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From then on, I had to move forward with the knowledge that any attempt I made to get pregnant, even "accidentally," was a negligent act borne not of hope for the future, but of selfishness and recklessness and willful, dangerous ignorance. I'm not a great person , I've always said. I'm not evil, I don't think, but not great. This is a preemptive excuse for me not to fully consider the repercussions of my words and actions. I'd rather appear careless or aloof—or even mean—than spend a lot of time worrying about how people will be affected by what I do or don't do.
It is an ability of mine to recognize potential problems that my actions might cause and allow that knowledge to slip effortlessly past my consciousness. It was with that natural ability that I began tracking my ovulation, and trying to conceive, in earnest. I timed sex around when my app showed me a big blue asterisk, indicating its best guess for the day an egg would be released from my ovaries. I forged ahead with the plan I made before the beginning of the end of the world. I tried to reconcile my choices with the bleak and terrifying future every smart person on Earth predicted, but I didn't let my lack of progress in coming to terms with reality interfere with trying to make a baby.
My synapses were misfiring, it seemed. The dystopia was a far more disturbing and terrible issue than our fertility, but I was only crying about one of them. It seemed there was now no part of me that didn't want to conceive and bring to life a newborn baby that would suffer the consequences of all the previous generations' poor choices. It would be so cute.
Ian got his sperm tested. I got blood work done. We tried to eat less oily foods and processed carbohydrates. I got my period. We tried to drink less. We had sex every other day, timed to land on the blue asterisk. I convinced myself that a line of cystic acne on my neck was a mystical sign of something baby-shaped forming within my body.
I found statistics online that told me 90 percent of healthy couples conceived within the first year of trying, and counted how many months it had been since our one-year mark. My doctor scheduled me for an ultrasound to make sure my ovaries looked healthy. We had sex every day before the blue asterisk and then stopped. We stopped being vegan and started eating eggs again. We went to Buffalo Wild Wings and ordered chicken. We tried to get more exercise.
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My doctor ordered more blood work. We had sex the day before the blue asterisk and the day after the blue asterisk. I looked at adoption websites. I looked at my sad bank account, trying to see it through an adoption agent's eyes. I raged over the fact that one of the details of our hellscape was that it was more economical to create a new person and bring them into the hellscape than it was to adopt a child already living in the hellscape without a family. We made a new attempt to drink less. I stopped consuming caffeine. I convinced myself that period cramps were a sign of pregnancy. We ignored the blue asterisk and had sex only when we felt like it.
I thought maybe the fact that we didn't pay attention to the blue asterisk would work like reverse psychology and trick my egg into mingling with the sperm. My doctor told me there was nothing else she could do and referred me to a fertility specialist, which she told me would not be covered by my insurance. We had officially tried.
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Had we failed? How long were you supposed to try before accepting failure?
It had been a little over two years. Was this the giving-up point? We were lonely in the dystopia. It was starting to seem like something was wrong with our reproductive organs. There was no way we could pay for any more tests. Maybe we didn't even want the tests. If there was something wrong with one of us, we wouldn't be able to afford any procedure to fix or get around it.
Maybe children were just one more thing poor people should be expected to live without. Maybe, wordlessly, we were giving up. A fun thing Ian and I did to quell our anxiety about the possibility of never having children was to imagine the horrors of the unfolding future. Our predictions held that every job in the future will be freelance, highly competitive, pay shit, and demand strict worker performance. Not only will you not get paid unless you are actively profiting the company, but companies will sue you if you don't make them enough money.
It hurts their bottom line, they will argue, and they will win in court. Interns will pay companies for the pleasure of working for them. College will exist only for rich people and maybe a few others who have clawed their way there through an impossibly delicate balance of high intelligence, irresistible charm, good luck bordering on magic, and unmistakable, genius-level talent. Everyone else will spend their entire budget on an apartment shared with 10 other people and one piece of equipment with planned obsolescence on which their entire freelance career depends.
Nature documentaries will be tragic records of long-gone history, evidence of all that used to exist, all the possibilities that once were. Millennials will say things like, "I lived at the same time as elephants," and young people will think we're having a senile moment. We'll say, "There used to be bugs that made intricate, mathematical, almost invisible webs, sometimes inside our houses," and it will sound like a fairy tale.
The changing climate will force the world's population into tighter quarters. Illnesses will spread rapidly in these crowded environments. Natural disasters in these areas will be inescapable due to traffic and the fact that there would be nowhere to go. Everyone's favorite people will die.
The remaining population will come together to watch and celebrate as a small private company launches a few Elons into space. There will be a sense of collective hope for the new society being built on some newfound habitable planet, and the promise that the rest of humanity will be joining them in small groups as it is appropriate. It will be branded as a new beginning for humanity, a chance to start over with the wealth of knowledge we'd uncovered by making so many mistakes on Earth.
And the people of Earth will kill each other over who will get to be on the first civilian trip to the new planet, not knowing there was never any plan for the Elons to send back for anyone. Right before Christmas, I peed on a stick, and there were two pink lines indicating pregnancy. Ian was on the phone with his boss, so I took a long, unfeeling shower, trying to conjure some kind of emotion from being the only person in the world with this bit of information, but mostly feeling distressed about the temperature of the water, which I could not get right.
Ian came into the bathroom as I was drying off, and I showed him the two pink lines. We looked at them together, soberly. I got sick within two weeks, and regretted my pregnancy almost immediately after that, which did not surprise me.
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It's very on-brand of me to no longer want something I've wanted for a long time once I've suddenly achieved it. Pregnancy sickness is terrible, worse than they tell you. I was sick and tired, and that's all I was. Sick and Tired was the entirety of my personality, for weeks, months. I had no sense of humor, no dreams or goals, no will to get out of bed or shower or continue living.
I was nauseous to the point of physical pain, had constant headaches, hated the idea of food, and smell became my most dominant sense. What they tell you about a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy does not begin to cover it. What I experienced was nothing short of supernatural. I could smell everything with more clarity than ever before, yes, but I also smelled new things. I smelled the essence of Ian's humanity, for example. It smelled like a thick, ancient soup mixed with bad breath.
I could smell my own human essence as well. The smell of life followed me around like smoke after a campfire.
It was nasty, and it couldn't be washed off. I could smell my headaches. I could smell the fridge being opened through the vent in the upstairs bathroom. I had intrusive unwanted thoughts about ground beef that triggered my gag reflex.