I didn’t need the ER Doctor to tell me that Maggie miscarried. I didn’t need the nurse’s comforting hand on my shoulder who whispered, “I’ll leave the two of you alone for a while,” as she exited, drawing the curtain tight behind her. No, Maggie told me everything—without saying a word.
My eyes were drawn to Maggie as she lie motionless; arms limp at her sides almost melting into the bed, her face ashen and her sunken hazel eyes reddened dark by tears. She had a vacant look –lost and hopeless – broken and abandoned. Her lips were quivering and her forehead was deeply furrowed while she stared straight ahead, tears trickling down both cheeks.
Maggie doesn’t see me entering, but turns when she hears my footsteps. Her face has a mournful, almost sheepish look. She opens her eyes wide and tilts her head sideways, looking like a child seeking forgiveness—ashamed or afraid to confess that they have done something wrong. Then she begins crying, “Dennis, forgive me. I’m…I’m so sorry.”
Rushing to her bedside, I caress her left hand then lean over, kissing her forehead and stroking her hair. “Hey, stop it! You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s gonna be okay, babe. Don’t worry.”
Don’t worry?” Yeah, that’s easy for me to say. I don’t feel Maggie’s anguish. I just learned a couple days ago that I would be a father. I didn’t keep this bursting news a secret for the past two months. I hadn’t been planning for days how to tell me that I was going to be a “daddy.” Our baby wasn’t growing inside of me
Maggie was born to be a mother. Maybe not from the second she left her mother’s womb—maybe— but if it’s possible for any human to have a motherly instinct before ever experiencing a mother’s touch, then that would be Maggie. If not then, certainly from the moment she began playing with dolls. Having children had always been her dream; getting married followed close behind once she learned the two pretty much went together.
I want to be a father, but it doesn’t consume me the way being a mother consumes Maggie. The tears that are trickling down my cheeks aren’t for the son or daughter I lost. No, they’re for Maggie who almost grasped her lifelong dream only to have it pulled beyond her reach.
We sit quietly for about ten minutes, with Maggie looking blankly into space, furtively glancing at me, then occasionally squeezing my hand- not hard, just enough to let me know that she’s glad I’m still here. I continue softly stroking her hair with my left hand while caressing her fingers with my right. This isn’t a time for words. Maggie tries to smile, but her heart is too full of emptiness to complete it, leaving nothing more than a hapless grin languishing on her face.
“Did the doctor say what happens next?” I finally ask.
“I’m not sure,” Maggie sighs. “All I remember is him telling me I miscarried and that I’ll never be pregnant again.”
I know he didn’t tell Maggie that, but I’m sure that’s what she heard.
I leave her side, slide the curtain open, and ask the first nurse who passes if I can see the doctor. Within minutes he enters the room to answer my questions. “Yes,” he did tell Maggie she miscarried. “No,” he never said anything about future pregnancies. He has called Dr. Perez to determine if a D&C would be advisable. When Dr. Perez calls back, we’ll know how to proceed.
Thirty minutes later, the ER doctor returns to Maggie’s bedside. He informs us that Dr. Perez is recommending the D&C and that, if we agree, the operation will be done later this afternoon.
“It’s a relatively simple and very safe procedure,” the doctor assures us. “It shouldn’t take longer than an hour. After it’s completed we’ll want you to stay overnight and possibly an additional day for observation.”
I have some idea what a D&C involves and turn to Maggie to see her reaction and get her answer. She looks through me to the doctor, slowly nodding her approval as her eyes begin to fill with tears again. The finality of the miscarriage can no longer be denied.
For the next two hours, we remain in the ER waiting for an operating room to be available and for a bed to be prepared for admittance. As the minutes crawl, we talk about subjects that are of little interest to either of us; the weather, the last movie we went to, and how Maggie's Nana made spaghetti sauce. We try to remember song lyrics, quiz each other on who played certain movie roles, and wonder whether or not we made a mistake painting our living room blue. But we don’t talk about the future. Right now that’s the last thing we can talk about.
I’m dozing in the waiting room when I faintly hear my name. “Mr. Depcik. Mr. Depcik.” I slowly open my eyes to see a nurse standing directly in front of me. “Mr. Depcik, you can go see your wife now. She’s in room 514 just down the hall on your right. She’s been asking for you.”
I jump to my feet, knocking over the cup of coffee on the little table next to me and sending the magazine on my lap skittering across the floor. Flustered and embarrassed, I keep apologizing as I bend forward to clean the mess I’ve made.
“That’s all right sir. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of that. Go see your wife.”
I flash the nurse a smile and race down the hall to room 514. The door is partially closed. When I open it, there’s a woman patient in the bed, holding a crying infant. It isn’t Maggie.
Bewildered and not sure I’m in the right room, I step back into the hallway to confirm the number on the door. Seeing that it is 514, I reenter. “I’m sorry. I was told Mary Depcik was in this room.”
The woman looks up from her crying baby, lowers her eyes, droops the corners of her lips, and cocks her head to her right toward a closed curtain that starts at the wall and curves around to the window. I don’t know why it’s closed. Perhaps Maggie’s asleep or receiving care from the nurse. Reluctant to disturb either possibility, I cautiously begin sliding it open. Maggie is sitting slouched, but wide awake, staring down at her hands. When she sees me, she bolts upright, then bursts into tears.
“Oh, Dennis, I can’t stay here! Please get me out of this room.”