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.