Standing At The Peak: A Pregnancy Story
Cue McFadden & Whitehead's Ain't No Stopping Us Now, because we did it. After three years of infertility, numerous (and sometimes invasive) tests, nightly prayers, encouragement in the form of tears and whiskey, and posts here and there to document it along the way, Ben and I are expecting! Can you hear us shouting bursts of joy from the mountaintops!? The wait was long and taxing. If you saw Ben and I wildly dancing at this news (the same dance moves to undoubtedly embarrass our future child), I hope you couldn't help but jump in. It is like the choreographed dance scenes in movies we all roll our eyes to, but secretly want to participate. We are sitting at the 17-week mark with a due date of October 28th. Even as I write "due date," I am in disbelief.
When I posted about infertility being my new normal, unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant. I was two days late when I hit publish, but this didn't give me pause. Infertility was normal at the time. My period was late before, and according to my track record, it would be late again. But when seven days rolled around, and still no period, my pulse increased. Could this be it? I reigned in my excitement. I had been a week late before. That particular time, we were approaching a year into trying. People repeated to us, "It can take up to a year." As we hit the milestone year of trying, my excitement was rampant, even before the pregnancy test. I felt with my entire soul I was pregnant. There was the first pregnancy test (negative), followed by a second test from a different brand (negative again), and then the door officially slammed on our optimism as I received one of the most gut-wrenching periods. It was a back breaker, literally and figuratively.
So, one week late, we've been here before. I put off taking the pregnancy test as long as I could until Ben couldn't wait any longer. I couldn't wait either. What I had no problem delaying was the disappointment if the test was negative. Those three minutes waiting for the test results were as gruesome as the three years leading up to it. I walked into my bedroom, forgot what I wanted to do and walked back to the bathroom. I washed my face with hand soap accidentally and then corrected it with actual face wash and extra lotion. I gave the test four, maybe five minutes to be sure. I looked down, and there were two solid pink lines. According to this $8.99 drugstore purchase, I was pregnant. I stood there in a daze. I looked in the bathroom mirror, and the image reflected back was disheveled (I don't remember what I was doing that day to look so run down, but pregnancy does that to you). I waited for the tears to come, but they didn't show. I walked halfway down the staircase and said to Ben, "Come look at this, I think we did it." He agreed it was positive. We embraced in our bathroom with airlock grips, both in a state of shock. Ben was better at celebrating than me, howling with our dog, Opal, at a uncomfortable high pitch. I could not wrap my head around it.
This was a moment we had been working toward, manifesting for years. It was our number one topic of conversation. It consumed my mind and heart in unhealthy ways at times, but also had its moments of beauty. Our strength as partners was tested in ways we couldn't have imagined when exchanging vows: dealing with my feeling of failure on a primal level, Ben's frustration with taking a backseat when it came to my physical testing, managing our feelings of envy when our goal was easily achieved by those close to us.
This last challenge made us vulnerable more than all others combined. It exposed our flaws both as a team and individuals. When those near to us became pregnant, it was hard for us not to bathe in failure. It is easy to be a failure, to use this harsh term as an infinite label. It was hard to be secure in the fact that our time would come. Together, we were able to pick ourselves up and feel true joy for others' pregnancies. We always came back to the fact that we would never want our joy to be the source of others' pain. If they saw us in this sad state because of their pregnancy, they would feel guilt. Under no circumstance should anyone be made to feel guilty about expecting a child, or for that matter, any other accomplishment in life. It should be screamed loud and proud! Remembering our actions and feelings don't simply affect us helped us to overcome jealously. One day it would be our turn, and those we hold close would be nothing but ecstatic for us. It was our time to be supportive and over the moon for them. This logic (which I repeatedly wrote in my journals as though it was a punishment in school) kept us afloat. It helped us to be present for others' big moments.
Well, our time was now. After our aggressive embrace and high-pitched yells, we took a bathroom selfie. That was it. I thought there would be more drama, after all it took three years to get here. But, there were no uncontrollable cries, wide bewildered eyes or breathless gasps. It was unlike me. There was a sense of relief, though. I had been on a hike and finally reached the peak. My heart was silently grateful scanning the scene; my mind overwhelmed with the feat we accomplished.
I've had a tough pregnancy thus far, only to find solace in the last two weeks. I have been fighting nausea and vomiting. I do not think I have encountered anything worse than meat smells! I am gagging just typing the word, meat. My energy tank constantly runs on E. I nap more than I did in college. I had a moment of silence for all the whiskey I will not be drinking this summer. But, by far, the worse was the fainting spells at the beginning. One instance was during a much-anticipated public event. If you were at the Tarana Burke speech, hosted by PublicSource, and heard about a lady fainting in the church lobby... well, guilty as charged. That was me. In my defense, I did not know I was pregnant yet. A shout out to the volunteer and security guard who helped curb my embarrassment, broke my fall, and searched the pews for my friend who attended the speech with me. This was my first fainting experience, and it is scary as shit to faint. I woke up confused and vulnerable. An ambulance was called and all I could think about was how distracting the blue and red lights must had been to those sitting in the back pews. Luckily, I had a hat on to hide my flushed, yet drained face. I didn't go to the hospital, just home to Ben where I collapsed into a pile of humiliation and tears. Luckily, the second two fainting episodes happened in the comfort of my home. It was still scary, but the shame was absent.
There are moments, besides the big moment at the end, which awaken the value of pregnancy. Our first doctor's appointment was the reminder I needed during week 11. It was on a Friday during the first week of April. I was in an exposed gown and Ben was sporting his CMU gear and backwards cap. This is where we heard him or her for the first time. It was a speeding heartbeat. It sounded excited, like it couldn't wait to meet us. Ben fist pumped in the air and tears slid down my face like shooting stars. This was my moment. I have been experiencing relentless morning sickness (let's call it like it is: all-day sickness), fainting episodes and a steep drop of physical energy; but it was erased when listening to my baby's life rhythm. I felt confirmation all the hardship will lead to a payoff beyond my comprehension.
The reality I will be a mother is slowly hitting me. Planning the nursery, seeking advice from friends on crib mattresses and nausea remedies, realizing Ben and I will no longer have major holidays without a child, these all expose the reality. My friend Jill gifted me a darling outfit: palm leaf printed pants with a matching beanie and a shirt which read, "Worth the Wait." I uncontrollably cried when I opened the gift (now I am back to my old self!). The thought and care behind the gift made my heart overflow. I couldn't help but think some of those tears were ones held back during the road to pregnancy. As much as I shared my infertility, there were still feelings held close to my chest. There were breakdowns in an unmade bed listening to September Song by Anges Obel and tantrums against ovulation kits resulting in a pathetic cleanup of what seemed like a million tiny toothpicks. Infertility is not easy. It is not easy to experience, and it is not easy to watch someone close to you experience. The pain of my journey may fall to the background as I move further into my pregnancy, but it will not vanish completely. When I think about my path to writing this announcement, the ache is as real as ever. I am slowly accepting this time of heartbreak and allowing a scar to develop. My infertility is a keepsake. It is not a keepsake I wanted, but it holds remembrance nonetheless. I am not far enough removed from my infertility to say it made me stronger or measure its value. Right now, it was simply the path to pregnancy, the path to the mountaintop. We are glad to be here.