My office mate's stomach bulges a little now. She's pregnant with twins. Unlike me, she seems to have quietly thirsted for motherhood for years. It hasn't been easy for her: difficulty conceiving, two miscarriages, rounds of IVF. I wonder sometimes about people doing IVF, if they've reached some point of biological desperation bordering on insanity. The endless injections, the endless cost, it seems like people pour their entire savings into some bottomless pit just for the chance of a child. Just for a chance.
For her, it seemed to have worked. The little aliens are getting big. She came to the office elated today after news of an ultrasound that they were estimated to be growing slightly faster than predicted.
It really didn't seem right to me. It didn't seem right that although she is about my age, she had been through all this shit. It didn't seem right that there are so many struggling with infertility, yearning for a family and that meanwhile there is always a sea of fertile Myrtles who don't even want kids, but are unwittingly getting knocked up.
I didn't dare tell her about first ultrasound.
I didn't tell anyone about the day I left work early to go to my prenatal appointment, how I reluctantly got onto the table and adjusted my scrub top. The ultrasound tech chattered enthusiastically as the probe eventually centered on a little blob. She pointed to a flicker on the screen.
"There's the heartbeat," she exclaimed.
I didn't say a word. A tear rolled down across my temple and into my hair. I thought how I must seem like a terrible patient, to not be cooing and delighting in the fact I was housing this healthy fetus. She handed me a print out, a keepsake. I didn't want it, I didn't even want to look at it, but it seemed strange to refuse it.
I wadded it up the ultrasound paper, put it in my pocket. My husband walked me to the car. I sat in the passenger seat for a while, just crying. I hadn't decided if I was going to have this baby, but I had no idea that I was going to be so rattled by a fucking ultrasound.
My husband and I had endless discussions and probably some of the most stomach twisting arguments I can remember, about whether or not to keep this little organism, which I would jokingly refer to as "a parasite." Maybe referring to then barely-developed MiniMan as "Cletus the fetus" or "an alien" made the idea of having an abortion easier, but after the ultrasound it no longer seemed like something I could just distance myself from.
I had never wanted to have a kid in my early twenties. It really did not fit in with my goals. I was months away from starting a post-bac program in Vermont, and being preggo was not part of the plan.
Everything was falling down around me. I was going to lose this child and this guy who I hadn't meant to love, but had really fallen for. I was putting in eighty hour weeks washing eighty-year olds at the nursing home, watching the gradual breakdown of body and mind. Medicine, from that perspective, seemed so depressing, discouragingly palliative, and even as a caregiver, I didn't even have the time to offer these people the support they really needed. I remember initially being so intrigued by Korsakoff's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. What an asshole I was, I realized, to delight in the details of disease when those very illnesses were slowly destroying people, removing personalities, piece by piece, until nothing remained but an infantile shell. I worried an abortion, of all things, would push me over the edge, into some insurmountable depression.
I can't remember how many times I prayed that I would just have a miscarriage so I wouldn't have to decide what to do, that the universe would just take the reins and somehow work things out. And, somewhat reassuringly the universe did work things out, just not in the way I expected.
Eventually, I ran out of time. I had to decide.
So I chose happiness. I decided to choose love and silliness and unrefined Christmas cookies with too many sprinkles. Imagining my future that way, it wasn't actually so far off. My life is definitely goofier and droolier and toothier and at times undeniably more joyful. It's also more exhausting and slow, and financially drained, but, I guess you can't have everything, at least not all at once.