Our Pregnant Week
went in for Q-tips. But at the Walgreens, I was reminded of the
persistent, recent...bigness of my boobs, and the little nuggets I’d
found on my last self-exam. My insomnia had been out of control, and I'd
been crying. A lot. I’d missed my period in September, but that wasn't
strange. I always skip, vague confirmations from gynecologists my PCOS
was culprit. I picked up the 2-pack EPT anyway - plainly, I just felt
eerie. I must have, because when I was grappling with the immutable plastic wrapper
over my bathroom sink, my hands were shaking.
digital stick blooped an hourglass while the other, a 90's standby,
spread pink to indicate it was working. Minutes later, I was howling on
my living room floor, faced with a faint blue + sign in one hand, and
the digital's definitive, tiny text-‘Pregnant’- in the other. I left
the detritus of receipts, plastic, boxes and the digital test on
the floor and got on my bike, the + sign burning a decision in my jacket
pocket. I rode, trembling, with no cell, ID or money on me, just a
pregnancy test. I hoped I wouldn't get hit in my distraction- what an
opener. I marched into my friend Dondrie’s kitchen and laid the test
on her counter, demanding she say the vertical line was too faint, that
all the antibiotics I was on for chronic Lyme Disease (oh fuck, what
created a false positive, that there was no way. Not a flincher by
nature, she ignored that I’d basically laid a urine sample inches from
her olive oil collection and we went through the facts. Jared and I had
an accident the month before and I'd taken Plan B immediately, confident
in its ability to perform its only role.
It was the one time we'd had sex in weeks, as I'd had an abnormal pap
in August and several biopsies peppering my calendar- sex was off limits
in either direction of that night. One time. But this sure looked +,
amongst all the coincidences. I tried to figure out how to tell Jared.
He'd be thrilled, I knew. He wanted to be a dad more than anything, and
we'd been talking more and more about the future and its hypotheticals.
Fuck, I had to get home before him. Finding a plastic stick with the
word 'Pregnant’ lying on the living room floor wasn’t an optimal way to
tell him. I zoomed home, called some feminists, cried more.
we were on the same couch, different planets. Jared
was shocked, thrilled and confused as to why, at the other end of the
sofa, I soaked my shirt with tears and snot and listed all the reasons
this wouldn't work. I wasn't well yet. We had no money. We weren't
I wasn't ready. And now I had to make a choice, and for all the Second Sex parroting
I’ve done throughout my post-undergrad life, I didn't want my freedom to choose. I
wanted it just to go away, which isn't really the hallmark of pregnancy.
stayed up all night, guilty for disappointing him, horrified by my
prospects. I couldn't have a baby. The Lyme Disease- I’m septic,
inhospitable to a child. Worse, I am
a child. You can't trust me. Selfish, stunted, I don't want anything
that relies just on me. I had a terrible relationship with my own
mother and the way she died. I wasn't ready to eat carbs for the sake
of another person. When the sun came up, I made an appointment with an
OBGYN to confirm the false positive. I made an appointment with my Lyme
doctor, who’d say this wasn’t viable, as I’d just started a new,
aggressive antibiotic protocol. My new insurance company wouldn’t cover
this pre-existing condition. I’d call my father, who’d gently say this
wasn't the right time. Tuesday would be full of outs! Someone would tell me what to do, none of it would be my fault, and I'd bring Jared with me as witness.
outs. I was pregnant, my blood said so. At one point, as I lay in the
stirrups, the OB, Jared and I all had our IPhones out, calculating conception date based on a particular episode of
This American Life.
At 4.5 weeks, there was nothing on the screen, but, abstractly yes, there
was a scattering of cells hanging out in my groin. At the moment they
wanted nothing from me, vice versa. I didn't have to make a choice
for a few weeks, she said. She also told me, with her hand on my ankle,
everything I felt was normal. That motherhood was never exactly the
Right Time. No out from my Lyme doc, either- plenty we could do, she
said, if I wanted to keep it. Safe antibiotics, a 1% chance of
passing it. She was compassionate, impartial. The insurance company?
Totally fine, they said. "It’s a pre-existing condition plan", the polite
but confused gentleman told me when I said he was probably
wrong. "You could have 10 conditions besides Lyme and you'd be covered. Thank Obama."
Jared and I sat over speakerphone as I lost another opportunity to avoid
Finally, my dad. He'd
tell me to give it up. "Congratulations!" he said. Oh. Why not, he
said. Two smart, silly, creative people making a baby is a beautiful
thing. We need more of that. Money would come later. For now, "It's
your choice, my daughter".
outs. Jared and I had to talk about it ourselves. I was calmer. Points
and counterpoints and hours. He supported me either way. He understood
the fear, much as a man can.
I asked if he'd stick by me, but we both knew he wasn't the one we needed to worry about.
the brief period of Ambivalence with a Side of C-Cup. I told a few
close friends, who had happy but restrained reactions. Jared told his
parents. The concerns were equal- my health was paramount, as I was the
real person here, but if there was a likelihood this would work out,
what a joy this might be. I began to be infected with peoples’ love.
