I found out I was pregnant on March 7th. According to a photo I have of a freshly pee-soaked test, it was 11:06am. I’d taken the test on a whim. I’d felt weird for a few days—and had in fact sulked all morning because I felt unlike myself and assumed I was failing at something—but Avi and I were still “on a break” from trying. I hadn’t been hawkishly watching the calendar the way I had last year. I hadn’t been looking for signs. So when I realized my period was due in a few days, I thought: Why not check? It’s not like my heart was set on the outcome. (People say it always goes like that, which is infuriating.)
The test was cheap and made of flimsy paper. The kind you can buy in bulk for $10. At first it looked clean and negative, which I was expecting. But when I returned a few minutes later to throw it out, I spotted it: a faint second line. I leaned in closer. It was undeniable. My mouth dropped open in shock. In a bid of refusal, I walked out of the bathroom, then returned, as if to reset the scene to reality. I did this twice more, a glitching video game character. But there it was. There it was! Within minutes I FaceTimed Harling, hand stuck to my mouth like a piece of tape, and when she answered and saw my face, she said, “WHAT.” As if she knew.
Ten minutes later, a digital test I panic-bought from a nearby pharmacy confirmed it: “Pregnant.” I carried that test around in my inner coat pocket all day, just in case I stopped believing what I’d seen, which was often. I was 3 weeks and 4 days along—nothing, basically—and the test was my only proof. When I told Avi that afternoon, on a park bench near the shop where he was working, his lack of visible surprise was inconceivable to me. “Can you believe it?” I kept asking him, not hypothetically. “Yes!” he kept saying, and I didn’t believe that either. It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting alone on a park bench, listening to the trees swishing above me, that it finally felt real. And then I cried for 10 minutes, grateful in a way that felt different than other times.
As of yesterday, I’m four months pregnant. I wasn’t sure when I wanted to tell you all, or how. I thought I might wait until I had something clear-eyed to say about it instead of a mere summary of how I’ve felt these last three months (bone-shakingly terrible, fatigued beyond comprehension, depressed but also deeply happy?, gagging over my kitchen sink, so bloated I might have called an ambulance). But so far this experience has refused me the pleasure of a coherent narrative, thus ruining my plan.
The time that elapsed between crying gratefully in the park and crying because I needed my mom was approximately 19 days. The real cliff came even quicker than that. Here’s my iPhone note from 5 weeks and 6 days pregnant: “These past few days I’ve been getting waves of queasiness. Have to admit it’s kind of exciting!” And here’s my note from five days later: “I’m miserable and lonely. I wish I could talk to my mom. I want to go stay with her for a while. I wish I could leave here.” If that seems like a fast decline, I should add that every week of my first trimester felt like a calendar year, so actually months had passed.
Six weeks was the turning point. That was when I noticed that “morning” sickness felt like living my life as a 12-year-old who refuses to stop reading her paperback on a road trip. Less a humorous vignette of a romcom protagonist throwing up on her way to work, more of an all-day car sickness, no car required, made worse by the mention or thought of food, something we as a society mention and think about a lot (and also eat). What’s wild is I didn’t have it nearly as bad as some people, who can’t even brush their teeth without vomiting but still have to show up to work. I thought of them constantly those first two months. They need to be compensated by the government. Their names should be carved into park benches everywhere!
The simultaneous slowness and secrecy of early pregnancy makes for an unfortunate combination. No one gives you their seat on the subway, or understands why you’re being sober, quiet, and weird at their birthday party, or missing it altogether. When I skipped a week of Maybe Baby in April for “personal reasons,” I couldn’t explain that I had gone to stay with my sister so she could take care of me, help me find food that I could eat, tell me it was going to be okay. Thankfully my mom was there, too, and when she clipped my toenails for me on my first night there, I nearly cried. And when, on my plane ride home, I was surrounded by screaming babies and despondent-looking parents, unable to look at my dirty little baggie of saltines without wanting to throw up, I had to laugh. One has to ask, in that situation, what one has done.
The unexpected gift of my first trimester (apart from baby) was that I looked as unwell as I felt. Sickly pale, with new dark grooves under my eyes. When I commented to Avi one day that I looked terrible, and he lovingly agreed, the relief I felt was somewhere in the realm of going to the doctor with a weird, invisible symptom and learning you have something specific/curable and going home with a prescription to fix it, which is to say rapturously validated. What I felt this spring was so hard to describe—not just nauseated or fatigued, but “off,” so off, and for so long!—that I became indebted to my face for communicating some of it for me. Glowing was for the second trimester, or so I’d heard. (Still waiting.)
And yet something about it felt, and feels, different than other forms of sickness. I never knew excitement and discomfort could coexist to this degree, intertwined the way they are. There’s an integration occurring between my mind and body that defies all previous experience. I think I expected pregnancy to be something that happened to or alongside me—something I could separate from intellectually, like a cold. But you don’t “have” or “catch” pregnancy, you are pregnant. It’s become definitional for me, inseparable from my senses and sense of self. When friends ask how I’m doing, I know they mean the pregnancy, and that’s correct in a way. There’s no: “How are you feeling physically? How are you feeling mentally?” The questions are the same. Maybe this is always true, pregnant or not, and I just never noticed before.
At a certain point, pregnancy fatigue is not a symptom, but an existential mode of being. A slowing down in all ways. Queasiness feels remarkably similar to nervousness, physiologically speaking, and maybe what I’ve been feeling is both. The joy I feel is bodily, too, like when I first heard the baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound machine, coming from inside my uterus, and instant tears. The ineffable feeling of seeing the baby’s little body squirm on camera now overlaps exactly with the feeling of a wand pressed aggressively into my stomach by an ultrasound technician. It’s strange for the thing that I’m excited for, nervous about, and love already, to be so close, in fact right inside. Not away or apart, like a goal or an idea, but present already, currently the size of a navel orange, growing toenails for me to one day clip.
Earlier on in the pregnancy, I used to imagine one day writing about it, and in my fantasy presumed a certain catharsis, as if the right collection of words could deliver me from this visceral, sensory soup. Fittingly, no such deliverance has occurred. I still don’t feel fluent in these feelings yet, and I’m not sure they’re even meant to be translated in my preferred language. At one point I sent an early draft of this newsletter to Avi and asked, “Does this feel accurate?” It was an absurd question, I knew the second I asked it, because who else could answer it but me? I wanted him to tell me anyway—to confirm my feelings as fact, to apply an intellectual framework that I seemed to have lost track of some time in the last three months.
But maybe that framework is lost on me by design. Pregnancy has thrust me inward, robbed me of whatever cold distance I used to rely on for thinking or analyzing. So while I’d like to say this experience hasn’t consumed me, I can’t, because it has. And at times I’ve hated it, while also somehow loving it. There is no true distinction between me and my body at this point. There’s no logically separating my humble little miseries from the depth of positive feeling they ultimately imply. I’m just a walking raw nerve, and I’m lucky to feel any of it.
On the podcast this week, I want to get more into the nitty gritty of pregnancy so far. I’m finally starting to feel better now, and am beginning to enjoy a new sample platter of experiences, such as peeing my pants 💖 If you have any specific questions for me or topic suggestions, please send them my way via email reply! I’ll be recording in 24 hours. And for those of you who wrote to me about trying to get pregnant, I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten you, and I don’t plan to stop exploring that difficult experience. I have a podcast guest planned who I think will have some fascinating (and helpful) things to share about it, starting with debunking the myth that “it happens when you stop trying.” Even though that annoyingly happened for me, I believe her when she says that’s not true—she’s an expert!
Thanks so much for reading. And I’m so happy you finally know, ah!!!