Cycling

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Chapter Ten

“OMG OMG positive beta.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at Paige’s text. I mean, she’d been sending pictures daily of her increasingly positive pregnancy tests. Of course her blood test had come back positive as well.

“Congratulations again,” I replied.

“Must show you to do list. Lunch?”

“I assume you want to go to the Bread Basket again?”

“Yes! That sounds great.”

“Okay, I’ll see you at noon.”

“See you. I’ll invite Julianne.”

Lunch began with congratulatory hugs for Paige, and then we settled at a table and ordered our food. Once we had food in front of us, Paige pulled out her tablet and pulled up the fabled to do list.

“I know I’m missing stuff, so I wanted to get your input,” Paige said.

“Are we really the best people to ask about this?” I asked.

“Well, you’re my best friends.”

“I don’t know if you know this,” Julianne said, leaning in closer to Paige, “but we don’t have any children.”

“I know. But you both want to have children. Surely you’ve thought about this stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Like figuring out a baby registry.”

“I’ve never done that,” I replied.

“Me neither,” Julianne agreed. “We might be the wrong people to ask about this.”

“I thought you’d want to help me.”

“We do. This is a little bit out of our area of expertise though, Paige.”

“Aren’t you working on a to do list at all?”

“I don’t even know if I’m pregnant yet,” I replied. “It would be presumptuous to have a list.”

“How are you going to hit the ground running if your beta comes back positive?”

“Knowing me, I’m going to hide in a cave until I’ve finished gestating.”

“Then how will you get ready for the baby?”

“Well, I figure I’ll be in the hospital for a couple days, and during that time Ben can buy anything we need.”

“You don’t want to be prepared?”

“I can’t possibly be prepared. And also, I might not even be pregnant.”

“Fine. You’ll see, you’ll get that positive, and you’ll come running to me to share my to do list with you.”

“That’s a nice thought,” I replied.

It wouldn’t happen though.

“Ninety-eight.”

I paused, holding the phone receiver in my hand, contemplating the words of the nurse at the fertility clinic. “And is that good or bad?”

“Well, it’s positive.”

Hmm. “As in, a positive pregnancy test?”

“Yes, like that.”

“Is it very positive, or a little positive?”

“Well, it’s comfortably positive.”

“Thank you.”

And then I more or less hung up on the poor woman from my doctor’s office, who had been so polite to me. I couldn’t for the life of me act like a normal person right now, doing things like saying good-bye before hanging up the phone, or even having the sense to ask what I needed to do now. I would need to call back, but for now, I would need to digest. The number was lower than either of the two positives I’d gotten before, so I was still a bit concerned, but for now I’d try to be happy that I was, in fact, expecting.

So far, I’d managed to stay calm and enthusiastic about potentially expecting a baby. But somehow, actually getting this positive test terrified me. Not only for myself, but for Paige. Things couldn’t be this good. It didn’t happen. Julianne’s beta was still a few days away, and a positive test there would be unreal. I was hopeful for her, but worried about the dynamic of our group. We had come together out of pain. What would we do if we were all happy? Worse, what would we do if some of us were happy and others weren’t? What would we do if Julianne got a negative, and Paige and I progressed on our merry way to motherhood? Would things fall apart?

I pulled myself out of my shock, picked the phone back up, and dialed Ben’s office. I supposed he had the right to be the first to know.

“Ben Heller.”

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Well, hello, apple dumpling.”

“Hello, Benjamin.”

“What’s going on?”

“I wanted to let you know that we appear to have a bun in our collective oven.”

“Well, what kind of bun? I’m picky about my carbs, you know.”

“The baby kind.”

“I see.” The teasing tone dropped away. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay. I think. I’m not really sure.”

Truthfully, I was numb. I wanted this baby so much, but it was still eight months away, really. I’d been here before. I’d been pregnant, and yet I was still waiting on a baby. I didn’t want to be excited, because I didn’t want to be hurt like that again. I wanted to say that I would feel better soon, after my beta doubled appropriately, or we saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound, or we’d had a clean amniocentesis, but these things didn’t give me confidence. I knew that bad things could happen, even when nothing seemed wrong. I hoped I would be better when I had my baby in my arms, and not be one of those moms who didn’t let her child out of her sight, for fear that something terrible could happen, but I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t let the anxiety follow me until my child was grown and on its own. Assuming that we’d get to the point where this child was grown.

“Can I do anything?” Ben asked. “Do you want me to come over there?”

“No, thanks. I’m sure I’m in shock right now. I’m trying not to let myself get carried away.”

I would not be making a to do list, I knew that much.

“Things will be okay, Elise.”

“I’m sure.”

Ugh. I wasn’t sure. I was...anxious. Scared. Nervous. I didn’t want to get attached to the practically invisible speck that had taken up residence in my uterus. And yet I wanted this. I wanted this baby.

“I’ll see you at the end of the day,” Ben said. “We’ll have to celebrate. Just a little.”

“Sounds good,” I said, because it did. I wanted to be pregnant, to celebrate being pregnant. I wasn’t quite there yet.

We hung up, and I turned back to my work, trying to forget the news, but I couldn’t concentrate. I could only think baby. Would this one hold on? Was this our baby? Or was this another disappointment, another bump in the road?

An hour later, a delivery arrived for me: a vase full of white roses. So typically Ben. He had needed to make a gesture, so that I knew he was thinking about me, that he was worried too. It made all the difference in the world. Ben had always been good at doing exactly the right thing.

When I got home from work, Ben was hard at work on dinner, as usual. What was not usual was that he’d set the table with our good china, and had lit candles in the dining room. He was celebrating this a bit more than I’d expected.

