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Let me go on record as saying that while I am approaching that phase most women reach late in their pregnancies where I am kind of sick of looking like a Volkswagen Beetle and feeling like Humpty Dumpty, I have rather enjoyed being pregnant.
I hesitate to apply the word “blessed” to my easy pregnancy as I think some might attribute this “blessing” to other-worldly factors, or divine intervention, but I have been fortunate, extremely fortunate.  Far from my initial (okay, pervading) worries about the inherently high-risk nature of a twin pregnancy, or the looming threat of pre-term labor and/or months of bed rest, the actual pregnancy has been remarkably, well, unremarkable.
I have been spared many of the statistically and stereotypically common ailments and complaints, or at least the annoyances have been late in coming, minor, or easy to cope with.  Morning sickness?  Twice I think I felt slightly queasy.   If anything, not having morning sickness caused me to worry, as I was paranoid I had miscarried, or in disbelief that, after 18 months of trying, I actually was truly pregnant.  Yet the distinct lack of heaving and vomiting let me keep the first trimester a secret from work and family.  Cravings?  I remember feeling constantly thirsty during the first trimester, and craving juicy fruits, but luckily I was kept flush with my need throughout the spring and summer as peaches and watermelon came into season and were ever-present in our home.  My husband was spared the midnight run to the grocery store for pickles and rocky road ice cream.  Swelling?  I’m at 36 weeks with twins, and still wearing my wedding bands.  I still have ankles, even if I can’t see them.  Stretch marks?  My first appeared around 32 weeks, and I’ll admit, my lower belly is now covered in deep red ridges like magma flowing from a volcano.  They itch all night long, no matter how much baby oil and cream I slather over them, but at least I was spared these ghastly disfigurements until 32 weeks.  Hemorrhoids?  Never heard of ’em.  Constipation?  Just drink more water.  Trouble sleeping?  Once my belly became large enough to need “support” I found a pregnancy support pillow called a “Snoogle” and it has been my sleep partner from month 4 till month 8.  Only recently has sleep become evasive again.
The point here is not to catalog a list of woes, or to minimize the difficulties others have had throughout their pregnancies; it is only to demonstrate how fortunate I have been to have such an uneventful twin pregnancy, thus far.
When I began feeling the babies kicking around 22 weeks, I suddenly became one of those pregnant women resting her hands on her belly.  I am addicted to feeling them squirm and wiggle and kick.  Our nightly kick counts, where I just zone out on the couch and focus on their movements until I have counted ten, are moments of pure self-indulgence.  If I’m this hooked on feeling a little foot in my belly, I wonder how mesmerized I’ll be watching their chests rise and fall while they sleep, or seeing the smiles on their little faces as they fall deep into a milk coma.
Initially, as I said, I kept my pregnancy a secret.  Our previous miscarriage made me afraid to jump the gun telling people, not for fear I would jinx the pregnancy, but because of the pain we had endured having to “untell” our friends and family last time.  I didn’t have to tell, either, because I didn’t show for some time.  Though my doctor warned of the lordosis and back aches many pregnant women develop from leaning back to off-set their growing bellies, I was only able to see that I had a baby bump when I did arch my back.  Even at 4.5 months pregnant, on our trip to Ireland, I was barely showing.  I was almost embarrassed to have a belly, to have something to show for my growing babies.  I’m not accustomed to changes in my body shape, and I was self-conscious as I passed into that “Is she pregnant or just fat?” stage.   I often joked with friends and family who wanted to know how huge I was, that I just looked like I had had a large meal.
Now, however, the enormity of my belly is finally a result of having two nearly formed beings inside, and it’s unavoidable, which has also become fun.  As my belly grows more and more comically oversized, strangers’ attitudes have shifted from polite comments and questions, “Oh, when are you due?  Do you  know if it’s a boy or a girl?” (when it wasn’t obvious I was carrying more than one) to more brazen “Oh, jeez, lady!  When are you due?  Tomorrow?”  I have also received my fair share of inappropriate questions and comments, such as our neighbor who asked if it was okay to call my “chubby”.  And the awkward lady at the grocery store, who, upon hearing we were expecting twins, asked if I’d had something “done”.  My favorite is when people ask if we know the sex, which we have kept a secret so far.  My hubby will usually say, “Why, yes, obviously.  We do know The Sex.”  We’ve taken to telling people who ask if we know what they are, that they are lemurs.  This catches them off guard enough to head off any further probing.
The attention is interesting.  Sometimes people are overly accommodating, opening check-out lines just for me, and freeing up chairs when I’ve made it clear I can, thanks to prenatal yoga, be perfectly comfortable on the floor.  Other times, they wait for me to ask for what I need.  Pregnancy is not a disability, though I do take advantage now of “stork parking” at the Superfresh, and try to minimize the number of trips up and down the steps if I can help it.
I’m 36+ weeks pregnant with twins.  The last growth scan/ultrasound (at nearly 34 weeks) estimated the babies each weighed more than 4.5 lbs, and were within “average” size for singletons.  I’m still working full-time.  I climb 63 stairs each morning to get to my office.  I go to yoga every other week.  I’m still walking our 64lb (though elderly) and 32lb (though spritely) dogs.  I’m still out doing things I love, and I’m very grateful my babies and my body allow me to do so.
We were visiting with one of Mr. Apron’s friends when she brought her 1-year old to town, and she asked if I was enjoying being pregnant.  I modestly replied I didn’t mind so much, as I knew she was not the type to embrace her pregnancy glow, and had probably found the belly burdensome to her daily farmer chores.  While I do confess I’m sick to pieces of maternity clothing (I wax nostalgic about my  pants that stayed up without advanced engineering and the closet full of shirts I haven’t been able to wear in 5 months), and I would love to be able to turn over in bed without a Herculean effort (or sleep on my back!  What luxury), it’s been rather enjoyable.  I’m bonding with the little parasites in my belly, imagining what they’ll look like and who they’ll become.  I’m channeling my excess hormones lovingly crafting clothing for them and decorations for their nursery.  I’m keeping busy researching sleep training, breast pumps, and high chairs.  I’m thrilled to pieces to hear that the cribs and the bedding will be arriving within a week.  The excitement from our friends and family is infectious.
With most of the threat of premature labor behind us, and my bag packed for the hospital, I’m preparing for the final portion of my pregnancy, the part that ends in the doubling of our family and the welcoming of two precious babies into our home and our lives.