With the sense that maybe my practical fears were a cover for
insecurity. Maybe I could do it. With all the odds- the Plan B, the
PCOS pessimism, Lyme, the
thing- maybe this little packet of cells, soon to resemble a Jordan
almond, soon to resemble me and Jared, was snuggling in, sticking to my
sides, sticking by me because it believed in me. I didn't have ideal
health. I didn't have money. But I had love. Love is more than many
mothers have. Mother? Girlfriend. Artist. Reluctant sick person.
Self-centered fraud in therapy. Mother? I pored over thebump.com, a site
I had visited probably as often as gunworld.com. I thought about names.
I thought about how bad of a thing it would be to raise a tiny,
brilliant boy to respect women, dress him in seersucker.
rolled over and looked at Jared and told him we would go for it. I
didn't feel good, or happy. But I knew what the right decision was. I
wouldn't meet him in his cautious excitement, not yet, and asked him to
be patient with me till I got there. I wasn't happy but I was right. I
could do it. He kissed me over and over. We discussed names and the
benefits of baptism, which I had previously considered baby
waterboarding for superstition's sake but is apparently an effective way
of preventing a baby going to limbo plus a significant dollar amount in
I dazedly filled the progesterone and prenatal vitamins prescription. I
got a crash course in acronyms and hormones from a midwife standing at
the pharmacy. I asked the guy at the health food store what he
recommended for juicing. I looked at us from the outside- to him, I
wasn’t an immature, self-indicting, scared 31 year old who had been
thrust a curve ball and was trying out new dialogue on a stranger,
rehearsing. I wasn’t those things- I was just a pregnant woman from the
neighborhood. I rode to Prospect Park and sat by the lake, watching the
dazzling reflections over the water. I called my dad and Dondrie. She believes in miracles and said a baby is a
That night I started spotting. A rush of terror and protective love swept over me when I saw it.
palette I won't go into, but from what I gathered from the obsessives
on the internet, this was common. I got off the websites and message
boards, where the frequency of multiple, panicky punctuation (!?!?!,
:), !!!!) was proportionate to the understanding of 'they're'
vs. 'their'. Although many commenters offered 'piece of mind', I still
went through a roll of toilet paper that night, obsessively checking
texture, color and changes. I called the OB who said to stay calm and
off my feet. I went from ambivalent to very afraid.
spotting, more toilet paper, more googling. The irony of timing gnawed.
I watched SVU till the sun went down. I Facebooked Tamara, a midwife
friend, who wished me well “whether this pregnancy is what brings you to
motherhood or is the pregnancy that makes you realize you want to be a
mother." But why would it show up at all if it wasn't going to stick
around? Why would it leave me the
day I told it I wanted it? Jared played bluegrass into my stomach.
More spotting. Laid down. Jared prayed. I looked at the wall while he did it.
blood became unmistakably red around 8pm. I sat on the toilet and
stared. I tried crying, because I figured that's what you do: that weepy
trip to the toilet that 1 in 5 women take in early pregnancy. It was
ok. We had gotten attached to an idea. We'd never seen a heartbeat.
There was nobody even there. Still, I sat and stared. He came home
around 11. His crying made me really cry. I cramped, bearably, and we
watched TV. I figured we were done.
am it started. Blood. Pain. I couldn’t have imagined this pain. By 3, I
was too weak to get to the bathroom and could only lie on the couch,
wiping myself pathetically, mounding the trashcan next to my head with
red toilet paper and a little vomit. He sat next to my head, wiping
blood from my hands while I pictured whirring blenders filled with shiny
springs and razors inside me, of a pinball machine shooting a little
ball made of fire. I saw a sickly yellow ocean. The waves would crumble into
ochre parchment when a particularly bad contraction would happen. Hours.
The on-call OB told a stammering, panicking Jared there was nothing we
could do; the ER would give me ibuprofen. All we could do was wait it
out. A natural miscarriage means endurance
and certain suffering. It hurt to breathe or speak but I whispered
apologies for whatever I’d done. The blood flowed black and exquisite
red. Around 7 am, the cramps had slowed to about three minutes apiece. We
got in a cab and returned to the same OB office at which, not a week
before, I’d sat confused and crying. But it felt like years ago.
sat on a cotton pad to keep from bleeding on the exam table. Her tone
was the perfect physician's balance of frank and sad, and after conferring with my
ultrasound, confirmed there was no longer any trace of anything. She was sorry, but
reminded me that, on Tuesday, I wasn't even sure I wanted it. That we'd
meet again when the time was right. Some bloodwork, to confirm my body
didn’t think it was pregnant anymore- sure enough, my once-blossoming
hormone levels had shrunk to numbers I now imagined as pitiful,
humiliating. A failure. We went home.
I figured out, exactly a week later: That physical pain is very, very
relative, as is the definition of health. I can see a reason to regain
my health, outside wanting to get back into my former 5 mile runs, stay
a size 8. I want to be healthy for a role bigger than myself. That
Jared and I are in it, even if it’s blood and loss. That this is a loss,
no matter when. That Tamara was right- this one forced me to see I
Here's what I
get- why this happened. Why it has to be so excruciating, that knife
twist of trauma plus physical pain and all that blood that’s still
flowing as I write and will continue to for another 10 days or so, a
reminder I'm a woman and that we gotta carry so much. I also
don't understand why someone would ever try this again, knowing how
terribly it might go. Today, I’m trying to let Sunday night become
merely a haunting while grasping at those few Thursday moments at the
lake where I believed I was much more than myself. That I could, in
fact, be grand.