“If you put flannel sheets on the bed you have to sleep naked.”
“Fine. If I have to sleep naked, you have to agree to start trying for another baby.”
“Ashley, it’s not the right time.”
“Nathan. Unless you’re a Trump or a Kennedy it’s never the right time.”
And just like that we were “trying.”
I used to make fun of women who said they were “trying” to have a baby. “Gross,” I’d say as I rolled my eyes, “like no one wants to know that you’re having sex with your husband,” I’d say behind some woman’s back who had confided in me that she too wanted a family. For me, getting pregnant was easy. With Maddox, a girls’ day downtown turned into one too many tequila shots at Sapphire, turned into a phone call to a guy I was casually seeing at the time to tell him that I had taken about 19 pregnancy tests and that we were going to have a baby. With Walker, I ovulated late and boom, I was coming out of the bathroom staring at my then husband and my then 13 month old first born, shaking pee everywhere while I flailed my arms and said we were too poor to have a baby. “We can’t tell anyone about this,” I told him with tears in my eyes. “My family is going to freak out. I make $8.50 an hour in the mall. We are so screwed.”
Two boys. Maddox and Walker. “Are you ever going to have another? Do you want a girl? Are you done?” I fielded questions from well meaning co-workers and social media acquaintances, from clients and distant relatives, all the while my marriage was dissolving and my “husband” was spending more and more time begging his way back into our house, separation after separation. “Oh gosh, who knows!” I’d exclaim and giggle, trying hard not to twist at the wedding band on my finger that felt more like a noose around my neck every second.
Years passed. I didn’t know with whom, but I did know that I wasn’t done having babies at the ripe old age of 25. Every time I saw a baby it felt like fire balls lit up in my ovaries. While my friends were in grad school or pursuing fast-paced careers at 23, I had Maddox. When they settled down and had babies of their own, my youngest was then a toddler.
“Your kids are 11 and 6. Would you do it again ever? Or are you done? Be honest. I just, I mean, before you answer, I don’t think I’m done. I’m only 28. My kids are still really little…” I looked at Nathan and chewed on my bottom lip. (Who in the actual heck asks a 39 year old Harley riding, tattoo having, bachelor of a man living in a studio downtown that they have been seeing for a month if he’s wanting more babies?) “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about doing it again once I had my other children.” “Well would you ever get married again?” (Sweet Lord above the word vomit. Please. Make it stop. What is happening with my mouth?) “No. I’m never getting married again.” He left my house at 3am that morning after fits of tossing and turning. I was pretty certain I’d ruined everything. He called the next day and told me he had watched me sleep for hours. He was in love with me. He’d marry me and have babies with me one day. He was done but for me he’d stop being done.
February 2015: the doctor informs me that the baby stopped growing at 7 weeks. So sorry. Take this pill to expel the tissue. Take these meds for pain. Come back for an ultrasound.
“We could watch Gone Girl. Or The Hunger Games. Haven’t you read the books? I’ll see if the Red Box has them,” Nathan said over the phone. “Let me in the bathroom, Ashley,” he said then he promptly sat in the floor, resting his chin on my knees as the worst of the worst began to happen. “I’m not leaving you. Does it hurt? Do you want Little Tokyo? Here are your pain meds.”
Weeks went by, turned to months, my due date passed, and I was still alive. The world kept on moving while I had my first miscarriage. I still went to work. My boys still needed juice and rides to tee ball games and asked me why the baby went to live with Jesus.
February 2016: I sobbed to my OB/GYN that nothing was happening. I sobbed to Nathan that I was barren. My nana asked me if Nathan was “shooting blanks” (and this blog is actually coming from the grave because I died at the exact moment my grandmother said ‘shooting blanks’). I called friends and asked them how they got pregnant. I became absolutely and totally obsessed with having a baby.
You know how they say men think about sex every 6 seconds? That was me. But with babies. I stared at the calendar and wished weeks away until I could take a pregnancy test. I smelled a stranger’s newborn at a Christmas party. I declined invitations to events because I was ovulating. I became the woman I had rolled my eyes at years earlier.
I was desperate for a baby.
“I don’t care if you want to do it now. We did it this morning and Dr. Broady said that if we do it more than once a day your sperm count won’t be good enough to get me pregnant,” was what replaced the flirty texts and half dressed SnapChats from days gone by. This was what our pillow talk had become.
Then it happened.
I had a dream one Sunday night that I was pregnant. When I woke up Nathan’s hand was resting on my stomach. “Please God. I’ll have the most miserable awful pregnancy in the history of pregnancies if you will just give me a baby. I’ll do anything. I’ll even microwave my lunch meat. Just. Please. Give me a baby.” I took it as a sign. That Monday morning, five days before I was supposed to start my period, I saw two lines. I fell in the floor. I laughed. I screamed. I cried. I met Nathan for lunch and we were speechless. “Good job mommy,” he said as he hugged me.
We were pregnant. We couldn’t wait. We told everyone. Nathan lectured me about caffeine. I rolled my eyes and snuck Diet Cokes.
We were pregnant!
Until we weren’t.
“There’s no sack. I can’t see anything,” the ultrasound tech said before sending me back into the waiting room sandwiched between two of the most pregnant women I have ever seen (which, if you’re wondering, feels kind of like what I imagine getting shot in the gut feels like).
“You’re now at risk for chronic miscarriages,” Dr. Broady told me over the phone while I starred at the wall of the Target dressing room. “The second you test positive again come into the office. Start taking baby Aspirin. In a week we are going to do a full blood work panel and see if you have any abnormalities that may prevent you from carrying a baby.” Everything he said blurred together. I felt like I was listening to grown ups talk on an episode of Charlie Brown. “Wompwompwomp Friday your levels were 432. Wompwompwomp today they were 80.” “Oh. Okay. Um. Can I, I mean, can we, when can we try again? I have to start trying again,” I stammered weakly, feeling the desperation creeping back in. Once more, I felt the waves of apprehension. My whole body went stiff, robotic, “Three months.” “I can’t wait three months.” “When we test your levels in a week, if they are down to 0, then you can start trying again.”
I immediately told Nathan, “We can start trying after my levels get back down to 0.” He suggested we plant a tree. I downloaded another fertility app. Maddox told a stranger in the park that his mommy can’t have babies. That they all die in her belly and go live with Jesus.