The sudden emotion welling up in me threatens to overflow as I pay for the magazine, commenting to the friendly cashier at the newsstand. “Qué pena, lo de . . .” I say, and gesture at the cover. (“What a shame about . . .”) “Ay, sí, y con lo ilusionado que estaba el Rey.” (“Oh, yes. The King was so excited.”)
It had been announced first on the evening news with images of the King and Queen of Spain, who were visiting Galicia to check on the recovery of the region seven months after the Prestige oil spill. A reporter congratulated King Juan Carlos on his Saint’s Day, the feast of St. John. “That’s not the only thing to congratulate me on,” he had joked. “We’re going to be grandparents again, for the sixth time!” It would be his older daughter Elena’s third child.
Then, less than 24 hours later, one of the afternoon gossip shows announced that the princess had been admitted to the hospital clinic in Madrid. Shortly after, there was an official statement from the Royal press office: “HRH the Infanta Elena was having a routine checkup when her gynecologist discovered that the gestation had been interrupted at 14 weeks.”
Instantly, I was transported back in time, three years ago: I am lying on a table in the gynecologist’s office as he maneuvers the ultrasound sensor over my abdomen. A long silence, then it is confirmed. “I’m sorry,” he says. “There’s no heartbeat.”
On the program, the commentators talked about how it was really a shame, though her age (39) had put her into a higher-risk category. One of them pointed out — with the disclaimer that of course this was the least of all concerns — that after the celebrity gossip magazines had scrambled to include the pregnancy in the editions due to come out the next day, now the “happy news” on the covers was going to be obsolete, and a painful reminder of the tragedy.
So here I am, buying one of those magazines with a smiling Elena on the cover, and a picture of her husband ducking into a Madrid jewelry store, presumably to buy her a gift in celebration. Is it morbid of me? Somehow, I need to read the details of the happy news, knowing it will be poignant, painful. I think about all the other women in Spain who have experienced miscarriage — are they all feeling what I am?
My husband and I are on vacation in Menorca. We have decided to try for our first pregnancy, starting this month, and the beach and relaxation spur us on. On this trip, my husband loses his wedding ring. He has large knuckles, so it is a bit loose, and in the cold ocean his fingers shrink enough that he sees the ring, feels it slipping away in the water, yet can’t grab hold in time. It escapes his grasping fingers and disappears into the blue.
When this happens, he wants to go up to the hotel room and get the mask and snorkel to see if he can find it. We briefly consider renting a metal detector, but deep down we know it is hopeless. We won’t see that ring again.
That afternoon we drive to Mahon, the capital, and order a new one at a jeweler’s shop — a plain gold band with our names and the date of our wedding engraved inside. It won’t be the same, won’t be The Ring that saw us through two ceremonies, the five-minute civil ceremony at the courthouse so that I could get my visa, and the big celebration a few months later in a medieval church in the mountains. The new ring looks almost the same, but smaller; it fits more snugly to guard against future accidents.
On the ferry on the way back from the island, our vacation over, I feel a dull pain in my side down low where I imagine the ovaries to be. “It must be mittelschmerz,” I think, ovulation pain, though I have never felt it before. In my mind, I count the days — the timing is just about right, and sure enough, two weeks later, I discover that I am pregnant.
We are surprised that it happened so quickly, but also pleased. As we take our evening walks, we peer into the baby carriages that suddenly seem to be everywhere, imagining that in nine months’ time we will be pushing our own.
But in just a few weeks our hopes are dashed, and I am booked for an early morning D&C. Due to a somewhat rare condition known as molar pregnancy, not only is there no heartbeat, but the placenta is growing in a tumor-like fashion, and if it is not removed immediately, the growth could spread to my lungs and brain. I must have monthly blood draws until my ridiculously high HcG level is back to normal, and we aren’t allowed to start trying again for six more months. When we are finally given the green light, it takes us nine months to conceive, and I am put on modified bed rest for two months at the beginning of the pregnancy due to spotting. I don’t want my students at the language academy I’m teaching at to know why I’m gone, just in case things go wrong again. But eventually I return to work, my belly swelling as the year goes on, and I am able to finish out the semester. Finally, two years after that first conception, Pedro is born.
Once again, I have a July due-date. This time around my worries focus more on how this new child will fit into our family rather than on the pregnancy itself, which has been relatively problem-free. Finally, after several days of false alarms and contractions that let up just as we are getting ready to leave for the clinic, the moment arrives and Elías is born.
The Infanta Elena has not announced a subsequent pregnancy, and at this point it seems unlikely that she will be trying again. I imagine she has moved on in her own way, just as I have now with my two healthy children. Yet, perhaps, she will discover for herself what the news of her miscarriage last summer has taught me: that as much as I think I have moved on from our own loss, it will always be there somewhere, ready to surface.