Monday, June 21, 2010

But I Said No, No, No, No

I'm driving north this morning on I-15 to spend three hours in continuing legal education classes. Today we'll be discussing capital murder case litigation. On the seat next to me is a pregnancy test. If I'm brave enough, I'll pee on it during one of the breaks. I don't think I'm brave enough though.

I've been awake since four this morning contemplating the meaning of the oily roll of abdominal muscles that I feel. Are these cramps? But no bleeding--yet. And these tender boobs--period tender or pregnancy tender? I'm not tired. Not the tired like I normally get when I am pregnant. Then again, the last time I was pregnant, I was in my first year of law school and working. I should have been tired, extraordinarily, head hitting the carpet while trying to study for Property Law final tired.

Can I even remember when I last had my period? I have the day the American Express card and the mortgage payments are due engraved on my heart. All the others are entered on my phone, three days in a row, to keep me on track. One would think that I would remember the day of my period. But I don't, not accurately anyway. Hence the slow-building panic that is spreading cold across the bottom of my gut.

I always thought IUD's were 10-15 year propositions. Somehow I am remembering the conversation between me and the physician's assistant who inserted it as her saying, "So this will last you about ___ years," and me thinking, "Great, I'll be about 42 and surely I'll be done menstruating by then." I don't really remember the actual year number she gave me.

Standing along the third base line fence yesterday evening, Monique informs me, upon hearing of my ruminations of a possible pregnancy, that "Yes, I love my IUD," and "No, they're only a seven to ten year deal."

"For real?"

My heart sinks a little lower than it already is. I'm realizing that perhaps IUD's are not the same as water filters in the fridge. The red light is more than just a suggestion. My African-raised brain sees the red light on the filter and thinks, "We get our city water from a mountain spring. Why does it still need to be filtered?" I make mental note to call OB-GYN in the morning, for first visit in ten years. But, I fully acknowledge this might be a little bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has already bolted. Or whatever that simile is in reverse. Raising the drawbridge once the Trojan horse is already within the city walls?

Kevin grabs me this morning, asks if I have started bleeding yet. I shake my head. There's a gladness in his eyes. Almost a giddiness at the prospect. He would shout Hallelujahs from the rooftop. His hands grip both my upper arms, he's leaning into my face, our eyes are only inches apart. "We could be having a baby." If he giggled, he would be giggling.

I don't want a baby. I've just uncovered what I think may be my hipbones, or at least the subcutaneous fat that was covered by the extraneous fat, both of which lie above the hipbones. I've been able to sleep through the night for the past 2 years without children in my bed. I have a really cute, polka-dotted purse from South Africa which doesn't accommodate diapers and wipes. I've been dying my hair for the past 10 years. If I went white, like I am underneath, I would look obscene: a pregnant, wrinkled, white-haired crone--somebody who shouldn't be having sex, let alone be getting pregnant. I'm 44. I'm afraid of Down Syndrome. Have been since a child. Paranoia, straight up and rampant, but real nonetheless.

On the other hand, I'm strong. I can bench press. I can do lunge to one-legged stand with 25 pounds in each hand. I can do ball bridge and side bridge raises with 20 pounds tucked into the hollow between my hipbone/hipbone fat and ribs. I can dig clay soil and clear irrigation ditches for hours. I'm unemployed. Julia just moved out. We have an empty bedroom. Maybe Kevin's dream of twins will come to fruition.

My mind swings back. I don't want to play Solomon to my own dilemma. I don't want one baby. I don't want two babies. We're done. Perhaps I will miscarry--like I have before. Even knowing the emotional suffering in the the aftermath of miscarriage, I hang my 44-year-old hat on the hope of a possible miscarriage for my possible pregnancy. Because I have actually been in this panicked state before, I know that I won't get an abortion. I've thought long and hard and decided that I probably wouldn't be able to carry through with that procedure. I know Kevin would find it hard to live with a wife who could and did. But, there is always the hope of miscarriage.

