It was just a speck at the beginning. A speck enveloped in a black blob on the monitor. My hungry eyes snapped all over the screen for a flutter or a movement, for anything. The technician, who was focused but purse-lipped and not too compassionate, moved the goop around in a determined fashion.
We sat around in what felt like suspended silence. Just the night before we had been at a similar appointment, where the obstetrician could not locate a heartbeat. My partner’s emotions were unreadable, her mother encouraged us both that all was well, and I found back tears, later dissolving on the phone with my own mother. The speck had already orchestrated an emotional rollercoaster just six weeks in utero.
“Ahh, there it is,” the technician sighed, the smirk melting into a slight smile, “there’s the heartbeat.”
It was just a glimmer, like the shine that a coin has in the sun, but it was confirmation. Life. Expansion. “Viable pregnancy.”
Our two faces burst with elation and cooing, and Xan’s anxious leg shaking finally ceased. In that moment, all was well, never mind the long journey ahead. All was beautiful. Life in formation. I already marveled at this tiny miracle, the speck, fluttering on the monitor before our eyes.
In my relief and joy, I squeezed my partner’s hand and exclaimed, “look at our baby!”
“Well,” the technician interrupted, returning to her somber demeanor, “it’s not a baby yet, it’s still a foetus.”
Ah, yes. Please don’t forget to remind us. It is not technically a baby. We shouldn’t get our hopes up. After all, we could barely see the heartbeat, and it could be a complicated pregnancy. Yes, you’re right. Let’s not get too happy, now.
I often refer back to this moment bitterly, and as one of many in this journey where I bit down on my tongue. At the same time, as beautiful as the process of witnessing the speck’s expansion has been, it has also been full of uncertainty, pain, fear, and wonder.
At 23 weeks, the speck in Xan’s body is now an eggplant. And it’s not alone in there. The eggplant shares a room with multiple uterine fibroids. It’s a common experience for many pregnant Black people, and a painful one - if the baby’s hormones cause the fibroids to grow, they can crowd the insides and push up against organs. If the fibroids shrink due to losing their blood source to the baby, it is ideal, yet excruciating.
For my partner, it has been mostly excruciating.
There have been so many nights along the way where she has not been able to sleep because of the agony. I have drawn up countless baths trying to get her to be more comfortable. I have pressed warm cloths with lavender oil and fresh prayers against her womb. She has collapsed into a ball of tears not just out of the pain, but out of the crushing fear that “Glory” - our nickname for the baby - may not be alright. And I, largely a spectator and supporter but not the vessel, have felt helpless and useless at times, wishing I could take some of the pain for at least a little while.
With that all said - let it be known that, on August 2, 2017, with the palm of my hand on Xan’s belly, I felt the baby kick. We all know that I cried tears of joy, but more than that, of wonder. This baby is a fighter.
Belief in the Divine, or something greater, has not only been important to us in this process - it is almost impossible not to have. This power is not solely about miracles for me, it is also about giving us the strength to cope with the uncertainties we are given throughout this process and life in general.
Not knowing, and therefore feeling out of control, is one of the hardest parts of human experience, but it is as it is. The only certainty I have is that life is uncertain. And that I already love this child more than can be conveyed here.
The speck. The eggplant. Our baby.
musings of a Black, queer and genderqueer activist, educator, musician.