Final Trip Update From a Secret Journey

Chronicles of "trying" to conceive

On Day 29, I tested negative again. I stared at the stick for a long time, turning it different ways in the light to detect any hint of pink stripe. I huddled under a blanket on my sofa that morning, drinking peppermint tea. But my pregnant sister-in-law was visiting, telling me not to worry. She had had several false negative results. A few threads of hope remained. On Day 30, I began spotting. In the gray light before dawn, I showered and dressed, ate Cheerios mixed with granola, and drank half my orange juice. Then I got in the car, dropped my sister-in-law at the airport, and kissed my sleepy nephew good-bye. My morning drive is exaclty thirty miles east, a straight shot down Highway 36. Against the sunrise, I cried all the way to work. It was my thirtieth birthday.

November, 1998: I cleaned out the linen closet yesterday. I should have straightened out the living room or scrubbed down the kitchen counters. My cleaning guy quit a couple of months ago and I haven't found a new person yet, so the house is beginning to look pretty shabby. But my domestic instincts have always run toward special projects rather than routine maintenence. It was with relish that I refolded and stacked the towels, and corralled random bits of hardware. I tossed out an electric cord from a razor that broke years ago, half-empty bottles of Marriott Courtyard conditioner, expired medicines, rock-hard nail polishes, scented soaps from Christmases past, unused syringes and diluent, and boxes from ovulation predictor kits and pregnancy tests.

The reorganization and purging yielded two empty shelves. I admired them for a minute and lovingly wiped them down with a damp sponge. Then I opened the two lawn-size bags that Neil brought home from Target last weekend. Diapers and wipes and ointments, hooded towels and washcloths and receiving blankets, pacifiers and bottles and nursing pads swifly gobbled the space.

The dark and twisted road we took last year did lead to the other side of the woods. But when we got there, we found more forest. We lurched past disbelief about pregnancy, plowed through justified fears for fetal health, and crept uphill for three months of bedrest and hospitalizations to bring our twins to term.

Last year, Neil and I journeyed alone, providing trip updates only for family and friends as they politely inquired. This year, the whole crew has bounced along in the backseat. Books, CDs, Nintendo, maternity clothes, a five-foot pillow and an egg-crate mattress--all borrowed--have sustained my mind and body. Phone calls, visits, and emails with encouraging words and updates from the outside world have staved off frustration and loneliness. And we've never turned down food.

At thirty-five weeks, we have reached a quiet plateau--a chance to stretch our legs and enjoy an unusually mild autumn before forging into the next forest. Bedrest is behind us, and we have been taking little outings--dinner downtown, a picnic by the river, a drive to an apple orchard. Our Subaru now has two empty car seats waiting in the back. The babies lie more quietly, with little room to kick and squirm. I think they are waiting, too. My doctor says that if they don't come of their own accord, she will induce labor and delivery by the end of Week 38. That would be my thirty-first birthday.


Susan Moses Zirkes is a school psychologist living in Minneapolis. Her son and daughter were born on November 12, 1998.

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