I don’t believe it until I have the pregnancy tests in front of me.
I lay out the positive tests on edge of the sink, all in a row. I know they have my urine on them, but for some reason, that doesn’t bother me. They have morphed into something else. Something almost magical.
I touch my lower abdomen. There’s something growing in there. If I do nothing, that something will become a baby.
I hear knocking on the bathroom door. It’s Matt, sounding just short of hysterical. “Can I come in?”
When I open the door for him, he looks as frightened as I’ve ever seen him. I take a moment to recognize my husband is objectively a very attractive man. I’ve spent so many hours looking at him over the years that sometimes I barely notice what he looks like beyond my obvious affection for him. But occasionally, I see him as a woman meeting him for the first time would see him. He has thick brown hair that’s always somewhat tousled and eyes that crinkle when he smiles. He’s got what one might call “boyish good looks”—something that used to make other women at the office refer to him as “really cute.”
I’m lucky to be married to him. Lucky he wanted me as much as I wanted him. Lucky we’re starting a family together.
The dread in the pit of my stomach is a tiny ball that I can push aside.
“So?” he says, his eyebrows scrunched together.
I point to the pregnancy tests, lined up on the sink. Each of them shows a plus-sign, indicating a positive result.
“You did eleven of them?” he asks in a baffled voice.
“Well, I had to be sure,” I say.
“So…” He scratches at his head. “You… you’re really pregnant?”
He stares at me for a moment, then pulls me into his lap so suddenly that I laugh. I’ve missed this for the last six months—the way Matt always made me smile. It’s been so tense. As much as I’ve been frightened of this very moment, now I think it may bring us closer together. Raising a child together. There’s no one else I’d rather do that with, which I suppose works out well, considering Matt is my husband.
“What do we do now?” he asks me.
“Well,” I say, “I’ll go to my OB/GYN and tell them about my condition. And we’ll go from there.”
“Okay.” He nods. “Um, should I come with you?”
“I doubt that it’s necessary.”
He smiles crookedly. “Can I come with you?”
“Well,” I say thoughtfully, “they might do a pelvic examination. With a speculum.”
I laugh. “You can come if you really want to.”
“I want to. It isn’t every day I get my wife pregnant.”
He holds me close to his chest and all the tension of the last six months drains from my body. This is going to be okay. Yes, I won’t be on my medications for another eight months, but at least there’s an end in sight. And then we’ll have a baby.
Oh my God, we’re going to have a baby.
I’ve never been to Anna’s OB/GYN before or any OB/GYN for that matter. Why would I? I’m a thirty-four-year-old guy.
But today I’m swinging into the handicapped spot by the entrance so that I can accompany Anna to her first appointment. She even consented to be in my car without much fuss and just maybe fifteen minutes of cleaning. When she called, they told her she’d likely be getting an ultrasound today and I wasn’t about to miss that. I know there’d be a picture and she could bring it home for me, but it wouldn’t be the same. I want to be there.
Things start on a sour note when the office to the OB/GYN has a big, heavy glass door that Anna has to hold open for me. But it’s not like I don’t deal with stuff like that all the freaking time. Still. It’s a doctor’s office. It would be nice if they considered the fact that it’s not so easy to open a heavy door if you’re in a wheelchair.
Anna marches right up to the receptionist and flashes her a nervous smile. “I’m here for a two o’clock appointment.”
After two-and-a-half years, I still smile when Anna gives my last name as her own.
We spend about ten minutes in the waiting room and I can see Anna getting antsy. I try to make conversation, but she’s too nervous to give much of a response. I finally pick up a magazine from the table in the middle of the room and that’s when Anna loses her shit.
“What are you doing?” she nearly shrieks.
I drop the issue of Sports Illustrated I’d been holding as half the room turns to stare at us. “Um, I was just going to read the magazine.”
“Do you know how many people have touched that?” she snaps at me. “It probably has fecal material on it! And now you’ve touched it!”
And now the other half of the room is staring at us.
“It’s just a magazine,” I say.
“Yes, but people touch magazines!” she cries. “How could you touch something in a doctor’s office? Don’t you know people are sick here?”
“Anna, calm down,” I mumble. Christ, we’re going to get kicked out before we have our first visit. “Listen, I’ll wash my hands. Okay?”
