Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Pregnancy Carol - The Complete Story

Part I

Let me enthrall you with a tale as extraordinary as the power of a changed life. Do you believe in ghosts? Perhaps not yet – but you will.

For the purpose of this story, my name is Maeganeezer Scrooge, and for the past two and a half years, all I’d wanted in life was to become pregnant and have a fat, blond baby who would lie on my living room floor and coo at the ceiling. I felt that nothing I had experienced up to that point – falling in love, building a home, honeymooning in wedded bliss – would ever compare with the ecstasy and delight that would be mine once that child lay in my arms. I knew it would be perfect. Oh! the adventure – the excitement – the luxury it would be to spend each hour with the baby I so desired!

In fact, I wanted this so desperately that I didn’t hesitate for a moment to pour out my rage and disappointment to anyone who asked me how I was doing or what I did for a living. In time, those who passed me in the street began to shy away from my dark form for fear that I would stop them and assault them with a long, sordid tale about the dreams that had been denied me.

“My husband,” I would wail, “is forcing me to wait five terribly long years to have a baby. He is withholding from me the one thing I’ve desired! And when I finally have that baby,” I would sob, “I will be an old, feeble mother.”

Those who heard this tale gave me pity and understanding. “How old are you now?” they’d ask me.

“Twenty-one,” I would answer with despair. “And only two years have passed since my husband issued that awful decree. My one dream – my only dream – the only thing that can make me happy in the entire world – is to see two precious pink lines appear on that stubborn pregnancy test. But alas! I must wait three years more.” And I would shudder with an inward groan.

At home, I continuously pelted my husband with pleas to change his mind. “You’ll be an old man when we begin a family,” I would taunt. “You’ll get selfish and settled in your ways,” I’d threaten. “By the time we try to have a baby, we won’t be able to get pregnant,” I’d warn. Oh, I pressured and cajoled, I begged and I argued! But my husband was as steadfast as the Great Wall of China. I would have more easily hefted it from its position and tossed it into the Grand Canyon than convinced my husband to cut short his awful sentence.

In time, I learned that the only thing that would change his mind was an unexpected pregnancy. And so I began to consider… a sabotage.

Part II

I rested my elbows on the bed in front of me, burying my face in my hands. “God,” I prayed earnestly, “both You and I know better than Brian. We both see his selfishness and unwillingness to be flexible about his life plans. And You know that I will never be fulfilled until I realize my purpose as a mother.

So I ask you to please help me get pregnant by mistake, so Brian won’t be able to do anything about it.”

I felt that my fervent voice was beelining it up to heaven, past the pearly gates and straight into the ear of God Himself. It wouldn’t be long before his hand moved mightily in my behalf. TAKE THAT, Brian!

I can’t say that praying for my husband’s plans to be thwarted was exactly right. But it felt right. Oh, it felt so right. Especially considering that I’d even thought about sabotaging the birth control. I figured that that might have been unforgivable. But praying – that was certainly fine.

You see, both God and I knew that I would not survive three more years of denied hope. A baby, I believed, would be the answer to all of my discontentment and despondency. Oh, the wonderful things that would accompany my pregnancy… a baby shower! A nursery to decorate! Tiny, adorable clothes to buy! Books to read! Mommy groups to join! As a pregnant woman, I’d have doors opened for me. Strangers in the street would smile at me, admiring my maternal glow.

The all-natural home birth would be a dream - slightly painful and perhaps difficult, but powerful - giving me a sense of empowerment and acceptance into the sisterhood of women who had birthed through the ages. When our squirming child was laid on my chest, Brian would look at me with new admiration. From that moment, I’d be a different woman in his eyes – strong, capable, and nurturing. New love would blossom between the two of us, all because of the child squawking lustily in my aching arms.

The baby himself would be perfect: intelligent, irresistible, perfectly behaved... and toilet trained at ten months old, using the Elimination Communication method about which I’d read so intently. In fact, after all the parenting material I’d absorbed, I’d already determined my perspective on prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, childcare, cry-it-out methods, vaccinations, discipline, education, diet, and activity schedule. I was ready to be a mother. Brian just didn’t realize it.

To top it off, everyone else I knew – literally every young married woman – was pregnant. And what better reason was there to have a baby other than EVERYONE ELSE WAS HAVING ONE, TOO?

So I waited impatiently for a missed cycle. And then, one morning, I walked into the bathroom and threw up into the sink.

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?”

Part IV

The scenes stopped, and all I could see was my own ghost, the ghost of my future, standing beside me. I shook my head. “You’ve just shown me all of the worst parts of being a mother. But so what? So I don’t have a perfect pregnancy or birth. But it can’t - it can't - be as bad as you’ve made it look.”

