Written by Meg Broadbent
“I’m not pregnant.”
It’s a phrase I’ve gotten used to saying lately, especially in texts to my husband. Tonight, I texted the same phrase to a few girlfriends, the ones who are in the know, who wait with me each month, eagerly awaiting day 28 when I’ll wake up in the morning and get to finally tear open the pregnancy test box that’s been gathering dust in my linen closet, or not.
It’s been seven months. I know that in the “grand scheme of things,” that’s not long. That’s what everyone who tries to comfort me tells me every month. That’s what I tell myself. In the grand scheme of things, it’s been the longest seven months of my life.
At least you already have one child, they tell me. I tell myself. He’s beautiful and perfect and my greatest love and I want him to have a sibling. I want another baby. I don’t want to lose another baby. I have one child. I want one more.
I’m 36. My friends and my doctors and my husband tell me that it’s fine. That I’m not too old. That 36 is still young. They tell me that there is still hope. I don’t know where the hope is hiding, I tell them. I am trying, but I can’t find it.
The cycle is always the same and it is always painful. You get your period and you cry. You see the hint of pink or brown or even light beige and you tell yourself that maybe it’s just spotting. Maybe it’s implantation. You know it’s not because it’s day 25 or 26 or 28 and because you know it’s not. But you hope for another few hours, for one more night. In the morning the blood comes. It drains from your body and from your face when you look at yourself in the mirror and see that you’re still the same as you were yesterday but completely different. Blood is my enemy. It is pain and it is loss and it is the end of life. Life goes on and it doesn’t, inside of you. You bleed and you live. Something else dies and it is a part of you. It’s apart from you.
I am resilient. Every month I allow myself 20 minutes of crying at my desk or in bed or in the shower or while rocking my child to sleep or while sitting alone in the dark and then I stop crying and I choose to live. I am bleeding; I am not dead. I have one child and I can’t abandon him by retreating into the darkness of my mind, into my miserable thoughts, my loneliness. I have one child and I have to live for him and not spend time mourning the one who isn’t here yet. He is alive and I am alive and I am dead inside but I get up and I go to work and I come home and I make I dinner and I play with him and I go out and I keep moving and I don’t let myself fall, not ever, because I have one child and he needs me. I need him and I need another child and I feel selfish for wanting more so I try not to want it but I do and I lay awake at night while the cramps wash over me and I do the math for another month.
Day 11 is Thursday so we need to have sex Friday and Sunday or maybe Saturday? Or maybe Thursday. All of them? Or just once, on the right day? What day is that? What time of day? Is 11 pm still day 12, or is that now day 13? What about days 15 and 16 and 9 and 10, do we try? We are trying.
I am trying to stay awake and stay woke and to check my privilege and to be grateful and happy and kind to myself and patient and I am trying not to panic or give in to the crushing anxiety that is waving at me from the edge of the cliff waiting to jump on me as soon as I turn my back. I try not to turn my back.
Every month I “celebrate” not being pregnant with a glass of wine. You deserve it, I tell myself. If you’re not pregnant, why not enjoy all the things you won’t be able to enjoy when you are finally pregnant? I eat oysters and sushi and I stay up late and go out every night and I have five glasses of wine and I laugh and I think hey, this is freedom. I can do whatever I want. But the sushi is bad and the wine sours on my tongue and I yawn at the bar and the oysters aren’t that good and I hold my stomach and get excited when I feel a flutter and then I realize it’s nothing because nothing is there.
I have phantom pregnancy symptoms. Every month I smell someone’s cologne and my face crinkles and my breasts ache and I feel irritable and exhausted and I think this is it. This is it. Then I realize the cologne just smells bad and my breasts ache because my period is coming and I’m irritable and exhausted because living in constant anticipation and walking on eggshells and praying and hoping and pretending I don’t care is making me sick. Trying is making me sick.
I want to feel sick. I want to be nauseous and tired. I want to have no energy and I want to be starving and have no appetite and I want to sweat and ache and I want to know that it’s all because of the child inside of me. Where are you? What are you waiting for?
I am always waiting. I wait for my period to be over and then I wait for the right days to come and then I wait for the right time of day and I wait for my husband to get home and I wait to exercise for another month and I wait to work on the project I want to do and I wait to write anything and I wait to quit my job and I wait to buy a house and I wait to move and I wait to end things or start things because maybe in a week I’ll be pregnant and that will change everything and then I won’t be waiting and everything can begin.
Seven months later I am still waiting and nothing has changed.
I am the same and my life is the same but it feels emptier every month because of the thing I am waiting for. When you decide you want something, someone, how do you go back to feeling complete without them? When you understand indescribable loss and you understand indescribable joy, how can you be the same person again?
I got my period today and I am the same and I will never be the same. I thought by now I would be seven months pregnant, or at least three or four. I expected it. I am still not expectant. Every month I expect to be different, and every month I am not different but I am different in a bad way. In an ugly way that makes me feel scared and ashamed and angry in a way I wasn’t expecting.
I have a drink or a joint and I feel guilty. I ride my bike on bumpy Toronto streets and I walk for too long and I don’t get enough rest and I feel guilty. I don’t have sex on the right day and I feel guilty. I yell at my husband for going out too late or not being home early enough or ruining the moment by looking at his phone or anything he does ever because it has to be somebody’s fault other than mine and I feel guilty. I check work emails all night and watch old episodes of Gossip Girl to soothe myself instead of spending time with my child and I feel guilty. I spend day and night planning and plotting and checking my fertility app and counting and worrying and trying not to worry and I feel guilty. Everything is bad for fertility if you ask the right people. I do ask them and they tell me and I feel guilty.
I stop drinking and I don’t run and I try not to do anything stressful and I don’t push myself physically or mentally and I lay perfectly still and I become a vessel that can’t be broken and I try to disappear and stop living so I can build another life. The people that matter and that I don’t ask tell me that these are the wrong things to do and I feel guilty.
I have been to the fertility clinic. I took the tests. I have been too scared to ask for the results.
They poked and prodded and they lectured and drew diagrams and did ultrasounds inside and outside of my body. They took 18 vials of blood at once and I fainted and woke up to four nurses shaking me and yelling my name and another nurse trying to calm my husband down and a fan pointed at my face and a cold cloth on my forehead and my back and hair soaking wet from adrenaline and everyone saying thank god, thank god, you were out for two minutes don’t scare us like that. I said I won’t but inside I felt a thrill that someone else felt as scared as I feel.
I have been to the fertility clinic and I haven’t been back. I don’t know yet whether we will need to try I.U.I. or I.V.F. or other acronyms that I have heard of but am not ready to know about. Instead we’re leaving it to chance, for now. To fate. God? The Universe? My body? I don’t know who is in control. I feel out of control but I also feel that I have done something wrong. Or not done something right. Or waited too long or angered someone. Or maybe I’m being punished for not being a good enough mother and I don’t deserve another baby or maybe I’m meant to struggle and write about it for others or maybe I’m meant to struggle just to know pain because my life has been so painless for the most part or maybe nothing. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, I am nothing and this isn’t a big deal and nobody cares.
Maybe I care and maybe fuck the grand scheme of things and maybe the way I feel matters and people should care. Maybe we should encourage women to talk about their bodies. Maybe we should listen to women when they talk about their bodies. Maybe we should allow women to talk about their fear and their guilt and their anxiety and their pain so that they can feel less alone and less afraid and less guilty and less anxious and less pain.
I want to get pregnant and I want to talk about it and I want to feel less alone. I’m trying.
Featured Photo via @gracefullbirth
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