Kate Levin

Ghost of a Leaf

  1. “Your due date,” the website instructs, “is calculated by adding 40 weeks to the first day of your last menstrual period. Note that your menstrual period and ovulation are counted as the first two weeks of pregnancy.” You found this bizarre during your first pregnancy, almost six years ago, and reading it now, having just tested positive on a pregnancy test (well, four of the them—redundancy never felt so satisfying), you are puzzled all over again. Officially, gestation predates conception. The first two weeks are ghost weeks, nothing growing except possibility.
  1. Just three weeks earlier, you’d visited a doctor to have your IUD removed. This doctor was new to you, stylish and about your own age, which seemed to take you both by surprise. Perhaps this is why she shared that she was new to Los Angeles, having moved here after a breakup. Perhaps this is why you offered that you are divorced; that you feel lucky to have settled, with your five-year-old son and new husband, into a period of happiness and relative ease. After you reclined on the table and she removed the IUD from the cavern of your middle, she’d asked you if you want to see it. Why not? And there between her gloved index finger and thumb: a tiny, pert copper “T,” a few delicate strings dangling from its lower point, just a glint of a blood betraying where it once nestled.
  1. And now, pregnant? The timing means you conceived just days after removing the little “T.” Bewildered, you return to the same doctor, whose demeanor has shifted a bit. “You are testing positive here in our clinic,” she tells you with a new formality. Abuzz with anticipation, you drive home. “I’m pretty sure you’re the father,” you joke to your husband, the father. You curl into his ribs, stroke his beard with the back of your fingers.
  1. Because it’s no longer just your own, you start to treat your body with reverence. You hydrate. You eat breakfast, go to sleep early. Sometimes you decline to carry your forty-five-pound pre-kindergartener up the stairs to bed, in deference to your tender breasts, your sore lower back. Attending to your (plural) needs feels good, even if you occasionally panic that you have set something in motion that can’t be undone. Even if you sometimes feel pangs of loss for the autonomy, the integrity, of a body that is yours alone.
  1. Just when you thought you weren’t a vessel, you think.
  1. But: mainly joy. Your smile spreads into the darkness after you turn off the lights at night.
  1. The obstetrician who delivered your son retired, so you choose a new one, more or less at random. You pick a woman whose office is nearby, whose last name is hyphenated, like your husband’s. From her website, she looks a little like a younger Penny Marshall. One of the site’s featured post-delivery photos shows her in blue scrubs, cradling twins. Twins! Can you imagine? Too late, your fantasy’s been catalyzed: at your first appointment, the doctor’s eyes will widen at the ultrasound screen. “Double trouble!” you imagine her whooping. “Are you guys ready for this?” And you won’t be, but you will be.
  1. The first prenatal appointment won’t take place until the eighth week of pregnancy, so you wait it out anxiously. Traces of blood appear in your underwear, but you remind yourself that this happened while pregnant with your son, too. Remember how upset you’d been. Remember torturing yourself with worry. Remember the relief of the ultrasound showing him swimming contentedly inside of you, oblivious to your fears.
  1. You start to fetishize the ultrasound machine. If you could buy one for home use, you surely would. A week early, you call to confirm your appointment with the obstetrician and ask if there are any protocols you should follow the morning of your visit. Should you drink water, not drink water? Truly, you just want to hear the assistant say out loud that yo