Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: Getting My Pre-Pregnant Body Back to Get Pregnant Again
When I came back from my honeymoon, everyone I encountered had a hearty and terrifying CONGRATULATIONS! for me. Terrifying because I didn’t know if they were offering a congrats for my wedding, or for my pregnancy, which was no more.
I’d sent out a slew of text messages immediately upon learning my pregnancy wasn’t going to make it, asking all my friends who knew to please text all their friend they’d told, hoping that the text chain would reach everyone who had ever known about my short-lived pregnancy.
But. I live my life on the Internet, and in the wedding photos people were commenting on, I looked hella pregnant. At an event right before my wedding I also looked super pregs, and lots of people clocked me as having finally gotten knocked up.
Someone I’d never shared anything with posted on my Facebook wall about how excited she was to see my baby pictures. So, with every congratulations, I tensed up, not sure how to respond.
At my least graceful I blurted, “I’m not pregnant,” leaving the kind congratulator to stutter and explain, "I meant about your marriage." So I started asking, “Oh, what for?”, which is probably totally weird from someone who just posted her wedding photos all over the Internet, but I always have my reputation as a space cadet to fall back on. “Oh right -– my wedding!!! Thank you!!!”
After one woman I nervously snapped “I’m not pregnant!” at sent me a sweet message detailing her own experience with miscarriage, I started to calm down. Maybe. A little.
One thing I wanted to happen pronto was for my body to return to it’s pre-pregnancy state. Even though it was only all the progesterone shots and estrogen patches making me look pregnant, the fact is I had been pregnant and I had looked pregnant, even if what everyone was seeing was just a few undigested burritos.
If I thought it sucked to be mistaken for pregnant when I was aspiring toward pregnancy, it super-duper-uber sucked to get mistaken for pregnant after I’d miscarried.
I decided to try out the yoga studio around the corner from my new place. My new neighborhood is way out by the ocean and isn’t chock full of businesses like my old one –- no gyms or French cafes or creperies or even a drugstore. We got a health food co-op, a fancy farm-to-table joint impossible to get a table at, a chain-smoking dry cleaner with a little dog named Sushi, a coffee shop that sells only coffee, cinnamon toast and fresh coconuts, a Vietnamese restaurant famous for their "drunken crab," and a 7-11. The closest thing to a gym was this yoga studio, so I put on a pair of pajamas (my workout clothing and sleepwear are interchangeable) and got their early enough to lay my mat out in a prime location on the floor.
OK, it has been a very long while since my last yoga class, and even at my most ardent I don’t go regularly. Still, I’m usually able to keep up. Not this time.
Firstly, it didn’t help that I had actually put my mat on the floor upside-down, which I didn’t realize until I was slipping all over it, and then was too proud to fix it. And so I kept sliding. Which was awful, because as it was I was having a terrible time holding the simplest of poses.
My body trembled and sweat. My wrists were killing me, making plank doubly impossible. Normally I can barrel through a yoga class. I can’t do inversions, but everything else I can into trying and failing and trying again –- I believe in the lip service yoga gives to showing up in the body you have and doing your best. But in this class, my failures way outnumbered the little moments of triumphs that made me feel like a temporary badass.
My body felt totally foreign to me as I assumed each new asana -– lumpy and tight, weak and achy.
Giving myself permission to default to Child’s Pose whenever the struggle became too stressful was a slope as slippery as my upside-down mat. Soon, I was just hanging out with my forehead on the floor, my body in a slump behind me. I started to cry.
I’d fallen so out of touch with my body over these past months of on-again/off-again exercise, always having to stop all activity once I got an embryo transferred. Enduring nightly shots of progesterone, feeling my body constipate and bloat, the weird food cravings and repulsions during my pregnancy -– of course I was out of my body. It had become a sort of gnarly place to be.
Laying face-down on the floor in the yoga studio, hearing the motions of the yogis around me as they lifted and descended into their streams of poses, I suddenly was overcome with grief.
I had hardly cried at all about my miscarriage -– there had been no time. I’d pulled it together by the time I’d come back from the hospital the day we’d found out the fetus wasn’t developing, because our home was full of family and we had limited time to get the group mani-pedis we’d planned, pick up the chuppah and hit the rehearsal dinner.