Friday afternoon, I wiggled around all the wiggle-room my schedule has so I could see every single student who is owed a speech session.  Surprisingly, I was focused on my sessions.  I was present, and I was engaged with my students, until the end of the lunch-time session I had with a student.  At that moment, at 12:50pm, I kicked into high panic mode, and did everything I could to get myself out of the building. 

I had a 2pm appointment with an infertility doctor on Friday afternoon. 

Euphemisms are funny things.  I’ve always enjoyed the line in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” when the hostess excuses herself to go to the “euphemism”.  Why the word bathroom needs another euphemism – when it has so many other synonyms to begin with – is beyond me, but I guess that’s the whole point.  Polite conversation, avoiding making prudish people like my mother blush, referring to things on TV that would otherwise be censored: euphemisms serve many purposes.  An oft-unstated benefit, however, is that the euphemisms can sometimes help people who are otherwise too embarrassed or ashamed of their “issues” to seek medical help. 

See: every single commercial or ad made for erectile dysfunction (once simply “impotence,” it is now often “E.D.” or “performance concerns”),  urinary incontinence (“Do your pipes leak?”), and herpes (“outbreaks” sounds tons nicer than “sexually transmitted infectious viral blisters”).  Yet if these polite terms for otherwise embarrassing conditions help people have the “Detrol discussion” with their doctors, then who am I to question the advertisers’ methods?

Beyond embarrassment or shame, there are also those who are reluctant, diffident, and, shy about any supposed conditions.  There are those like me who discuss their medical issues with so few people that tongue seizures and cranial malformations can go undiagnosed for 8 years.  I know I am not alone in my struggle, too, with acknowledging the seriousness of something, particularly something unknown.  For me, calling the doctor with a complaint, or making an appointment for a condition I would tend to minimize, deny, or place on a back burner makes it real.  Once I am sitting in an office, face to face with a doctor who is about to take me very seriously, it forces me to take myself seriously.

Maybe the euphemism of “fertility” helped me breach that last obstacle to seeking help.  I finally called to make an appointment, the names of specialists firmly gripped on a referral in my hand, and was told that the doctor only sees new “infert” patients at 11am.  Would I have called if that slip of paper in my hand said “infertility” instead of “fertility”?  It’s not even so much a euphemism as a careful wording. 

