According to the Period Tracker app on my phone, I was a week late.
My cycle tends to adapt itself around when I’ll be going on vacation; I’m used to that. If expecting my period to start before a trip, I’ll instead bloat like an overfilled balloon left in the gutter during a rainstorm for a few extra days, and it will finally come on the way to the airport.
A few days late, here and there, but never seven.
I started making jokes to Paulie: calling him my baby daddy, wondering aloud if a pregnancy can still be called an ‘Immaculate Conception’ if one is not exactly ‘immaculate’. By day eight when he lay down on the couch and tried to put his head on my stomach I said “be careful of the baby,” and he said “oops, sorry.” Really he was on my bladder.
When we started dating, Paulie said to me that I needn’t worry about pregnancy because he’d had a vasectomy, and he told me the story of how great it’d been, the bag of frozen peas on his balls and the visitors coming by with whiskey. “I was so happy to see everyone,” he said. “I was so high.”
At that time I, too, was low-risk given the IUD I’d insisted on after my second – very much planned – child was born. My doctor had read step-by-step instructions as he put it inside me, accidentally cutting the strings too short, which wouldn’t be a noticeable issue until five years later when my periods became consistently ever-present and the IUD needed to come out. With the wrestling skills of two separate doctors, it came out, and I was pleased I didn’t need to find another alternative since my boyfriend was shooting blanks, anyway. By nine days late I started to very quietly worry. I dared to think the ‘what if’ thoughts but didn’t let them get much further than the very lower reaches of my imagination. By day ten I was hugging him goodbye before running errands and as we pulled apart I sighed wistfully and said “I’m still pregnant.”
I’d asked him around day five what the chances of getting pregnant using Vasectomy as your birth control were, and he said 1 in 50,000. “So, better chances than winning the Powerball,” I’d countered. My research the night before Day Ten had told me it was actually 1 in 1,000 for the first five years, after which it became 2-10 in 1,000. In general math hurts my head but this was especially painful.
“I was thinking about the baby,” he told me. “Maybe you should take a pregnancy test.” I scoffed. “I’m not pregnant,” I told him, followed immediately with the detailed telling of the research I’d done the night before, which would suggest that there was in fact a chance I could be pregnant. His surgery was going on 12 years old and therefore getting kind of rusty. “Listen, I mean, if I get to like two weeks late, then I’ll take a pregnancy test. But I don’t want to spend all that money on a test just to find out I’m not pregnant – they’re really expensive!”
He shook his head and said “okay. I mean, your boobs are huge right now. Like, pregnant huge, not just period huge.” I knew he was right. The two times I’d been pregnant before I’d known because of my boobs. To punctuate his point he looked at my boobs for a while. “I’m going to buy you a test when I go out later.” “Maybe my body just thinks we’re going on vacation soon,” I told him.
But then I was out later, and I was next to a drug store, so I bought the cheapest pregnancy test I could find. Not dollar store cheap, but drug store brand cheap, which was about 8 dollars and 99 cents more than it would have been at the dollar store. I brought it home, peed on it for five full seconds like the directions told me to, and watched it tell me I wasn’t pregnant. I knew it, I thought. Then, but what if it’s a bunk test because I got the cheap one?
Later, while I was doing dishes and he was walking by I said “oh I took a pregnancy test earlier and it was negative.” He stopped and looked at me sincerely while saying “awww,” like he was disappointed.
“What, are you sad?” I asked him. “Did you want a little Paumanda?” He smiled and said “no, I just–” and I interrupted, clucking and looking sympathetic, “–were you looking forward to driving me to the abortion clinic? I guess that would be kind of an important step in our relationship….” He laughed. I finished the dishes and took out the recycling.
Abortion is much more acceptable when you’re a teenager or young adult and don’t know what the fuck you’re doing with your life. In general – in the circle I run with anyway – people are more encouraging about the idea of taking more time to live your life when you’re young rather than strapping yourself down with a huge responsibility you may regret or, even worse, resent. But a mother of two who is nearing 40 is somehow expected to have that baby, ready or not, and feel thrilled about the idea. This mother has heard dozens upon dozens of tales of women hoping, dreaming, praying to get pregnant and is supposed to feel the same way even if she, too, doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing with her life.
In this scenario ‘she’ is of course, ‘me’.
I owned a children’s used clothing store for eight years and during that time I had many women come to me and tell me, with heavy hearts, that they were unexpectedly pregnant. “Well, I thought we were done….” “I really don’t know if I can handle another….” “We were using protection, but….”
Each time, as the owner of the store at which they were despondently shopping for onesies while their nine-year-old/supposed-to-be-last child swung from the clothing racks in the distance, I had to play mute confidante and could not say what I was thinking, which was: “um, you know there are ways to not have a baby, right? I mean, women kinda fought for the right to, you know…get an abortion.” This last part would be whispered, even in my head, where it remained. They eventually brought those babies to my store, and I snuggled and inhaled and loved the babies of those unsure women who, in having their babies, couldn’t imagine a life any other way. We are an adaptable species when it comes to babies.
There was never any question for me of whether I’d have a third child. I wouldn’t. I’d always said and still believed that I knew my own limitations, and wasn’t willing to extend them. Selfish, maybe, but better for myself and therefore for my kids. They get the best (?) of me instead of the stressed out, emotionally absent, resentful version of me that I hope I wouldn’t/very well might become if I were to have another child. I’ve got shit I want to do! Sure, extended travel is one of them. But more than that, a career I actually like might be nice. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve closed the laptop on a dream job that I am more than qualified for because it is in a state far away, and I just can’t go far away, not for quite a while. Admittedly, despite the heavily oppressive cost of living, being stuck where I am is not the worst burden to bear in the grand scheme of things.
The thought of being pregnant again does not stir in me any primal female need to continue breeding. I don’t think oh but our baby would be so cuuuuute, or this might be my last chance. I am simply overcome with such a massive indifference and dread that the answer to whether or not I’d have the baby is clearer than a much more expensive pregnancy test would be.
On day 11 I wake up to an apocalyptic amount of blood and cramping. I shuffle into the kitchen, put on the kettle for tea, then duck-walk up the stairs to the bathroom where I take care of my bloody business. Then I coo my wake-up coo to my son behind his Wall of Pillow. He reaches around The Wall and we play handsies while he wakes up. I walk to my daughter’s room and crawl very slowly up next to her while she pretends to sleep, saying “wake up…wake up little punk rock princess, little love-bug of all things sunshine,” and when I finally get my face nuzzled up next to hers, she is smiling.