Read an Excerpt
The Safety of Secrets
I think I might be pregnant. And today is Mother's Day.
The only other time that I was pregnant, I found out last Halloween, so maybe my body is particularly fertile two weeks before a holiday. Because I read in this book that no matter how many days a woman's cycle is from ovulation to the first day of her period is exactly two weeks. Which seems kind of wonderful and yet odd to me for it to be that guaranteed. Though comforting, too, that amid all the chaos of life, inside every woman's body is this exquisite and punctual rhythm that is the same for us all. Like in that way at least, we're even.
That other pregnancy didn't work out, but I guess that is obvious or I wouldn't be wondering if I am pregnant now. Sometimes I imagine that Halloween was to blame for its ending since I found out on a day so connected with the dead—but also to my ancestry, actually.
The Irish brought the custom of Halloween to America in the mid-1840s when so many of them were fleeing their country's potato famine. Not that my relatives came then. They left Waterford, Ireland, in 1833; landed in Quebec; then made their way down to Corpus Christi, Texas, until "Indian hostilities," as my mother calls it, forced them to leave and they settled in Opelousas, Louisiana, then finally decades later, Lake Charles, where I grew up and celebrated Halloween.
The ancient origin of which was the belief that on that day disembodied spirits of those who had died in the previous year came back in search of living bodies to possess. They thought it was their only hope for an afterlife, so all laws of time and space weresuspended, allowing spirits to intermingle with the living. But the living didn't want to intermingle with them, didn't want to be possessed, so they extinguished their home fires and dressed up in hideous clothes to frighten the spirits away. Neither of which my recently conceived baby was able to do, and I didn't know to do, so maybe it got possessed.
And that is as good an explanation as the one my doctor gave me, which basically was that some just don't make it. For two weeks, the ultrasound kept showing that I was five to six weeks pregnant, but a heartbeat never appeared. A missed miscarriage is what Dr. Walker called it, meaning my body didn't get the message that the pregnancy wasn't going forward, so it stayed stuck in this blossom like some frozen flower in a bowl that at first looks great, but then is sickening to see since it will never fully bloom.
Though after that pregnancy was over, Dr. Walker assured me that I am fine. "Honey, you two are where I'm trying to get most of the couples that see me to be," she said.
I was sitting in her office in the West Tower Medical Building of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills for the follow-up appointment after my D & C, which I still wasn't really sure what that stood for. "Dice and cut" is all I could think of, like B & E for "breaking and entering," because that is how it felt.
I was surrounded by a swarm of baby pictures on the bookcases, on the desk, on the walls, all the successful fruits of her and her patients' labor. I looked at Dr. Walker. She looked as if she could play one on TV—that pretty. Blonde and sweet. A face you want to come to, like the Giant Casting Director in the sky had ordained her calling. And she was a real doctor, after all, renowned, even. So it was easy to believe her.
I left her office, and I was fine.
I got outside, got in my car, and was sitting stuck on Third Street, a thoroughfare that not so long ago used to be if not barely used then at least Plan C for how to get west or east, but now is almost as bad as Beverly. I wished for the thousandth time that about a million people in L.A. would leave when suddenly it hit me that the city's population was not going to increase by one next summer because of my husband and me, since we were no longer going to have this baby.
And I was sort of shocked, as if I was finally understanding that the pregnancy was over. Not that I didn't know it was over, but the appointment for the D & C had kept it alive in a (okay, major denial) sort of way since they were related to the baby. But now there weren't any more reasons to see Dr. Walker, until another pregnancy. And when would that be?
Immediately, I could hear my mother's voice in my head when I told her it was over. "Oh, Fiona, honey. That's just terrible. How are you holding up?" Even though my mother was all the way down in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the same home that I grew up in, she could have been phoning from inside my body. Her voice has always sounded like that to me, as if I've been carrying her around in me my whole life, like some terribly odd and inappropriate pregnancy that I'll never deliver.
"There is nothing worse than a miscarriage," my mother went on. "Not that I ever had one. Or would have. I got my family's good Connor genes, but your father's sisters, as you know, each had multiple miscarriages. It's a wonder you have any cousins on his side at all. Well, you'll just try again; that's all. And it'll be fine. I'm sure of it. Though why you waited so long in the first place I'll never understand."
I had planned to move the phone repeatedly away from and back to my ear while she spoke the way I have for the past few years, sort of like one of the arm exercises I do at the gym, but my mother's opening lines were so promising that I got hooked in and listened to the whole goddamn thing.The Safety of Secrets. Copyright © by DeLaune Michel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.