For the next few weeks, we seemed to be go through daily life in a semblance of normal. Kevin had apologized again in the morning and even brought me flowers that night. It was over; we moved on. Our routine became just that, a routine: get up each day at 6:30 and head to work, work my 8 hours, his 12, come home, watch some TV, eat dinner, clean up, get ready for bed, make out or have sex and then go to sleep by 10. The sex wasn’t as exciting as it had been that night. It was missing a certain desperation, but it was sweet and satisfying.
Some time around the beginning of March, I learned I was pregnant. Ann Marie was with me when I found out. I hadn’t told Kevin I was late. He had been so moody, I wasn’t sure he’d be happy. I didn’t want to upset him if there was no real reason, so I didn’t tell him when I bought the home test. I waited until he had left for hockey on Saturday morning and called Ann Marie.
“Come over, please?” I begged as soon as she answered the phone. I must have woken her because she sounded a little groggy.
“hunnhh, yeah, okay” she said sleepily, “be there in 10.”
She hung up. I considered calling her back to make sure she was really coming. Instead, I paced for the next 32 minutes while I waited for her to arrive. At her knock on the door, I jerked out of the oval track I had been wearing in the living room carpet.
“Thank god you’re here!” I breathed.
“What the heck is the emergency?” she whined. “You got me up at such a disgusting time on a Saturday. God, Tara, this better be important!”
“I think I’m pregnant”
Her face froze in an “oh” to otherwise stunned silence. As she digested my news, her face transformed from shock to something else I couldn’t identify to the usual take-charge Ann Marie I counted on.
“We need to get you a test.” She said
“It’s in the bathroom.” I replied.
“Shit, did you already pee on it? What did it say?”
“No, I didn’t pee on it yet. I waited for you.” I don’t know why I hadn’t considered I could have gone ahead and taken the test and just read the results holding her hand. “Not that I need you in there while I pee, I mean…”
She laughed and it released my tension. This would be okay.
I had never told Ann Marie about what happened at Christmas. It had been easy to avoid her for a few days over the holidays, being so busy with family and all. By the time I saw her again, the bruise on my cheek was faded enough to cover with powder and I said I banged my head on the cupboard for my forehead. Believable enough. Being winter, I was wearing long sleeves and pants so any other marks would never have shown.
“I guess there’s no reason not to just do it now, right? I mean, I’ve had two cups of tea already, it should be easy enough to go”
“Then git!” she urged. Sometimes I swore she was more Texan than Newfie with some of her expressions.
I came out of the bathroom almost 10 minutes later. As expected, it was easy enough to get myself to go. What had proven difficult was aiming for the damned stick. Whoever invented these tests was clearly a man because only a man would think this was easy to use. For the record, women can’t move our unit around to aim for a small strip on a stick. No, it has to be placed under the stream…blindly. Because in case it hasn’t been noticed, we have a couple of visual obstructions in the direct path to our view of that area down there. So, decidedly, it wasn’t easy, but I got the job done eventually and washed my hands for the last 5 minutes I had been in the bathroom
“So?” She said when she saw me coming out, grabbing the stick from my hand.
“I don’t know. I have to wait until it changes. If it has a single slash it’s a no. If it turns into a cross, it’s pregnant”
“It’s a cross,” she whispered. She looked up at me from the stick. What she had said, barely registered, but somewhere in my mind I must have heard her, because there was a chorus of voices singing as a choir in my head. Pregnant. Me. I was going to be a mom. Me!
Dazedly, I looked at Ann Marie, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I felt my face split and tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes. I started to jump up and down, grabbing Ann Marie’s arms and forcing her to jump and down like school girls with me, shrieking with joy. I don’t really know how long we were like that but we were still whooping like this when Kevin walked in with his hockey bag slung over his shoulder.
“Whoa, ladies!” he said, “What’s the big news? Is Aldo having a big shoe sale today?”
I ran over to him and hugged him, reeking hockey bag and all. He looked a little surprised but didn’t push me away. As I wrapped my arms around his waist and looked up at him, he looked quizzically at Ann Marie.
“I think I’m gonna head out,” she said. “Give me a call later if you wanna get together, Tar”
“Okay,” I replied as I gazed tenderly into Kevin’s inquiring face. Ann Marie closed the door behind herself as he dropped his bag in the front closet. I didn’t even mind that it would stink up all of my coats in that moment. “come sit down with me,” I beckoned to him
“What’s going on, Tara?” He looked serious.
“Sit down and I’ll tell you,” I said as he came over and sat on the couch beside me. He had leaned back and crossed his arms. His forearms looked so strong and so tanned, even in winter, against the waffle of his charcoal Henley shirt. I was captivated for a moment wondering if our son would get his father’s strong body and would some girl swoon over him the way I swooned for Kevin. As a small grin played at the corners of my mouth, I looked up at Kevin’s sensuous mouth, his strong aquiline nose and liquid brown eyes. The little furrows between his eyebrows softened slightly as I looked at him.
“I’m pregnant” I said softly.
He jumped off the sofa and grabbed me up in his arms whooping. I couldn’t help but laugh with delight at his joy as it was the same joy I had experienced when I heard it the first time. Everything was going to be okay, I told myself.