“Dinner will be about seven more minutes,” Ben said. “Have a drink while we wait.”

He handed me a champagne flute brimming with amber liquid. I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s only sparkling apple cider. Drink up.”

We tapped the rims of our glasses together, each sipping from our glass. I stood in the doorway of the kitchen, watching Ben putter about putting the finishing touches on our celebratory meal.

“Thank you,” I said. “This is nice.”

“I’m glad you think so. We’re both celebrating, so it’s good to hear that you feel celebrated.”

“I’m trying to remind myself that we have something to celebrate,” I replied. “I’m sorry that I’m such a downer.”

“It’s okay. You’ll come around.”

“You’re going to be a great dad, you know that?”

Ben looked back at me over his shoulder as he stirred something on the stove. “Thank you, Elise. I’ve always kind of assumed that you thought so. Since you seem pretty intent on reproducing with me. I don’t know that you’ve ever told me that before, and it’s really nice to hear.”

“I’m sorry if I haven’t said it before. I’ve definitely thought it.”

“Well that’s good enough for me.”

Ben crossed the room and kissed me. “After dinner, we’ll have to find another way to celebrate.”

I laughed. “You already got me pregnant, you know.”

“Imagine how much better it would have been if we’d been in the same room when that baby was conceived.”

“Good point, I guess.”

“Later we’ll do a dramatic reenactment of what might have happened.”

I laughed again. “Oh, yes, let’s do that.”

“And I’m willing to conduct reenactments whenever you desire.”

“You’re such an accommodating husband.”

“I do my best.”

He’d done such a good job of charming me, that I felt my anxiety about the pregnancy ease up a bit. Enough to enjoy our celebration, dinner and otherwise.

“Where should we lunch?” I texted Paige and Julianne.

“Somewhere where they serve alcohol,” Julianne replied.

Oh. Bad news there, then. Okay.

“We could go to Rio Grande,” Paige texted.

“Margaritas. Yes. I’m on board.”

“See you there at noon,” I replied. “Also, sorry, Jules.”

“See you at noon,” she replied.

“Well, I’m not pregnant,” Julianne said as we dug into chips and salsa. “I’m not surprised. I’ve been working on the adoption paperwork in the meantime, so at least progress is being made.”

“I’m sorry,” Paige said, reaching across the table to place her hand on top of Julianne’s.

“Don’t be sorry. I’m really okay with this. I’m excited to move forward on something new.”

“Are you going to hate hanging out with us?” I asked. “All we are going to talk about is morning sickness and what we are going to name the babies. And, um, playgroups and stuff.”

Paige and I were still pregnant, and progressing normally. Preliminary ultrasounds showed exactly what they were supposed to, right where things were supposed to be. I had moved to cautiously optimistic, while Paige was in full-fledged giddy mode. We were due within days of each other in late June, and she had already suggested a joint baby shower over Memorial Day weekend. I had begged off, asking to wait until things were a little more substantial before we started planning parties. But overall things were good. Cautiously good.

“Of course I’ll still hang out with you,” Julianne said. “If only to be the skinny one for once.”

“Are you going to adopt internationally or domestically?” I asked.

“Domestically. International adoption is fine, but it’s not for me. I want to have a firmer grasp on where my child comes from. The idea of meeting my child, and then having to wait for months for the paperwork to finish before I can actually take my child home? No, thank you. Dealing with one government is enough. I’d rather not add another one to the mix.”

“How long is your wait?”

“It’s hard to say. It’ll probably be a couple of years from now, between completing the paperwork and waiting for a match. But what’s two more years in a five year conception journey?”

“How is Greg taking to the adoption track?” Paige asked.

Julianne shrugged. “He’s like me. He doesn’t care where our child comes from or who gives birth to it, as long as it comes home with us.”

“You could steal one from the hospital,” I suggested.

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t last long in jail,” Julianne said. “Better to go the legal route.”

“Well, good luck with that.”

“I feel good about this,” she replied. “Something about knowing what we are doing, having a process that we can control, it’s very comforting. Somehow it makes me more confident that we’ll eventually arrive at parenthood.”

“I wish I felt more confident,” I replied.

“You’ll see the heartbeat in a few days, and you’ll be over the moon,” Paige said.

I wanted her to be right, getting that far wouldn’t be enough for me. I had seen Daniel’s heartbeat. At that point, something like ninety-five percent of pregnancies end in baby. Mine didn’t. So what would make this one any different?

I felt weird talking about my concerns while mariachi music played overhead, while sitting in a booth next to Julianne, who would have given anything to be in my position. I felt like a jerk for whining about my good fortune. I was so, so thankful to be where I was, but it was taking longer than I liked to truly be excited about having a baby.

“Give yourself some time,” Julianne said. “You’ll warm up to this baby.”

“I don’t want to pin my hopes on something the size of a sesame seed.”

“You’re sending it positive thoughts and feelings, right?” Paige asked.

“Uh, no. I’m usually thinking about how I won’t ever let it have candy or play outside.”

“Elise!”

“Of course I’m thinking happy thoughts, but I also think scared thoughts sometimes. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”

“As long as you feel you are doing the best thing for yourself and for your child, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Julianne said.

“Good. Now can we talk about something other than my pregnancy?”

“My margarita is really tasty,” Julianne replied. “Want a sip? Oh, wait, you can’t.”

“Ha ha,” I replied. “Eight more months of you being a jerk might be a bit much to take.”

“Too bad. That is what you signed on for.”

True, I had. Thank God. Julianne could always be counted on to keep me grounded.

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