There have been some amendments to this scheme of mine. Newly recruited partners in crime (I’ve let two friends in on it). Strangers, the anonymous unknowingly in-the-know (outside of work, away from co-workers, I’ve taken to brazenly treating my body to clothes that actually fit when I’m wandering out-of-home on weekends and evenings). And there’s one colleague who just revealed she knows – says she knew 2 months ago that I’ve been “carrying stolen goods.” She knows – knows what this is like, having lost a child, having faced this crazy-making mix of hope and terror that is a subsequent pregnancy. I don’t mind her knowing.

I could blame some broken threads in my web of deception on that spell of warm spring weather we had a week or so ago, me red-cheeked and sweating stubbornly in my office, fleece hoodie (AKA the Blue Shadow) securly zipped, windows wide open in hope of a balancing breeze. That may have aroused suspicion.

Being bizarrely struck with chicken pox didn’t help, either. Because of the Lowland rulebook on employment benefits, where I fall into all of that and how it’s all structured, I’ve had to let certain authorities know about my situation in order to plan for a maternity leave and benefits – but the actual boss I work directly for doesn’t need to know any of this, and so he’s been among the duped. Until I went spotty and red and feverish and wheezy. Then I had to explain details about my recent absence from work, why I was in hospital, why the situation was so serious and weighted and scary. Why I’ll need to take it easy for the ever-dwindling remainder of my time before my leave begins. He took it well, he gets it. Assured me the secret’s safe with him.

But I’m less and less sure how safe this secret can stay with me. I’m not sure of the safety of keeping this secret at all, of what I’m gaining, what I’m losing in all this deception.

I have to admit, it felt good to find my friends – my new partners in crime – completely flabbergasted when I unzipped and revealed the secret, showed the secret mirrored panel hidden inside the magician’s box. The Deception really has been working. But I’m also glad to have their support now, glad to meet them for meals in public and not worry I’m raising eyebrows when I decline the glass of wine, when I allow myself to take off my coat and enjoy rare warm weather, share with them in the sun. Glad that if there’s another scare that has me running to the emergency room, I could ask them to come along; to keep me company if I need to stay awhile.

And it’s not so hard to be publicly pregnant in the Lowlands. It’s a very mind-your-own business kind of culture – no strange hands grasping to touch the belly, no seats offered on crowded public buses either. For the most part no one’s engaging with my swelling form without invitation. And if the dreaded questions do get asked – the is this your first? how many? – most meet the answers head on, not warm, but unblinking and unafraid. Acknowledgement of tragedy, practical and matter-of-fact.

It’s the questions and the assumptions of others in my life I’m still scared of, still not ready to handle. I can’t let grief go, can’t release it into the air like an impatient, oversized balloon, just because there’s hope for another chance at motherhood – I know that’s what my family wants, and my friends with newborns I can’t envision ever meeting. I can’t assume or imagine a happy outcome this time, either. I’m walking, step by step, through pregnancy as I know it – one that ends with wrenching, unrequited want and ashes and a deflated postpartum body, empty of hope and understanding. It’s muscle memory, embedded knowledge that I can’t extract. Everyone else’s stories, their own met expectations just seem like my fiction.

And yet, I should probably tell them, my family overseas. Even if it hurts that my parents didn’t acknowledge Malina’s anniversary, no note, no call, nothing. I should probably tell them, give them some warning.

But I just keep feeling, whatever the outcome, that either way they can’t support me – they’re good, loving people but in these things mute, afraid. And the thought of an invitation to be a part of this, sitting undeciphered and dusty or worse, unread and unopened on a back shelf in my parent’s home, is just too painful to think of. Moreso than the loneliness of experiencing all this without them.

I’m still not sure when I’ll tell them. For now I’m holding the secret half in, half out of shadows, praying light doesn’t make it wither to nothing, praying it doesn’t drown in the dark.

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