I was reading a book about third-party reproduction at Starbucks (I know, you're thinking--that's hot. That's a girl who knows how to kick back and relax) when my cell phone rang. I answered it and heard my friend's voice wavering on the other end of the line. "I think I'm pregnant," she told me. "I took a pregnancy test and there's a faint line."
This was not, as you've probably guessed since her voice was wavering, a planned pregnancy. This was a by-fuck-I'm-on-the-pill pregnancy. This was an I-already-have-two-children-and-a-scorching-case-of-endometriosis pregnancy. This was an I-have-too-much-on-my-plate pregnancy. There are three people in the world who can tell me the details of their hyperfertility without receiving a sharp kick in the ovaries. She happens to be one of them. On my sliding scale, she rates an instant 10 even though she is not a stirrup queen. She is pretty much as far as you can get from stirrup queendom. There is an additional land out there--equally as fucked as the Land of If--that houses the women who have the pregnancies that we're not intended to happen.
There is a part of me that sees it as two ends of the same spectrum--the loss of control, the feelings of panic, the burden and weight. There are even stirrup queens who visited this land prior to marriage or at another point in their life. And the panic and guilt and frustration and regret and anger they feel over infertility feels similar yet different to the same panic, guilt, frustration, regret, and anger they felt when they were on this other land. Some of you will argue that she is in a marriage and she does not have a real problem in relation to women who cannot get pregnant. But I sat at a Starbucks with her today and I saw a different picture.
She drove over, stopping at a CVS along the way, bringing with her the two previous pregnancy tests. During the time from when we hung up until the time that she showed up at the Starbucks, I had a stream of irrational fantasies that all ended with her falling in a heap in my arms and saying, "I can't raise this child, Melissa. Please will you take this baby."
On a side note before I continue the story, before she called, I was reading about Agnes Rossi's idea of feminisma--the female equivilient to machismo. And how we view ourselves as woman. Stacie and I have been having an interesting discussion about how breastfeeding gave her back that missing bit of feminisma and I didn't get to have that. I couldn't get pregnant without assistance, I couldn't stay pregnant without assistance, I couldn't carry to term (though fine, fine, fine, I delivered well), and then, to top it off, I didn't produce prolactin so I couldn't breastfeed. I am still trying to find my womanhood in all of this. You would think it would be simple. You would think that I would have felt like a woman having a child grow inside my body. But it didn't work that way. I didn't gather back my vision of myself as a woman from that. I'm still looking for it.
I can stretch it and say I have a "female" brain. I have "female" sensibilities. But when I look at all the parts that make me a woman--my breasts and my uterus, my ovaries and my cervix--I don't feel very feminine. That was where my mind was when I received the phone call. And this is not to make my friend feel like crap if she happens on this entry. Just to explain the strength of my coveting.
She placed her pee sticks on the table and I examined them. There were two lines. On each. Faint lines, but clearly two lines. She didn't know if she was really pregnant because with her two previous pregnancies, the second lines had been dark instantly. She took a third stick into the bathroom and peed on it. She brought it back out and I looked at my watch, noting the time. "If there isn't a line in 10 minutes, the other two tests are just showing evaporation lines," I told her.
I looked down at the new test.
It was already positive. Still faint, but instantly positive.
She started to cry. She wanted a third child, but not now. She has too much on her plate and she's trying to take care of herself. And she cannot throw a third child into the mix. We talked about this pregnancy, trying to troubleshoot the problems with this pregnancy, make it manageable. The entire time we were speaking, I was staring at the tests. I was coveting those positive tests. I was pretending on-and-off that they were mine. I wanted to slide them closer to my side of the table.
I think what I was coveting wasn't her pregnancy or this particular baby. What I was coveting in the moment was her fertility. Her ability to get pregnant while on birth control. A femininity so ferocious that it knocks synthetic hormones out of the way in order to utilize her ovaries and uterus. That is a fucking woman and watch her body roar. And after she gives birth, she will use her breasts to feed the baby. She will utilize every part that makes her a woman.
I know she may not feel this way from her perspective. She has endo and only one ovary. She has had numerous laps. She went on bedrest with both her previous pregnancies. She probably doesn't see herself through my eyes. But from my point-of-view, despite everything happening in her body, she is hyperfertile. And it's her fertility that makes her feminine. It makes her a woman. And it is what makes me feel like a third sex. Certainly not male, but not female either (and yes, I know I am mixing up biology and social constructs, but I can't untangle the two in a single blog entry).
On my wedding day, I felt like such a woman in that white gown. I felt so feminine and pretty. I loved watching my husband cry from the enormity and beauty of the choice when he saw me for the first time. On my wedding day, I thought I would be pregnant within the year. I walked through that day with so much confidence--with so much femininity--my womanhood on my sleeve. I want to get back to that day when I felt sexual and sensual--Frida Kahlo's Flower of Life.
I don't just want another child, I want to feel feminine. And I don't want someone else to make me feel feminine or tell me that I am feminine. I want to feel feminine. I want to feel like a woman. I want to feel so hardcore like a woman that I become religious about shaving my legs (and yes, I know that I am prescribing to a certain sliver of womanhood, but it's the sliver I grew up thinking I would become). I want to be self-assured in my womanhood. I want my floating-uterus-a-la-ancient-Greece to influence the way I think and the way I speak and who I am. I feel disconnected from my uterus.
And the strange thing is that all of my friends who have gone through fertility treatments or adopted--they each have found their womanhood again. Either they have something that works as it should or they've created a femininity for themselves. They appear to me wholly female. It's so stupid--and I can recognize my own stupidity. Maybe I'm holding myself to a standard that I hold no one else or maybe they've found a secret that I haven't found yet. But what can I do? It's how I feel when I consider my own feminisma.
She is going for her beta today. They are trying to wrap their minds around this child. They will make it work because they have to make it work. And I will keep checking off "female" on medical forms and surveys because I have to check off "female." But I'm not feeling it right now.
While I was rereading this entry, my friend called me with her beta results. The pregnancy is not viable. I feel like a complete asshole. My heart is breaking for her.