Except we don’t have time for that, because a nurse comes out to call Anna’s name. Anna leaps out of her seat to follow the nurse, and I go after her. The nurse regards me for a moment and then steps in front of me. “And you are?” she says.
“The husband,” I say.
“Oh!” The nurse’s face breaks into a smile. Who did she think I was? Some homeless guy Anna picked up on the street? “Well, all right then. Come on in.”
“He needs to wash his hands,” Anna informs the nurse.
For the love of God…
“We have a sink in the examining room,” the nurse says. Which is all well and good if I can reach the sink, but I probably won’t be able to.
“He probably won’t be able to reach it,” Anna speaks up.
The nurse points me in the direction of an accessible bathroom, but I decide to follow Anna to the examining room first, because if I don’t know where she is, they’ll probably kick me out of here. I know Anna thinks washing my hands is the number one priority, but it isn’t.
Luckily, I’ve got lots of time to wash my hands and then some before the OB/GYN, Dr. Reid, comes into the room. Anna has been seeing Dr. Reid for her birth control pills for years, so they’re familiar with each other. Dr. Reid knows Anna’s history and that she’s off her meds. That’s a comfort.
Dr. Reid looks to be about Anna’s age, with a dark blond ponytail and brown-rimmed glasses. She’s attractive but has a confident air that makes me trust her. I know Anna likes her a lot, and I can see why.
“Hello, Anna,” she says with a smile. Then she offers the same smile to me. “You must be Matt.”
“That’s right.” I offer her my hand and she looks surprised, but she shakes it. I guess she’s grown accustomed to Anna’s “don’t touch unless necessary” policy. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” she says. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
I glance at Anna, whose cheeks are pink. It never occurred to me that she talks about me to other people. Especially her gynecologist, for Christ’s sake. “All good stuff, I hope?”
Dr. Reid laughs. “Only good stuff.”
Well, that’s a relief.
Dr. Reid flips through the chart in front of her, nodding to herself. “So Anna,” she says, “it looks like you’re eight weeks along.”
“What we’re going to do today is some bloodwork,” the doctor says. “You’ve already had your yearly pap smear so we don’t need to worry about that. It’s too early to hear the heartbeat on your belly but I’d like to get you in for an ultrasound today.”
She nods again. An ultrasound. We’re actually going to see the baby.
“However…” Dr. Reid raises her eyebrows at Anna. “At your visits, we’re going to need to take your blood pressure. The nurse told me you refused just now.”
I turn my head to stare at Anna. I was in the bathroom when she was with the nurse and didn’t realize she’d refused a blood pressure.
“The cuff was dirty,” Anna says, holding her right hand over her left upper arm protectively.
“Monitoring blood pressure is really important in pregnancy,” Dr. Reid says patiently. “A high blood pressure can signal something really wrong with you, like preeclampsia. It can be life-threatening.”
“My blood pressure is fine.” Anna scoots her butt back on the examining table, inching away from the doctor. “I don’t need it checked.”
“Anna, come on,” I say. “Just let them take your blood pressure. It’s not that big a deal.”
She shakes her head wordlessly.
This is not going well. We’ve been with the doctor for less than five minutes and she’s already being impossible. Is she even going to let them take her blood? Will she let them put the ultrasound probe on her belly?
All I can think is I wish I could go through this for her.
I take her hand in mine and give it a gentle squeeze. At first I’m worried she’s going to pull away, but she doesn’t. “Please do this, Anna,” I say. “It’s to make sure the baby is okay. You want the baby to be okay, right?”
Anna looks at me. She’s obviously feeling very conflicted right now. But she finally squares her shoulders and says to Dr. Reid in a trembling voice, “Okay, take my blood pressure.”
How the hell is this woman ever going to give birth?
I’d somehow forgotten how much I hated doctors’ offices.
I’ve gotten used to my visits with Dr. Reid. I don’t wear a mask anymore to her office, because I recognize most of the women there are not ill with a contagious disease. But today I am feeling more anxious than I have in a long time. After all, this is the beginning of many appointments. I will have to come here monthly from now on.
I nearly decline when it is time to have the ultrasound. I am exhausted from the ordeal of having to come here, allow my blood pressure to be taken, and then have my blood drawn. Who knew having a baby would be so much work? But Matt took off half a day of work to see this ultrasound and I don’t want to let him down. He has been very patient with me. He deserves this.
