I have always loved time.
Not the rushing past of it, mind you — but the concept. The concept of changing time, specifically. Manipulating it, twisting it.
My fascination runs from alternative histories to time travel. But my favorite element of time fantasy?
Time loops. Love them.
“Groundhog’s Day?” Totally my favorite movie growing up. If a movie or book or TV show incorporates a time loop, I’m glued to it.
I love the intricacies associated with theorizing a time loop: how did it happen? Will anyone realize? Who gets to realize they’re trapped? How do they break it?
Time loops were even the quickest way my husband got me to watch :”Star Trek: Enterprise” with him.
So what happens when I find myself trapped in a time loop?
Cis women are, in a manner, in time loops for much of their lives. What do I mean?
What defines most of our sense of time from middle school until menopause? The menstrual cycle.
Every month, we go through the repeated process. A week of bleeding. A week of wanting to screw our partners into the bed. A week of normalcy (sort of). Then a week of cramps, cravings, mood swings, and so on — and that’s regardless of pregnancy or not! Rinse. Repeat. For eternity.
Or, at least decades.
So maybe that’s why I latched onto time loops. I might have even had a high school crush on Michio Kaku.
Now when you’re trying to get pregnant, the time loop that is the menstrual cycle takes on a whole new meaning. A week of “hurry up and stop bleeding.” A week of screwing your partner into the mattress. Then two weeks of, “Oh my god, am I pregnant?”
There are whole websites dedicated to this time period, dubbed the “Two Week Wait,” or TWW, by many. So for women trying to conceive, that’s a pretty stressful time loop; even the week or two of purposeful sex gets monotonous after awhile.
For me, I got to take time loops one step further — only mine was more like those unnerving scenes in “Groundhog’s Day” when Bill Murray repeatedly tries killing himself.
Enter: the world of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss.
RPL is a condition that affects 1-5% of women. There’s no other diagnostics than 2, or 3 depending on your doctor, pregnancy losses in a row. Some say clinical — as in you had to have an ultrasound showing something. Others say it doesn’t matter, as even a chemical pregnancy was a pregnancy, no matter how short it was.
What are the causes? Good question. There are many and none. There is every little possible autoimmune marker you never knew existed to screen for and then there also thousands of dollars (if, lucky you, you live in the U.S.) to spend on procedures to check everything from the ceiling of your uterus to the tips of your little ovaries. There are vials of bloods to take that might make you feel you deserve a cookie and orange juice after. There are drugs and supplements and lifestyle changes you can do to make you feel like, yes you, YOU can stop all this badness from happening if you just didn’t touch that one Starbucks frappuccino that one day (for the caffeine AND the sugar AND the dairy!).
But mostly? There is nothing. An estimated 70% of RPL cases are (if not due to advanced maternal age.. And even then, not over 35, but over 40) unexplained.
“Bad luck,” as one of my reproductive endocrinologists said. Well, someone has to flip the coin to heads six times in a row, right?
So in my time loop, virtually every cycle we try to conceive, I get pregnant. Sometimes, even when we’re actively trying to prevent (eesh).
Like clockwork, I feel the symptoms that — by now — I know are not PMS but are actually a pregnancy, and by 10-14 days after I’ve ovulated (sometimes suspected ovulation dates, sometimes confirmed) sure enough, there are my bathroom counter full of pregnancy tests.
And I mean that last part. Every morning. Sometimes afternoon. Then the evening, too. And I keep repeating those damn tests because even before one loss I was always worried about losing this hypothetical baby.
Now, with six under my belt, I keep “WondFo,” “First Response,” and “ClearBlue” in business.
Like Bill Murray, my loop resets in different ways. Sometimes it’s after the tests I compulsively took for a week start getting fainter until I begin bleeding. In others, everything’s good until one day I’m bleeding and in agonizing cramps. Sometimes, I don’t even know my loop is resetting until a doctor gives me the bad news!
Then we begin again.
But like the character of Phil Connors, there’s a breaking point. I’ve done the “self improvement” angle. I’ve taken a pantry full of supplements and eaten healthy to the point that I don’t even taste my food anymore, but the loop still continues to that one inevitably moment: the pregnancy ends.
I’ve also dabbled with the bitter moments. When Connors infamously takes the groundhog on a joyride through town before driving it over the edge of a cliff. I’ve found myself on that edge many, many times recently.
But what can one make of this sort of time loop? Where sure enough, you feel that one special type of cramping that lets you know the party’s over — again — and nothing you’re doing or not doing seems to matter.
Did you know there are whole philosophical arguments on “Groundhog’s Day”? People have written papers on the subject. Harold Ramis was Buddhist when he wrote it, and some say the movie evokes the religion’s philosophy that it takes 10,000 years for the soul to evolve into the next level.
So do I need 9,994 more losses before I reach Nirvana? Am I Connors, in that I am such an asshole that I’m being punished with these miscarriages until I wise up to something? I promise I’m not getting into Facebook arguments anymore! I recycle!
French philosopher Albert Camus would say that there is no purpose or meaning to any of this grief and loss. Unlike a nihilist, who would say, “So why bother at all?” an absurdist like Camus would say, “There’s no reason for the grief and loss — but why not keep trying? It’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Yes… but where is the line? Where would your line be? Where is mine?
I remember reading a story once where eventually no one could break the time loop they were in, and as a result, heat energy built up from time looping upon time. And then everyone gradually disappeared from existence, even the space they were occupying.
So how do I break out of this loop?