Twenty years ago, I was pregnant

October 15, 1998

Twenty years ago, I was pregnant. Not as massively pregnant as I would later become (shown here at almost 42 weeks!), but legitimately with child, as confirmed by both a home pregnancy test and my doctor.

I didn’t believe it was true.

I mean, I had been pregnant the year before. We had it all carefully scheduled: we’d have the baby in March, so that — with spring break and summer vacation — I could have the maximum-length maternity leave a teacher could arrange. That’s not what happened, of course. What is the quote? Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. Although I got pregnant on the first try, right on schedule, I did not have a baby at the beginning of March. I had a miscarriage at the end of August, just as I entered the “safe” 13th week.

I was devastated.

I became obsessed with getting pregnant again. As soon as we got the go-ahead to try again three months later, I became like Elizabeth McGovern in She’s Having a Baby, turning the whole process into a job instead of a joy. (I feel for David now, but at the time, I was so single-minded that I doubt I was very considerate.) Luckily, things worked out fairly quickly once again, and I was pregnant by early in 1998.

I just couldn’t accept it.

That spring, at the St. Agatha Auction, we bid on and won the basket my class had put together: everything you could possibly need for an infant. Crib, stroller, high chair, changing table, swing, car seat, clothing, diapers, toys . . . you name it, and we had it for the baby.

I put everything in the attic and refused to get the nursery ready.

The baby was due around the 1st of October. I went into pre-term labor on the 4th of July. I was given terbutaline and put on bed rest. Whereas I had spent the previous summer blissfully pregnant and happily traveling through Europe, I spent the summer of ’98 lying on my right side, watching the World Cup sideways, growing ever larger as I “ate for two” and did not move at all. (With one famous exception, of course.)

By September, I thought perhaps it was possible that I’d have a baby.

At that point, I was allowed to get up from the couch, to go back to work, to do anything I wanted. (A baby born at 38 weeks would be considered perfectly healthy.) I remember going to see Billy Bragg at the end of September, when I was basically at full-term; I think his manager was afraid I’d have the baby then and there.

I still didn’t want to get the nursery ready. I didn’t begin to set anything up until the baby’s due date had come and gone.

I could tell the story of Quinland’s birth here, but I think I’ll save that for another time. I had just come across this picture on my computer today, and I was feeling wistful and pensive, as we used to say back in Ireland. I’m sad for that girl I was, who let herself experience the joy of pregnancy once, briefly, but never again. Part of me wishes she had been braver or stronger or wiser, but I know that’s not fair; we all bring our past hurts and fears to every situation, and she was doing the best she could to protect herself.

If only I’d known, then, that it was real, that there would be a child, one whose very spirit would bring joy, not just to his parents, but to everyone who knows him.

That would have been awesome.

(By the way: I wore that dress every single day for the last couple of weeks I was pregnant. I did not own a single other thing that would fit.)