I see the discarded pregnancy tests in the trash as I toss in a tampon wrapper. These unlikely plastic adversaries sit beside each other: one a symbol of hope, the other of failure.
Immediately, I think, Ugh, I’ll take the trash out so I don’t have to look at those.
Then, correcting myself, I think, No. Let me see them. Let me face it.
I’ll be turning 39 in a few weeks. A second child wasn’t really in our plans, until, grief-stricken last year, I talked to a medium while hoping to connect with my brother, and she told me that a second child had me in its plans.
“Really?” I’d asked, both incredulous and, embarrassingly, delighted.
“When are you 38?” she asked.
“Right now,” I replied, surprised.
“Yep. The window closes at 38. Your great-grandmother, the chain smoker, says to go for it. It’s a wonderful, beautiful child. It’ll be so good.”
And so, despite the fact that acting on the advice of a spiritual medium sounds as insane as taking financial tips from someone declaring bankruptcy, we did go for it.
Mercifully and easily, we were pregnant two months later. And against all the odds, even at my age, we were delighted. I had truly always wanted a second child, but it had never made sense financially, and so I’d softly given up. Until the medium spoke those words, and the unanticipated delight rose up in my body, and later talking about it with C. Could we afford a second? Surprisingly, we realized that in 2020, we were indeed in a much better place financially.
I spent June and July absolutely on cloud nine. I watched what I ate, reduced my caffeine intake, and enjoyed wearing my smaller-sized clothing while I could. I spent lovely hours imagining V as the best big sister.
On a ten-minute break at work at the end of the summer, that all changed when I saw blood in my underwear. Ooh. Thats not good. Maybe I’m just spotting? I thought, but of course, I already knew, didn’t I?
That bright red bloom, immediately signifying the death of something else.
I’ll save the details of the miscarriage for another time. (No one actually wants to hear that, if Chrissy Teigen or Meghan Markle are any evidence.) Suffice to say, my doctor had me go to the hospital because of my age (to rule out an ectopic pregnancy), and experiencing that completely alone during a pandemic is something I would never wish on my worst enemy.
Suffering a miscarriage compounded with the lingering grief from my brother’s death felt absolutely like I was being punished in the cruelest way. So much death. Why?
After a dark seven months, the pregnancy, along with buying a house together with my mom, had felt like a glimmer of hope after a long, tortured night. I felt that I’d been bestowed a blessing to pay for all of the pain I’d endured. The miscarriage shattered that illusion, and I found myself thinking, Of course something good wouldn’t happen to me now (and a bunch of other victim-y things that weren’t true).
“Wait two months,” my OB said at the end of all of it, and added, “You’re healthy. You should try again. It’ll work out.”
That was July. It’s now January. It hasn’t worked out.
Every month, pregnancy tests; every month, negative. Or I see a faint second line and then a few days later, blood clots and cramping I’ve only felt that one other time. It’s been hell.
“Are you willing to do in-vitro?” a co-worker asked me recently. And the truth is, though I haven’t talked to C about it, I personally am not. (And I am not personally saying anything against in-vitro; my brother and sisters were thankfully born because of in-vitro.)
The truth is, I am already happy, and we are already complete. When I make dinner on a Monday night at it’s C, V, and my mom around the dinner table talking together, I am happy and we are complete. When V gets in my lap on the couch and watches an entire movie this way, I am happy and we are complete. When I feel her warm hand in mine on a walk, I am happy and we are complete. When she falls asleep beside me at night, her soft breathing coming out in little invisible tufts, I am happy and we are complete.
And despite the American in me who was raised to want it all, there is a part of me that quietly advises myself:
Be happy with what you have.
Don’t always reach for more.
Savor this life, this family you’ve been given.
You are already so privileged.
I didn’t even know I wanted a second child until a stranger put it into my head that my dead great-grandmother thought I should have one. I still don’t know if I want one — is this yearning because her saying so awoke a latent hope in me, or did she influence me into wanting it (I have an image of Inception in my mind, haha), and now I’m fixated on having something I’m not even sure I’m supposed to have??
The other thing that tortures me is my gut reaction, both when she said this thing to me about the other child, and the one time I saw the positive pregnancy test. Elation.
Did that reaction identify my true feeling? Does that reaction mean it’s right?
I have no idea.
What I do know, and what I’ve known from gritting my teeth through other pockets of pain and disappointment in my life, is that pretending the pain and disappointment don’t exist — i.e., putting the pregnancy tests (that somehow remind me of discarded bones) in the trash — never works.
I have to face it.
I must face my disappointment; I must welcome it over and over. I must sit with all these questions that nag me late at night: Was I too old to want this? Was I wrong for doing so? Am I not healthy as I think I am? Am I being punished, ungrateful? Is this even my true desire?
So I leave them there: those plastic harbingers of failure. Once, their pink plastic caps and smooth white bodies brought me so much joy. Now, even looking at the box on the shelf at Target, hurts.
Bur I’ll face it. I’ll take a painful breath and look at them every time.
At least until Friday, when the trash goes out.