She shrugged. “Sure, there’s joy. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. But no, I have not shown you all the worst parts. There are moments that top those – moments when your children are very sick or when your teenager tells you she hates you. The thing you have to understand is that the moment your precious pink lines appear on the pregnancy test, you don’t start a life of bliss. You start a life of worry. You will always, always, always worry about your children, until the day you die. You need to know that.”

She faded quickly. My eyes readjusted to the darkness of the bedroom and I could hear Brian breathing softly beside me. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of the quiet. Knowing that a baby’s wail wouldn’t wake us was, I now realized, a luxury we wouldn’t always have. I supposed I’d always thought my babies would sleep through the night like we did.

Abruptly, the ceiling fan above me began to morph. Its five blades lengthened, then shortened, then stretched again into two arms, two legs, and one very familiar-looking head. It was me again.

“Did you forget to mention something?” I asked. She shook her head with a smile and detached herself from the ceiling. “I’m your past self,” she explained brightly. “The second of three ghosts to come!” On the bed next to me, Brian stirred. “Honey, be quiet. You’re talking in your sleep.” He rolled over to face the wall. Above me, my ghost giggled. “Brian is such a pain, huh? You can’t even scratch your ear without waking him up. What a pill.”

“Be quiet!” Brian’s voice was gruff as he pulled the pillow around his ears.

“Shh!” I frowned at her. “If you’re here to show me something, can you take me somewhere else? I want to let him sleep.”

“Sure,” she answered, reaching down to me. “Hold on tight!”

It was strange to reach for my own hand. When her grip tightened, I was pulled from beneath my sheets and the ceiling parted to make way for our flight into the night sky. As we flew, the world brightened and a mask of clouds assembled over an endless, sandy beach. Below us, I saw two figures running along the water’s edge. The wind whipped their hair and clothing and their voices strained to talk over the roar of the waves. I recognized them. They were newlyweds. They were us.

“Remember that trip?” the ghost asked.

“Of course I do.” My voice was tight. “That was our honeymoon, right after the hurricane hit us in Ocracoke. We could barely see with that wind blowing the sand in our faces. That was the best time of my life.”

“That really was blissful, wasn’t it?” She smiled at the sight below us. “You cared about nothing more than soaking up that moment with your new husband. You knew it was only going to last a week.”

“It went by so fast. I can’t believe it’s been almost three years.”

“It does go by so quickly,” she agreed. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of anticipating something so much that you fail to enjoy the moment. But let me show you more.”

The scene below us changed to a campsite. The creek by our tent gurgled softly and the sun gave everything an orange glow. I saw the two of us roasting brats over a fire in the Tennessee mountains, laughing about the day. “I can’t believe we were that close to the trail the whole time!” I was saying. “You dragged us through that brush for an hour!” Brian’s mouth was full and he shook his head, smiling.

Another scene found us on the couch in our tiny apartment. It was late evening, and the light from the parking lot streamed through the blinds and created stripes on the sofa. Brian was lying behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist as the laptop, sitting open in front of us on the coffee table, played the audio recording of our wedding ceremony. I had tears in my eyes. It must have been our first anniversary. I watched from above as the me on the couch turned her head and kissed my husband.

Again, the scene changed and I saw the two of us parked in the church parking lot. We must have been fighting. My eyes were red, my lips pursed tightly, and I was hurriedly applying mascara. I saw Brian reach over and take my hand. “Honey,” he said quietly, “I love you. I'll always love you. Nothing changes that.” My face softened. I twisted my mascara wand back into the tube and I rested my head on his shoulder. “I love you, too,” I whispered. He kissed my hair.

Watching from above, I saw the scene begin to change again. “Wait,” I insisted to the ghost. “I love this memory." I paused. "I wish I could live it over again.”

“But that’s the thing, isn’t it?” asked the ghost. Her face had taken on a bright intensity. “You can’t live it again. You can’t live any of these things over again. All the moments you had with just the two of you, those may very well be gone now.”

Instantly, she was gone. I was back in my bed, lying beside my husband, by whose breathing I could tell was still trying to fall back to sleep. Slowly, I moved my hands to my stomach, resting them against my skin. Maybe, I thought, with a strange twinge of emotion, maybe I am just late for my period. And then I realized – that emotion was hope.

Part V

I woke the next morning, feeling just fine, and wondered whether what I’d experienced was simply an unusual dream. Hadn’t the Ghost of Past Me mentioned that a third ghost would visit? But she hadn’t come.

