MiniTonightTonight when I walked home, everything around me seemed to pulse with life. The headlights of cars going by zoned in on me like searchlights. I squinted. When I rounded the corner, it was snowing—just a little, not enough to stick. A car idled in front of the house with the fresh tree stumps, and in its headlights I saw the snowflakes swirl like tiny gnats. I felt a surge of sadness for them, flying around in their last moments before melting.

Later, we took the first pictures of my belly. I took most of them myself, sprawled on the couch, my shirt pulled up to expose my bare skin. Of course at this point if anything’s happening, it just started. It may only have been days since implantation, since the fertilized egg settled into the soft uterine wall. We won’t be able to see anything from the outside for months. But I like to think that even if it’s invisible to our eyes there has been some microscopic change in the shape of my body.

When I was in high school, I was more concerned with the visible aspects of my body. I lifted weights, loved the bulge of my biceps, the commanding force of my quadriceps and calves. But my pièce de résistance was my abs. You could’ve bounced a lawn dart off them. When I was 17, I wanted to get my navel pierced but needed my mom’s permission. She was in bed reading the night I asked her. She suggested I go join the local whorehouse. As soon as I turned 18, I got the piercing. I kept it a secret from her for over a year.

These days it’s my stomach that’s uncooperative. Or rather, my womb. We’ve been trying for six months now—half a year of sucking donor semen into a children’s medicine syringe and tapping out the bubbles, three nights in a row, once a month. We’re tired of this, desperate for any sign it might’ve worked. And we think it may have, this time. H. has been having baby dreams, her first since we started. She feels like I’m pregnant. As for me, I’m not sure what I feel. I felt pregnant the first time we tried. I reveled in thoughts of what was happening inside me. We’d done everything right, everything the books and websites and lesbian friends with kids told us to do…. Didn’t we deserve this?

The night we found out our first attempt failed, I wept. I felt like I had lost a part of myself—even if it was a part I never had in the first place. After that I learned not to get my hopes up. At least to pretend not to. Somehow hope always seems to sneak in when I’m not looking. Each month, with each attempt, I’ve secretly thought we may have succeeded.

But the truth is, we have no idea what’s going on in my womb. When I look at tonight’s photos of my stomach, I see only the frayed edge of my jeans, the shine of silver against my pale skin, and, if I look closely, the soft blond hairs below my belly button—nothing more.

Maggie McKnight lives in Iowa City with her partner and cats. She is working on a graphic memoir for which she has received support from the Puffin Foundation and the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation.

** Read Maggie McKnight’s BLOG entry on her decision to extract the text from a graphic memoir (still in progress) to compose her brief essay. Follow the link on the blog to see the graphic version in PDF.

photo by Sarah Truckey