Published on September 12th, 2018 | by Megan Pillow Davis1
Eggs Five Ways
My husband makes sunny side up eggs with a side of hash browns and sausage. He gives my shoulder a squeeze and puts a mug of coffeenext to my plate. The egg yolk is runny, just the way I like it, but so is the white, gelatinous, slightly translucent. I press it with my finger. It’s tacky. When I rub my fingers together and pull them apart, the white stretches between them. It’s comical, really. I’ve watched for this consistency for 11 months. I’ve stuck my finger into my vagina almost every day and pulled it out again, analyzed the texture of what I’ve found, made a note of it in the fertility app on my phone. I am jealous of a fucking egg.
I eat the hash browns first, then the sausage. I save the eggs for last. I hold each bite on my tongue for a moment like a communion wafer. When I swallow it, I think please. Please. I’m only asking for this one little thing.
My husband sees my concentration and pauses mid-bite. “Is everything okay?” he says.
“Fine,” I say. “Good.”
The restaurant is awash in smells: the smoky bitterness of burned coffee, the pungent sweet of the table lily, the bite of gasoline and the hot of concrete that waft in through the restaurant’s open window. The server puts a Tasso ham and egg sandwich in front of me. It’s usually my favorite item on the menu, but today the egg isn’t fried. Instead, it looks almost poached, the yolk suspended in a milky bulb of white. I can smell it, too – its tangy unripeness, and something else, something I can’t identify, and I know I’m going to be sick. I run to the bathroom, knocking hips and knees against the tables of startled customers. As I retch into a toilet that reeks of disinfectant, my breasts press against the rim of the bowl, and they are so tender that I almost cry out. I don’t need a test to tell me. I sit down on the floor of the bathroom stall in a small pool of someone else’s piss. I cry not because I’m sitting in piss but because I’m so goddamn happy. The thing has happened. For that moment, I just don’t care about anything else.
I’m eating an Egg McMuffin because that’s what I always want now. I eat one at least three times a week. I also eat sour cream and onion chips dipped in peach frozen yogurt, entire bottles of V-8, two cans of Spaghetti Os in a sitting, two and three and four oranges at a time. If I don’t eat every couple of hours, my body becomes an uncontrollable thing: woozy and ferocious and disarticulated at the joints. It is as if a phantom – something nebulous as a puff of smoke, some insidious gaseous compound of hunger and rage – has invaded my skin and pushed the me out so that I hover around myself like a cloud of gnats, restless, looking for reentry. As I put the last bite of the Egg McMuffin in my mouth, my doctor calls.
“Your hCG levels aren’t rising the way they should,” she says. I swallow the bite. It sticks in my throat, hard as a marble.
“What does that mean?” I say.
“It means you’re probably going to miscarry,” she says. “I’m so sorry.”
The Egg McMuffin stays stuck in my throat long after the call ends. I try to wash it down with water, but it won’t budge.
The doctor turns on the ultrasound machine and inserts the wand into my vagina. She told me there would be pressure, but there is also pain, and I try not to tense. She moves the wand around inside me, as if I am a lock and the wand is the key that will unlock me. In a moment, there on the screen is what looks like the inside of a dark, open mouth, and then the small, white circle surrounding blackness like the opening at the back of a throat.
“That’s the egg sac,” she says, and she traces the edge of it with her finger. “But there’s no fetal pole. There’s no evidence that this developed into a fetus.”
I want to tell her she’s wrong. My body feels pregnant. How can my body make a mistake like that? How can it have tricked me? But I don’t say anything. I just nod, and I turn my face to the wall so that I don’t have to look at the ultrasound anymore.
She pats my hand. “This happens more often than you think,” she says. “You can try again soon.”
“Sure,” I say. But I’m thinking that right now, this is happening to me, and there is nothing worse.
At check out, I set another appointment to come back in a week. I’ve decided to let the miscarriage happen on its own, and my doctor will have to monitor me weekly until it does. When the nurse hands me my appointment card, she doesn’t meet my eyes. She does slip a Cadbury cream egg into my palm. Once I’m in the car, I peel back the foil and bite the tip off, suck out its insides, put the whole thing in my mouth until it swells my cheek like an abscess. It takes the chocolate shell 15 minutes to dissolve.
The nurse who wakes me is gentle. “Let’s warm you up,” she says, and she covers my shivering shoulders and shaking legs with a warm blanket, tucks it beneath me on the recovery room cot. She wheels me back to my husband. “Did it go okay?” I say. What I mean is, did they suck the non-fetal material out of me without poking a hole in my uterus? He nods and takes my hand. I am relieved. My body held onto the false pregnancy for four weeks after I saw the doctor. I still felt nauseous and had to pee in the middle of the night. I still craved strange things. Even though it wasn’t there, I still couldn’t sleep. I imagined it in my uterus, but since it wasn’t really a fetus, I couldn’t imagine what it looked like. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was that white circle, like the bright white annulus of the sun in an eclipse. Just like an eclipse, it burned an afterimage behind my eyes and was always there when I closed them. The afterimage is itself like the ghost of an image. I decided the pregnancy must be a ghost too. But the haunting was over. I could rest.
I close my eyes for a bit.
In a while, the nurse comes to take me to the bathroom. “Up you go,” she says, and she helps me to my feet. When I get up from the cot, I see I’ve bled through onto the sheets. The nurse waves her hand. “It happens all the time, sweetheart,” she says. Before I can say anything, she pulls the bloodied sheet from the cot and puts on a clean one. I leave a trail of blood down the hallway from my room to the bathroom. While I pee, the nurse changes the maternity pad in my mesh underwear. When we walk back to the recovery room, the hallway is clean again.
They discharge me two hours later with instructions to rest and to watch for hemorrhage. No lifting anything for a week, they say. On the way home, my husband stops at a restaurant to pick up crème brulee, the one thing I asked for to celebrate the end of this horrible thing. I wait to eat it until I get home, until I’m settled in a chair in front of the computer with a blanket around my knees. I shatter the carmelized sugar with my spoon and scoop a spoonful of the cool egg custard into my mouth. I open Facebook. I have one message notification. It’s a pregnancy announcement from a friend. She is 13 weeks along with her first baby. The baby is due just a few days after mine was supposed to be. “Congratulations!” I type. “You’ll be a great mom.” I close the browser. I eat the rest of the crème brulee.
I don’t know it then, but it’s the last time I’ll get on Facebook for a month, the last time I’ll eat crème brulee from that restaurant. When I do finally return to Facebook, I watch my friend’s belly swell. I watch the video of her baby shower, the construction of the crib. I look at the ultrasound of her growing fetus, which for a long time resembles a bird wrapping itself in its own wings. Two weeks after what would have been my own child’s birthday, I watch her take her new baby in her arms, and I see the ghost of my baby hovering around the edges of her baby’s face.
I have two children now. Still, each time I see a picture of my friend’s daughter, I see the ghost of my first baby superimposed there. Each time, I put my face a little bit closer to the computer screen. Each time I think, if only for a moment, is it you?
Feature Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash