“I hate to be the one to lay something so heavy on you,” the ultrasound technician began. “But it looks like you’re pregnant.”
Pregnant? Impossible. I was on Depo-Provera, the wonder drug, injectable birth control you only have to take four times per year. No periods, no hassle. After a year on it, I was in love. Or rather, up until that moment I was.
I had had some minor bleeding the day before. “It sounds like nothing,” my doctor said. “But why don’t you come in for an ultrasound and we’ll take a look.”
“This couldn’t be an early miscarriage, could it?”
“Oh, no,” she assured me. “No birth control is one hundred percent, but Depo is pretty close.” How close? According to the web site: 99.7 percent.
I lay on the table, shaking. Despite my earlier miscarriage question, I never really considered the possibility I might be pregnant. Grapefruit-sized tumor, sure. Benign cyst? Possibly. But pregnant? On almost-one-hundred-percent-reliable Depo? Never.
I thought back to my initial miscarriage question. “Is there a heartbeat?”
“Yes, there’s a heartbeat.”
She sent me out to the waiting room so she could take measurements from the pictures, and I sat and wept alone as the lone other couple in the waiting room watched me nervously. They were pregnant. They probably assumed I was crying because I wasn’t.
I was still shaking when I went back to see the nurse practitioner, who eyed me nervously and asked what I wanted to do. She knew nothing about me. I could’ve been unemployed and single. Pregnant from an extramarital fling.
I was none of those things. I was married, two wonderful sons, fairly young and fairly stable. I had no reason not to keep this baby. Except, of course, that I didn’t want it. I didn’t say that, however. I just looked at her evenly and said, “I’m okay,” even though I clearly wasn’t.
Reassured, the nurse read from my file, “Well, it looks like you’re seventeen weeks along . . .”
Seventeen weeks. Four months. I was four months pregnant and hadn’t known it. I was one of those women I always mocked when you read about them in tabloids.
The next few weeks were a slow blur. According to the measurements, I had received two Depo injections since conceiving the baby. No one knew, however, what Depo could do to a fetus. I was referred to a specialist, who of course couldn’t see me for two weeks because of the Christmas holidays. I felt frozen in time, fearing something was horribly wrong, and if so, wondering if I’d ever be able to abort a four-and-a-half-month-old fetus.
I didn’t have to worry. Ironically, Depo is about the best thing you can be on while pregnant. It’s pure progesterone, which is often given to pregnant women to help maintain a pregnancy. My ultrasound looked good, the fetus was exactly where it ought to be, and it was a girl. After my younger son Ronan was born, I had resigned myself to life without pigtails and prom dresses. But there she was.
Everyone was thrilled. When I got home from that first ultrasound, crying to my sister, her husband wanted to go out and celebrate. My mom cried happily on the phone. My husband, unflappable as ever, smiled and hugged me. A pregnancy is wonderful news, so joyous. But I had fought this. I had taken great pains to prevent this. But that didn’t seem to matter.
When everyone around you is happy about your pregnancy, it’s hard not to get caught up in it as well. I wanted to be happy. It seemed silly and shortsighted to think about how close I had been to being done with babies. This summer my boys were going to be in camp full time. I had been looking forward to my freedom. With every milestone Ronan crossed, I had felt excited rather than sad. No more nursing? Hooray! Done with the high chair? Good riddance! Sayonara crib! See you later sippy cup!
I wasn’t a nostalgic mom. I’m not a nostalgic person. I don’t know exactly when Ronan stopped nursing (around eleven months?) or when he started walking (fourteen months? Maybe fifteen?), all I know is that he and I have shared this forward momentum, this movement toward independence for both of us.
During the entirety of Ronan’s first year of life, my sister would ask me, “Don’t you want another? Just a little bit?” (She has five kids and clearly didn’t want to be alone in her insanity.) But I was certain. No doubts. Two was perfect. There were two of them and two of us. It seemed fair, equitable. We could fit in a booth at a restaurant. Heck, we could go to a restaurant. Two was the right amount.
Except now it wasn’t. Now we’d have three kids.
For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to admit my doubts, my fears. Two of my closest friends were struggling with fertility and here I was, unable to not get pregnant. I was embarrassed by my lack of excitement, by my inner unhappiness. This miracle child clearly so wanted to be here. And I tried to want her to be here. I was sure that no one wanted to hear it. I wasn’t a teenager, I wasn’t living in poverty, I was a thirty-five-year-old woman in a loving marriage with two great kids and a supportive husband. I was the poster child for pregnancy.
So I played along. I laughed with everyone about the bizarre unlikelihood of it all, about how it was possible I hadn’t known for so long. About this miracle child, who clearly so wanted to be here. And I tried to want her to be here.
When I finally admitted to my husband that I was stressed and anxious and scared about this child, he was calm and reassuring without being patronizing. The more I talked about it, the more I found out that I wasn’t alone. Friends of mine who had actually planned their pregnancies admitted to experiencing doubt and hesitation. No one thought any less of me when I confessed my true feelings.
And as the pregnancy has progressed, I have felt moments of excitement and anticipation, pure wonder at the tiny person growing inside of me. When I saw her perfect little face on my second ultrasound I cried again, but this time they were tears of joy. I have found myself on more than one occasion trolling the aisles at Nordstrom Rack, fingering tiny designer dresses with matching bloomers. Two friends recently gave birth to girls, and as I watched them sleep through our coffee dates, I thought to myself: I can do this. Just because I didn’t want to doesn’t mean I won’t be able to.
I know that when she gets here, I’ll fall in love and wonder how my life was complete before her. I’ll breathe in her scent as she falls asleep beside me and wonder how I ever could have doubted.
Pregnancies can be unwanted. But babies rarely are.