Ellen could tell something about her body was… different. Is a “vague feeling of power” a sign of pregnancy? Here, she tells the story of what it was like to find out she was expecting her first child.
Even though it was still a few days before there was reason to pick one up, my husband insisted on running to the Walgreens around the block to get an at-home pregnancy test. He “had a feeling.”
I, on the other hand, had doubts. Still, I chugged water, and we both impatiently waited for my bladder to fill — a task that seemed to take curiously more time and liquid than usual.
For fear of getting my husband’s hopes up, I hadn’t mentioned that a few days earlier, I thought I felt — or something felt — different. I’d gone for a run around Lake Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis and felt… fast. Strong. Powerful? Something. I had felt something. I felt at home in my bodiliness; somehow more rooted in my own embodied experience than ever. But as far as I knew, “a vague feeling of power” wasn’t a symptom of some new life forming inside me.
In fact, despite my best efforts against reading into small, inexplicable, and fleeting phenomena, for weeks I found myself constantly seeking some cosmic indication of what was going on inside my own body. A friend at work brings up babies in casual conversation? I’m certainly pregnant, emitting motherhood vibes without even knowing it. An email lands in my inbox for a new maternity line at my favorite store? I can almost picture my big belly now! I have a sensation of the great physical capacities of my body during a workout? The most incredible capacity must already be secretly underway.
I managed to find conflicting clues, too. Clues that I was barren, that it hadn’t worked, that my body was empty. I didn’t know what to believe, and to my great frustration, it was impossible to discern by sheer willpower alone.
It was a strange experience to look outside myself for clues and information about something fundamentally transpiring within myself. I inadvertently clung to the subtlest and the silliest. It was strange that I required some outside source to reveal an inside reality. Naturally, I couldn’t help but be on the lookout for any and all signs.
I don’t think I’m alone in this sudden urge to scavenge daily life for hints about something that falls into the category of knowable-but-yet-unknown. Will I get the job for which I just interviewed? Could this first date be the beginning of life together? Am I pregnant? There is an answer to these questions: it’s either yes or no. And even though we are integral participants, active agents in the circumstances, and implicated in every way by either answer, we are often nonetheless in position of waiting for the yes or the no to be revealed.
When it was finally time, I took the test. We set a timer to go look at the results, together, a few minutes later. After the count of three, we glanced down and a little line on a small piece of plastic told us we were pregnant. A modern-day revelation from on high.
Although it was more scientific than, say, the sensation of embodiment during my recent run, the presence or absence of this little line suddenly seemed an absurd way to discover whether a new human was forming inside me. It didn’t seem so qualitatively different than reading into a conversation at work or receiving a serendipitous email. Given the news, shouldn’t the heavens have opened? Jovial trumpets in the distance? Doesn’t the existence of a new soul warrant a better announcement than what a piece of drug store plastic can provide?
My husband pointed out that I seemed to expect an annunciation on par with Mary finding out she was pregnant with Jesus (a little presumptuous, I realize). The heavens didn’t open, and an angel didn’t descend with a message from God. I didn’t happen to have that in common with the Holy Mother of God. Fine. But I was struck, nonetheless, that even after 2,000 years of improvements in science and increased understandings of pregnancy, I could glimpse Mary’s experience of needing and waiting to be told by an outside revelation about this great event at work inside me.
In the charged stillness that followed, I wondered whether any clue, any announcement — angels descending from heaven included — could ever sufficiently communicate all the hope, fear, joy, and sorrow that this particular revelation admits. I suspect not — not even for Mary.