In my line of work, we speak all the time of a child’s strengths and challenges.  We reframe “weakness” into challenge, or we talk about areas needing support, as in, “Johnny can understand a grade level story given decoding support, reframing, use of a story plot map, and one-on-one discussion with a teacher.”  No longer is it said that “Johnny is not reading on grade level,” but it gives the level of support and scaffolding necessary for him to be able to read on grade level, and thus we avoid the dreaded “not”. 

So, too, did my referral avoid the dreaded “in-”, a Latin prefix meaning, of course “not”.  Like the students I work with on a daily basis, I, too, am in need of support.  If fertility, like reading ability, is on a continuum of independence and intervention, then I am looking at it optimistically.  I am choosing the view that we may need some support to become pregnant, rather than needing intervention because of infertility.  Which framing do you think will help more women/couples make the difficult phone calls so they can face awkward conversations and pursue challenging tests and treatment? 

After waiting in near panic for a half-hour in a tiny exam room with only “TIME” and “Family Fun” magazines, I finally met the doctor.  I have a list of a half-dozen tests and procedures that await me/us in the coming month.  I am terrified of what we may find, and what we may not find.  I am concerned about the long road ahead, but I am acting bravely.  More important, I am acting.  I am no longer paralyzed by the fear of labels or acknowledging what is wrong.  I am addressing whatever “challenges” or “weaknesses” or “shit-rotten luck” has faced Mr. Apron and me in the last 18 months, and we are going to kick its ugly hairy infertile ass.

No euphemism needed.

I have not been able to write about last weekend’s trip to see my parents.  I haven’t been able to process it yet, and vast amounts of crap from my parents are still in my car, waiting to be processed in their own way. 

On the way home from R.I., we stopped in the sleepy hamlet of the Bronx to visit a friend from college, who now has a 4 month old daughter.  We played with the baby, ignored our crying, crated puppy, and caught up on college suite-mate gossip.  The baby is adorable, alert, smiley, and engaging.  She barely fussed, and is much cuter than her Facebook photos could have let on. 

As always, when I am with a baby – my nephew, a friend’s baby, or a baby-in-utero (a pregnant friend/coworker) – I am able to separate the child from my own potential child, lost in miscarriage.  I do not blame the child in front of me.  I am able to play with him/her, share in the joy of the parents/grandparents/mother-to-be.  Am I horribly jealous?  Sure.  But just as I’ve been keeping my personal life private for many years, I dare not share my true feelings with the mom or the child.  I do not allow myself to become weepy, though I may get a little melancholy after our visit. 

Little H.’s mom is a modern Orthodox Jew.  As such, she is expected to be fruitful and multiply.  While her lifestyle is a far cry from the baby-a-year families of more traditional Judaism, she has still endured many well-intentioned inquiries as to her womb’s status almost immediately after her wedding.  As we sat and played with little H., her mom asked me, as Mr. Apron and I have been married longer than she has, if people have stopped “asking” us yet, if they’ve stopped hinting, or looking suspiciously at my belly, or if our parents have stopped slipping us how-to books under the door.  Reluctantly, and a little sadly, I assured her they have stopped nagging.

What I didn’t say, though, was the reason our families do not ask.  Given that perfect segue, I nevertheless refrained from telling my friend about our miscarriage.  Aside from two friends who live near us, and we therefore told early on about our pregnancy (thus we had to “untell” when we miscarried), my friends do not know.  I thought that was the whole point of not telling anyone until after the 1st trimester.  It was a convenience thing, a safeguard, an old wives’ tale meant to protect you from having to break bad news when the tenuous state of the new pregnancy didn’t go as planned or expected.  Why should I tell them at this point?

Mr. Apron met up with a friend of his while we were in R.I.  As we left little H. and her mom, this prompted me to ask him if he had told his friend, if his friends knew about our pregnancy.  He says most of his friends know.  Most.  Two of mine do.  Two.  And only because, as I said before, we had leaked news of the pregnancy.  Not even when a coworker and I were trapped in the car together for an hour-long drive to Delaware for a conference, and she spoke openly about her own miscarriage, did I let a word about my own pass my lips.  Still not when another gaggle of coworkers were discussing pregnancy, miscarriage, and expressing disappointment that miscarriage was not more openly discussed.  I remain silent.  Always.  I stuff my experience, my shared feelings down, down inside me until they explode anonymously on my blog.  Mr. Apron and I talk.  My therapist and I talk.  But our current frustration with getting pregnant again only seems to prolong the grieving and make our suffering more drawn-out. 

I wish I could share with my friends.  I wish I felt comfortable sharing my sadness without feeling like it will scare them.

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November 2020