The Problem with Automated Toilets
T/W: Graphic description of human miscarriage.
AUTOMATIC TOILETS ARE THE BANE of my everyday existence. They’re supposed to be eco-friendly, okay. So why do they flush while I’m squatted over the toilet, trying to wipe myself with some dignity? (I suppose my first mistake was trying to wipe with dignity; no one can achieve the impossible.) I end up double-flushing, wasting the water I would have otherwise saved. It flushes when I’m not ready, achieving an impressive portfolio of misdemeanors every year. The most common it when it completely catches me off-guard when I’ve just put the seat cover down and haven’t even unbuttoned my pants yet.
The least common was when it swallowed my baby.
Many people—myself included, depending on the circumstance—don’t even believe that a seven-week-old gestational sac is a baby. It’s a cluster of cells, a parasite feeding on the mother’s blood--
But my cluster, my parasite, my blood.
It felt like a heavy period. Like my body was leaking. I was in the ER, bleeding consistently, and I knew what was happening cognitively and was processing each step. I was having a panic attack, I told the triage nurse, but it was getting better every moment now and it was 80% contained. The cramps were somewhere between a 5 and a 7 on the pain scale depending on the moment. I had been bleeding for a little over 24 hours, I was 7 weeks pregnant, it was my first pregnancy, the first date of my last period was October 21st, I was taking a pre-approved 40 milligrams of citalopram, drinking 1 cup of decaf per day. Everything could be reduced to numbers.
Except the small, definitive plop in the toilet.
It was different from the rest of the blood. Thicker. More defined. I turned to look at it, absurdly fascinated, somehow distant from the cramping, terrified woman who filled my body—it was a circle. Distinctly circular.
I wondered if I could see anything swimming in it. Probably not, but I wanted to try.
And then that fucking automatic toilet flushed and it was gone.
It was only a flicker of a moment that I saw it. Comparatively the same amount of time that I’d known my child at all, relative to my life. My husband had gazed interestedly at the screen while the technician performed the ultrasound, wondered if he was seeing something. Neither of us were.
I didn’t cry then. I remarked, amusedly, that I thought I just passed an embryo. (I didn’t do very well in biology. So sue me.) My husband looked at me crookedly, trying to see if I was okay, and I reassured him I was. It was all over. Just a matter of waiting for the medical people to confirm the results.
That didn’t stop me from sobbing uncontrollably into his shoulder the next day. Or the day after that. It was stupid, I told myself, how attached I had allowed myself to get to this little thing, knowing the statistics, knowing the immense probability that it wouldn’t last.
I thought it was a girl. I called her Parker in my head.
Three weeks later I stand in a Gryffindor jersey with purple hair and red lipstick in a bathroom in a bar, and it’s hard to believe that I was planning to be a mother. To be fair, I may have had the same purple hair and red lipstick while pregnant, too, also probably in a bar, and of course the Gryffindor jersey is a must; even though nothing has outwardly changed, everything has changed internally.
Except that it hasn’t, not completely, and that’s a stunning thing to realise.
It feels, now, like it happened to someone else. My body feels like it always did. It's like I know this history happened and I can remember it in vivid detail, but it's like my character experienced it, and not me.
Maybe it's a coping mechanism?
Maybe it doesn't matter.
In that bar the toilets are automatic. They try to flush, like they always do, when I put the seat cover on the seat. I hold the cover down while it does its thing, feeling like I’ve outsmarted it, like I have control. I know it’s an illusion. But I don’t fucking care.
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