Then it was our wedding. Then I didn’t want to cry -– I wanted to exult in being married to Dashiell, in our love, go on our honeymoon. So that’s what happened, and here’s where I landed -– in my body in a yoga studio lit by those horrible, tacky LED candles I hate. Thank god. When I stood back up and resumed my attempts, the tears came and went, but in the dark no one could see.
I cried for my poor, sweet body, and all it had been through. Two rounds of awful Lupron and the anxiety and depression it engenders, without the help of my beloved anti-depressants, not to mention coffee and orgasms, nature’s psych meds. Two rounds of nightly progesterone shots to the ass, so that wide patches were dense with scar tissue and a strange mixture of numbness and pain. Two rounds of estrogen patches. A round of Viagra up my hootch. Ten weeks of pregnancy, with all the queasiness that accompanies it, evil smells jumping out at me from everywhere. An abortion, the gross, strong tugging, the crazy cervical anesthesia that made me pale and dizzy. The pads and pads of blood, the ejected uterine lining I’d worked so hard to build up.
Ugh. I sunk back down into Child’s Pose and wept. It all crashed down on me, and my body felt very small, very fragile, and very beaten.
Screw yoga. I needed to get back into exercise, but as my wrists were too sore to be able to do half the poses, it seemed like I was setting myself up for frustration and failure. So I turned to the only other physical activity option in my new ‘hood: the ocean.
There it was, four blocks from me, heaving and crashing, 24-hours. I bundled myself up in my warmest pajamas, stole one of Dashiell’s beanies plus her wooly gloves and the weird little jogger’s fanny pack she has even though she doesn’t jog or really indulge in any exercise whatsoever. I put on my sunglasses right as the sun was coming up and I walked down to the dunes.
Just climbing over the dunes was a bit of a workout, leaving me winded. Good, good, that’s your pre-workout workout, getting you pumped and stretched, I told my already straining body. I set the timer on my cell phone for five minutes. My plan was to begin there, and each morning add an additional minute.
I didn’t really know what my goal was -– like, how many minutes I planned to work my way up to. I knew that people ran for hours, which seemed terrifying to me. But then, not drinking for a year once seemed terrifying, too, but I haven’t had a drink in 10 years and it’s no big whoop. So, anything was possible, But for now -– five minutes.
I was winded when it was over, gratitude at the timer’s shrill beep coursing through my body. But hiking back up the dune, I felt wildly triumphant. And the next morning, I was dying to do it again.
A addict can get addicted to anything that pumps out those excellent happy brain chemicals, and I could feel the affect the running had on me. Bathing in the ocean’s groovy negative ions plus the lovely affects of the Zoloft kicking in didn’t hurt, either. Within a couple weeks I was up to almost 15 minutes, and Dashiell was dragging me to the lady jogger store to get actual jog bras so I didn’t have to hold my boobs in my hands as I ran.
I got a water bottle, too, as the runs were leaving me craving water, something that normally repulses me. The water bottle had like a little glove to stick your fingers through, so it sort rests on your hand as you go. The lady jogger store had all sorts of jogger gizmos, like the special gloves I bought and one of those ear-warmer headbands and the roll-on stuff that prevented the seams in my pajamas from chasing blisters onto my skin.
The best thing about jogging on the beach was how not-boring it was. Even though I have exercised with disciplined regularity, I’m always dying for it to be over. The best case scenario is a gym with a bank of TV sets hanging from the wall, tuned to Real Housewives or some such shitty show. I get totally sucked into some dumb world, and before I know it my time on the elliptical is up and I can go home and read magazines.
But the ocean! How could you be bored at the ocean! The sky is always these fantastic colors in the lavender family. The waves are magnificent, and full of crazy surfers riding the frothy curls in their alien suits. Once a pod of dolphins frolicked not far from shore!
There are endangered little Snowy Plovers with the quickest skinny legs, and seagulls big as tomcats. Fishermen jam their poles into the sand and kick out into the water in their thigh-high waders. It’s a whole, fantastic world, the ocean, and again and again I found that I got as caught up in pondering all its immense activity as I did in all the "Real Housewives" immense drama, only I didn’t feel like I’d been in a microwave when I was done. I felt like I’d been at a spa or something –- purified and fresh.
I’d beachcomb the shore on the way back, collecting sandollars and barnacles, and blend a kale smoothie when I got home. And after a while, I stopped looking like I was pregnant and was able to fit back into my black Rag and Bone jeans. And then it was time to try to get pregnant again.