Today, I decided to be selfish. For my one limited activity of the day, I would get a pedicure. It's really the perfect modified bedrest activity if you think about it. It requires no bending, lifting, or walking long distances. It fits all the criteria. My mom is here and took Lloyd to a playgroup. My husband is doing loads of homework. I was laying on the couch, bored. So, why not?
I called my favorite place in town and they managed to squeeze me in on a whim. This never happens. I waddled my hairy legs and calloused feet to the car as soon as the appointment was booked, excited for the adventure. I haven't driven myself since bedrest began, so this alone was a thrill. And thankfully, the belly still fits behind the wheel... for now. At 22.5 weeks pregnant, I'm pretty much identical to my size at 36 weeks pregnant with my baby boy.
To say my belly is big is an understatement. I'm bigger than the Hindenburg at this point. And by the end of this pregnancy, I imagine I'll look more like the Titanic, hopefully before the boat splits in two. Never fear, with this belly, my chance of sinking is about .01%. My entire body can now be used as a flotation device.
And for those wondering what my shirt says.....
I walked, or rather waddled, into the salon. I checked in at the front, was given my favorite stylist, Mae, sat at the chair closest to the door for the best air circulation and picked out a simple baby pink. Let the pedicure begin!
Mae and I began talking. I don't treat myself often, maybe once every six months, so we had a lot to catch up on. She asked about the pregnancy. Last time I'd seen her, I had just failed my first IVF transfer of the summer, something I didn't mention at the time. Mae was excited to learn i was having a boy and girl. She asked about my older son. I thought I saw a little sparkle in her eye and, in an attempt to make the conversation less about me and allow her to brag for a while, I asked "Do you have any children?"
The second I said it, I regretted it. I saw her eyes fill with tears as she put on a fake smile and shook her head "no," unable to speak for fear of crying. I've been there. I've been her. And here I was, the pregnant asshole talking about my son and my two more on the way and asking another woman the question I once dreaded.
"Do you have any children?"
I'm officially an asshole.
Suddenly all my memories of those painful years came back. I tried hard not to cry myself as I saw her fighting it. I made a lame attempt at a joke that didn't land. I backtracked and told her that I actually had tried forever to get these children. I rattled off the list, three miscarriages, five IUIs, four rounds of IVF. Explained how I've struggled through infertility.
She perked up at the mention of infertility. Suddenly, her voice dipped to a whisper as she asked me all kinds of questions. She explained they'd been trying for more than two years and described all the feelings I remember. The stress of trying, the anguish of the two week wait, the isolation, the random uncontrollable crying when she sees a baby. All of it.
With no one to talk to about it and no idea what the next step is, she was feeling lost. Then in I walk, parading my swollen belly around and talking of twins. Both facing our own struggles that the other can't see from the outside.
Ultimately, it ended with me giving her my number, the number of Dr. Boostenfar and the email for my favorite nurse who runs the clinical trials. She gave me some baby blue polka dots over top of my baby pink toe nails to celebrate the twins in style.
We ended with a hug. Both a little teary-eyed. I reminded her to call or text anytime she wants to cry or ask a fertility question, and apologized again for making her cry. And she thanked me for being open about my journey and referring my doctor.
And off we went in our separate directions. Me back home, back to bedrest and back to worrying about these babies. Mae, back to hoping, back to trying and back to hiding the pain of it all.
Every stage of this journey has its struggles. None of it has been easy. But all of it has been worth it.
To all those women out there who are smiling through the tears every time an asshole like me asks "do you have any children?" or comments "Why only one child? He needs a sibling!" or any of those other well-intentioned but heartbreaking questions, you are not alone. You may see me with my pregnant belly and you may hate me, as I hated all the pregnant women I saw the years leading up to having Lloyd, and that's okay.
Just know, if I could, I would wrap my arms around you and squeeze you.
I see you. I was you. I feel you. And I’m here for you.