Already, things are different.
The time primping for my husband so I'll look cute when I tell him the news, the sweet moment of sharing the knowledge that two's becoming three, the afternoon spent in the rocking chair reading Goodnight Moon and Psalm 139 -- the psalm I always think of as the "baby psalm" -- all gone. This time around, I stumble out of the bathroom in my nursing nightgown, unshowered, and shove the plastic test stick right under my husband's nose.
"Does that look like a plus to you?" I accost him. "Does it? Does it?"
"Huh?" He remarks. "What?"
His confusion is understandable. He has no idea what I am talking about, and because I have momentarily forgotten that he, unlike me, has perfect vision, I am holding the stick so close to his eyes that he can't focus on what I am waving at him.
"Is that a pregnancy test?" he finally manages, and I surrender the evidence and allow him to hold it out where he can see it.
"Of course it's a pregnancy test," I snap. "What I'm asking you is whether that" -- I point -- "is a plus."
"Yeah, that's a plus," he answers. There's a long pause. "Does this mean you're pregnant?"
I hear my daughter stirring in her crib. I turn to watch as she sits up, blinking, then pulls herself to stand; at fourteen months this is her new big accomplishment and she is quite pleased with herself.
"I don't know!" I wail, turning back to my husband. "If that's a plus, what's that line over there in the other window? And isn't one of the plus lines really faint?" I walk over to the crib and pick up my daughter.
"Well," my husband says, assuming his ever-the-reasonable-scientist face, "what do the directions say?"
"I don't know!" I wail again, louder this time. My daughter looks concerned. I'm concerned, too: I don't think I saved them. I figured all the tests were pretty self-explanatory.
What my husband doesn't know is that this test is only one from a large stockpile of pregnancy tests that I've been hoarding in the closet.
I love pregnancy tests. But they're an expensive habit for a family out of work, so I've kept my little stash a secret. I also went one step further and opened all the boxes I'd bought, pulling out the test sticks within and cramming them into one, solitary box. That way, if my stash was ever discovered, it would just look like one box of pregnancy tests. And anyone can keep a box of pregnancy tests around, right? In my haste to hide the tests, though, I threw out most of the instructions. How hard can it be to read a pregnancy test?
As it turns out, pretty hard. My husband is still wearing his rational-scientist face as he reaches out for our daughter, who is babbling away and climbing out of my arms to get to him. He looks at me, his hands full of baby and pregnancy test. "Why don't you get the instructions and check?"
I smile and pull open the closet door, playing for time. I find the box that holds my stash, and slide my fingers inside, praying. Sure enough, there's one set of instructions there. And God must be smiling on me, because they're actually the instructions for the brand of test my husband's still holding in his free hand, up over his head and out of the baby's reach. As I pull out the instructions I note that the box is now empty--the test in my husband's hand is apparently my last one.
With trembling fingers, I unfold the instruction sheet and thumb over to the section titled "Reading the Test." I hold my hand out for the stick and compare my results.
"The first line in the first window is just to indicate the test is working," I read to my husband. "The second window is where you will see your test results." I stop.
"And?" He prompts.
"One line means you're not pregnant. Two lines in a plus means...." I trail off and look at him.
"But one of the lines is really faint!" He sputters. Evidently it's now his turn to note this fact, as he peers over my shoulder to examine the stick. My daughter makes a lunge for it.
"Yeah," I agree, catching my daughter and handing my husband the stick and the instruction sheet. "That would be the control line."
Apparently, not only am I pregnant, I'm really pregnant.
Two hours later, I emerge from the bathroom again, a fistful of test sticks in my hand. Once we agreed that the first test was indeed positive, my husband wanted to see another test just to be sure. And of course, I didn't have any. So he raced outside to shovel our car out from under a foot and a half of snow -- my pregnancy-test-taking urge coinciding nicely with the biggest snowstorm of the year -- and after successfully digging the car out with a cookie sheet when we couldn't find a shovel, he drove to the pharmacy for another box of tests.
"Get two boxes!" I yell at his retreating figure as he leaves. "And make sure they're boxes with at least two tests. Don't get generic -- well, one box can be generic -- but only if it's got an extra test in it! Oh, and check and see -- sometimes you can get a generic box free if you buy two boxes of real tests." My daughter beams at me, as if proud of my economy.
My husband shakes his head and disappears out into the snow.
Now, I stand in front of him with my bouquet of wands.
"Well," I say, "this one is positive." I hand him the stick. "And this one is positive. And this one is positive. So unless you'd like me to take another test..."
He's looking shell-shocked.
"I think we're having another baby," I finish.
"I think I need to give you a hug," he responds, and I notice his hands are shaking.
I lift my arms to him. "Ugh. I think I need a shower."
In the shower, I lean my head against the wall and let the tepid, no-hot-water-when-you're-pregnant! water run down my back. I run my fingers lightly over my stomach. I really, really want another baby -- but this, to put it delicately, is not the best of times. My husband is only very recently employed, and at a temp job at that. We're not eligible for health insurance. I had life-threatening complications with my daughter that will render any future pregnancies very, very expensive. We live in a room. One room. I turn my face toward the shower, and the tepid water mingles with my tears.
I want this baby. I just wish I could make our circumstances better.
But I believe, regardless of the circumstances, that this baby is supposed to be here, this baby was divinely planned. What's that verse, I ask myself as I wash my hair -- something about being chosen before the foundation of the world? Maybe that's somewhere in Ephesians? And the one I know I know, from Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." I remember looking it up when I was pregnant with my daughter.
If I choose to believe that this baby was divinely planned, I also have to believe that God has planned for me to be pregnant, right now. But this doesn't translate into belief that everything will somehow be all right, it translates into a choice: to continue on. To put one foot in front of the other. To keep going. To have faith. And the hard part about having faith is that it requires -- well, faith.
I ball my hands into fists against my abdomen, and pray for my unborn child.
When I emerge from the bathroom clean and clothed, I scoop my daughter up from the floor and hold her tightly to my chest. "You're going to be a big sister," I tell her. She smiles. "And you," I continue, addressing my belly, "are going to love this family."
"We co-sleep," my husband says.
"We nurse on demand," I continue. "And you've got an awesome big sister. On the whole, we're really quite cool."
I boot my husband out of the rocking chair, the only chair in our one room. I sit down in it myself, and settle my daughter on my lap. I read to her, and to the new baby growing inside me. Goodnight Moon. And Psalm 139: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."