The wall itself was pretty unremarkable.
Subtly textured, marked in a few places from the swing of the heavy wood door. Painted an innocuous off-white that was probably marketed as ‘Doctor’s Office Drab.’ The paint had held up to the industrial-strength cleaners the room was undoubtedly swabbed down in after hours each day; an ordinary wall, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
I stared at that wall while my brains churned away inside my skull, thoughts going a mile a minute. A mixture of exhaustion and the overwhelming events of the last few days had sucked dry every reserve of strength I had. If I closed my eyes I would surely fall asleep, so I stared at the wall while I waited.
The doctor’s entrance made me jump; he has a habit of pushing the door open with his shoulder instead of turning the handle, and the metallic clang of the mechanism was amplified in the small room. Brisk but warm handshake and a big smile, the expert toss of my chart onto the counter before seating himself on the tiny rolling stool my kids usually spin each other into barf-threats on.
“So you’re a 2-percenter, huh?” He asked, smile still broad. I blinked, too worn out and still slow on the uptake. “A 2-percenter,” he repeated. “One of the 2 percent of women who get pregnant despite perfect use of the pill.”
I blinked again. “So your test was positive too?” I asked. Hesitant, yet resigned. There had been no mistaking the results I’d gotten at home.
“Oh yeah, you’re pregnant.” He smiled again, amused. “Did you think you’d hear otherwise?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “Just figured I’d ask. I was on the pill, and… Yeah, you know. Just didn’t seem possible, and I needed to know for sure.”
“Nope, you’re definitely pregnant.” He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Now you need to decide where you want to go from here.”
I walked out of the office 45 minutes later, sheaf of papers in hand and a pit in my stomach. I didn’t want decisions; I wanted a damn nap. I wanted a few hours alone to process all of this, to make sense of it. To wrap my head around the total clusterfuck of a mess I had found myself in.
I cried. I yelled at the stack of papers on the passenger seat of my van, the top one confirming the positive result on the office’s pregnancy test and listing a due date of May 1st, 2016. “We’re DONE, goddamnit!” I slung my purse angrily onto the floorboard. “DONE! I DON’T WANT TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY.”‘
6 kids, 5 born with 1 1/2-2 year time spans between them. I’d been pregnant or nursing (often both!) for over 10 years straight, not including the 3 total years of gestating and breastfeeding my oldest daughter before that. My last pregnancy was rough and ended with a c-section (following 33 hours of unmedicated labor) and it felt good to be finished with that experience. A chapter of life closed with new horizons ahead, the ability to do more with our kids as the youngest two grew from babies into toddler and preschooler. The end of diapers in sight, the possibility of a genuine full night’s sleep within reach. Toning up my poor abused stomach muscles and having the results actually last.
For the first time in so long, things were really falling into place. I felt well, had energy and was so excited for the future. The demons had been all but silenced and the possibilities seemed endless. Now what?! Decisions. The papers held addresses and phone numbers for two separate places. Two destinations where this road could lead me: the midwife’s office, or the clinic. A or B, Yes or No. Baby or No Baby. Decision 1 or Decision 2.
With no way to deny reality anymore, I broke the news to Justin. We talked, we thought, we waited. The so-familiar nausea started, removing any last doubts. I found myself watching my children, trying to imagine another face in the group. Another little duck in the line, another seat at our crowded table.
The fates seem to think that I need frequent reminders of my place in the grander scheme. Every time I feel on top of things, something comes along to kick me back a few steps. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s a chance to reconsider the road, to glean more from each situation. Except this time I felt like I’d been dropped down to the very bottom again. The prospect of another miserable pregnancy and terrifying labor and delivery seemed insurmountable. Where does ‘a lot’ cross the line into ‘too much?’ The last three years, in a nutshell, have just been two much.
I wanted to call my mom. She would’ve been excited; every baby was a miracle to her, even the one I delivered as an unmarried barely-16 year old kid. She would’ve known what to say to help me see this pregnancy as something besides a massive pothole in an already rough road. Knowing that I couldn’t call her with the news, as I’d done so many times before, brought the pain of her death right back up to the surface for a few days. There was a new hole created by her absence and a new pain curling back from its ragged edges.
Not all of our children were planned; in fact, 3 of our 6 began life as surprise pregnancies. I studied them next to their ‘planned’ siblings. At times I could almost hear my mother’s voice asking in that straightforward-yet-upbeat way that she had: “Now, which one would you give back? Who wouldn’t be here, if you could go back and change things?”
Not Cailin, the stunningly beautiful baby whose conception got me to turn my entire life around. Definitely not Ivy, our official court jester, who smiled at us the day she was born and cheated death 3 times before her first day of kindergarten. And what about Alarik? Our changeling, our elf-baby, who looks exactly what I imagine my little brother would’ve looked like if he had survived. Not him either. I wouldn’t trade any of my kids for anything in the world, even the ones who came earthside on their own calendar instead of ours. Now why was I looking at this tiny baby, who had already defied major obstacles just to exist, any differently?
This little speed bump in our road was just that- a speed bump that would soon disappear into the rear view mirror. A pit stop that wouldn’t change our destination, just alter things a bit. What was once overwhelming became more and more manageable as time went on. We talked some more, cried some more, and made our decision. I cancelled the consultation that had been scheduled with the clinic and got set up with the midwife instead.
An ultrasound revealed a perfect little pea of a baby with a vibrantly beating heart. My favorite jeans will no longer button. 10 year old Sadie’s mention of hot dog eating contests sent me racing to the bathroom a few days ago. The realization that we’ve given away pretty much all of the baby stuff came with head-scratching and a laugh- we’ll figure it out. That’s already the answer to pretty much everything right now.
There’s no universal answer for everyone who finds themselves sitting where we were, and still are. We made the choice that works for us just as everyone in this spot has to. I’m thankful that we had options available and could decide for ourselves instead of that decision being made for us right off the bat. I was surprised at just how devastating a very unplanned pregnancy can still be, despite being a married adult instead of a teenager. That aside, I think we’ve made the right decision. I will be having a tubal ligation after this baby is born; he/she will be our close-the-book baby. Our tie-breaker, our lucky #7. Our crowded kitchen table doesn’t look quite as crowded anymore, and our line could totally use another little duck after all. Even the puking isn’t quite as brutal anymore now that I can look at it in a different light. If this little ninja of a baby is anywhere near as tenacious as he/she has been so far, he (or she) is going to move mountains. In that bigger picture, the fact that my perfectly laid plans got all shaken up by this little detour no longer matters at all.