Two pink lines too late

2pinklinesBY LAKSHMI IYER

I remember the evening. I remember the lights and sounds muffled, trickling upstairs through the gaps in the doors. I remember the dust, the tendrils of hair coiled at the corner. I remember the smell of the clothes, damp and piled in the laundry basket in the corner. But, most of all I remember the utter lack of feeling.

I remember later when I shared the news with family and friends, they would ask, wide eyed and eager: “How did you feel?”

I was standing by the stove one early morning when it happened, a wave of dizziness. I felt the earth give away, the recessed lights swim before my eyes, a darkness envelop me before it was gone and I was back on solid ground again. I blinked. I looked around. Nothing had changed. The stir-fry in front of me sizzled and crackled giving off a delicious aroma.

I stood in front of my vanity, ready for my shower. Mirrors do not lie, I told myself as I looked at my reflection. Ten pounds, which is what I had as a return gift from my niece’s first birthday just a month ago on the west coast. I looked at the scale which stood a mute witness to all of the emotions raging within me. Water weight I concluded as I realized I was due to start my period. I took one last look at my bare torso and wished for just a minute that it was the body of a pregnant woman before I stepped into the shower.

Two days later, the app reminded me I was four days late. Slowly, uneasily, reminders of a past that I had boxed and put away surfaced. The hyper awakened state in which I functioned as each period neared. I remembered the methodical way in which my mind filed away each twinge, each pain as a potential symptom. I also remembered the deliberate nature of each minute, each hour ticking away to the next period or a baby.  Twelve years since I married my husband. Nine years spent ruing my fertility. Four years spent raising children who came to me from another mother. I should have this pat by now.

I was a week late. I broached the subject with my husband. He scoffed at the idea. I felt hurt. I looked back on my history. Three IUIs, One injectable cycle, Two IVFs, I would have scoffed too. I let the hurt slide and hauled my PMSing self to bed. I lay there, in the semi darkness, every sound amplified. The room felt suspended in the middle of nowhere, timeless and claustrophobic at the same moment. I tossed and turned. I was not sure what I was afraid of. Was it the possibility I could be pregnant? Was it that the test would be negative and I will have to go back to figuring out what was making me late?

The sounds from the TV filtered upstairs. The twins were giggling along. The husband was cleaning the house. On an impulse I slid out of bed, pulled a jean and tee and strode out of the house saying I needed a break. Not waiting to hear the reply, I pulled the Prius out of the garage and drove out into the sunlight. The dashboard read 4:00 PM.

4:25 PM. I am home, in the bathroom. My fingers tremble as I tear open the package. I sit down to steady myself. I find a cup and dropper from the supplies closet. I take a deep breath and do the deed. I set the test on the floor, and set a timer on my phone. And I watch.

I watch as the liquid travels along the strip. I see it move past the control line. I see the second line in the wet zone. I wait. My mind is spinning with possibilities. The control turns deep pink. Each second seems like eternity. A ghost of a line appears on the second. I am looking, but not seeing. I stare at the test till the timer goes off.

In that window is a line. Not the dark line that would put an end to the misery but a ghost of a pink line, shimmering and swaying till there are dots in my eyes. I look because I cannot turn away. I cannot think. I cannot move. After what seems eternity, I pull my clothes on, wash my hands and walk downstairs. The TV sounds louder. The sunlight seems harsh. The dust motes are swarming in the air in a band of sunlight streaming in from the top windows. Everything looks magnified

I am too overcome by the implications of what I have seen to function. As if on autopilot, I pack the test away, remembering to take a picture for posterity. I wash my hands again and walk downstairs to the world I know and I am comfortable in.

Numb, Empty, Scared and Afraid.

About the author:

Lakshmi Iyer is mom to three, an open adoption advocate and a blogger. She resides on the East Coast of U.S.A with her husband and three daughters. On most days, she can be found by the stove serving up hot food. When she is not cooking, she recounts the mundane-ness of her life in startling detail on her blog Saying it aloud!. She also blogs occasionally for The Huffington Post. She is on Twitter as @lakshgiri.

Fertility politics and other horror stories

Pregnancy is not always cute. Not to everyone. Because the one thing a pregnant woman reminds you of, in an in-your-face sort of way, is that she is pregnant and you are not. Or that she is married (for the purpose of convenience, I haven’t included pregnancies out of wedlock) and you are not. Or she is fertile and you are not. Or she is having sex and you are not. Or she’s in for the long haul and you are not. Or she is simply ready and you are not.
Unlike marriage, boyfriends, affairs or relationships, which can be camouflaged and on which information can be shared only on a need-to-know basis, pregnancy is out there and very public. On one hand, it makes things look bright and beautiful (at least to the couple involved). But it also changes the dynamics of relationships – at work, among friends, in your social circle, in the family – sometimes resulting in turbulence.

If you have a full-time job, you’ll be spending at least a third of your day at work. A pregnant woman with her belly prop somewhat rocks the oestrogen atmosphere in the space  around her. When I got pregnant, it was almost like I had betrayed the rest of my ilk at work and would no longer be synchronised with their biological cycles.
It was official. I didn’t belong. I was an outcast. I ate too much, peed too much, tired too easily, sat too much, felt sleepy a lot, yawned too much, and smiled a lot. No one told me any gossip anymore, hardly anyone bitched to me, no one asked me if I wanted to ‘hang out’ after work. People tend to think you are too zoned out to want any of this when you are pregnant.
Most other mommies at work pretended they didn’t remember what it was to be pregnant (if they had a baby three or more years ago). They looked at me like I was part of some lofty science experiment. It’s like smug-marrieds totally forgetting what it was like to be single.
On the other hand, to single women, I was a reality check. Is this what it will come to? Can they see themselves doing this? Or does it totally scare the shit out of them?

(An excerpt from my book “I’m Pregnant, Not Terminally Ill, You Idiot!“)

Doing the pregnancy math

So what does it take to get pregnant? One might think it is the easiest thing on earth, considering that at least three millions sperms enter your body during unprotected intercourse. Surely one of them should be fit enough to make a baby? But there are technicalities:
Is it the right day of the month?
Is it the right time of the day?
Are these sperms motile enough, or do they need some ‘speed’ to be able to make it?
Is there any sperm at all?
How lazy is your egg/ovary?
Okay, once the sperm and the egg have done their bit, do they have enough room/conditions to survive in your uterus? Is your uterus classic, deluxe, super-deluxe or a suite?
Are your numbers good? Haemoglobin, platelets, WBCs, amniotic fluid, sugar levels, thyroid, other hormone levels?
If you beat all the odds and still get pregnant, congratulations!

It’s simpler in the movies. All it took for a Bollywood heroine of yore to get pregnant was a stormy, rainy night, a fireplace, a man and a song. I always wondered: How is it that sexual intercourse (even if it was the first time) always happened in her ovulation window, her most fertile time of the month? How is it that the hero never suffered from lazy sperm syndrome? Or she, a lazy egg?

(The above is an excerpt from my book  “I’m Pregnant, Not Terminally Ill, You Idiot!”)

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