The bathroom cabinet had two kinds of pregnancy tests: the brand-name kind that can tell you how many weeks along you are, and those cheap ones I bought before we started trying. In my doubt, I pulled the only remaining cheap sticks from the shelf.
Another night of fitful dreaming had passed. When I awoke, Tim had already left for work and I remembered my strange dream. I was holding a pregnancy test stick and the answer was unclear. It was like when Marty McFly held his family picture when he was playing guitar at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance and his hands began to fade. I had thought the test said “pregnant,” but it looked like a broken Magic 8 Ball.
The fertility specialist told me I had a condition that wouldn’t make conception very easy. He prescribed medication my insurance wouldn’t cover in hopes for a little cuddly side effect. By the time I could convince the small company it was medically necessary due to the condition and not technically a “fertility treatment,” I was dreaming about children and pregnancy almost nightly.
To my surprise, the prescriptions were not very expensive, and I made plans to take the pills as soon as possible to get the process started. According to the doctor, it worked for some women as early as six months into the treatment.
I shook my head and walked over to the bathroom sink to read the directions. Before proceeding with the treatment, I was supposed to take a pregnancy test because these pills would flush everything from my system—including blastocysts, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. The prospect of killing a little life without being aware of it bothered me, but it also seemed so unlikely. In the last year, taking pregnancy tests had become less of a relief and more of a reminder I had next to no control over whether or not my body made babies.
As I unwrapped the test, I thought about how the individual packaging made the tests look remarkably similar to Fruit Roll-Ups. Eating them was much more fun than this. You never opened a Fruit Roll-Up and expected to be let down.
In that horrible waiting period sitting on the toilet, I remembered how when I was young, I dreaded my Catholic dreams of virgin births every Christmas. (It was a product of playing Mary several years in a row for the Christmas plays). After being married and doing everything Mary didn’t do to find herself with child for the past year, the miracle of the incarnation had become a bit ridiculous to me. According to my understanding, pregnancy usually came too easily, whether it was in an Israeli teenage virgin agreeing to host God’s child in her womb or in women whose boyfriends or husbands checked out of the relationship and left them alone with the kids. People I knew often never tried to have children: they had more than they could handle.
The test window flashed its hourglass icon, and I thought of how I had only two nights before told my husband I was having trouble with the incarnation. Although I knew that if the God I believe in wanted to invent and implant a strand of DNA into a person, it would be quite simple; yet, I wondered if it might have been a better story if Mary and Joseph had been a special couple who had conceived the savior of the world.
I grew up around too many seminarians not to hear the quick rebuttal to my misgivings. Only someone who was fully God and fully man could pay our debt by being the perfect sacrifice.
That night I had gone to bed, worried God might punish me for impudence. Tossing and turning all night, I awoke crazily praying God might give me a child, even amidst my doubt. I had read about Hannah, Rachel, and Sarah, but maybe God didn’t hear me or want what I wanted. I threw off the covers and tried to wake my husband. When I failed, I went back to sleep, concerned about how much I let impending barrenness bother me.
The timer on my watch buzzed and I quit thinking about theology; the test window settled on its answer because the blinking had stopped. Even if I couldn’t have a kid, I had so many other things to do. I was putting way too much into this and torturing myself.
But George McFly had kissed Lorraine Baines, and my picture was quite clear now. There would be a Marty McFly (and maybe even some brothers and sisters).
Immediately, I called the doctor and asked the nurse if it were possible to have a false positive. She said she was more familiar with false negatives and laughed at me when I said, “He said this wasn’t supposed to happen.” I scheduled an appointment for bloodwork later that morning to confirm the results.
Next, I called Tim at work, and when his class was on break, he found out he was going to be a dad. There was no waiting—no cute, planned announcement at dinner.
On the way to the doctor’s office, I felt a thousand emotions about the prospect of my own miracle. The shock scared and excited me. I prayed for a child, but I wasn’t planning on getting one quite that quickly.
A few hours later the nurse called to tell me I was just more than a month along, and added that all my hormone levels were perfect.
Throughout my first trimester, I often questioned my sanity in agreeing to carry a child. I hated being sick and feeling bloated, and all those memories of things I wanted to do without a kid in tow came to mind. Plus, the frantic dreams had continued. Instead of dreaming about happy babies, I woke up feeling for blood on the sheets whenever I felt Texas summer sweat between my legs soaking the sheets. Why had I thought I needed this baby? Was it merely fear of another form of failure I wanted to conquer?
Before I got pregnant, I doubted whether or not God heard me about many things. Wanting a baby simply grated against my impatience. God and I, of course, do not usually have the same ideas about what I need. When I got pregnant, my fears revealed that I probably don’t even know what I want or need most of the time.
Now on the downward side of my second trimester, I face another Advent with a rambunctious little girl kicking me just beneath the navel as I write. She’s strong. I saw it at the ultrasound. She practices parkour on the walls of my uterus. We almost left the appointment without knowing boy or girl because she bicycle pedaled her way around the womb, never willing to sit still long enough to give us a good look. My mysteriously modest acrobat is already preparing for her resistance against mother and father.
Already, she is changing my world. When I go to the store, I wish she were here so I could buy her reindeer booties and take her on walks, but she won’t be ready to meet me until a week or so after Easter. By the time Christmas comes again, she will be old enough to pull down the tree and drool on strands of twinkle lights. As I mentioned, I saw her. Her teeth buds and femur burned brightly on the screen. I count on nothing less than giving birth to a happy terror.