Miscarrying Through the NBA Finals by Kate Suddes

Editor Carrie Ivy, Editor's Choice, May 1st, 2017

"I take a picture of it. I delete it. I un-delete it."

Kate Suddes Essay Nailed Magazine


A personal essay by Kate Suddes.

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Kawhi Leonard was born on June 29, 1991 in Riverside, California. He is at once still and fierce, with a face that betrays nothing. Not the devastation of losing the 2013 NBA finals by a breath, a thread. And (mostly) not the elation, the quiet pride of being named the most valuable player of the 2014 series as he and the San Antonio Spurs took the championship title home.

I sat on my couch and watched almost every minute of the NBA playoffs and finals. The games, the interviews, the press conferences, the pre- and post-game media analysis. I read up on players and coaches — not so much statistics — but the stories and anecdotes that led them to this moment in their lives and careers. I sat on my couch and I teared up with the rest of the country as Kevin Durant accepted the MVP award and anointed his mother with a love letter from a grateful son, a letter every mother dreams of receiving. I quietly raged at Donald Sterling; cemented my support for Doc Rivers.

I sat on my couch and I miscarried my fourth pregnancy — my second miscarriage in 6 months. Miscarry, misplace, misconstrue, misremember. All these words imply a situation that can be remedied. But they are all misleading. I did not put it down in the wrong place and fail to retrace my steps to find it. There is no retrieval.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the pregnancy hormone that in “normal” pregnancies doubles every 24–48 hours. It is a way to know you’re miscarrying before you’re miscarrying. I’ve done it twice now. Watched numbers dwindle, jump a little, but never enough. There’s something else that happens every 24–48 hours in the late spring. NBA playoff games. My hCG is 449.4. The Spurs slide past the Mavericks in game 1. My hCG is 702. The Trail Blazers sneak by the Rockets and I hear fireworks in my neighborhood. My progesterone level drops from 36.54 to 11.25. The Wizards advance to the Eastern conference semi-finals for the first time since 2005. If this shot goes in, they’ll find a heartbeat. When necessary, I’m an expert at magical thinking.

The dictionary definition of miscarriage is “the expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently, especially spontaneously or as the result of accident.” But my little jellybean wasn’t expulsed. Not this one; this sucker was goal oriented and staying on task. He had to be coaxed out; reminded that things had stopped moving forward. There was no spontaneity, no accident. So is it still a miscarriage? I want new words.

They told me it would be like a heavy period. I could go on with my day! Resume normal activities! What they didn’t tell me is that I would also pass a small gestational sac and placenta. I think they must learn to say things like this at some weekend workshop where they shuttle all the midwives and obstetricians. Someplace where they teach them phrases like “you’ll feel pressure, not pain.” As if the eventual reality will not make itself known. You could have told me. This omission feels like you were talking behind my back. I want to look them in the eye and say “Level with me. I labored and gave birth to my full-term dead son. I can put medication on my cervix and wait for it to start while I watch game six of the OKC/Memphis series.”

I hold it in my hand. I take a picture of it. I delete it. I un-delete it. I show it to my husband:

“I feel like we should save it.”

“No, we can’t save it.”

“Well that’s insensitive of you.” (I minored in picking marital fights.)

I flush it down the toilet like a dead fish. Even in its deadness, it’s so perfect. It’s just a miniature version of itself. Ideal for a dollhouse, to place on the windowsill. It’s a moment frozen in time; an image on a pregnancy app telling me “what my baby’s up to today!”

When Kawhi was sixteen, his father was shot and killed at the car wash he owned in Compton. Mark Leonard was finishing up at work so he could get to his son’s game. Kawhi was a junior in high school and he made the decision to play again in another game, 24 hours after his father died. He went on with his day, resumed normal activity.

Kawhi has his numbers and I have mine. This is no exception. This gets added to my statistics. Every appointment from here on out. Have you ever been pregnant? Number of live births? Miscarriages? Stillbirths? Yes, yes, yes. My own version of a triple double.

Mother’s day that year was on what would have been my son’s 18-month-old birthday. I made brunch for friends, I chatted with my neighbor, I went to the grocery store. I did all the things you still do in life, almost as performance. The grief is my real lover and it is a private, searing relationship. I function, thrive even. But those moments alone with my pain are loud and real; they will never fully recede.

Father’s day that year was when Kawhi Leonard accepted his first NBA finals MVP award. He played out of his mind, laughed, he hugged his teammates. But I know. I wink at him. A son without a father. A mother without a son. We’re just versions of the same injured animal. Perhaps this is all his rendition of performance. His discreet, painful moment is awaiting him in the locker room, the shower, his bed. You never know where it will show up. But that quiet moment with his father is coming for him. The absence is constant. Maybe the uniform comes off and he’s just a boy who misses his dad.

I know where I live now. I used to live in a safe house. Kawhi was there too. Where parents and children slept under the same roof. Where the roles were clear and life and death were ordered. I think about all these identities we carry privately. The things that don’t get talked about at dinner parties and to courtside reporters. I wonder which group is larger in my life — the number of people who don’t know I’m miscarrying or the ones who don’t know how intently I follow sports. Maybe this is what the game gives us both. A way to mark time, a way to ameliorate the messy reality. Maybe this is where the overlap occurs; a place to set down the heartache for a few hours. A basketball court and a couch. Where he’s just a basketball player and I’m a just fan. The rest of it will always be waiting for us on the way out the door.

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Header image courtesy of Jean-Francois Lepage. To view his Photographer Feature, go here.

Kate Suddes Essay Nailed MagazineKate Suddes is a writer and mother living in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared on A Cup of Jo, The Manifest-Station, and Ravishly. She has a BFA in Studio Art and MA in Counseling Psychology.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.