June 21, 2002
While I'm Waiting

miles to go: 1,278.97

While I'm waiting, I think I'll rinse out my bike shorts.

A squirt of Ivory Liquid in a sinkful of cold water, a quick dunk-and-swish, a gentle squeeze, and they're ready to drip-dry overnight, just in time for weekend riding. As I'm swishing and dunking and squeezing, I'm purposely forcing myself to think about nice, safe, *happy* subjects. Riding the Iron Horse Trail on Saturday, for instance. My little nephew's third birthday on Sunday. Our one-year wedding anniversary next month. 

Anything, basically, except what's happening in my bathroom, right this very moment.

(They DO make maternity bike shorts ... right?)

It probably wouldn't hurt to set up the automatic coffeemaker for morning, too, while I'm waiting. This is one of those semi-onerous tasks I try to remember to do every night before bed ... not only because I adore waking up to the smell of fresh-brewed Foglifter in the morning, but also because our coffee grinder sounds like a gravel compactor at 5:16 a.m.

(Should I start avoiding caffeine?)

While I'm at it, I pack two Zip-Loc bags full of grapes for our lunch tomorrow (Maybe I should drop a couple of jumbo garlic dills into *my* lunch bag) ... and then I stuff the clean dishes into the dangerously-overcrowded kitchen cabinets. (We don't have room for a fudking LASAGNA PAN in this phone booth of an apartment: where on earth would we put a CRIB?)

And all the while, in the next room ... the little plastic stick is quietly thinking.

It's been twenty years since the last time I bought an in-home pregnancy test. (Subsequent pregnancies were confirmed or denied the old-fashioned way: by offing a poor defenseless bunny.) A lot of things have changed about these over-the-counter tests since 1982: packaging, price, procedure, technology. I dimly recall struggling to pee into a container the size of a walnut, then gingerly dipping strips of paper into the smelly mess until I got a reading. Now you simply hold this device that looks like a digital thermometer under the *flow* for about five seconds, lay it on a flat surface to cook for a couple of minutes ... and boom, you're done. No pee-covered fingers, no messy "backsplash," no fuss/no muss/no needless added trauma. 

On the other hand, some things haven't changed a bit. I'm still taking the test alone tonight, without my husband here to hold my hand. (At least this husband isn't sitting in a bar somewhere, playing pool with the grocery money.)  I'm still going to be anxious to talk to somebody the minute it's over. As soon as I got the results that first time, twenty years ago, I went across the hall and plucked eight-month-old Jaymi from her crib. "You're going to be a big sister, Puss!" I told her joyously. She responded to this happy news by urping Enfamil down the back of my bathrobe.

And I'm still pretty sure that whatever happens is meant to be ... one way or the other.

When three minutes have passed -- it's been more like twenty-three minutes, actually, but I'll admit I'm dragging my heels here -- I walk into the bathroom, heart in throat, and look at the plastic stick laying on the side of the bathtub.

Well. There it is.

I told myself that I would be calm, regardless of the results, positive or negative, and I am. I am completely calm. I am supernaturally calm. I am so calm, in fact, that it's damn close to having an out-of-body experience. I float across the apartment to the kitchen, feeling calm and otherworldly, and I sit down in the computer chair and pick up the phone and dial TicTac.

Jaymi answers on the first ring. "What took you so long?" she snaps.

For a moment I consider telling her that I ran into a snag: that the little digital thermometer thingamabob was defective, maybe ... or that my mother-in-law dropped in unexpectedly, just as I was heading for the bathroom, and the two of us got involved in a thrilling game of Jenga ... or that when push came to shove, I just couldn't tinky-winkle enough *flow* to do the job.  Then I consider trying to explain the unexplainable: that I'm pretty sure this is the last time I will ever experience this wonderful/terrible combination of emotions  --  the very last *Pregnancy Watch* of my life  --  and that I wanted to prolong the drama a little bit, just for old times' sake.

But in the end I keep it simple. "It was negative," I say.

It's hard to tell, long-distance, whether she's relieved or disappointed. I suspect it's a lot of one and a little of the other. (Not unlike the way I am feeling, as a matter of fact.) 

"So I'm not going to be throwing you a baby shower next spring?" she deadpans.

I remind her that nothing is carved in stone yet -- that I only took this stoopid drugstore test as a first step, and that I'll probably have to follow it up with a 'real' test if my goddamn period doesn't start soon (read this: before the end of mankind as we know it) -- but that at this point I am reasonably certain she won't be the only 21-year-old on her block with a baby brother or sister, come February 2003. I assure her that I'm very happy with the results, and that I know David will be too. We're too old to start cranking out babies now. We're too tired and too broke and too set in our ways. We love our life just the way it is.

"Besides," I say to her, "how could I possibly top the three children I already have?" And I tell her to go take a look in the mirror if she doesn't believe that I have already produced perfection in my lifetime.

We chit-chat for another couple of minutes. I thank her for 'sharing this special moment' with me -- "We have a really unusual mother/daughter relationship, you know it?" she says -- and then we exchange 'goodnights' and 'I love yous' and hang up.

As soon as I'm off the phone, I wander back into the bathroom and take another look, just to make sure. It's still there: a single vertical pink line, appearing in the right-hand 'window' of the little plastic stick. Not pregnant, it says quietly. Bullet dodged. Crisis averted. With a sigh, I wrap the stick in two layers of Kleenex and deposit it tenderly into the wastebasket. Then I wash my hands, turn off the light, walk out of the bathroom ...

... and close the door behind me.


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