Spring 2024

The Snatched Back Ones

By Elizabeth Amon

My husband, an only child, lobbied for four. An outrageous number of babies to raise in New York City. I am one of four, but the idea seems audacious. Especially because he works late and often travels for his job.

I’ve been pregnant twice, but they haven’t stuck, though the memories have. Cramps that left me breathless as I stood by the ocean beneath an impossibly blue sky, toes clenched in the sand. And faintness as the blood rushed from me while the roar in my ears rivaled the roar of the waves. The second time, tears kept me from an interview for a feature with a famous author. He refused to reschedule.

This time is not like the others. I’m pregnant. I’m not pregnant. My arm bruises from the blood draws every other day. My hormone levels go up and down. The doctor tells me I’m pregnant. Not pregnant enough. Not pregnant. Pregnant. Not pregnant enough.

Atypical, says the doctor. Hormone levels should progress in a steady increase.

After more tests, the doctor determines it’s ectopic. The egg has gone astray. Implanted outside the womb. Nonviable is the nice word for you are not having a baby with this pregnancy.

But it’s even worse than a miscarriage.

Potentially life-threatening, says the doctor.

A pill fixes it. Afterward, my breasts are no longer tender. The bruises heal. But a final blood draw shows I’m still, inexplicably, a little pregnant. I’m pregnant.

Still ectopic, still dangerous, the doctor determines.

After another, more invasive treatment, it’s really over. Except, at midnight, stabbing pains convulse my abdomen. I can’t control the cries that burst from my mouth. My husband’s eyes grow wide with terror. When the dawn breaks, the last spasm rests.

Now my husband says two is enough. Us two. He never wants to go through another night like that one. From four to zero with this pregnancy, not pregnancy.

On Fridays after work, we go to a therapist. Her home office is full of dusty books and inoffensive drawings of flowers that no one ever notices. It smells of old carpets and an unloved kitchen that vents onto a fire escape over an alley filled with trash cans. I can feel the sadness of other people’s memories in the room’s stillness, where nothing has changed for years, except the value of the apartment. I can see my sadness reflected in her glasses.

During session two, the therapist sides with my husband on every point, even when he and I aren’t fighting. Afterward, we agree; the therapist doesn’t like me.

During session three, the therapist tells me I shouldn’t try to change my husband’s mind if he doesn’t want a baby. When I remind her that he wanted four only a couple of months ago, she shrugs. I expect her to tell me it’s none of my business when I ask her if she has children. She doesn’t. The way she says it, it’s as if they are some exotic curiosity. Surely, she has nieces or nephews? Friends with children? Neighbors with children?

During session four, the therapist tells me it’s reasonable that my husband doesn’t want a baby because of the negative impact it could have on his career. As if a million men with children and careers don’t live in New York City. And make it work. As if a million women with children and careers don’t live in New York City. And make it work. As if I don’t have to worry about the negative impact a baby will have on my journalism career.

I’ve had enough. Even though I’ve been raised to be polite, even though I’ve been raised not to waste money, I curse and walk out in the middle of the session. My husband follows. We laugh about it over Korean food, but only a little. We don’t go back.

Several months later, I am pregnant again. I’m thrilled. But terrified. When I tell my husband, he too, is terrified. And thrilled.

This baby grows strong and steady, rounding my belly. When I wake in the middle of the night to labor pains so sharp, they bend me double with stabbing pains. We call the midwife and she summons us to the birthing center.

When the baby is born, she issues a battle cry so forceful that it frees the memories of those who lurked but left. Purges from my heart the aching for the snatched back ones.

Elizabeth Amon is an award-winning journalist and writer based in Seattle, where she loves to swim, walk her dog, and read. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in the literary journals River Teeth, Under the Gum Tree and New Millennium Writing, among others. She’s currently a fellow in the BookEnds Novel Program. A journalist for more than a decade, with work published in The New York Times, Bloomberg News, and The Imprint, she currently works as a public health communications professional. http://elizabethamon.com

Spring 2024