It was about a month ago. J and I had returned from Berlin, our honeymoon destination, a week earlier and I finally mustered the courage to ask him,
What if I told you that my boobs have been hurty for the last day or so?
A larger part of me than my pride cares to admit didn’t want to tell him. There feels to me a dangerous assumption in our world that women cry wolf. But considering we’d been trying for a pregnancy for several months, taking tests, checking out my belly in profile, wondering if maybe, maybe now… Questioning to myself, Am I just fatter than usual? Is it just that I have burrito belly? And I would say to him, Maybe I am. And he would say, gently, it’s not likely to show up in evidence there that quickly. And a week later, my body would concur by making it clear I was not. Nope, my body would tell me, just cake belly.
This would go on for several months, several months of buying pregnancy tests in bulk, of the check-out counter girl telling me she hoped the results were what I wanted. And I would go home, hold my breath, pee on a stick, and hope. Then, results in, I would despondently cap the test, re-wrap it in its plastic sleeve and deposit it in the trash quickly, ashamedly, as if it had exposed some deep vulnerability. Which, of course, it had.
The last two times I’ve peed this dance, I’ve felt the compounding nature of months of disappointment. Earlier, it was easy(er) to say, “Well, we haven’t been very ritualized about our timing,” “We haven’t really been trying diligently,” and I would watch the calculations on my mental calendar extend.
Because I’d had it all worked out, you see.
Counting months from the summer attempts, it would be a Spring baby (if all went well) and that would be so great for a teacher’s timing — deliver at the end of the school year, have several months at home over the long summer, and desultorily return back to school in the Fall, delivering my child this time to the care of another.
It was the optimal timing. And besides, it worked for my friend Jess who’s a teacher. She got pregnant on her honeymoon in August and followed the gestational plan like a Swiss watch. Surely, if she could do it, so could I/we.
Yet, as the months ticked away this summer with another negative line, another round of menses, I would have to recount and replan and force this new plan to be acceptable in my mind. A summer baby is okay; we’ll have a 1/2 birthday for them so they can celebrate with their peers at school; school birthday parties are so important when they’re young. … Okay, well, Fall birthday, okay, well the school age-start, we’ll have to decide if they’re to be a year ahead or a year behind their classmates; no worries, I have friends who’ve made either decision, just like my brother and I took either route.
New and revised plans laden, too, with disappointment, curiosity, worry, and damnable hope.
If it doesn’t work out to have natural children, I told my close friend before it all began — as J and I are older, I have chemo’d ovaries, we both have mental illness in our families, plus the myriad of reasons why a zygote decides not to become a person — then we’re open to the adoption conversation, or the foster one, or the refugee family hosting conversation. J and I are very fortunate and we have a lot to give. I’m open.
And… I am. But I would not be without a feeling of loss. I am honest enough to know this about myself. I am honest enough to admit that the idea of seeing what our DNA creates thrills me (as much as it worries me). To admit that carrying on a lineage, a descendancy, feels important to me. To admit that I know the hill of adoption and fostering is rewarding, as I’ve seen it be beyond measure for friends and family, but I know, too, that it comes with baked-in abandonment issues that can create ripples.
And so, when a month ago I turned to J in bed and asked him how he might feel if I told him I was having a sign of pregnancy — one that wasn’t on my mental list of knowns, one that I couldn’t have made up because I hadn’t known of it, one that could not be cried wolf — it was elating. Thrilling. And harrowing for how it could turn out at any which point.
For that week-long period, we examined the different changes, weighing my breasts in our hands, noticing they felt not only sore, but full, like a laden water balloon, wresting from our memory the way they’d felt before that week. And indeed, they were different. And every day I felt and cupped and squoze, and imagined.
I told my mom, with the preface to be cautious in her reaction, that my boobs were hurty, and she said that was her first sign, too.
A few days after my initial inquiry, I built up the courage to show him the darkening line on my lower abdomen, the one I’d colloquially heard as the “climbing line,” that pregnant women get — some say as a guide for a birthed person to climb up to the milky breasts upon birth if the mother is unable to guide them. I checked it, this amber-colored stain we were both sure was new, in the mornings when it was certain it couldn’t be an imprint of my jeans’ zipper or a seam.
I began to notice that my jeans were fitting differently around my thighs, the cloth feeling tighter, and I looked it up online. It is an early sign, the thickening of the thighs as they begin to store fat to become milk upon arrival of the baby. I added it to my growing list of evidence — and I took the pregnancy tests.
But. They told me: No. They told me what I was experiencing in my body was not a pregnancy. And I told them they were wrong, that it was too early, maybe, just hardly two weeks. I told the blood test at the doctor’s the same thing. No, you’re wrong. Touch my breasts, look at this line.
But my body had the final word, too: the flow came, and I sat on the toilet in our tiled-white bathroom and I wept.
I know that our bodies are limitlessly wise, and I do not fault the Universe for sorting this one out because I know its reasons are always(?) legitimate. DNA melding and dividing is a probability crap shoot, and sometimes the house rakes all our chips back in and tells us better luck next time.
So. Here we are: “Next time.” With hurty boobs. A week to go before the jury releases its decision.
And I am yet to know how much heartache I will endure.