Friday, September 04, 2009

Flashback Friday: Damascus baby

To anyone who hasn't gone through it for herself, it's difficult to describe the roller coaster of emotions you experience when you're trying to get pregnant. It's a wild ride even if you succeed right away, but it can be cruel and difficult if you fail month after month after month. As soon as you know you should be starting to feel the symptoms of pregnancy - or even days and days before - it is tempting to read volumes into every tiny stomach cramp, every twinge of nausea, every whisper of a hunch. Before you know it, you're sure you're pregnant, even though it's still too early for any test to tell you so. That's when it gets brutal, though, because just when you've talked yourself into being sure, you are suddenly presented with incontrovertible evidence that in fact, there is no tiny life growing inside of you.

It's cruel. It's brutal. It's hard on the woman, hard on the man, hard on the marriage. And yet, you have to rev yourself up for going through it all over again, next month, and maybe the one after that, too. Anyone who's been there knows exactly what I'm talking about.

In October of 2004, just days before my birthday, I was sure I was pregnant. I had already discussed my symptoms with a friend and she agreed that it sounded like I was pregnant. I had called around to find a good doctor. For good measure, I had even picked out the first maternity outfit I would buy, from a store down the street. It had been in their display window for months and I wanted to be sure to buy it before they put it away. All that was left was to take a pregnancy test. We were living in Damascus, Syria at the time, and I was still working up the courage (and necessary vocabulary) to walk into a pharmacy and ask for a test.

I can't remember if I made Jeremy do it or if I did it myself, but I somehow procured a pregnancy test and was all set to take it the night before my birthday. We were out with friends at a local cafe and sometime during the meal, I slipped away from the table and went to the restroom.

I took the test. It was negative. In an instant, I went from a secret, full happiness, to complete devastation. It was all I could do to go back to the table and carry on as usual.

I wasn't so successful the next day when we had some friends over to celebrate my birthday with an ice cream cake. As Jeremy brought the cake into the room and everyone was singing, I burst into tears.

Also on my birthday, I passed the clothing shop on my way home from work and saw that my precious maternity outfit had been removed from the window display. It was as if they knew I wasn't pregnant, as surely as I did.

Months later, one early morning in the minutes before dawn, I was awoken by the call to prayer echoing out over our neighborhood. I was usually able to go back to sleep after it ended, but for some reason that day I got out of bed. And I took a pregnancy test. I spent the requisite three minutes of waiting for the result alone in the living room, watching the sky brighten with the rising sun as the call to prayer ended.

When I finally looked at the test, even in the dim light I could tell it was positive, at last. The first words out of my mouth were, "elhamdulillah," thanks be to God.

Many weeks later, I finally got to go inside the clothing shop down the street and look through their maternity clothes. Buried in the middle of a huge rack of shirts, I found the very one that had been on display in the front window for many of the months I had been waiting and hoping to be pregnant. It fit me perfectly, and in a moment of sweet resolution, I bought it and took it home that day. For the rest of my pregnancy, it remained my favorite shirt. It seemed to heal me somehow from the bitter disappointment of months before.

Why do I tell you this story? Because today, Miriam Damascus Palmer turns four years old.

Happy birthday, little one.


pregnant at the pillar of St. Simeon the stylite in northern Syria

age zero

age one

age two

age three

age four

21 comments:

JackJen said...

Happy birthday!! I loved that post!

Liz Johnson said...

Happy Birthday, Miriam! I love this too. You're right... nobody gets that roller coaster of getting hopes up and being disappointed unless they've done it. It sucks, plain and simple. I'm so glad that Meme is here now. :)

Laura said...

Happy Birthday Miriam!!!

Spencer said...

Thank you for a very thoughtful post. Our experiences have taught me just how many things are completely out of my control--not an easy thing when so many emotions are involved.

Whether the waiting takes weeks or months or years it always feels way too long. Glad that you guys found a happy ending!

Happy birthday Miriam!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Happy Birthday adorable Meme! We miss you!

Fromagette said...

Happy Birthday, Miriam! What a beautiful little girl.

Alli E. said...

Happy Birthday Miriam!! I love all that curly hair! I loved your post. A similar thing happened to me with a little boy outfit when I was pregnant with Brock. A little thing like finding that very outfit can mean so much!! Very sweet!

Eevi said...

Happy Birthday to Miriam. Isn't it amazing how not being pregnant can feel likes such a failure to us personally, even though it is out of our control. That is why these little babies and growing cute girls are such miracles!

Emily said...

Oh yea! Happy Birthday Miriam. Thanks for the story. I'll be sure to let the girls know today is Miriams special day!

Crys said...

Happy birthday Miriam. I can't believe she is four. What a pretty, brilliant little girl! I could completely relate to your post. The ten months it took me to get pregnant with Ezra were grueling I can't tell you how many test I took. It was a lot of cash in the trash let me tell you. I wish I would have known then you can get them at the dollar store :) That's why I suggest getting pregnant when you don't mean to. Like I did with Sadie and Grace. Sure there is a moment of panic...but then it is bliss :)

Crys said...

OK, I just want to point out that my get pregnant advice is not directed at you...it is just general advice to the whole child bearing populations...nothing pointed I swear :)

Jeanerbee said...

What a beautiful account! Happy birthday Miriam - I can't believe she is four!

Bridget said...

I guess I should point out that we had been trying for many months before being so hopeful in October, and a year and a half before that I'd had a miscarriage. Just so no one thinks I'm waxing poetic about having to wait three whole months to get pregnant.

Bridget said...

I also don't mean to belittle anyone who's had to wait three months. It's hard no matter what.

Britney said...

Beautiful post. You expressed the pain of infertility and the joy of conception so very well.

Check out Miriam's curls in that last picture! What a darling 4 year old you have.

Anna said...

Thank you for this post.

Susanne said...

Happy birthday to your big girl. :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. Happy birthday to Miriam!

Hannah

Craig said...

Is it permissible for an adult male to have watery eyes after reading this exquisite post? And Happy Birtday Miriam!

sarah said...

Happy Birthday little MeMe! We all miss you!

elliespen said...

I bounced over to this post from your "Day Before" entry, and I love it. I had this experience so many times during the six years we were waiting, and just the other day I was marveling that my little positive test was already seven months old. Thanks for sharing this. It's exactly right.

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