As we’re in the waiting room, waiting for the ultrasound tech to call us in for the exam, I notice a box of isolation masks on the reception desk. I sigh with relief and run to grab a mask. I put it on my face and instantly feel better. If I can’t have Xanax, these masks are the next best thing. Maybe I can start wearing them to work.
Except I notice Matt is staring at me. “What are you doing?”
“To prevent infection,” I explain.
“Infection?” He shakes his head. “Who’s infected?”
“Well, this is a medical building,” I point out.
“Anna, we’re the only patients in the whole room.”
Admittedly, he’s correct. “But there were patients here before us.”
He keeps shaking his head, then finally lets out a sigh. “Okay, fine. Just promise me you’re going to take it off when we leave here.”
Actually, I had been hoping I could wear it in his car. I know that sounds silly, since I never wore it before in his car. But now I have a baby growing inside me—surely he’ll understand how wearing this mask will protect the baby. Neither of us want anything to happen to our baby.
The mask really helps me though. When the ultrasound tech finally calls us in, I don’t feel nearly as panicky as I did before. Matt mumbles something to her about me having a cold, and she doesn’t question his lie further.
There’s just barely room for Matt’s wheelchair after the tech moves a chair out of the way. She has me lie down on a table and roll up my shirt. If I didn’t have those eleven pregnancy tests and now two missed periods, it would be hard to believe I’m pregnant. My stomach is completely flat. I suppose that’s normal for the first trimester.
Or is it?
What if I’m not really pregnant? What if all those tests were wrong? What if I have a tumor that’s causing my missed periods and altering my hormones, but I’m not actually having a baby?
I start to shake. My breaths feel like they’re coming faster than normal and I want to rip off the facemask, even though it comforts me. I reach out for Matt’s hand, and he knows what I want and grabs it.
“Matt,” I hiss.
He brushes some wispy strands of hair from my face. “Are you okay? You’re all sweaty.”
“What if there’s no baby?” I say.
He gives me The Look. That’s what I call it. Matt is used to some of my less rational fears and worries, but sometimes I say something that baffles him so much, he gives me a look like he has no idea what to make of me. I call it The Look. That’s what he’s giving me now.
“No baby?” he says. He looks up at the ultrasound tech, who shrugs. “What are you talking about?”
“Look at my stomach!” I say. “How could there be a whole baby in there?”
“That’s normal for so early in pregnancy, Mrs. Harper,” the tech tells me. “Especially for a little wisp of a thing like you.”
She puts her hand on my shoulder to reassure me, but her touch nearly makes me jump out of my skin. I forcibly brush her hand off me, which makes her eyes go wide.
“Anna doesn’t like to be touched,” Matt mumbles to the tech, not meeting her eyes.
“Oh.” And now the tech is giving me The Look. But I’m used to it from strangers. “Listen, let’s do the ultrasound. Then we’ll see what’s really in there and you’ll feel better. Okay, Mrs. Harper?”
My breaths are coming in shallow now. Matt is stroking my hair and he does pull off the facemask, which makes me feel both better and worse. I feel tears rising in my eyes. There’s no baby. I know it. How could someone as abnormal as myself be able to create a new life? It’s impossible.
I am seconds away from leaping off the table and telling them to forget the whole thing when the tech drops the ultrasound probe on my stomach. I roll my head to look at the screen next to her and see it’s gone black in the center, white on the edges. Matt is still holding my hand, but his eyes are now focused on the screen as well.
The probe rolls around my belly, searching. I grip Matt’s hand with all my strength. I am hardly breathing at all now. There’s no baby. I’m certain of it. How could there be?
“Here it is!” the tech says triumphantly.
I look where she’s pointing. There’s a white blob in the middle of the black circle that looks like a lima bean. There’s something flickering in the center of the lima bean.
“We’ve got a heartbeat,” she announces.
I look over at Matt and I can tell he’s tearing up. I’ve never seen him cry before and I don’t think he’s going to do it now, but this is the closest I’ve ever seen him. He squeezes my hand as hard as I was squeezing his a minute ago.
“So that means the baby is really in there?” I ask, peering down at my flat belly in amazement. “It’s okay?”
The tech grins at me. “You got a good one in there.”
Wow. I really have a baby inside of me. This is real. I’m going to be a mother.
Oh God, I hope I don’t do anything to hurt the baby.
To be continued....