Here's another question: How many times have you been pregnant?
Seven for sure, most likely eight. There's not a box for eight, just "7 or more," probably 'cause it's the upper end of the spectrum. How many women have seven or more children, after all? But it would have been some comfort to me had there been a box for "eight" and a box for "seven" because, I think, it does matter whether I lost five pregnancies or four. It matters that another not get lumped into the sameness of the first four even if the pregnancy I call my "eighth" (really seventh in sequence, eighth in impact) was so short-lived that I wasn't even late. So short I didn't give myself a day to thrill quietly with the news. The ending happened so fast I didn't think to be sad.
But it matters now: this subject of my grave curiosity: conception and an embryo's disintegration inside my body.
How many live births have you had?
Three. I've had three live births.
I'm a schoolgirl chomping at the bit while the teacher makes to move on with the lesson. The computer's asking how I'd like to be identified in the waiting room by the medical staff (Should they call my name? Should they just find me?) while I'm stuck in the stories the computer didn't ask but conjured in me all the same. Images of operating rooms and stained ceiling tiles, hospital gowns, blood blood blood blood blood, small jars containing tissue from placentas, waiting waiting hoping waiting, butterfly needles, syringes, pregnancy tests pregnancy tests pregnancy tests, phone calls, calendars, ultrasounds, waiting rooms, emergency rooms, cancer docs, OBs, flowers, a stuffed Snoopy in a Santa suit, knitted blankets.
I could tell you the story. If the computer was actually a rational and empathic being. If it was a psychologist asking, say. Or if we had decided by appointment to sit down and talk about me. Then I would tell the story of my body--how it made babies and how it didn't. And you know, I sort of wanted to tell today. Even though there was only the computer and it was only a routine visit and I was just doing what normal people do every day of their lives, tending to the business of safekeeping health, making appointments, riding in elevators, driving in cars.