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Where there’s life: Am I still pregnant?

The second post in a special series for The Spinoff Parents in which Alicia Young writes about her journey to motherhood after having IVF.

Read Alicia’s first post in this series here.

Shortly after the embryo is implanted deadly quakes rock the country and a degenerate billionaire is elected leader of the free world. Given the state of things, it’s lucky you don’t feel pregnant. You’re so sure it didn’t work, you’d almost bet a glass of wine on it. That bottle of birthday chardonnay still chilling in the fridge sure looks good.

You go for your confirmation blood test. The nurse rings later that afternoon, and you brace yourself for the carefully kind tone, the murmured condolences, the offer of an appointment with the counsellor. But instead you get the news you weren’t expecting. You’re pregnant.

Your breasts get the memo. Within a week you’ve outgrown most of your clothes. This doesn’t make you feel pregnant or sexy. It makes you feel disgusting.

You have to insert two pea-shaped pessaries three times a day to keep your progesterone levels up. You don’t mind the pessaries until, during a moment of inattention in the toilet cubicle at work, you release one too soon and it shoots into the wrong crevice. The pessary’s slippery, you’re slippery, and you could die from embarrassment – but it is not coming out. You pull your knickers up and continue on with your day, hoping it won’t kill you.

You go in for a second blood test. The nurse calls later and says your hormone levels are low. Low? But you’ve been doing everything right! You realise how little control you have over any of this. When will you feel secure about this baby? At the anatomy scan? At birth? At six months? 18 years? 25? You place a protective hand on your stomach. Hang in there, little thing.

You buy three pregnancy books and read them cover to cover. Each is more terrifying than the last. By the end you’re convinced you’ll be hairy, flatulent, depressed, constipated, emotional, exhausted, flat-footed, nauseated, pimply, covered in skin tags and suffering from sciatica for the next nine months. Your least favourite quote is, ‘your breasts may become pendulous.’ That doesn’t sound like a shape that there’s any coming back from.

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Another blood test. At work later that morning you forget about the sticky plaster on your arm and accidentally expose it during a meeting. You dread the afternoon phone call – but it’s good news. Your hormone levels have risen. Ok, maybe we’re doing this.

Inspired by the case of the expanding bosoms, you spend a week researching maternity clothes. You know it’s mad but you order some online. When they arrive you try them on and immediately look four sizes bigger. You abandon any hope of being one of those neat and tidy pregnant women who look as though they’re smuggling basketballs beneath their shirts. With these clothes and your bust-line, you’re going to look like a tank.

You and your husband choose the baby’s name should it be a girl. (No consensus on boys’ names.) You plan the baby’s room on Pinterest. You stand in a shaft of sunlight and work out where the bassinet will go. You get the curtain company around for a quote. Perhaps you’ll draw and frame some big-eyed baby animals if you ever get your energy back. You weren’t prepared for the crushing tiredness (but you’ve asked about pregnancy yoga anyway).

You and your husband plot how you’ll tell your parents. You’ll make an occasion of it, make a fuss – they’ll like that. Perhaps you can conspire to bring them all together for a dinner. It’s the first grandchild on your side, and your mother’s been honing her knitting skills for years.

So far you haven’t had any nausea. On one hand, this could be God’s way of making up for the lifelong motion sickness he cursed you with (oh, and the fertility-sabotaging endometriosis). On the other hand, it could be a sign that your hormones aren’t working properly. You’ve read about a condition where pregnancy sacs develop, but without babies inside them. You won’t know if you’ve got baby or a blighted ovum until your foetal viability scan next week.

On the day of the scan you’ll officially be seven weeks pregnant. The baby, if there is one, will be about half an inch long. The baby, if there is one, will have arms, legs and eyelids. The baby… if there is one.

Alicia Young has a master’s degree in creative writing from Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters. She has published several short stories and other works. She is writing a series for the Spinoff Parents about her attempts to become a mother. Read the follow-up to this post here.

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