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Journal, Day One

By Rachel Zucker

So, this past March I’m having dinner at Max Soha with my husband. A newish Italian restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue and 123rd street frequented by the upscale Columbia community, the restaurant is small—only about 10 tables—cozy, and lit mostly with candles. I am drinking my second glass from the carafe of red table wine my husband and I are sharing. It’s the first alcohol I’ve had in three months and I’m starting to feel warm and slow. I imagine Jonah in the belly of the whale felt warm and slow as well. Then again perhaps I’m thinking of a Disney version of Pinocchio—maybe Jonah felt claustrophobic and panicked and terribly alert. I drink more wine.

“Does it make you feel weird knowing you’ll write about this?” my husband asks.
I know exactly what he means despite the wine and the low light and the ambient noise. Let me fill in more details so the question can make sense enough to you for me to write about why it so unsettles me. First of all, the wine is a self-imposed consolation prize: I am no longer pregnant so I can drink to excess. Actually, technically, I am pregnant. But there is no baby or fetus or embryo inside me. A week earlier we had gone in for a nuchal translucency test—a sonogram and blood test preformed between 11-13 weeks that assesses the risk of fetal abnormalities based on various markers. I was 11 1/2 weeks pregnant. We were loud and jokey in the waiting room. I felt sorry for the other pregnant women who looked timid and nervous. We weren’t nervous. We have two sons—seven and five years old. Each time we’d tried to get pregnant we’d had no trouble at all. (In fact, once we hadn’t really been “trying.”) Why should we be nervous? Also, as a labor doula I’ve attended eight births and have come to believe that women are naturally perfectly equipped to make and birth babies and that, in general, the less anyone interferes with this process the better. In line with this philosophy I was planning a home birth and had not yet gone in for a prenatal visit. I was big and terribly nauseated. I was confident in my body’s ability to nourish and grow and birth this baby. I felt sure that this baby was a girl. I felt sure that everything was fine.


“Does it make you feel weird knowing you’ll write about this?”
In fact, at the moment he asked the question I had been thinking about a phrase—it was the subject line to an e-mail I had received that afternoon—that would, I was thinking, be an effective title to a poem: “Welcome to the Blighted Ovum Support Group.” I was turning words over in my mind, fashioning a first line. Yeah, I did feel weird. The timing of his questions made me feel uncomfortably transparent.

Everything was not fine. The technician slid the controls over my belly up and down, around in circles. I’d seen enough sonograms to be pretty confused, right away, by what I did not see.
“Where’s the baby?” I asked her.
“I’m having trouble finding it,” she said. What? Was the baby hiding? “This is your placenta,” said the technician, “and this is the sac.” Around and around went the wand on my slippery belly. The placenta. The sac. “I’m going to get the doctor and see if he wants to do a transvaginal scan.” That’s when I knew. Something was wrong. If he wants to do a transvaginal? What if he didn’t want to do a transvaginal scan? How would they find the baby?


“Does it make you feel weird knowing you’ll write about this?”

It is an uncomfortable question not only because I feel exposed.
It is uncomfortable because I feel I’ve been caught doing something unseemly. And yet, this is what I do: make poems, make poems out of my life. Why does it feel dirty?


I’ve never blogged before. I think it a place where one writes, informally, about what one is doing, reading, thinking, experiencing. It is a Web journal intended for general public consumption, a kind of writing that is often about unseemly subject matter, a genre that is almost always autobiographical.
No one expects otherwise. We may wonder if the blog writer or the blog reader is wasting his time, but we take for granted the confessional nature of the blog. It seems, therefore, a good place to consider the question of why writing poems about life events such as a miscarriage bothers me (and sometimes others) and why these are, nevertheless, the kinds of poems that interest me the most.

Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, June 19th, 2006 by Rachel Zucker.