Imagine you meet a man (or woman) who you know you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with, (and how do you know this? Well, you don’t entirely, but you just sort of feel it, you know you can tell this person the truth and look ugly in front of him and even get kind of mean and they’ll hang in) but he lives in another city, and it’s a hell of lot easier for you to lift out of your part-time freelance working splendor and relocate to where he’s got the 9 to 5 plus benefits and the great apartment and dog. What do you do? You go. Because, you can’t not. Even though some of your (single) friends seem dubious about it or warn you about rushing, and say, “you know, alcoholics are impulsive,” but you know, so are regular people, and you’ve never been much of a risk taker so you go. It’s fate, or at least it’s a grand opportunity, and Shonda Rhimes wrote a whole book on saying yes, so you’re not going to not go out fear or what might happen. You can’t wait to find out what might happen. Los Angeles has not exactly been kind to you the past few years in terms of meeting great loves, and Chicago sounds great. Deep dish pizza. Baseball. Midwestern values. Plus, you’re like, a 10 in Illinois!
So you go, and it’s pretty magical, he’s got lilies for you at the airport, though you’re also terrified and unsure and uncertain and alone and here is what lies before you as you know you must adjust to a new city: find regular meetings, make new friends, get some kind of job, purchase official winter coat and clothing, explore the city and surrounding neighborhoods, nurture your new relationship, find a therapist, get support for chronic pain issues, get exercise, grocery shop, manage your tendency to get overwhelmed – et ceterugh. It’s a lot for you. You’re sensitive. You’re sometimes shy. It takes a lot for you to venture out. You’re going with two suitcases and a wallet. Plus, it’s getting cold soon. Like real cold. But you can do this. You’re brave, you’re tough. You can be a risk taker, too. You’ve withdrawn cold-turkey from opiates before (well, on Ativan and gin), and you’ve been a long-suffering/overcoming/mental illness confronting/defensive warrior since you were twelve, so you can do this. Of course you can! One foot in front of the other. What an adventure!
/Then, you get pregnant. No, it is not planned. No, you cannot believe it. No, you don’t want to be pregnant. Yes, you are keeping it.
You’re 32. You know you’re with the man you want to marry. Amen to that, truly. It could have happened with one of those idiots you dated with alcoholism or narcissism or zero money in the bank. But you had a whole other plan, didn’t you my friend. You thought, courtship for six months, engagement for a year, plan and execute the dream wedding, plan and execute the dream honeymoon and the possibility of extending travel for a few months, maybe move cities, maybe buy a new place, find meaningful work – THEN PLAN A PREGNANCY.
But the goddamn best laid plans, damn it. They often go astray. Not seldom. Pay attention in school.
Ok, you can do this. You have always wanted to have children. You love children. You’re a natural. You’re 32, not 22. Perfectly perfect time to have a baby. And how lucky, to not be 39 and struggling to try and conceive! You know those stories. They’re heartbreaking – and expensive. You’re sober, you’re not on medication, you’re somewhat stable and sane (TBD). So you know, maybe you can really do this. You can totally do this!
/Fuck this. You are nauseous all the live long day. You wake up nauseous. You remain nauseous. Not mildly nauseous – want to die nauseous. Like the worst seasickness you’ve ever felt for roughly eighteen hours of the day nauseous. You are grossed out by all foods. You are obsessed with and craving weird foods. You spend a fortune at the market trying to find food you’ll enjoy – mmmm potato chips – only to never want to set your eyes on a bag of potato chips ever again. You can’t get that taste and feeling out of your mind, of that horrible lunch you had the other day. Luckily, you mostly keep food down. You keep water down. You’re still drinking coffee (only a small cup) because you’re not a martyr. Oh, and prenatal vitamins? Forget it. You cannot fathom having sex, but you still have a little sex. You feel extremely guilty. Like it’s your fault. Like you lost your youth and stole his. Like you’re damaged goods. Like you’re a knocked-up floozy. You can barely write or think. You cry a lot. You get so afraid and nervous. You read things on Google that terrify you. Spina Bifida? Christ! You stop. There are a thousand ways to make a pregnant woman feel guilty and bad.
You feel like such an idiot for not being on birth control and thinking the rhythm method works. You are quite sure you got pregnant your second day in Chicago, which is quite hysterical. Ironic? You can’t believe you are pregnant. You! Pregnancy is what happens to other women right now, but not you. You’re not even engaged. You still feel seventeen! You’re still highly emotional and volatile and moody. You’re still not fixed. Fuck! Fuck this. Alright, breathe. This too.
You try to take care of yourself. You tell your mom and two close friends, all who have had children, and they are supportive and sympathetic. This brings tremendous relief. One in particular understands morning sickness even better than you and the whole crying every single day thing. You go on long walks with your precious pup. You try to write, even a little. You watch dozens of movies. You try to get to one or two AA meetings a week. Therapy. A solid work out here and there. What you really want to do though is binge watch shows and sleep. You could sleep until 2pm if you aren’t careful. Is this depression? Or hormones? You feel completely overwhelmed. Life just doesn’t make sense. It has always been so hard. You have always felt and thought too much. You were such a qualified alcoholic. A-plus alcoholic! And it really worked. I mean, at least it shut the voices up for a while. Ok, breathe. Meditate? Maybe five minutes. You hate it. You have always hated it. You pray sporadically. You have lost your foundation. You miss your friends in Los Angeles. Chicago women just aren’t the same. They’re fine, but they’re aloof and reserved and sort of… uptight. Just so midwest. Different kind of friendly. Not your kind of friendly. No one gets excited here.
