I'd suspected for a few days that I was pregnant. There was this knot in my belly, like a flattened tennis ball. That was actually what I pictured when I first noticed it, as if somehow a tennis ball had just wandered its way into my uterus. In that way they do sometimes. Because clearly, through the noisy brain fog of "am I aren't I am I aren't I am I aren't I," I was thinking logically. And it wasn't so much that I could feel a new firmness when I pressed my fingertips into my stomach, though I could, a bit. It was that I was just conscious of it, the way you know your ankle is sprained before the pain even hits, or know that your boyfriend is going to break up with you the moment he walks in the door, before anyone has said a word.
At school, when I thought (hoped) none of the other teachers were looking, I'd do a little wiggle. Maybe it was just a fart. Or a rogue intestine! Maybe I'd get my period tomorrow. Maybe, four months from now, I'd still fit into my just-bought wedding dress. Or "maybe," (said the hypochondriac who lives all the way in the back of my brain) "...something is wrong. Maybe it's cancer." Could I still fit into my wedding dress then? "Probably you'll be even thinner after chemo," snarked my teenaged self, "but your hair will look like shit." She was the one who thought vomiting after meals was the way to make friends, the idiot. I flipped them both off in the bathroom mirror and indulged instead in the mama fantasies.
Sweet little cheeks, roly-poly thighs, eyes that cross from trying so hard to see you while giving eskimo kisses. A little bit him, a little bit me, a little bit of a soul coming back earthside for another attempt at nirvana. I craved a baby. My imaginary future self, the one who had life totally figured out, taunted me with her perfect motherhood. "This can't be yours, you know. You're broken, remember?" I knew she was lying. Probably lying. Probably (I crossed my fingers). The doctors only said it would be hard to get pregnant, not impossible. And it's not like that monthly indicator of my failed attempts at motherhood had arrived yet. That painful morning-time reach for a tampon that, for so much of my life had been a little red celebration meaning I knew how to use birth control properly, but suddenly (sometime in my late twenties) had become this near-literal punch to the gut. Failure and despair and all my lonely feelings, leaking out of me every month. So I closed my eyes, shut out that version of me who probably wears sweater sets and pearls for house cleaning, and sang sunshiney songs to the tennis ball baby in my belly.
Another day passed, the now-familiar "am I? I'm not. I think I am? I'm not" refrain running nonstop in my head, is a distracting backup singer to all my lectures on the Russian Revolution. "The Tsar thought of himself as Russia's little father" my teacher self told the kids, as I fantasized about the father my fiance would be to this imaginary baby.
Still, I waited to actually do anything about it. Because once you pee on that stick, it's either real, and your suspicions are confirmed and then holy crap, you're pregnant, or...or you're not, and you've been hallucinating and fantasizing for a week. Also, you've now got this tennis ball thing to get checked out. And who wants to write "tennis ball uterus" as her chief complaint when checking in at the doctor's office? Both options terrified me. So I waited, and waited, until almost a week past when every other logical person would have thought back to 10th grade health class, and then gone to the damn Walgreens, bought a First Response, and done something useful with her pee for once.
By Sunday night, the back-and-forth in my head was so loud I couldn't hear my toothbrush do its familiar "schhh schhh schhh" while I got ready for bed. The toothbrush just sang "pregnant, pregnant, pregnant," or alternately "crazy, crazy, crazy" until I said out loud "FINE."
"Tomorrow morning," my stern face told me in the mirror, "you're going to suck it up and face reality."
The night came and went, and before the cobwebs cleared my head, I went for it. The minute in between peeing on that stick and watching first one, then two, blue lines appear, seemed to last at least an hour. I'm not sure I breathed. I definitely didn't move. And none of my selves said a thing. I just sat for a moment, pants around my ankles, staring into the mirror across from the toilet at this new version of me. First one tear, then two rolled silently down my cheek, dropping onto my thigh. And finally, when I breathed again, a big gulping gasp of air, my strangled voice, and every other part of me, shouted "thank you" to the universe, in the very quietest voice, so I could hold my secret for just a little bit longer.