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7 Jul

A Hysterical Pregnancy Is A Wish That A Desperate Uterus Makes

Last week, in a fit of confusion and something that tasted a little bit like desperation salted with hope, I wrote what follows. I didn’t publish it, of course, because even though I tend to be pretty confessional in this space, I am, at the end of the day, loathe to post anything that makes me look insane, or idiotic, or both:

I am convinced that I am pregnant. The thing is, I can’t possibly be pregnant. You see how this could be confusing.

I can’t be pregnant because my husband had a vasectomy. Sure, there have been cases where vasectomies have failed, but those are extremely rare. So rare, that when you google ‘vasectomy failure rates’ you come across eleventeen thousand variations on jokes with the punchline vasectomy failure — or did the postman ring twice, *nudge-nudge-wink-wink*?? Also, I’m old, at least within the context of fertility. Late maternal age and all that. Which is one of the reasons why we had the vasectomy, which involves snippage of the internal man parts, which is why it’s a pretty good bet, contraception-wise. So I can’t be pregnant.

But that’s not stopping me from feeling like I am.

I won’t go into detail, except to say this: I am experiencing, or have in recent days experienced, every single symptom of conception with which I am familiar. Every single one. I am currently laying on the sofa, nauseated and fatigued and heavy of bosom and if this were five years ago and I were still fertility tracking I’d have already scrawled THIS IS IT all over my FertilityFriend calendar. But it’s not five years ago. It’s not even a year and a half ago, which is to say, pre-vasectomy, which is where I’d need to be for this be possible. Right? So unless there’s been some tear in the fabric of space-time as it pertains to my fertility and my husband’s potency, I can’t be pregnant.

Except it really, really feels like I am, and that’s messing with my head. Have I conjured a hysterical pregnancy for myself, through the sheer force of ambivalently wishful thinking? (This, Wikipedia tells me – and I highly recommend turning to Wikipedia whenever you have a pressing question about your reproductive system, because, really, why not crowd-source your hysteria? – is usually the cause of any so-called ‘false’ pregnancy, if you take away the ‘ambivalent’ part.) Or do I have some fatal tropical illness, the symptoms of which mimic those of pregnancy, such that the sufferer undergoes the profound confusion that attends believing that one is pregnant after one has decided to make such a thing impossible before realizing, too late, that instead of carrying a baby she is carrying ovarian tapeworms or uterine tumors or alien spawn or a divinely conceived messiah, the latter of which I realize is not a tropical illness, per se, but still.

Or maybe I just have gas.

I know that I’m not pregnant. I can’t be. I know that. It’s as close to impossible as a thing can get before we start talking about unicorn rodeos and magic beanstalks that lead to cloud-kingdoms full of free shoes and cupcakes. It’s a fantasy. It’s not real.

So why am I wondering whether I might, just maybe, perhaps, wish that it was?

I took a pregnancy test after I wrote that. It mocked me with its single, dark pink line. It accused me with its single, dark pink line, that deep, bitter strip of color that dares you to question the purity of its perfect, unspoiled white bed. What are you looking for, it demanded, taunting me. Did you really think that you’d see two of me? Did you? Don’t you know that’s NOT POSSIBLE? It was practically shouting.

I stuck it back in its box and buried it in the trash. Then, three days later, I did it again.

Again, it shouted. Nothing to see here!

I got sick. Somewhere, in the deeply irrational part of my brain, I told myself that strep throat was a symptom of pregnancy. The other deeply irrational part of my brain nodded sagely, and accepted that reasoning. I refused antibiotics at the doctor. I didn’t tell him that it was because I might be pregnant. The small part of my brain that was still clinging to reason knew that that was impossible, and that I’d have to admit that it was impossible, and that the doctor would make a tiny notation on my file indicating that I was totally freaking insane.

I waited. My period was late. I waited some more. I told myself that if this were a narrative, a story – and lo! notice that it has become a narrative, here on this virtual page! – the twist would be that I wasn’t crazy, that this condition that once upon a time would have been called hysterical (from the Greek “hystera”, or uterus) – a Hippocratic disturbance of the uterus, an emotional upset issuing from my disrupted feminine desires – was in fact not that, not imagined, not hysterical, but, against all medical possibility, real. That I was, in fact, pregnant.

I am not pregnant. Real life stories don’t follow the same rules of rising action and dramatic resolution that do written stories. At the end of this story – and this is, indeed, the end – there is only me, and my confused uterus, and some bitter reflections on hysteria and desire. The evidence presented itself yesterday, and the story ended. Fin.

Did I want that baby, that imagined baby? Was that baby limned from the contours of my secret desires, my hidden hopes? Did I conceive that baby through an act of imagination that was driven by want? I don’t know. I do know that as I sat in the bathroom, amid the crumpled towels and the bath toys and the discarded tube of Dora toothpaste, the weight of the discovery – can I call it discovery, revelation, when it should have been so totally expected? – settled on me like chains and I wondered how I would be able to get up and move, knowing what I knew, knowing it beyond confusion and hope, knowing that my uterus, now, would only ever be disrupted by imagination, knowing that such a thing could only emanate from hysteria. Knowing that I could never have another baby, not this way.

I can’t say that I was sad, exactly. Disappointed, maybe? Perhaps not even that. I don’t know what I wanted. I know that pregnancy and childbirth has been difficult for me. I know that we are happy, we four, as four. But, but… I don’t know. I wanted it, a little bit? Maybe, I just wanted the story to unfold differently. More poetically. More fully.

I don’t know how I felt, how I feel. Resigned, I suppose.

This story ends here.