The Baby Jinx
I never really cared for children. I’ts not that I disliked them–I just didn’t think about them. My daydreams never focused on marriage and a family; all I wanted was a good time and a great-paying job. Then I got married. (I still don’t know how that happened, but love makes you do crazy things.)
Because we married relatively late in life, my husband was anxious to begin a family. I tried to imagine cradling a baby and realized that the idea of pregnancy no longer alarmed me. I figured my eggs were old and probably not up to the task, but we could have fun trying. Before long, though, my period was late, and when I bought a pregnancy test kit, I was unsure what I hoped it would reveal.
We jumped from bed the next morning so that I could pee on the little indicator stick. Slowly, a negative sign took shape, and I exhaled Then it morphed into a positive sign. I was pregnant? My husband hugged me, so proud of his super-sperm. I stood there in shock. It was not on my agenda to be so fertile.
I made a gynecologist appointment and sat waiting for the verdict. The doctor confirmed pregnancy. I was terrified; I was excited; I was completely numb. I called Michael at our restaurant to share the news.
I instinctively knew to keep this quiet until after the first trimester. This “rule,” to wait for the all-clear checkup, was ingrained in my genes because, God forbid, what if something went horribly awry? In my religion, this was more superstition than tradition, and it brought the specter of sadness to what should have been a time of celebration. From tragedies brewed in my ancient Jewish-European background, my ancestors accepted that there are consequences if you tempt fate by being too happy, too soon.
That evening, Michael laughed over decaf that he had popped a bottle of champagne at work? to celebrate his status as father-to-be. What? I thought we were on the same page. He scoffed at my “unfounded fears.” I hadn’t even phoned my mother, yet he had blabbed to the world.
It was no surprise at the bistro that weekend when Corinne, wife of our business partner, loudly congratulated me. I took her aside and begged her to honor my secret. But Corinne just tsk’d tsk’d my “silliness” as she tapped on a wine glass and loudly informed the patrons of my condition. Consumed by fury at her heartlessness, I gritted my teeth and stretched my mouth into a smile to acknowledge the applause.
When it came time for my three-month check-up, the constant nausea and morning dry-heaves had mercifully subsided. Michael was busy, so I went alone. On the examining table, the doctor moved his stethoscope over my tummy, concentrating intently. “I want you to have an ultrasound,” he said.
Thrilled to meet his in-utero child, Michael came with me to the hospital for the test. I recalled a friend’s ultrasound photos where her little guy was sucking his thumb. I wasn’t picturing anything like that, but I did expect to see a tiny human. In the darkened exam room filled with whirring machines and monitors, Michael and I studied the ultrasound screen as the icy cold wand moved over my skin. The only sound was the clicking of the image being captured.
Our untrained eyes struggled to locate our baby within the grainy, grayscale. “Perhaps he was camera shy,” joked my husband. Perhaps. The technician exited, telling us that a doctor would be in soon. My husband looked confused, while I battled tears. Something was wrong. Corinne’s face flashed through my mind as a tense gloominess invaded the room. I heard myself cry in increasingly higher tones, “I don’t see a baby!”
The specialist entered and respectfully stopped my agitated questioning as he explained that I had a “blighted ovum.” This meant that my egg had been fertilized, attached itself to the uterine wall, but then simply failed to thrive. An embryo never grew. The cruelest factor was that pregnancy hormones continued to course through my body, and I presented with every symptom of an expectant mother. As instructed, I scheduled a D&C to clean me out, to prepare my uterus for another baby.
Once at home, I lay curled on our bed, crying. Monumental disappointment washed over me. This was exactly why you don’t announce a pregnancy too early. I half-expected that my hate-filled eyes would cause Corinne to burst into flames. This was her fault. She had fired red flares to the universe, and thanks to her, my pain was not a secret. While I knew I still had to live my life and would even have to interact with Corrine, I just wanted to be left alone.
My husband soon became impatient with my grief. “It wasn’t even a real baby,” he blurted out during yet another inedible dinner. Everything I prepared was either undercooked or burnt. I couldn’t make babies; I couldn’t make decent meals. Why didn’t he just eat at the restaurant? And so he did, while I took full advantage of the empty house to lie on our bed and examine the ceiling.
Eventually, we went back to baby making, which was the only way we could now communicate with each other. No words, no recriminations. I began to let go of my sadness as my heart slowly healed.
A few months later I realized that I had missed my period. Once more, the home test kit proclaimed that I was pregnant. And once more, my doctor concurred and scheduled an ultrasound. The difference this time was that Michael did not share the news. This time, we hunkered down and waited, refusing to celebrate, afraid that the sharing of our happiness could jeopardize everything.
We returned to the hospital. Michael and I grasped hands tightly as the technician began the exam. He rolled the wand once around my belly, and, oh my God! We both saw him at the same time: our baby. He was snuggled up so tightly that we couldn’t distinguish the sex, but we knew it was a boy. A perfect baby boy. And I felt a joyful sense of peace relax my truly pregnant body.
Susan W. Goldstein’s English major proved helpful in both Corporate and Mom-hood settings. As she now transitions from Active to Passive mom, she is finding her lifeline by returning to her beloved English Lit roots.