Cycling

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Chapter Thirteen

I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my tribe following my time at the Christmas party. Being with Paige and Julianne soothed my nerves. The girls and I met up at the Bread Basket, Paige’s favorite lunch spot. She claimed it was the only place she could eat without dealing with food aversions. I found it weird that every time we went, even at peak lunch times, the place was never more than half full. I hadn’t gotten food poisoning yet or anything, so I continued to agree to eat there. We settled at a table and ordered our food, soups and salads for me and Julianne and a baked potato the size of her head for Paige. She was definitely taking “eating for two” seriously. I was still trying to pretend that I was a singular human. Even as I daily became more confident in my pregnancy, it was a slow process. In any case, I wasn’t quite at Paige’s level of confidence.

“If it’s a boy,” Paige said, pulling up a string of images on her tablet, “we’re going with a nautical theme. Something like this, or this.”

“Okay, that looks super cute,” Julianne said.

“Right? And for a girl, I’m thinking of a garden theme.”

She showed us another set of images to go along with that theme. I had to admit, the nurseries she was showing us were cute. It just felt so bizzare, like Paige and I lived in different universes. I hadn’t even begun to think about how we’d do the nursery. We’d been gung-ho about the nursery when I’d been pregnant with Daniel, and now we hadn’t even decided if we’d keep the same paint color that we’d put up for him. We hadn’t talked about any of that: nursery, names, registries. Sure, I was pregnant, but I had somehow managed to separate the idea of being pregnant from the idea of one day bringing home a baby.

“That’s really adorable,” I said as I scrolled through the images. “When do you find out what you’re having?”

“Hopefully the end of January. I am so ready to know. I just want to know who this baby is, you know?”

“Yeah, I absolutely get what you’re saying.”

For once, she and I were on exactly the same page. I wanted to know about the baby that was hopefully joining our family too. I was torn between wanting to know him or her, and not wanting to get my hopes too high that we’d take this baby home with us. Partly, I wanted to know the sex of the baby because that would make it real. Obviously the baby was real to me, and to the people closest to us, but Daniel had been too. And it seemed the entire world had written him off as soon as he was gone. I hoped that knowing the sex of the baby would make other people see how real and important our baby was. That way, if something did go wrong, at least people would take our grieving seriously. At least they’d recognize that we’d lost something that we loved dearly.

“What’s new with you, Julianne?” I asked. “Have you made a decision about what to do about the adoption agency?”

“The decision making process has stalled,” she said softly. “The pregnancy might be failing.”

“Oh, Jules,” Paige said, taking her hand. “I’m so sorry. Gosh, oh, I’m so, so sorry that I’ve been going on like this, about my baby, and the nursery, and—”

Julianne cut her off with a wave of her hand. “No, it’s…okay. You have every right to be happy about that. You having a baby has nothing to do with whether I’m having a baby. Besides, Greg and I are still on track with the adoption stuff.”

“What’s happening with the pregnancy?” I asked.

She shrugged. “The heartbeat isn’t what it should be. The doctor is pretty sure there’s something wrong. A heart condition. Maybe Down syndrome. Something like that. It’s holding on, but barely. We’ll do more testing, assuming it holds on long enough, but we’re preparing for the worst. They’ve told us not to get our hopes up. Just in case.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

She shrugged again. “I’m not sure how I feel. We started the adoption process and I resigned myself to the idea that I wouldn’t have a biological child. I would never carry a pregnancy to term. I would never experience labor, which is probably a good thing. Then we were magically pregnant. I couldn’t help but get excited. I didn’t want to hope for the best, but I had started to. I really wanted all those things.”

“What can we do?” Paige asked.

“Nothing, I supposed. There is really nothing to do. We’re going to keep moving forward on the adoption, and hope for the best there. I’m not really looking forward to going through the miscarriage, but I’m glad we have a backup plan.”

Now are you going to hate being around us?” Paige asked.

“Never. I am so excited for you guys. I cannot wait to meet your babies. I’m only sad that I probably won’t be meeting mine.”

“How’s the adoption stuff coming?”

“Our background checks look good, which is awesome. Apparently our references checked out.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“So it’s moving forward. No problems so far. I get the impression that they would like us to be a bit younger, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

“I think you’re a great age,” I said. “Old enough to know better.”

“Know better about what?”

“Everything.”

“I do make fewer mistakes than I did in my twenties.”

“See what I mean?”

Julianne tried to smile, but I could see the pain in her eyes. She really had wanted this baby, and she was crushed by the idea of losing it, no matter how much she tried to convince us, or herself, otherwise. Before lunch was over, she would start to complain about an ache in her back, and the bleeding would start before she even got home.

When Julianne texted me with the news that evening, I began to cry immediately. I was crying for my friend, sure, because she had lost a much-wanted baby. But I was also letting out all the anxiety and fear I had over my own baby. At over thirteen weeks pregnant, the world though of me as being in a safe zone, where babies were born healthy somewhere around their due dates, and came home with their mothers. There was no reason that I shouldn’t be one of them. Yet, I cried, allowing the fear to consume me again.

“What’s going on?” Ben asked, a note of alarm in his voice. We’d been sitting on the couch, watching TV, when I’d suddenly burst into tears. It must have seemed odd, since we were watching a comedy.

I tried to tell him through my sobs, but then simply thrust my phone at him. He looked at the text, then moved closer to me on the couch, pulling me against him.

“This sucks,” he said after a moment.

I nodded, trying to come down from my crying jag. It wasn’t fair. None of this was fair. Not Julianne’s loss. Not the fact that we all wanted children and couldn’t have them. Not my own losses, or the fact that I let those losses keep me from truly connecting to this baby now that I was pregnant again. It was all so brutally unfair, and I didn’t want to deal with that anymore. I wanted things to be easy, to be normal. If everyone else got that, why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t my friends?

“I wanted this for her,” I said after a moment.

“I know you did.”

“I don’t understand why she was able to get pregnant if she was going to lose it. That’s not fair.”

“I know it’s not. I hate to say this, but life’s not fair, Elise.”

“Believe me, I know.”

“Is there anything we can do for Julianne and Greg?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I can take them dinner tomorrow.”

“Oh, you’re going to make them dinner?”

“God, no. I’m going to buy them dinner and take it to their house.”

“They can order take out themselves, you know.”

“This will come with love, Ben.”

“I see.” He smiled softly. “I’m sure they’d appreciate dinner.”

“I don’t know what else to do. Julianne is handling this in such a logical way. At lunch, she talked about how they were still working on the adoption, so it would be okay if they lost the baby, but it’s not the same. All the babies they’ve lost. Adopting won’t take their places.”

“No, of course it won’t. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be happy.”

“I want them to be happy now,” I said petulantly.

I wanted us all to be happy now. I was tired of waiting for our happiness.

“Whether they’re happy now is out of your control, Elise.”

“There has to be something I can do.”

“Well, you said you’re going to buy them dinner.”

“Something more than that.”

“Oh, you could give them our baby.”

I stared at Ben for a moment, not sure how to respond to his obvious sarcasm. Really, he didn’t deserve a response, if he was going to be that ridiculous. I decided he deserved to be ignored, and went to retrieve my keys. I’d put together a gift basket for Julianne and Greg, I decided. A couple of comedy DVDs, some chocolate, a few practical things for Julianne’s recovery. Hopefully I could lift their spirits at least a little while they waited for their happiness to arrive.

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