for keeps

When I was far too young I saw a movie that I never should have seen, it damaged my fragile little psyche so much that I was unwilling to even re-watch it for this article.  This movie is so terrifying, so sadistic, so demonic and soul crushing that I would rather watch all seven Saw films consecutively followed by the Human Centipede before I would even consider watching this film.

Have you seen the  film For Keeps?  It stars Molly Ringwald and tells the story of a couple of High School Kids who get pregnant and decide to keep the baby.   What follows is 90 minutes of a nightmarish hellscape the not even Lars von Trier’s mind could have conceived of.  It goes without saying that these two kids almost literally go through hell, systematically destroying each others lives and childhood.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t.

Your first thought might be that this is a good thing, that it kept me from getting a girl pregnant and ruining our lives.  In reality this movie scarred me so severely that when it came to thinking about having children, even at a responsible age, my entire vision was clouded with memories of this film.  Rather than thinking about our next step I was having images of not going to the college I’d been accepted into, working dead beat jobs and living in a musty brick walled basement.  I imagined a dinner made from Chicken Nuggets, and nonorganic milk.  I couldn’t see the next logical step, I couldn’t even grasp that I was already college graduate, that I was nearly 30 years old, the same age my parents were when I was born.

If there was and is one ongoing theme between my wife and I in pregnancy and parenthood, it’s that she always knows what to do next, and I calm her down when she thinks we took the wrong step.  The week after three plastic pregnancy tests informed me that we were pregnant I really didn’t know what to do next.  You see a doctor I guess?  Luckily my wife was there and knew exactly what to do and scheduled an appointment with a doctor.

The selection of our doctor and hospital was simple, and made simpler when the first OBGYN we called flippantly dismissed us and claimed that there was no need to even bother coming in for another month.  Neither of us were experts but that just didn’t sound right.  So we went with another Hospital and another OBGYN.

We squeezed into a tiny room, it might have been 10’ X 10’ but it easily could have been smaller.  The bulk of that space was consumed with the examining table.  There is a long story involving our doctor that will consume upcoming articles, for that reason I will leave his name as Dr. A, that sounds bad, how about Dr. B.  As it turns out, over the counter pregnancy tests are so accurate these days that they don’t even confirm that you’re pregnant, or so he said.

We briefly discussed the basics of this new drastically changing lifestyle, a new diet, old wives tales, and vitamins.  What was clearly glossed over was any discussion about labor and birthing, at the time for me this felt so far down the road that it hardly merited mention, looking back I realize that we should have forced conversation with Dr. B despite his protests.

I got the distinct impression that this could have been our whole visit, but something, either our subtle insistence or some nagging feeling tickling the back of his spine, he went ahead and did an ultrasound.  This was prefaced with a warning that because this was such an early stage we might not see anything (the yolk sac being the goal).  After five minutes of exploring the gaping void of my wife’s apparently empty uterus the search was called off.

It was disappointing for my wife who was hoping to see the beginning of our baby, for me it was a mixture of emotions.  On the one hand, this all could have been a big mistake and we might not have been pregnant after all, on the other hand I was beginning to wrap my mind around parenthood and was also disappointed.  For me the moment of complete acceptance wouldn’t come for three more weeks.

Here’s where the train began to derail, it was quiet at first, almost imperceptible but later we would literally be able to see the train jump the track and just narrowly avoid getting caught up in a massive wreck.  While it was totally normal not to see anything in the womb at this point (something which was reiterated by Dr. B over and over) his actions suggested that not everything was fine.  He then began to go into a series of worst-case-scenarios, your basic cover your ass speech, which served only to freak out my wife.

In the end it was determined by Dr. B that our hCG levels needed to be checked.  Very little was explained to us about hCG and what they meant, all we knew was that it required a blood draw, and that every 72 hours your hCG levels should at the very least double.  He was the expert and so we went ahead and did as told.  Through the miracle of hindsight I now know that this was the first major warning sign that Dr. B might not be for us.

I now understand that hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, and is made up of cells from the forming placenta.  The levels can be tested as early as 11 days after conception, and will stop doubling/tripling in 8-11 weeks.  The question in our mind remained, why was it so important to test our hCG levels just because we couldn’t see a yolk sac, when that’s totally normal?

Surprise surprise the hCG levels doubled, and we were in fact pregnant.  To celebrate this wonderful news, that doctor scheduled another ultrasound for us at a different clinic, this time hopefully to see the yolk sac and hear the babies heartbeat.

We were six weeks in which most literature will tell you is far too early to hear a heartbeat, our suspicions were confirmed when the technician asked us why we were there?  Why were we there, if not to see the yolk sac and hear a heartbeat?  My wife filled her bladder to bursting capacity and an ultrasound was performed, the yolk sac was there, but no heartbeat.  I should remind you that this is totally normal.

It didn’t really matter how normal this was supposed to be, when the doctor wants to hear a heartbeat, you want to hear it too, and when you don’t it worries you, it depresses you.  The following week Dr. B’s office called to schedule us for another ultrasound.  My vision still clouded and all caught up in the film reel of For Keeps, didn’t know what to do, so I deferred to Jaime.  The clear minded one.

Rather than continue to go back each week to get another ultrasound, hoping to see something that may or may not be there because it’s too early, Jaime took the reigns and decided that we would wait until early January, when we were guaranteed to hear something.  Coincidentally this lined up perfectly with when that original doctors office wanted to see us… maybe we should have seen them first?

To our credit, while we were both eager to hear the heartbeat, we were eager to hear our babies heartbeat.  If this had turned out not to be a viable pregnancy, then we would simply try again, we were both relatively calm and simply decided to wait.

to be continued…


2 thoughts on “for keeps

  1. Probably not your intention, but I now have a very strong desire to watch For Keeps again. It’s been several years. LOL Perhaps its different for women, or maybe just for me, but it wasn’t the near-ruining of their lives that left a mark on me; it was her description of the baby being “ripped out of her” (ouch!) and the ensuing post-partum depression. I thought that was what PPD looked like. Unfortunately, since I was absolutely enamored of my baby and couldn’t get enough of her, I failed to realize that I actually was suffering from PPD, just in a different form. So I think it’s safe to say it’s Molly Ringwald’s fault I went undiagnosed until after the birth of my SECOND child!

    As for the heartbeat and the HcG levels… oy. We went through 5yrs of trying and so many heartbreaks, those visits were absolutely the worst. I was one of those suckers that even rented the fetal doppler just so I could do my own heartbeat checks, that’s how wound tight I was. I miss the joys of pregnancy (we’re done, medical and personal reasons), but I really don’t miss those early weeks. Following your blog and looking forward to reading the rest of the story! 🙂


    • Lynn,
      Reading your comment makes me realize just how little I actually remember about for keeps, or even just how little I understood about what was going on in that movie. It almost makes me wish I had gone back and watched it, almost being the operative word.
      PPD is such a tricky thing, prior to our birth I’d heard some horror stories about it, and there’s a surprising number of women who get it and don’t know it for a prolonged period or until they’re over it. It’s concerning that there isn’t better care or proper warning or concern from the medical community. Our midwife had us very aware of it and in all our post natal checks always made sure to check on my wife’s well being, and even gave us the card of a therapist to talk to just in case.

      Thanks for the kind words.

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