top of page

"Chemical Pregnancies" and "Nurse Marge" by Beth Mulcahy

Chemical Pregnancies

Dear Diary,

I was late for my period so I took a home pregnancy test. Could I just be imagining the second line on the test kit because I want it so badly? It’s never as dark as the first line, in fact, it’s light, but it’s there. I saw it. It was real. It was a positive result. Two lines equal pregnant. There were two lines. I was pregnant. The test said so. The same thing happened last month.

Have you heard of a chemical pregnancy? It’s apparently a thing that’s happening to me now. Chemical sounds so fake and manufactured, like plastic. Like some sort of pseudo version of pregnancy that doesn’t actually count because it’s not real. When I went to the doctor to confirm, the pregnancy test they gave me was negative. I told the nurse that can’t be right, it must be a mistake because I’m late for my period and I got a positive home test. The nurse said the sperm met the egg but the pair of them could not implant in my uterus. Why would my uterus reject a pregnancy?

She told me it sounded to her like my pregnancies are only chemical. A pregnancy that starts, but doesn’t take. A fake. I don’t have what it takes. It’s not the first time, I told her. How many of these do I have to have? How much do I have to go through to get one to take? She said I could go to a fertility specialist and have tests done to find out why it’s happening. She said it’s good that at least I know I can get pregnant. The problem is that I just can’t stay that way. I don’t get to carry it, because it’s only chemical. It’s there and then it’s gone. Why is my body rejecting pregnancy? Didn’t it get the memo? All these years I have spent trying not to get pregnant and now that I want to, I can’t.

When I left the doctor, I hoped the nurse was wrong. Yesterday I was pregnant. Yesterday I was finally going to be a mother. Yesterday I was going to have a baby. When I got home, I started to bleed. It feels like my body is failing me. Like I have lost control of everything.

Nurse Marge

On a last resort phone call, I’m pacing the sidewalk in front of my house in my rural Ohio subdivision. It’s summer, I’m barefoot, and the concrete is as hot as the forgotten cookies burning in my oven. No longer able to be positive and professional, I’m crying into my phone. I have reached a pediatric neurology nurse named Marge. Her starch stern but patient voice makes me picture her in a crisp white nurse cap, holding a clipboard. I can feel her listening to me. Nurse Marge wants the facts and through my sobs, I’m trying to give them to her.

No one will give me an appointment for three months but my son needs help now. He’s in trouble now. We can’t live like this for one more day, let alone three more months! The words that tumble out of me next are the words I have not wanted to say out loud because I do not want them to be true. My little boy isn’t eating. He’s not sleeping. He’s miserable. We’re scared. Nurse Marge waits a beat to make sure I’m done. Ok, she says, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll have to call you back.

I whisper thank you into the phone and collapse, criss-cross applesauce, onto my front lawn. I stare at my phone balanced on my knee and wonder if she will call back. So many of the schedulers, social workers, and receptionists I have tried have not called back. Being ineligible for pediatric psychiatric help until it is too late for it to actually be helpful seems to be the status quo where I live. I guess no pediatric psychiatrists want to live in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. I guess I can’t blame them. There are no appointments until October, is all anyone I can get through to, will tell me. What I hear - there is no help for your child who is falling apart until he has already fallen beyond repair.

I realize that these thoughts are actually coming out of my mouth as audible words while I search the long-neglected grass around me, out of habit, for a four-leaf clover. I have never needed the luck of the Irish the way I do now. It doesn’t occur to me to wonder what I might look like at this moment to my neighbors. I’m desperate like in the dream where all your teeth are inexplicably falling out and you can’t stop it or get them to go back in. And I look like it. I haven’t showered, changed out of the clothes I slept in, or brushed my hair today. I’m wearing hole filled yoga pants and a stained t-shirt, sans bra. My fair Celtic complexion means red blotches from crying cover my face.

My phone vibrates on my knee, interrupting my conversation with myself, and I jump up to resume my sidewalk pace. Nurse Marge is not one for small talk. She asks me, can you be in downtown Cleveland tomorrow morning at 8:30? Yes! I can do that. I feel like I have just found my four leaf clover. The impossible is now possible because Nurse Marge has pulled magic Nurse Marge strings for me. This is only the beginning, she warns me. She has felt my climb from desperation to elation and she’s trying to bring me down a rung. They won’t do anything but get background information, but then you’ll be in the system. I know this but I also know that starting now and not three months from now could make all the difference. I can go back in the house now to face the rest of the day, clean myself up, make a plan for getting us to Cleveland bright and early, and start on a new batch of cookies.

Nurse Marge told me to call her again if I ever needed anything else. I’ve kept her number in my phone - First Name: Nurse, Last Name: Marge and I did call on her for help again. So many years, ups and downs, appointments and specialists later, I still think about her. She may have thought what she did that day was a small thing that was part of her job, but it changed our lives forever.

Beth Mulcahy (she/her), a Gen X-er from Michigan, lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids and loyal Havanese dog sidekick. Beth works for a company that provides technology to people without natural speech. She writes poetry, fiction, memoir, and dreams about visiting Scotland. Her work has appeared in various journals and she has been nominated for a Pushcart prize. Check out her latest publications at


bottom of page