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A Positive Pregnancy Test

My husband and I thought we would have to stop trying in August 2018, for the sake of our marriage. But slowly, our white-knuckle terror of another termination decision eased a tiny bit, and we started having sex again. But we knew we were living a half-life, under the crushing weight of monthly disappointment, so we tried to stop in April 2019. And in April 2020. Each time, we couldn’t do it. Despite my fear, despite my knowledge that our chances were vanishingly small, I couldn’t find the emotional strength to cross the Rubicon into permanent childlessness. COVID provided the perfect excuse – why add another pressure during a pandemic?

So this is how I find myself with a positive pregnancy test, at 42 and a half, in November 2020. It’s indisputable that I’ve had a positive pregnancy test, I saw the two lines clear as day. But I don’t use the word pregnant to describe myself. Even to myself (and no-one else knows, except my husband and the doctor). It’s not so much that I worry about jinxing it, more that I don’t dare to inhabit that identity even at the most superficial level, because I know with my whole being that it won’t last. So at seven weeks and having seen the heartbeat on a scan, in my head I’m not pregnant - just someone who’s had a positive pregnancy test.

When I look ahead I feel fear and dread, but also – dammit – hope creeps in. I’m desperately trying to stop the hope. Every day I give myself a lecture about how seven weeks is barely off the start line, how our last miscarriage happened in week eight, how I need to be ready for this to end. But each day I also close my eyes and beg the universe to help me. In previous pregnancies, I used to feel relief every evening, to have made it one day further along the assault course. But now, I don’t trust my body to tell me when something is wrong. I’ve had a miscarriage at eleven weeks, where it was clear from the scan that the baby had stopped growing weeks before any bleeding started. I felt like my body had made a fool out of me - all those weeks of dreaming and planning ahead, with a dead baby inside me. I’ve felt a pregnancy charging inexorably ahead, not knowing it held in store for me the worst decision I’ve ever had to take, with no outward sign that anything was wrong.

So I don’t trust my body. I’m utterly fed up with it actually. And it frustrates me that we seem to understand so little about early pregnancy. I looked out at the stars the other night, and felt angry that science seems to understand what’s going on out there better than it understands what’s going on right here, in my womb.

The timing makes no sense, because I’ve spent the last six months groping my way beyond TTC, beyond IVF, beyond infertility - beyond the identities I was reluctantly inhabiting, and beyond the identity of biological mother that I still crave so badly. Yes, we were still timing sex around ovulation, because after so many years I just could not shake that habit. But I had finally found the community of people who have got through infertility without a baby, and lived to tell the tale. I was just starting to imagine how they could be my tribe after all, and I thought if I could find a tribe that understood me, I could start feeling more human with the other people in my life too.

But now I need to respectfully step back, because I’ve been busted as someone who still has cause for hope. And I can’t re-join the TTC or IVF world because the fact is I’m too scared to embrace that hopeful mind-set again. So I’m pretty much nowhere, just existing day-to-day, staring into the loo every time I pee for the slightest trace of blood, and trying not to let the anxiety eat away at me too badly.

I’ve never found the basics of pregnancy self-care too difficult – I don’t miss alcohol all that much, and I’m happy to switch to decaf. So on a good day I reassure myself that I’m doing everything I can, and what will be will be. But then I have a rush of guilt that our little baby is doing its best to get to the size of an apple pip, and it doesn’t have anyone rooting for it, because I’m too emotionally burnt-up to do anything other than defensive pessimism, and I’ve begged my husband not to hope. And then I spend a bit of time talking to the baby and stroking my bloated progesterone-pumped belly, and I remind myself that my husband is as bad as me at not hoping.

So… it’s all pretty messed up. But one way or another, in a couple of months we will be in a firmer place, rather than this nowhere. Maybe trying to recover after another loss, or maybe just maybe, looking ahead with slightly stronger cause for hope. But either way, somewhere.

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