Today I sat in a coffee bar which seemed full of bulging bellies. Large, proud, clad in horizontal stripes as their owners (producers?) ranged around. I feel odd not being pregnant any more, though it was a distressing time which I don’t think I could bear to retread and I felt buoyed by their laughter and enthusiasm. Most of what I’ve written about pregnancy I’ve written about carrying Newborn.
But these women, they must have been first timers. They looked so shiny and taught-skinned and excited, a sight that always makes me feel glad. And hopeful. Hopeful that they can cherish the brilliant lack of knowingness of the things which can happen, bad things, dark days, which can make being pregnant, getting pregnant, deciding to try and get pregnant even, one of the hardest bravest things the more knowing woman can do.
And yet suddenly, watching them waddle to the loo in a trio, hearing their laugh and snippets of chat about going home to chill on the last days of maternity leave I remember the thrill, of the first time I was pregnant and when I was truly and simply excited at the momentous ordinary thing which was occurring inside me.
That moment began when I had a sudden urge to buy Christmas presents after an enduring three day hangover which still hadn’t abated, as I was walking down Wood Green High Street in November my tits aching in the wind. A week after we’d decided to cool the trying for a baby thing as it was so disheartening, take a breath, get drunk at Christmas then regroup, start properly charting and speak to a doctor. The moment when I though: ‘hang on…’.
I had the day off work. I had bought so many tests, wasted so much money, even the trip to Boots was a trial. Waste £10-£15 on a digital one? Be enticed by an offer, a multi-pack (would the latter be giving in, to more needling)? Buy cheap? Go own brand? All these labels and none which would could sell itself on what I really wanted, a test which would tell me what I wanted to know. Finally, exasperated, I chose one which promised ‘first’ results. Despite trying and wanting a baby, and being able to read and understand enough about numbers to look in books and online I was never exactly sure where I was supposed to be in my cycle.
I casually dropped my test in the shopping bags and forced myself to be slow on the walk home. No excitement, no tempting fate. The testing wasn’t a new thing. I can remember the first time I did a pregnancy test, at university, fearful of a yes, and praying fervently I wouldn’t get one. And the hundreds of tests I took at a hint of an imaginary symptom each doleful, saddening maddening month when we hadn’t hit the dual line jackpot.
All those empty windows, all that admonishing for lost time (which hadn’t happened yet), and wasted strands of a story of me that were not to be but which still strangled my heart if I let them. All those Summer and Spring and Winter and Autumn pregnancies that never happened because I wasn’t bloody pregnant. Such a crock. And yet that time, that November morning, as I went upstairs, not even with my first morning urine, weeing and waited, I knew my luck was in. I had a funny feeling, a sense I might be pregnant.
Of course I’d had that sense every single fucking month of trying so it wasn’t new. Although this time as I gazed at the stick ignoring the hygiene issue there was a knock at the door.
A man stood, cold in his suit jacket, holding a clipboard with an NHS survey on it which was incidentally spattered with rain spittle.
‘Are you busy?’ he asked. Noting my dishevelled dress and slightly manic eyes, perhaps even my hands behind my back. ‘Did I interrupt something?’
I glanced across at the test which I’d brought downstairs and then placed on the radiator cover in the hall remembering on my descent I was supposed to leave it somewhere horizontal rather than hold it like a lucky Olympic baton. I looked down at the window which had, bugger me, a cross appearing.
‘Actually’ I said, ‘I think you did’.
So many details are with me still. I still have the test, so I know she was sentimental. And I still have the dress, so I know she was a size 14. Until recently I still had the text she sent to her husband, which shows she was impatient, and his (typically understated) reply: ‘tee hee‘, which tells us she was in a conspiracy of love with him.
But that woman, so excited she had to practically put both hands over her mouth not to immediately tell survey guy, so giddy she had couldn’t wait for her husband to come back from work, that woman enthralled by the magic of it all, who used a ruler with a colleague to check the size of the foetus every week and planned on making the pregnancy book measurements real in a woolen package of fruit and veg corresponding to developments week by week (called ‘In Fruit A Row’), who eagerly sported a ‘bump’ before the intruder was visible. She, I don’t always remember, but I’m glad today I did.