You remind yourself, you’re doing fine. You’ll be fine, really darling. Depression is common in the first trimester, and that also applies to women who planned their pregnancy and didn’t just move across the country. It’s just a lot to adjust to – even without the pregnancy, the change would be hard. You feel really depressed, though, and then you feel ashamed of these feelings. Second arrow, thirds and fourths. You still have chronic pain, and you don’t know what is wrong with you. It’s a nightmare. Your life is a nightmare. You don’t want kids. You don’t want anything. You feel trapped, lost. You feel so tired. Constant nausea is the tenth circle of hell. They never told you it would be like this.
You get outside and take walks, though, and you listen to music, and it’s getting cold, but you have the best coat, so you sort of like it. The walks lift your spirits and calm your tummy. He is being as supportive as possible. He’s not going to run. He’ll go to each appointment. There are blessings inlaid inside of this. You feel hopeful. You feel like it’s possible, whatever it is. Living? You can do this. Of course you can. This, too.
Ahhhh – RELIEF! You are no longer sick! It sings like a miracle, you feel alive again. You have energy and optimism and you want to eat what you always liked eating. You can keep the vitamins down and jog on the treadmill! You’re cooking. You’re writing. You can do this. A baby.
/Holy Shit. You’re a genetic carrier for Cystic Fibrosis. You cry all day when the midwife hangs up. If he’s a carrier, too, you have a 1 in 4 chance of birthing a baby with CF. He’ll have to get tested, and that will take weeks. OK. Your childhood best friend has CF and she is doing well. The life expectancy is still much younger but – NO! You do not want a baby with a horrible life-threatening illness! But he is sure he’s not a carrier. He’s so optimistic. He keeps you afloat. Women have gone through far worse. All humans have. You’ll be fine. But what if?
He’s not a carrier! You sob with joy. You go back to the doctor and share in the good news. You hear the heartbeat and get an ultrasound and you are starting to get excited about all of this. It feels sort of magical, even though it’s the most natural thing in the world. You can’t wait to be a mom. A mom! You’re both sure it’s a girl. You’ve got names picked out. A precious baby girl. You’ll teach her what matters, you’ll love her like mad.
He asks you to marry him, and of course you say yes. You would have said yes the day you met him. You knew all day he was going to propose, and the proposal made you giggle, and you love him so much. Christmas in in two days, and it’s snowing, like the movies. You can’t believe your luck, this incredible man you found. He is every bit of decent that you pictured as a child. You feel proud that you’re with him and you know he loves you. You enjoy each other immensely. Life is beautiful.
You get the twenty week ultra sound and it’s … a … BOY! You can’t believe it! You’re both so excited. New list of names. All the family members know, and now you can announce publicly. You made it through the storm!
/Wait. They found something. An echogenic what on the heart? You almost throw up and yell at the midwife. Why was the ultra sound specialist so cold and rude anyway. What is wrong with people? The midwife explains, it’s not necessarily a big deal. You want to scream, why the hell did you tell me then? You Google the holy hell out of it, and it’s really not a big deal. You have to wait a week for the blood work to confirm. Pregnancy is just a bunch of anxious waiting.
Also, you’re getting chubby. You’ve gained eleven pounds. Your breasts look like monsters, your jeans don’t fit. You feel like a frump in everything you wear. You’re mostly past all that body image stuff, but it still comes back, of course it does. You cry and feel ugly and he hugs you and tells you you’re beautiful. It’s also freezing cold, so there’s nothing cute to wear. Try as you might, winter clothes aren’t sexy. You confide in your mommy friends and they remind you to relax. Embrace the weight gain, embrace the bump, spend a little extra on cute maternity clothes. Be kind to yourself, you’re making a baby! And, wait, NONE of this matters as long as the baby boy is healthy. And he is! The blood work came back and everything is normal! He’s going to be fine. He could be an athlete or a playwright or a math whiz or a musical genius! He could be anything. The future is male, too, alright! Your precious baby boy. So much wonder.
You announce it on social media, finally, and everyone is happy for you. You feel pretty glowy and special. You’re starting to like the bump. You’re planning a small immediate family-only wedding, and it will be lovely, but – it wasn’t what you wanted. You were going to be skinny for it in a dazzling couture dress on the grass in Malibu with a live band! You had to go and get knocked up and miss out on it all. But jeez – planning a wedding, even for thirty people, is stressful. You hate asking your parents to pay for it. It all just feels like so so much. To do this again, for one hundred and fifty? Bridesmaids (never) and picking the china and ten grand just for flowers? No thank you. Raise your baby and take some grand vacations.
Your small family only shindig will be just fine. I mean… but you wanted to dance, though. You two have a song. Elvis. It’s yours. You both can cut a rug! You were going to do a duet, too, guitar and a little singing. You were going to invite all your friends, hire a band and dance until morning. Oh, so what, the baby is healthy. So what, you’re with him, and you truly truly love him. You cry over how much you love him, you big emo nerd. You know you found the best. Some women settle and negotiate. You didn’t.
You’ve adapted to the cold, and your whole family is flying in next week to watch you marry the love of your life. You’re babysitting babies and you just can’t wait. You’re proud of yourself. You made hard choices, and you didn’t chicken out. If people aren’t happy for you, forget it. You’re happy. Your life has meaning. You’re seven years sober. You transformed.
You love each other and you’re having a child and you’re looking at houses and your life/ completely/ changed. Sometimes, it feels heavy. Your step-mom’s perfect toast – “she loves deeply and she feels deeply -” nothing is more accurate than that. It’s gotten you in trouble, but now you just embrace it. And he lets you cry and feel it all, deeply. And your dog! God, do you love her. So much love. So much before you, so much behind. You weigh it all and decide to be grateful. The human spirit is flawed and broken, but the human spirit is triumphant and large. You can’t wait to teach your son that. To lift him up. To set him on the path. To tell him this story.