One of the most pregnant lines used to describe Mary is she "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." "These things" were, of course, the news that she was pregnant, and would give birth far outside the normal order of things, that angels attended the birth, that shepherds traveled miles to see the child and then returned spreading the news. Most people view her silence as the indication of her humble nature, her devotion to God, etc., etc., etc.. I'm thinking there are other explanations.

One, she's not sharing her thoughts with Luke writing decades later. Had Elizabeth been given page-space in the New Testament, between Luke 1 and Luke 2, to write a journal of the discussions the two strangely-pregnant women had in the three months they lived together, there might be other ways to skin this particular story. Two, Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart because her world as she knew it, as she had imagined it, the future as she had planned it had just been blown to shreds. What could she say, without casting her lot with the unbelievers?

It's an interesting philosophical place to be, contemplating what to do where there is really nothing to be done except wait and see, or pee. But, of course, this isn't philosophy. It's simple biology, physiology, with a very complicated result. My body is suddenly more than just my body. It's a receptacle, a safe harbor, a waiting place--mine and perhaps somebody else's.

Perhaps by design human pregnancy is nine months long. Nine months is a long time. Almost long enough to get a heart into the same place the body has been for three trimesters. It's long enough to feel the hiccups, to get to know a child's nature, to see whether she pushes back in a game of womb-tag, or if he rolls over, twice a day, like a walrus changing painful, lumbering position. It's long enough to grow fond of the little intruder and intrigued enough to meet it. It's long enough to get so large, so inflated, so swollen that you'll do almost anything to get it out. Long enough to realize that the clothes at Old Navy are so much cuter now than the one's available at Mervyn's 20 years ago. Long enough to finally give yourself up, the Lord's handmaiden--to chip away at the disbelief, the amused absurdity that a child could result because you forgot to change the water filter. And certainly long enough to find your own Elizabeths with whom, in the sanctuary of female space, you can scream and cry and quiver and waiver and move beyond that to some kind of bewildered faith, so that when the official story is written, it will say you "kept all these things and pondered them in [your] heart."

That's what I'm hoping anyway.

Title: from Katie Tunstall, "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree"


  1. What a post. So many emotions come through your writing in this post, and have brought so many of my own emotions to the surface as I read it. The official story of our lives never really begins to tell the real story, does it? How is it possible to ever tell the real story? This is, honestly, why I've not yet been able to write about my own married life/family in blog or any other form--even journal writing. I simply don't know how to tell my stories as they really are. However this turns out for you, what a story you'll have to tell--you are one of the few writers I've read who could tell this particular story so well.

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  3. Love you, Tess. You're a great mom no matter which way this goes.

  4. I had a miscarriage three months ago, and for me the hardest thing about it was the ambivalence I felt towards being pregnant in the first place. I felt like God zapped me because there was part of me that resisted having another child. I know that's not true, or at least I hope it isn't, but at the time it felt very much like a divine castigation for not desiring the baby enough in the first place. Part of me wants another child, or at least wants to want another child, and the other part of me dreads it. And now, having been through a miscarriage, I fear losing another baby more than having another one, but only by a thin margin.

  5. I remember my mom calling me when I was in college, to find out the date of my last period (even though I was in southern Utah, and she was in Idaho, we were still on the same schedule!)--I was always better at keeping track of them then she was. Yes, she was. He is 20 years and 6 months younger than I am--He just graduated from High School. It is easier (psychologically) that she had lots of children in between--no big gaps.

    I have had a couple of those scares "what do I do if I AM? How do I cope at this point in my life?"

    I think it is just a wonderful blessing that we don't get to see the future. I can (and do) muddle my way through whatever I have to--but I wouldn't be able to if I knew what was coming.

    I will pray for you--for comfort mainly, but for strength also.

  6. Or, as I sometimes say, Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

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  8. Congratulations on NOT "passing" that particular test!