We spent the next few weeks buying books to understand what to expect during our pregnancy. Attended doctor’s appointments and had an ultrasound, which put me at 15 weeks pregnant. I worried that would have meant I was pregnant during the episode near Christmas, but shoved it to the back of my mind, convinced no harm would have come to him that early.
Life seemed to be going great. By May , I was 5 months pregnant and as big as a house. Or so Kevin told me. He teased me he’d never seen a pregnant woman eat so much and get so big so fast. This was going to be the healthiest baby ever born. I tried so hard not to be offended, but it nagged at me that he was basically saying I had gotten fat. Women were supposed to grow big bellies when they got pregnant, that’s how you knew it was pregnancy.
But he hadn’t touched me since I told him I was pregnant, other than to grab my behind and say it was getting flabby. Combined with his comments about getting so big, I felt unattractive and unwanted. He was working later, taking extra runs to make money for the baby arriving and me being off work for 6 months on maternity leave. Sure, the maternity benefits from the government would cover some of my lost income, but not much. But I was lonely and felt like I was doing this alone. It wasn’t how I’d always thought being pregnant would be.
I was ecstatic to be pregnant. I reveled in the sensations, the nausea, the water retention, the heart burn, the difficulty moving around – I loved it all because it meant there was a little person growing inside me and that made me feel special. The first flutters I felt happened at about 4 months. Just a little butterfly flitting its wings in my upper belly. It took me a while to figure out it must be the baby moving and I cried for 30 minutes when I realized it. It was an awe-inspiring moment and I greedily kept it for me.
Throughout these months, Ann Marie and I should have been getting closer, but we seemed, instead, to be drifting apart. We had talked on the phone only a handful of times and gotten together even less. Her absence made the loneliness grown to an excruciating level. I was always a one-friend type and without my one friend, I had no one.
My mother was happy when we told her the news. Or, maybe she was only surprised. She had congratulated us, but really didn’t say much more about it, contrary to my expectations. David, now 13, simply grunted and went back to his room.
So Kevin worked longer hours to make more money to save for the dreaded 6 month leave. I continued to do my job, taking frequent bathroom breaks, which annoyed my boss who had to cover me while I went. There is something to be said for being a woman in a man’s world. And the trucking industry is definitely a man’s world. Between being my dad’s kid and Kevin’s wife, though, I got by okay. I was treated better than okay, really.
I went for a second ultrasound in June. Things were moving along smoothly, my baby growing as he should. I wanted a son first so badly, I had already taken to referring to him as “him” or “Hayden”. Kevin argued that was a name for a weakling and our kid needed a strong name like Kenneth. We decided not to find out the sex of the baby, an option that was still new technology, really. Between the argument it wasn’t fully reliable and the idea that this is one of the only true surprises we get in life, we were happy to live in ignorance.
July was blazing hot and made me incredibly uncomfortable. In addition to growing to the size of a small motel, I was sweating profusely most of the time. My belly had gotten so big, I was grateful for flip flops.
I finished working August 3oth, just in time for the Labour Day long weekend. I was barely mobile, but I managed to put on a brave face as I huffed my way through the crowds lining the street for the parade. Some kind ladies made a spot for me on the curb so I wouldn’t have to stand the whole time. In the heat, I would likely have fainted anyway. It was a comical scene though, when it was time to get up. Two men grabbed an arm each and pulled with all their strength.
Kevin and the two men made wise cracks about me being a prize heifer. It hurt. But not as much as it had been hurting earlier in my pregnancy. I had started to get used to the insults and was working hard to ignore them.
On the morning of September 5th, I was woken by my belly being gripped by a vice so harshly, I lost my breath and curled into the fetal position from the pain. I was at home alone when it hit. I had been reading enough to know what to expect when labour struck, but the reality was nothing near the description. This felt like someone was trying to squeeze my belly as though it were a giant pimple and when squeezing wouldn’t work, they jabbed a giant knife around the ball to cut it off of me. Or that’s how it felt to me!
After an hour of consistent pains, I started to time then and quickly realized this must be labour. I called work to let them know and asked them to have Kevin come home. I grabbed my hospital bag and called a taxi to head to the hospital. I knew there was no way Kevin would make it home in time to take me. The contractions were only 7 minutes apart already and lasting a full 30 count. I had no idea how close I was to delivering, but I didn’t want to be driving when a contraction hit. Fortunately, the pain hadn’t erased all of my sense.
I arrived at the hospital some time before 11 am and Chloe Pryce was born at 3:11 pm on Tuesday, September 5, 1989, weighing 8 lbs 14 oz. A beautiful, pink little girl with a perfect nose, 10 fingers and 10 toes. Kevin had missed the whole thing. He showed up after dinner, just as visiting hours were ending. He poked his head into my room for a quick hello before heading to the nursery to see his new daughter.
I had to stay at the hospital for two days. Another lady in my room had more guests than the queen on a royal visit and I found myself getting irritated at her good fortune. Why didn’t I have hordes visiting me?
Nursing was impossible. Poor Chloe just couldn’t latch. The nurses told me not to worry about it and handed me a bottle of formula so she’d get enough. Some women just can’t one said. Of course, I couldn’t. I was defective.
But the first night at home made me feel better. I was bleeding heavily and felt horrible, physically. I was completely exhausted, but the blissful happiness I felt made my physical concerns evaporate. Here, in my cozy apartment with Chloe in her wicker bassinet basket at my side, it felt like nothing could go wrong.