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September 20, 2020 | Rome, Italy

Happy Birthday — you’re pregnant

By | 2018-03-21T20:11:01+01:00 September 19th, 2017|L'Americana|
From vision to reality…

found out I was pregnant on my 41st birthday. It didn’t take a pregnancy test or go to a doctor. I just knew. But there’s a reason.

In late May, I was at a meditation retreat in Washington, D.C. I’d arrived late the night before after a thunderstorm re-routed my flight to Baltimore. We sat out the showers for two hours before flying back to Washington. By the time I got to the retreat, all the spots in the meditation hall were taken — except one in the front row directly in front of a big picture of the guru and a pot of yellow roses.

On May 26th, my birthday morning, I sat on that spot. While meditating, I had a vision of something in my uterus. My maternal aunt, who has been like a mother to me since my own mother died nine years ago, reassured me all would be well. Though the vision seemed like a pregnancy premonition, the teacher had told us not to attach too much importance to thoughts during meditation.

A week after the retreat, I went to dinner with a friend. I’d been feeling unwell all week with a sore throat and a weak appetite. But that night I was ravenous. On my own, I devoured black bean quinoa fritters and shrimp with Cuban bread — a meal I normally share with my companion, David. “I ate for two tonight!” I wrote him in a text, thinking only that I’d regained my appetite.

That weekend I felt strange: hormonal, tired, and slightly nauseous. “You don’t think I’m pregnant, do you?” I asked David. He felt my stomach but didn’t say a word. He did advise a test. Still, I waited. The odds of my being pregnant were too low, I told myself — statistically less than five percent for women of my age.

I’d frozen eggs in my late 30s precisely because I thought I wouldn’t get around to natural conception. “You’re an egg-producing overachiever,” the doctor told me after I produced 23 eggs on the first round (the average is six-to-12).

I suddenly felt that I’d gotten my whole life wrong. I jokingly tell people that I have sister lives, one as an Italian mamma with six kids, the other as a neurosurgeon. I won’t be either, but I carry a bit of both. I also should have known that if I was abundantly fertile three years ago, I was probably still fertile now.

I got the test Monday afternoon, and waited until the next morning to take it. I dutifully peed on the stick and came back two minutes later, squinting once it was in view — as if wanting, but not wanting to know. A miniature-looking flag of Finland stared up at me. It was positive.

Oh my, I said, returning to bed and curling into a little fetal ball. I was overcome by joy, fear, and shock. I’d wanted a child for a long time, but it was a desire I’d put on hold to focus on other aspirations. David and I still led separate lives. We’d talked about merging them and one day having a child, but nature had beaten us to our imagined finish line.

At the end of the week I heard the fetal heartbeat for the first time. “Some people start to cry when they hear that,” the nurse gushed. I sat staring at the image on the ultra-sound, no bigger than a cricket, stunned and stoic. I was creating a creature — one that might crack me out of the small shell of myself.

“Pregnancy is a really good way to get over yourself,” I told my doctor. I’m forcibly getting over some hard-wired phobias. Like that of nausea and vomiting. As a child, my older brother’s retching traumatized me. He was more out and about than I was and intestinal flu seemed to like him. I’d hibernate in my upstairs bedroom as he took over the downstairs family room and adjacent bathroom. I imagined my mother with him in her Pepto Bismol colored robe, holding his head, doing what mothers do. After a few seconds, I covered my ears: I wanted to know pain, but not feel it.

Now I’m a pro at vomiting. The first few times were tough. What calmed and loosened me was the voice of my guru in my head saying, “Relax the body.” In other words: Surrender everything. You have nothing to lose. And maybe a whole lot to gain.

Kristine Crane, Associate Editor
Kristine Crane is Associate Editor of The American and the author of the "L'Americana" column. She lives and writes in North Central Florida. She was formerly a Fulbright scholar and journalist in Rome, where she helped found "The American." She is originally from Iowa City.

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