This story is by Tiffany Araya and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When you pee on a stick, there are a lot of other questions racing through your mind than just, “Am I pregnant?” The question of pregnancy becomes almost incidental. “What the fuck am I going to do,” you wonder, frantically.
How will Jack feel? What will my family think? Do I have to quit my job? Can I still get my master’s?
Those 2 pink lines indicate more than pregnancy; this result is a seismic shift in my entire life that feels like the whole world just experienced a collective earthquake and my bathroom is the fault. I alternate between staring harshly at the stick and squinting my eyes. From this angle, the second pink line doesn’t look so defined. But, I’m not even fooling myself. Until now, there has never been a more appropriate application for, “It is what it is.” I flick my wrist up and down, trying in vain to shake the truth out of the stick.
I look around the bathroom checking for the nearest entrance to an alternative universe, the one I lived in a few minutes before this moment. I flush the toilet and watch the incriminating pee rush down the hole. Nobody is home so I have some time to think about this by myself before being bombarded with other feelings that are not my own.
I walk quietly to my room and sit on the bed. I hold my grip tightly on the stick, not quite sure what to do with it. This insignificant piece of plastic has just revealed my fate and it seems inappropriate to toss it in the trash. I wonder briefly if I should share the news with anybody. What if I change my mind? I weigh my options, none of which seem appropriate. For this very reason, I am certain I can’t be the right person for this kind of thing. A mother should be confident and decisive. So far, I am neither. This feels like a cruel joke. Who chose me for this position?
I can’t sit still for a moment longer, so I pace back and forth between the bed and the closet. After walking so fervently that I’m sure I’ve left indentations on the floor, I hear the dogs barking to let me know that someone is coming up the front steps of the house. I breath heavily with apprehension. The air in the room is getting thinner as my future opens up like a black hole that I can’t get across.
Now that the initial shock has worn off, we are gathered in a small white room, my mom and Jack huddled around the portal to another dimension: the inside of my belly. I’m lying on my back, hunching over slightly to catch a glimpse of something resembling a ghost sighting. My mom and Jack are in awe; I’m still working out the confusion and flat-out disbelief.
The nurse politely goes through all of the technical information about what to expect over the next several months and how often I’ll have to visit the doctor. I’m listening but I’m overwhelmed by a sadness I haven’t been able to describe since taking the test at home alone in my bathroom. The words sound like another language that I can’t understand and that possibly has never existed before now and I hope that Jack is listening closely so he can fill me in later when I’ve gotten my head on straight. The expected delivery date is in October and that’s just about the only thing that stands out to me.
In a scientific sense, I understand what pregnancy is and how it works. But all logic is suspended when you realize that another human being is growing inside of your own body. Everyone in the room is discussing my body objectively and I can feel my displaced soul knocking from somewhere deep inside of me begging to be heard.
When the doctor offers to let us hear the heartbeat, I’m intrigued. The sound is so faint at first that I think I must be imagining it but then it echos so loudly in my mind that it’s like I can actually feel it in my stomach. It is the most brilliant sound I’ve ever heard and against all restraints, I close my eyes and smile.
The phase I’m currently in is commonly referred to as the “the honeymoon period.” I wouldn’t know if that’s an accurate nickname since Jack and I are not married and therefore have never been on a real honeymoon. Pregnancy, in addition to nauseating and exhausting, is basically a long series of questions developed by others to determine your overall worthiness of parenthood.
“When are you getting married?” asks everybody. Not if, but when.
“Are you breastfeeding?” sounds like a question to the untrained ear but is actually a gentle command.
All of these questions have a right answer, so don’t bother sharing your foolish personal values. And your answer, whatever it is, will only yield more questions. But I have a baby growing inside of my body so answering a few invasive questions is the least of my concerns, which include things like running out of breath when I walk to the bathroom and having to spend too much money on new bras. One of the bigger questions on my mind is what the hell people mean when they write “Wow,” in response to my announcement on social media. Sure, it’s usually followed by “congratulations” but the “wow” distracts me every time. Are they thinking, “Wow, not you, too.” Or maybe, “Wow, I thought you were going places.” What hurts the most is that these are the same thoughts that plague my conscience all day long.
The magical thing about pregnancy is being in the company of a human being who couldn’t possibly care about any of those things and who wouldn’t even if they could. To my baby, I am the most glorious person alive, for I am her creator, and my womb the soil in which she has been planted and allowed to grow. She doesn’t know that I’m too young, still living at home with my mom, unmarried, and unemployed. As human beings, we want others to love us for who we “are,” but this baby loves me without any knowledge of the character I have crafted. To her, my mere existence is a miracle.
I worry about rubbing my belly because I don’t want to transfer any negative energy to her. But she already knows me so well. When my anxiety peaks, she swishes around with glee to remind me that no one else in the world matters but the two of us. I touch my skin tenderly to let her know that she’s right.
This moment feels a bit like betrayal. An agonizing pain shoots through my body forcing me to double over.
“Why are you doing this to me after everything we’ve been through together,” I ask the baby.
“You were my special beach buddy,” I say to her through struggled breaths.
“I read stories out loud to you even when I felt silly and only wore sensible shoes and yoga pants.”
“I doubted every single decision I made along the way, from what I ate to what position I slept in, but I nudged all of that distrust away so that you’d grow up to be someone self-assured.”
I feel the forceful skepticism rushing through my veins. It’s not too late to turn back, it whispers, as I feel the water sliding down my thighs. I’m tempted to believe it even though her and I walked through the park together and enjoyed watching the leaves on the trees change from green to red and yellow. Every crunch of orange leaves beneath my boots was a message directly from Mother Earth reminding me to embrace nature’s fiercest metamorphosis.
I reminisce about the winds of change cooling down from September to October as I push, push, PUSH my baby through heaven’s gateway. She struggles to release the roots of her homeland and I feel guilty for yanking her.
But this moment is meant to be, little one. If you let go, I promise I’ll be on the other side.
It sounds to everyone around me like I am screaming because I speak to her in a language only we know.
Then, in an instant, she releases the branch and the whole universe is a swirl of colors, leaving me bare. Although I am seeing her for the first time, I recognize deeply the harvest I sowed. We may be severed, yet, I know that we are united in spirit, and that our bond will bloom day after day, year after year. Of that, unlike almost everything else, I am absolutely certain.