Monday, April 20, 2009

A Pregnancy Carol. Part III.

I hadn’t felt well for a few days. A person not desperate for a baby wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but over the last couple of months I had become deeply aware of every twinge and pang of my body. Feeling sick was not normal for me. Besides the occasional cold or allergy, I hadn’t thrown up in over ten years. But more than nausea and strange back muscle pains, I had a presiding, intuitive feeling that I was finally pregnant.

I had had a similar experience the previous summer, during which I told anyone and everyone that I was ten (!) days (!) late (!), and then had to tell them all that no, I wasn’t pregnant. I had just been late. So this time, I was determined to keep it to myself until I was absolutely positive. And speaking of positive, I was also determined to wait at least a week to take a test. I’d taken too many pregnancy tests right before starting my cycle (“Why the heck didn’t I wait ONE MORE DAY?”) and I didn’t want to waste another one. And to be honest, I really didn’t want to see a negative result. I just couldn’t.

I knew I was jumping the gun to assume I was pregnant, but golly, I just felt it. I hadn’t missed a cycle yet, but I counted back and predicted my due date: December 12, 2009. A Christmas baby! I felt like Mary herself, blessed by The Pregnancy Angel. What an appropriate time for God to have answered my secret prayers! Not wanting to burden Brian with my delight, I turned to the internet and pored over pregnancy websites for hours, finally able to indulge in a world I’d only wistfully peered into before now. A few friends announced their pregnancies during this time, and as I congratulated them, I smiled to myself. It won’t be long, I thought, before it’s me.

The days inched closer to the date I’d set to finally take a test. I’d given myself plenty of time to make sure all that hCG had had time to accumulate, promising a clear positive. One night, rather unusually, Brian fell asleep quickly, but I lay awake and stared at the ceiling. And it was then, without warning, that I was visited by the first of three ghosts.

The ghost was… me. She looked tired. “Shh,” she whispered. “Let Brian sleep. God knows, this time next year neither of you will have slept much at all. Especially him.”

“Why are you here?” I asked her.

“I’ve come to show you something. Actually, I’ve come to show you several things. If you take my hand, I’ll begin.”

So I did. And immediately, a succession of images began parading before my eyes.

The first was me, pregnant, and hormonal. I looked bloated. “That’s all water weight, right?” I asked the ghost. She shook her head. “You’re seven months along, and you’ve gained thirty-five pounds. You thought you’d be one of those skinny pregnant women, huh? You should have known better, Maegan. Since the day you took that test, you haven’t worked out once. Three meals a day? Ha! You eat three meals before noon. And I think the only vegetable that’s crossed your lips has been a potato. The baby is healthy, but now, honey, you are one chunky girl.”

Next, I saw myself in the passenger seat of our Kia, being driven to the hospital by an exhausted Brian. “I can’t take another contraction!” I was screaming at him. “Hurry!” The girl I saw hadn’t applied makeup or even lip gloss, as I was sure I’d do at the onset of labor. Her face was red with broken blood vessels and the bags beneath her eyes looked like water balloons. Watching, I couldn’t believe my eyes. “The hospital? What happened to my home birth?”

“After forty hours, you got too tired. There wasn’t anything wrong with the baby, but you just didn’t have it in you to keep going. You made Brian take you to the hospital where you demanded a C-section. You screamed at the doctors that forty hours was way too long, but your midwife encouraged you to get an epidural and try it vaginally. You slapped her and ordered her to leave. An hour later, you were on the operating table. Needless to say, you were not as strong as you thought you were.”

I shook my head. “Was the baby okay?”

The ghost made a strange sound, and when I looked over at her, I realized she was laughing. I could tell that she hadn’t done that in a long, long time.

“The baby is fine, Maegan.” The scene before me changed to black, early morning. In the crib upstairs was a fat, blond baby, just as I’d pictured, but she wasn’t sleeping peacefully. She was screaming her heart out. “This baby,” explained the ghost, “is colicky. I swear, it will seem to you that she hasn’t stopped screaming since you came home from the hospital.” I saw myself reaching over the side of the crib with a weary expression, hurriedly trying to quiet the infant. “You’ve started sleeping in the nursery,” said the ghost. “Brian can’t sleep at all if you’re in the bedroom with him. For one thing, the baby screaming on the monitor wakes him up constantly. Secondly, you getting up at all hours of the night disturbs him to no end. So you’ve moved the couch cushions into the nursery, shut off the monitor, and started sleeping upstairs. I won’t show you the rest of the house, because it’s a wreck.”

The images came faster now, more like snapshots rather than videos. I saw two car seats, one in the car and one in an old Ford Explorer. “Where’s the truck?” I asked the ghost.

“You can’t use Brian’s truck now!” she answered. “Where would the baby sit? You didn’t have the budget to buy a truck with an extended cab, so you bought this. It works, but you’ve already shelled out $780 bucks for repairs.” I noticed that the windows and seats were filthy, with food and wrappers in the creases and snot from the baby and the dog on the glass. I saw Brian walk by and notice the mess. Wincing, he snapped, “Maegan, you’re killing me. You know I didn’t want to feed her in the car.” I saw myself snap back. Sure enough, we still fought with the baby around.

Next, I saw myself in the kitchen, trying to cook a meal while darting back and forth from the stove to the baby’s bouncing chair across the room. I looked angry and tense. Brian was upstairs watching TV. The scene changed to the two of us packing the car for Michigan, trying to fit the playpen and stroller around the car seat. Both of us looked frustrated. When it had been the two of us, trips had been as easy as pick-up-and-go. Apparently, they weren't that way anymore.

Another image showed me chasing a two-year-old behind another big, pregnant belly. Another showed my yard, overgrown. Another showed a pile of fabric I recognized. I’d bought it to make myself a dress for the summer of 2009, before I found out I was pregnant. It was still folded in the JoAnn’s bag. Another showed the basement, still unfinished. “Your finances weren’t as cushy as you thought they’d be,” admonished the ghost. “If you’d waited a little longer to have a baby, you might have finished off the basement. As it is, you all sleep upstairs right now.”

The scenes appeared more rapidly. I saw myself driving several kids around town in a minivan. I saw my body sagging and changing. I saw myself staying up late, helping two children with a project. I saw myself hashing out an issue with a teenager. I saw myself worrying about my kids’ spiritual lives… planning vacations on a budget… hanging up the phone after failing to find a babysitter. What struck me most deeply was the sight of me, trying to connect with Brian, amid the hustle of a family. We kissed quickly as I left the house, but I could see even in the picture that our minds were elsewhere. I guess it wasn’t surprising. I had become a mom.

It wasn’t a bad life. I could see that it was happy, despite the stress and the busyness. But somehow, I’d become a different person altogether. And Brian was different, too. The ghost spoke again. “You are a mom for the rest of your life. The past is gone for good, Maegan. Why were you so anxious to get rid of it while you had it?”

To be continued!

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