I felt like we'd cheated death. Baby Girl had cheated death. She was still in there, heart beating, the strong little girl I knew she'd be. I put on sweatpants and prepared to spend the night reclining on the couch, waiting for the bleeding and the cramping to subside.
But it didn't subside. It got worse. My body began to release blood in large clots.
And then it happened. I felt it. I felt something slide out of me, slowly, like cranberry sauce coming out of the can. I went to the bathroom, and in my pad I saw it. A little sac, the size of a grape, wrinkled, with two large clots on either side, with white things that looked like the tendons from a chicken breast. And I just knew. That little sac. That was Baby Girl. My body had expelled her.
Maybe it's something else, I tried to convince myself. Maybe it's just a weird clot from whatever is making me bleed right now. I flushed it down the toilet and tried not to think about it.
By the next morning, the bleeding had fully stopped. I called my doctor again to request another sonogram. I couldn't get that sac out of my head, and I just wanted to make sure that we were still OK.
That Baby Girl was OK.
But when my doctor looked into my uterus, he confirmed my worst fear. Baby Girl was gone. The heartbeat we'd seen less than 24 hours before was gone. The future I'd envisioned -- Baby Girl playing with Ren, Baby Girl graduating from high school, Baby Girl leading a revolution -- had evaporated in an instant.
And so now I have to live with all of this. I was naming my daughter when she started dying. I went home when I was bleeding instead of going to a hospital. My body pushed out my baby, and I flushed her down the toilet. I will never forgive myself for any of this. I don't know how I'll ever be able to sleep again. The grief I feel is like a noose around my neck and an elephant on my chest and I just can't catch my breath.
I don't know where I go from here.