“Trust me,” I said. “They break.”
I was twenty-six, walking in Soho with my friend Noelle, laughing over the fragility of condoms.
But I wasn’t worried. How many times in my careless, sexually active life did I count and recount the number of days until I was truly “late”? I’d begun to think I was infertile. But then, I hadn’t been thoughtless or stupid. I had merely been unlucky.
Within days after that trip, back in Rhode Island where I went to medical school, my body began to elude me. Small foreign twinges twanged in my lower right belly. My breasts softened. The world around me sharpened. I found I cried often, not from sadness, but rather from a sense of enhanced sensitivity, and connection, to the world around me.
It had only been seven weeks since my last period. These feelings could not be what I thought— at least according to the book that lay splayed across my bed at “Chapter One: The Diagnosis of Pregnancy.”
So I got into my red Nissan in the brisk November air and drove to the 24-hour drugstore. Before entering the painfully bright shop in sweatpants, snow boots, and unbrushed hair, I fumbled with the rings on my left hand and planted one on my ring finger. God forbid the late-night cashier should surmise the mess I was in.
Back at my apartment, my hands shook as I emptied the contents of the bag, fumbling for the directions. Since when did a blue stripe become so much more than a partial description of my brother’s sweat socks? The instructions said it could take minutes to show results. They didn’t say when it’s positive, it may be seconds. There must be something wrong. A defective test. A false positive. I’d go back to that store. Screw the cashier!
This time, I waited for the pickup-truck honk. I bundled into the back seat next to my friend Catherine and into her arms. Her boyfriend Mark was silent at the wheel, hesitant to be a part of this intimate endeavor. But Mark got the job done which was exactly what I needed. Catherine came with me, first into the store, then into my apartment. We watched the shock of blue appear together this time. She hugged me for a very long time before leaving.
But I couldn’t handle this alone, so I called Him—the other author of this tale.
“I’ll be right over,” said Mr. Ever-Available-In-A-Crisis-But-Rarely-Otherwise. And he soon showed up. I needed to be held, to be hushed, even if it was temporary. Even if we’d broken up.
I was pregnant for nine days, but the attachment was immediate. I never imagined a baby, but I was instantly connected, and protective of the little seed growing inside of me. At Thanksgiving, the night before the abortion, I drank a glass of wine at my friend Brenda’s home and felt guilty for the harm done to a child who would never exist.
The sad tears came with the physical pain of the abortion, with the coldness of the doctor, who told me that at my age I should not be sleeping with men with whom I did not want children. And when she told me to “just stop” hyperventilating when I reacted to the anesthesia injected into my cervix. The nurse stood silently by, patting my arm.
But the real crying began afterward. My family was vacationing in Lake Tahoe. We sat around, eating and catching up—my brother, nieces, parents, and pregnant sister. But I couldn’t connect. All I could feel was a vast emptiness where just weeks before I’d felt a fertile and lush garden in the center of my body. The kindness of friends, my sister, my ex, vanished into that hole. For weeks I spotted blood, each trip to the bathroom a reminder of what was lost.
It was not logical.
I did not want a baby, of that I was clear. I knew I could not provide what was needed emotionally or physically at that time. But in those nine days, I’d felt a connection to my body as never before. For once, I’d stopped evaluating my body as an object to behold. Instead, I eased into the wonder of what it could do. I’d learned to listen to my body instead of judging it. I fed it. I rested it. I loved it. In those nine days, I discovered that one day I’d want to carry, and nurture, a child in ways I’d never known. And now I knew how.