I didn’t mind; I had been given enough to think about. The images that the other two had shown me remained starkly vivid throughout the day. And while part of me still hoped to be pregnant, that desire was shrinking. There was no doubt about it.

With Brian at work and Bo sleeping next to the couch, I stood at the kitchen sink and took in the view from my window. The spring growth in the woods behind our house expressed itself in lime-green sprays of new leaves, backlit by the mid-morning sun. Birds sang in the distance, and I saw a few hop from branch to branch, but otherwise, the woods seemed perfectly still. Inside, the only movement was the steam from my coffee, rising in curls and wafting into the shadows of the kitchen. For once, instead of complaining about the lack of children’s voices, I savored the quiet.

A voice behind me spoke. “Maegan!”

Startled, I dropped my coffee mug into the sink and whirled around.

“Maegan?” I replied. The woman standing behind me had a child balanced on her hip, its face burrowed into her shoulder, snuggling tightly. And its mother looked exactly like me.

“Is that my baby?” I asked excitedly. I took a step toward the ghost, but she backed away. “You’re not allowed to see the face of your future children!” she admonished.

“But I saw the face of my baby girl last night.”

“That was the face of a baby girl you might have had. But this is your baby – my baby – your real and honest future child.”

“So the reason I could see that baby last night was because she won’t ever exist?” There was a pause before the woman slowly nodded. I leaned back against the counter. “I’m not pregnant right now, am I?”

“What do you think?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. But what are you here to show me?”

“I’m not here to show you anything. I just came to tell you that waiting a couple more years – it’s going to be a good thing. For one thing, you should stop the stupid panic about having babies ‘when all your friends are having them.’ Your friends, they’ll have more babies, you’ll have women to be pregnant with. And your children won’t have a shortage of kids to play with. Secondly, every month that passes makes you more prepared to be a mother. Don’t waste this time. You need to learn, grow, travel, develop. God has a plan for you for the next few years.”

“What is it?” I asked eagerly.

“I can’t tell you that. I can’t show you anything about your future other than the fact that one day, you will have children. Trust me. But I can tell you the sweetest thing you’ll experience when you wait.”


“Let me ask you this: if you were pregnant now, it would sure be a one-up on Brian, wouldn’t it? It would be the fact that God answered your prayers and not his, that you knew better than he did, and that now he’s got to live with the pregnancy whether he likes it or not. So do you really want that dynamic in your home, with the resentment and bitterness that’ll come with it?”

“But Brian would get over his disappointment, wouldn’t he?”

She shrugged. “Probably. But you know you love him too much to be exhilarated about something he so fervently did not want. You think you would have bliss, but the reality is – you would feel guilty. And you’d feel like you single-handedly brought this on the two of you, with all your secret prayers and complaints to Brian about not having a baby. You know it’s true – it would be the pregnancy that you wanted. Just you.”

“I see.” I paused to collect my thoughts. “But won’t it be that way no matter when we get pregnant? I mean, he’s so against it right now that I can’t imagine him doing a complete one-eighty in only a couple of years.”

She laughed. “That’s stupid, Maegan. Of course he will be excited. And that is going to be the sweetest thing about waiting. When you see those two lines on the pregnancy test, and you walk out of the bathroom with a glow on your face, and he’s in bed, leaning back against the pillows, and you see his face light up too – let me tell you, that moment is going to be on your lifetime list of top memories. And when you begin it together – you waited together, you wanted it together, you’re excited about it together – trust me, it’s going to be better than you imagined. Just trust me.”

And she vanished. And then I realized what the three ghosts had been telling me. The future was coming soon enough. The children were on their way – it would only be a matter of time. But what I had now was and always would be the most precious thing on earth to me – a man who chose me, who loved me, who wanted the absolute best for us. And I suddenly realized: I wanted what he wanted. That was how it was supposed to be.


I wasn’t pregnant. But the spirits had done their work. No longer Scrooge, I waltzed around the room, laughing, poking my bewildered husband. “What day is it, my fine fellow?” I asked.

“Um, it’s Saturday,” he replied, raising his eyebrows.

“Saturday? Saturday! Of course it is! And I’m not pregnant! We can do anything we like. Of course we can! (What an intelligent man, a fine husband! Pleasure to talk to him!) Hallo, my fine fellow!”


“Come give me a hug. Give it to me quick, and I’ll give you the best years of my life.”

He didn’t know what was happening, but he wrapped his arms around me and he squeezed tightly. “I love you,” he said. His beard scratched against my ear and I smiled.

The End

No comments:

Post a Comment