It took three attempts to make our Mac. Three awkward airport pick-ups of Mac's dad. "How was security?" I would ask him and he would laugh. Officials start to become a bit suspicious when you cross borders, leaving the city that never sleeps to come to the city that's never warm every 28 days. There's no declaring sperm at the border.
I rushed through the unease of it all. Rushing to catch that egg. Wanting so badly for the next part to start. But still, if I had known I'd only do it once I might have savoured it more. I might have taken a moment in the middle of that social discomfort to remember how it all was. What it means to meet a stranger and make him family. To relish in the excitement of what was to come.
Three attempts. Twelve artichoke jars of sperm. And eighteen pregnancy tests. Until the one. The one where the second line emerged. Strong and beautiful. And I knew there was a baby in me. Well, there were cells that would one day, with luck and magic, transform into a baby. Our baby.
And I walked around my city. Proud like a peacock. A secret growing inside me and it took everything in me not to tell every detail to the woman cutting my hair and the man selling me carrots. The happiness of those moments shone like moonlight. Illuminating our blessings. And yet paling in comparison to the brightness of the sun and what was to come. The round belly. The birth. The baby. But still, if I had known - if I had known it would be the last time I peed on a stick and cried with gratitude I might have held that stick a little longer. I always thought there would be a next time.
Nine months of throwing up. In public and in private. On the side of the road and in a garbage can in the middle of the shopping mall. Nine months of people offering me crackers like I was part parrot. That's what I think of when I remember being pregnant. The damn crackers. The memories of curling up in a rocking chair so that my legs wrapped around my belly and rubbing the bundle of countless possible dreams yet to be lived are harder to hold onto. They slip through my fingers even as I write them down. A permanent record can still be forgotten. Next time, maybe I won't be so sick I thought to myself. But if I had it to do again I'd know what it's like to love like your heart could explode. And that would be enough to get me through it.
Twenty-something hours of pain so unimaginable to me I shudder when I remember it. His tiny bum crushing my sciatic nerve like an elephant on a peanut shell sending waves of excruciation through my leg and out my toes. Contractions four minutes a part lasting a minute. We should have been much farther along. But instead we stayed at 4 centimetres for an eternity.
I clung to the plan I had for his birth. Laminated pages of ideas already tattooed on my heart. I stared straight ahead at the robot onesie hanging on the wall. I imagined his little body turning the cotton fabric from 2D art to 3D perfection. But he had other plans. And so did the doctors and nurses. I negotiated with them like a child resisting bedtime. Just one more hour. Please. Just let me do this on my own for one more hour. Just leave me in this tub with this jet positioned right here where it can penetrate my flesh and apply pressure right to that nerve doling out pain every four minutes.
And then his heart rate was dropping and there was no more waiting. There was a vacuum and a team of people ready to take his grey body from me. I didn't get to put him on my chest. I didn't get to let the rest of the world disappear. I just waited an eternity until he cried. And on that first night as I stayed wide awake from the adrenaline rush I imagined all the things I would do differently next time.
Nine months of bliss. He needed constant bouncing and rocking and breastfeeding. He cried a lot and needed a lot. But I loved it. I loved the smell of him. So distinct I'm fairly sure you could blindfold me and put me in a room of babies and I would sniff out mine like a drug trained hound. In those moments I thought I would get to do it again. That it wouldn't be the last three month birthday celebration I toasted.
Six months of Hell. And another six months of aftershock. Postpartum depression was the worst experience of my life. I woke up one day underwater. Unable to move. Unable to decide. On anything. The simple choice of breakfast would leave me in tears. So unaccustomed to these feelings I turned to medication expecting it to make me happy. But instead it just numbed me. And so I kept upping and upping the dosage until there was no where left to go but down. And with each new milligram I became more and more numb. Fifty pounds gained in the span of six months. One perfect marriage nearly destroyed. We work hard to patch those cracks. But the scars remain. We plaster and paint but the weak spots have been identified. They won't withstand another tidal wave.
And I know I can only survive that once.
One baby. One perfect baby. One amazing child. One love of our lives to hold our hearts in his hands and do with what he chooses. There will only be one child in this house. And while it's not how I always imagined it to be, I know how blessed I am.