Between the heat, the rain, a busy schedule and some lingering depression, I haven’t been making as much time for walking this summer as I wanted to. But a few weeks ago our neighborhood restaurant had a special that looked particularly tasty, so Matt suggested that we check it out.
When he mentioned that we could walk down there, I jumped at the idea.
One of the final selling points that made our house perfect for us was that despite being on a very secluded, wooded lot, there are a half dozen restaurants a 15 minute walk away.
After living in five different cities over the past twelve years, Matt and I had gotten very accustomed to being able to grab a drink or a bite to eat without hopping in the car. We were trivia junkies, often playing multiple times at different bars over the course of any given week.
While we recognized the practical advantages of the suburbs and the appeal of rural seclusion, we were nervous about committing to a new way of life that favored cars over walking. We thought it might feel isolating and boring compared to what we were used to. So this house seemed like the perfect compromise, where we could have our own space but still maintain a lifeline to our old lifestyle.
In the early days, we walked the route from our house to the main road often. While construction was still being done on our kitchen, we walked down and bought fancy sausages to cook over a fire while we camped in the backyard.
When we finally moved in, we celebrated by walking down to the dive bar at the end of the road and indulging in plenty of fried food and beer before dragging ourselves home. It didn’t feel any different than living in the city, except that we had to leave before dark so we could make it home on the un-sidewalked road.
By my birthday a month later, we had resigned ourselves to making only one leg of the trip on foot, choosing the safety of an uber for our return journey. We walked down to a nice outdoor patio where we had my birthday dinner, then across the street to a trivia night.
We won, getting 9 out of 10 questions on the “Boy Meets World” round correct, when many of the other contestants were too young to have ever watched the show.
We congratulated ourselves on living the best of both lives: being young and hip enough to stay out until 11pm playing trivia on a Monday, while being old enough to know about 90’s television and own our own home.
I was pretty sure it was going to be a great year.
After all, we had just decided that after nearly four years of marriage and 12 years of dating we’d finally start trying to get pregnant.
I’d heard plenty of stories about how difficult the process could be, so I had steeled myself for what I knew might be a long road. I bought the bulk box of cheap pregnancy tests and ovulation strips, assuming we’d have at least a few months ahead of us. Even if I managed to get pregnant quickly, I knew myself well enough to know that I was not a “wait and take one test” kind of gal.
Sure enough, as soon as it became remotely feasible that I might be pregnant, I was up at dawn to catch my first morning urine and see if anything showed up on a test.
I would wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to pee and stress out about if I should take a test then, or if I had to wait until morning for the best results. I would try to hold it, which made it impossible to get back to sleep. So that week I found myself taking a test as early as it could possibly be considered morning- usually somewhere between 4:00 and 6:00 am.
I had gotten into a routine of seeing the little lonely control line pop up by itself, tossing the test in the trash, and hopping back into bed. Until Sunday morning, July 28, 2019.
The sun wasn’t quite up as I shook Matt awake, waving the little, wet strip of paper that looked like one of those litmus tests from chemistry class at him. “IS THIS A LINE?!” I shouted, unsure if the faint mark that had appeared was a product of my own wishful thinking.
It was just as romantic as they advertise in the commercials.
“I think so!” he said excitedly, and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I was thrilled, of course, but it was still so early- not only in the day, but early in my cycle. Earlier than I was even supposed to be testing.
I was afraid to let myself feel anything.
If I got too excited I was sure to jinx things and lose the baby. If I got too anxious I was sure to place undue stress on my body and lose the baby. If I held my breath and did nothing I was sure to deprive my body of oxygen and lose the baby.
I didn’t know how to physically make it through the anticipation of the upcoming weeks and months.
In the meantime, I was supposed to simply try to continue living as though everything was normal.
Our plan for that day was to hike a trail a few miles from our house that we had been meaning to check out. It was supposed to be a hot day- 90 degrees. I debated about whether or not we should cancel our plans and stay home, but I had heard that it was ok to maintain the same level of exercise that you normally did while pregnant. Long walks were just about the only type of exercise that my body was very used to doing, so we set out on the walk to the park.
Despite our best efforts to keep him (and ourselves) hydrated, our dog became extremely overheated and exhausted as soon as we got there, before we even made it up the trail. We turned around to head back home, but only made it about a half a mile before he simply refused to move any further, plopping himself in some grass on the side of the road.
I ended up staying with him while Matt jogged home to get the car to pick us both up and bring us back to the house, where we let the dog cool off in the stream.
I wondered whether it was actually the dog’s intuition about me being newly pregnant and not needing to overexert myself that led him to this uncharacteristic display of stubbornness. I worried that he might have been right, and that maybe I did damage to the baby.
So when I took another test the next morning I was heartened to see the line coming in stronger. By Tuesday I decided to use one of the real, chunky plastic tests: one that felt more official.
I snapped a picture of the test as a keepsake. I even took one of the classic sideways-belly in the mirror shots, convinced that I could see the small makings of a baby bump.
I figured it was time to call the doctor, and I couldn’t believe it when they told me I needed to wait a few weeks before I was pregnant enough to go in for an appointment. I couldn’t imagine how every woman that I’d known who had given birth had made it through these early days of anxiety and elation, especially without telling anyone else about it.
I was desperate to find something that could keep me calm, and, once again, turned to walking. As I took Doc on the trail through our woods every day, I found my hand drifting to my belly. I began absentmindedly singing my worries to the tune of “Frere Jacques.”
“Are you beating, are you beating, little heart? little heart? Life is very fragile, Life is very fragile, do your part. Do your part.”
“Little baby, little baby, we love you, we love you. We can’t wait to meet you, we can’t wait to meet you, please pull through- please pull through.”
It was cheesy, to be sure, and maybe a little pushy. But this lullaby became a mantra for me. A way to feel productive, like I was somehow doing something that could help the baby.
A form of self-soothing that kept me calm and distracted me whenever my mind started to drift to thoughts of all of the scary things I knew could happen.
I didn’t yet know that Bailey would pull through, and, in the blink of an eye, would be walking next to me on that same trail. I didn’t yet know the different realities I would walk through over the course of the next year, or that walking would continue to be an essential part of my survival and recovery.
But I was learning that there is a time to wait, and a time to walk. And sometimes you need to do both.
Thanks for reading,