belly 2014

Sometime around 4am I drifted off to sleep. Just before that, I could hear Rose and Blanche and Sophia bantering back and forth.  I could see, when I opened my eyes slightly, as the swift kick of a muscle contraction yanked me out of near slumber, the bathroom light seeping into the hallway.  I could hear the boy snoring in the bedroom while I laid myself out on the couch, fidgeting fidgeting fidgeting with each pain. Self-exiled so that at least one of us could sleep.

I was forty. And pregnant for the first time. And despite hopes that this was one of those freakish not-miscarriages that feels just like a miscarriage – I was in the front end of my body saying nonononononono.

It wasn’t lost on me at all that the only thing to finally lull me to sleep in those wee hours of that first night was hours of back to back Golden Girls episodes.

Getting pregnant at 40 makes you acutely aware of how old you are. Everywhere you turn, there it is. Geriatric pregnancy. Statistics and data and those damn gray hairs in the roots you are too paranoid to dye right now.  

I didn’t feel old, though, lying on that couch, hoping against hope that this wasn’t what I knew it was. I was just a body in pain. A heart aching. I watched Rose dump a rude guy.  I watched Dorothy push that man out of their house.  I watched Sophia crack wise before the music ramped up for the credits.

Valentines Day that year was supposed to be an extraordinarily happy day.  By chance, my first prenatal appointment was scheduled for that morning.  We both thought: how perfect.  Instead, my first pregnancy ultrasound was three days earlier and to confirm that my uterus was emptying itself completely.

I decided young – at about twenty-two – that I wasn’t going to have children.  For a variety of reasons, really, but mostly because I didn’t know if I could handle the potential heartbreak that comes with parenting.  The soul crushing loss that looms over you the minute your heart opens that wide.

I spent nearly a decade and a half with someone who felt the same way, at least about having children. Our reasons were different, but our decision the same.  When I found myself single at thirty-six, I thought, I could change my mind and not have to discuss it. I can just decide for myself. But I better decide soon.

I went back and forth with myself. For three years I could feel the edge of the fence burrowing into me; my life will be great without kids and my life could be great with kids. Even when I found myself in love with someone who I knew would love to have another child, I kept the waffling to myself. What to do? What to say?

I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing my indecision and getting his hopes up only to land back at the same position I was in when I met him (& had, of course, shared with him only weeks into dating).

Even when we talked about it and decided to just leave it to fate – see what happens – I was of ten different minds about it. I knew if I got pregnant, I would be happy. Certainly terrified, but glad.

Despite being an old broad, it happened fast. Within a month of going off of the pill. The night I read pregnant on the test, I couldn’t sleep. I was wired. The boy: ecstatic, but not worried at all. He snored and I sat up in bed with my mind spinning and spinning and spinning. I worried enough for both of us. What am I doing? Holy shit, did I really really want this?

As I sat on the table in that doctor’s office at only eight weeks pregnant – or, I guess, unpregnant – weeping, I knew that I did really want it. And that was the scariest of all.  I want this.

I went home and dozed off more, the echos of Rose and Blanche and Dorothy in my head. I went back to work the next morning and the next, my body still twisting and cramping and ending what I hadn’t even been sure I could have.

***

Eleven months later I was at a small theater in San Francisco to see Trannyshack reenact Golden Girls’ episodes – a San Francisco Christmas tradition. I had been to see them two years before but this time I was 37 weeks pregnant.

I was swollen and huge and stone cold sober. The show, as usual, was flawless. I couldn’t help think about that night in February where the TV looped into my fitful sleep – smaller versions of these women sound-tracking my pain.

I teared up when the whole theater sang the theme song in unison as a man played it on a piano tucked off stage right.  I had heard that song at least a dozen times that long, painful night on the couch. So so many times.

I’m ready this time, I thought. Ready.

Pregnancy is the most miraculous and mundane thing. You are doing what millions and millions have done before you and yet – and yet – I was stopped in my tracks constantly by my own body making a human out of almost nothing.

In ten days, I would go into labor and push this little girl into the world, complete with all of my hopes and dreams and fears for her. The stone cold fear of what I would do if anything awful happens to her. The full knowledge that I can’t save her from pain or heartache or injury.  So much to fear when you crack your ribs open and let your heart fill all that space with so much love.

But that night – that night –  we were just one being about to be two, laughing and listening and singing the theme song along with a few hundred other people. My heart is true. My belly rising and falling with each chuckle. Her body jostled by the sound and the motion of my joy.

After the show, we stood in line to take pictures with the cast. When Dorothy saw my stomach, she gasped. How far along? Whoa! Well, Sophia can be your midwife, we’ll just clear that table and Rose can get you some hot water.

My tiny, nestled little water breathing daughter was deemed the youngest guest ever. What better title is there for the soon-to-be-born daughter of an old broad like me?

My prayer that night, carried out in laughs and giggles: may we be Dorothy and Sophia, bound even in the most fragile of times by pure love, tethered like we were in those moments in that theater, by blood and biology and magic, so usual and so miraculous.

Thank you for showing up when I thought my body would reject you, too.

Thank you for hanging on for the whole long road to birth.

Thank you for being the one.

Thank you for being….