My mother and mother-in-law are both optimistic about this pregnancy. This one, my mother comforts me on the phone, will stick around. My mother-in-law puts her hand on my belly. This one feels lucky.
I have to trust them. I no longer trust myself.
In the first year of trying to get pregnant, I looked for signs and saw them. A moment of revulsion at what I’d fixed for dinner, a twinge of pain in my left breast. I think I’m pregnant, I told my husband, again and again, and we shared a smile each time, thinking this was it. It never was.
A year later, and I’m a week late, and this time my breasts really hurt. I take a pregnancy test and I see the blue control line, proof that it’s working, but also a very faint line next to it, which is supposed to signal pregnancy. It’s not dark, it’s not bold, and I can only see it when I tilt the test in specific lighting, but I take it as a positive, and spend the rest of the day humming. Finally, finally. I phone my husband at work and ask him to pick up a digital pregnancy test on his way home. I want something that says PREGNANT; I don’t want to leave it up to my interpretation of a shadow within a white oval. As we wait for the result that night, we laugh and tease each other, talk about how we’ll hide my pregnancy from our fun-loving, booze-hound friends during the first trimester. When three minutes is up, I tell my husband he should look first. He flips over the test, full of anticipation. His face falls.
“Oh no,” he says quietly.
“What? No, that can’t be right,” I take the test from him. It says NOT PREGNANT. I hate the manufacturers of this test.
“It’s okay, honey,” he says.
“No it’s not….I’m sorry I got you excited for nothing.”
“No, don’t apologize, it’s fine….next month, right?” he looks hopeful.
It doesn’t happen next month or the one after that. I begin distrust myself, my body, my intuition. It is the most terrible betrayal. Many of my friends are crunchy, granola types who have natural childbirths, who labor in a tub in their living rooms, who meditate to prepare for birth, and bury their placentas in the backyard under a mulberry tree. They tell me to trust my body, to trust the process, to trust that eventually I’ll become pregnant. I don’t and I don’t and I don’t. I don’t ever become pregnant naturally, and the betrayal is so great, that I want this so badly, that my body can do so many other things well, but not this, the thing I want the most.
Filling out forms at the doctors’ offices (we’ll end up at many), I have trouble answering the questions. How painful are my periods? Well they feel very painful, but…I’m not sure. Maybe they aren’t. Can I tell when I’m ovulating? I thought I could, I thought I recognized the signs, but maybe I can’t. Maybe what I feel, what I intuit, isn’t reality. Maybe it isn’t anything but the desperate imagination of a desperate woman.
Four months after I miscarry, four years after we first began, I’m pregnant again, and this is the pregnancy the mothers believe in. In the early weeks, between the doctor appointments which are my only proof that the pregnancy is still viable, I don’t trust the nausea I experience. Maybe I want to be sickened by the smell of garlic. I don’t trust the exhaustion that has me in bed by 8 every night. Maybe I’m making myself tired. At a dinner with my husband’s co-workers, they ask me how I feel, and again, I have trouble answering.
“Sick…I think I feel sick,” I say, looking at their beaming faces. “But the next ultrasound is on Monday…so we’ll see then, you know, how things are going.”
“What do you mean?” says one woman who has two children of her own.
“I…I’m afraid I’m making it up…I’m afraid I want to feel signs of pregnancy that aren’t there,” I stutter. The woman looks at me with sympathy–she knows about last spring’s miscarriage–but not exactly with understanding.
I’m now past the iffy first trimester, my stomach growing each week with the proof that the baby exists. The relationship I have with my body is still damaged. The days pass in a wild, swirling mix of sweet belief that my body can do it if I only have faith, and dark despair that we’ll never get there, that my body has lost its way. I’m working to see its strengths, its resilience in the face of so much messiness, instead of seeing only how it has failed me.
In the meantime…I’m going to trust the mothers, who believe my body can do it, who tell me this time will be lucky.