What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Sometimes when I am in an airport I very badly want to eat McDonald’s. It’s basically the only time I ever eat it –- then, and occasionally whilst touring North America and rebelling against my harm-reduction road diet of Subway sandwiches.
Eating in America can be disgusting, but I can sort of get into an occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Super-Size fries, which is what I ate at the Chicago O’Hare airport while waiting for my connecting flight to New Hampshire. It was that or a Pinkberry. I felt slightly bad about it only because I didn’t want to give my Embabiez the wrong idea, that if they implant in my uterus I’ll punish them with a diet of pink slime patties and sugar fries. This is not my normal fare! But I justify it with thinking that if my plane crashes and I die, I will be so mad at myself for not indulging my last earthly guilty pleasure.
A little bit after I eat my fucking delicious Quarter Pounder with Cheese I have these little cramps in my abdomen. It could be my body smacking me back for the abuse I just laid on it, or it could be . . . implantation cramping! Am I pregnant, or did I simply eat McDonald’s? How many women ask themselves this every day?
To take my mind off of it I go off in search of magazines, and decide to buy a fancy chocolate bar while I’m at it. Frankly, I would prefer a Hershey bar –- I just really go there with my lowbrow tastes while traveling –- but weirdly the magazine kiosk nearest my gate is only selling chocolate with bits of, like, lavender and other ephemera in it. The woman rings me up and it comes to a bazillion dollars.
“How much is the chocolate?” I ask.
“Four dollars,” says the woman.
I am no stranger to four-dollar chocolate bars; I live in San Francisco. I am certain I have paid double that for some exquisite confection dotted with sea salt hand-harvested by French nuns on the coast of Normandy. I have the four dollars in my wallet and it’s not going to put me in the poor house to splurge on a sweet. But for some reason I just feel irritated that the chocolate bar is so much money, and I rebel against it and put it back. The woman watches me with a concerned face.
“You can just have it,” she whispers. She makes a round motion over her stomach. “You’re pregnant?” she nods.
Normally I would jump at the chance to assist any minimum-wage worker in a bit of workplace sabotage, especially if it results in some free candy for me. But I’m so taken aback at the pregnancy comment that I’m flustered and confused. I pay for my magazine and leave without the chocolate, looking down at my belly as I walk back to my gate. I look pregnant already?
I won’t even be able to pee on a stick for a week and a half, and my official blood test is a good two weeks away. I’m not quite as annoyed/despairing as I normally am, because by now I’m fairly used to it. Used to being so bloated from the IVF hormones that I look pregnant before the doctors even shoot the embryo into my uterus. At least, I console myself, I actually, truly for real might be pregnant. Like, a day or two pregnant. Also, wearing my skin-tight T by Alexander Wang T-shirt dress with the horizontal stripes isn’t really helping. When I peek at myself in the bathroom mirror, I decide I easily look four months pregnant.
In New Hampshire, I visit with some English classes at an art school, judge a poetry slam and give a reading. After the events the department chair takes me out to dinner, and I order a falafel plate that comes on a salad. I devour the falafel, but the salad is repulsive. I choke down a few leaves in a sad attempt to offset the effects of the airport McDonald’s.
“Is it not good?” the department chair asks with concern.
“No, it is,” I tell her. “I just can’t eat the salad for some reason.”
The department chair is a mom, and she knows I may have one or two fertilized eggs hooking themselves to my uterine walls.
“You’re pregnant!” she declares.
“Do you think?” I gush. I remembered when I was pregnant last time, everything green was totally grotesque to me. Normally I cook Dashiell and I dinner from the Clean Food cookbook every night. We eat a lot of kale, we eat broccoli and spinach and string beans and bok choy. All of these things seem horrible. All I want to eat are a basket of deep-fried falafel and a bag of Quarter Pounders with Cheese.
From New Hampshire I fly to San Jose, where a car service picks me up to take me to Santa Cruz, where tomorrow I’ll be part of a symposium on maternity. A tall, linebacker-y man meets me at the baggage claim and grabs my luggage, which is great because I’m not supposed to be lifting anything heavier than 23 pounds during this two-week-wait.
“So,” he says, making conversation on the way to the parking lot, “I see you’ll have a nice surprise coming this spring.” We both look at my belly.
Spring? Spring is -- spring is in March. It is February. Do I look eight months pregnant? Let’s say he meant May. Do I look six months pregnant? Holy god. These progesterone shots – which, BTW, I slid into my ass a bit crookedly but totally successfully while in New Hampshire –- really transform a lady’s body!
The driver is looking at me expectantly. “We’ll see,” I say lightly and evasively.
In my hotel room in Santa Cruz I find blood in my underwear, and am gripped with a weird, clashing emotion that is part excitement, part dread. It could totally be implantation bleeding. This is when it would happen, especially if those cramps weren’t fast food gas after all! It could also totally be, like, my period or something. It could be anything, it could be nothing. I find myself surging with hope, which some stern internal vice quickly scolds me for. Don’t get your hopes up. The higher they go, the harder they fall.
Me and Dashiell decided that we wouldn’t use any home pregnancy tests this time around, we’d just wait for my blood test to give us the results. Last time around the pee stick had said negative, but we’d been pregnant. It seemed like rather than give us the information we craved, pee sticks just confused things.
Upon returning to San Francisco from my travels, I walked into a Walgreens and bought a pee test.
“I bought a pee test,” I told Dashiell when she got home from work that night. “I won’t use it if you don’t want me to.”
“Well, why would we?” she asked.
“Because maybe it will tell us we’re pregnant. If it says we’re pregnant, we probably are. And if it’s negative we might be pregnant anyway.”
“Well,” Dashiell thought it over. “We have to be ready to see a negative and not get upset.”
“A negative isn’t really a negative,” I reasoned.
“Then why are we doing it?”
“I don’t know,” I whined. “I just want to do something. It really might tell us we’re pregnant.”
“OK,” Dashiell relented with a smile cracking across her face. “Go do it!”
I shook my head. “I’ll wait until the morning. Your first pee has the most HcG in it, that’s what the test is looking for.” I placed the pink box with the two pee sticks on the back of the toilet so that I didn’t forget and accidentally just pee into the toilet when I was half asleep the next morning. Then we went to bed and tried to sleep.
I hadn’t peed on a stick in so long. There was a familiar comfort in the routine of it, even though it had never given me the information I wanted. Even when we were doing DIY inseminations at home and I was peeing on ovulation sticks, the lines never got definitive enough to get me really excited. I uncapped the stick and peed all over the fibrous tip of it. I shook it off over the bowl, capped it and leaned back. I closed my eyes and drifted; I still had a lot of sleep in me. I arbitrarily counted to twenty-five. I wiped myself. I pulled up my underwear. I flushed the toilet. I looked at the pee stick.
The pee stick was positive. An unmistakable pink line deepened even as I watched it, mouth open. It got pinker and pinker until it was pinker than the test line. My heart bobbed in my chest and I got a surge of chills that made my body wiggle in a silly dance. I took a breath. I shoved down the excitement and walked lightly back into the bedroom, where Dashiell slept under blankets. Sometimes Dashiell sleeps without a pillow, just her head on the mattress, and her body is so long and lean she nearly disappears and I call her Flat Stanley. I clutched the pee stick in my hand as I burrow back down next to her. The sensation in my chest is positively bursting. I find her ear beneath the fold of a sheet.
“We’re pregnant,” I whisper into it.