It turns out they were not imaginary symptoms after all. On Tuesday last week, one day before I expected my period, I took another test and it was positive. The next day, naturally, I took a third test. Still pregnant. I am now four weeks and six days pregnant and I feel like I have been pregnant forever. This is not surprising since I have now been pregnant for 52 weeks of the last 18 months.
I am not sure how to feel about this pregnancy yet. Obviously it is very, very early days. Far too early to let myself get invested. But, after losing Anja at 29 weeks, anything less than 40 weeks seems like early days. The possibility of loss is no longer limited to the first few weeks or to the first trimester, but instead looms over the entire expanse of a pregnancy. There is no safe time to tell people, to think about where a baby will sleep or what it will need when it comes home from the hospital. Four weeks, 12 weeks, 20, 30. Doesn’t matter; anything could go wrong, anytime.
So far, I have told my parents, my sister and a couple of close friends. In every case, the reaction has been a muted, surprised and slightly uncomfortable sounding ‘Oh!.’ No one expresses joy or excitement or even hope – at least initially – and I completely understand, but I also have promised myself that if this pregnancy ends with a living baby coming home with us, then I am going to throw a huge party; I am going to celebrate that baby in a way that I don’t think will ever be possible – for me or for anyone else – to do before it is born screaming.
But for now, I can’t think beyond today. I’ve given up my glass of wine in the evening and my morning coffee, my pilates class and running, but despite making those concessions to my ‘condition,’ I am unable to believe that this will last, that it is real. We’ll see, I say. We’ll see.
* * * * *
The day between the day we found out Anja was dead and the day I delivered her was the worst day of my life. I didn’t sleep much after coming home from the hospital where her heartbeat couldn’t be found and an ultrasound showed her floating, ghostly and silent and gone. I fell asleep sometime after 2:00 am and woke up shortly before 5:00. I called my mother first thing, but I do not remember anything of our conversation. She recently told me that I spoke to my dad before I spoke to her, but I did not even remember that simple fact. I don’t remember how we got E up and ready for daycare, but I remember telling her that we would be going to the hospital later and that Baby Sister would be born but would not be coming home with us. I remember speaking to her teacher at daycare, going into the private office and her horrified face when she heard what had happened. I was in such shock.
R and I went for a walk around the lagoon after dropping E off and we talked and talked. We talked about how we needed to move somewhere where we had more support, a stronger community, people to hold us up. We talked about how we could never put ourselves through another pregnancy, through another loss. We sat on a bench and R called his parents and I called a friend whom I had called the night before in hysterics to tell her more calmly what had happened, what would happened next. We sat on that bench, in the cold January grey, for a long time. It was Friday the 13th. It was R’s grandmother’s birthday. My stomach was big and round, but my baby, my darling so-badly-wanted daughter was floating dead inside it. When we finally went home I threw out all my maternity clothes, my prenatal vitamins and my pregnancy books. I took the only belly photo of the entire pregnancy, the saddest belly photo, with my sombre face and puffy eyes turned down toward all that we were losing, were already mourning.
After a couple of months had passed, I began to walk to the bench where we sat that day, to think of it as Anja’s bench. E and I collected dandelions and buttercups and laid them out on the bench, sat and had snacks and watched the ducks and swans on the water. It was a quiet place I could go to be with my daughter, if only in my head. Now it is summer and the tourists are here and there is always someone sitting there. Lately it feels like the whole world is conspiring to push Anja out: all my ‘sacred’ places are overrun with people; I have work deadlines to meet, culminating in a trip to Toronto the day after the six-month anniversary of her death; this new pregnancy, I fear, will allow others to think I have ‘gotten over’ her. I remember being bewildered when winter turned to spring and she was still gone. Now, spring turns to summer, and still, still she is gone. This will never make sense to me. I will want her and want her and want her as long as I am. I hold my left arm across my body; her tattoo rests against my heart and I walk past the two old women sitting on ‘our’ bench and wonder what hidden pains they hold inside them, what stories of loss they remember as they stare out at the ducks and the swans and the reflections of clouds on the water.