Jason and I have been in talks to start a family for some time now. I say “in talks” because I find it to be along the lines of countries negotiating, as one nation will have to take on a serious — albeit short-term — obligation that could potentially affect that country’s GNP for some time. We went back and forth on when and how, birth vs adoption vs fostering, back to budgeting to financial obligations to legal obligations to when and how we would fit it in with our work schedules and my deep-rooted fear that if I had a child I’d never get hired for anything ever again.
We discussed starting a family at such a conceptual level we were practically wearing elbow patches, continually adjusting our reading glasses in order to make another articulate point about feminism and the human procreational instinct. (TL;DR: We nerded out about it.)
It seemed like a very private discussion, and one that should only be appropriate between Jason and me, but that’s not the case. I suppose it’s just what happens when you reach a certain age, but eventually I couldn’t go anywhere without being asked if I had kids, if I wanted kids, and when would I have kids if I did. This would happen with friends, family, complete strangers, on job interviews. People would look at me like I was being very selfish with my working ladyparts, and that if I had any desire — at all ever in the world ever even in the future, which i couldn’t imagine but would have to, even when i was old and wrinkly and thinking about regrets– then, would i want to have had a baby then? — that I needed to come to some decisions rather than continue to delude myself that it was something I could think about at my leisure.
We decided to ask my doctor what she thought.
“Well,” she said, “everything looks great here and I don’t have any worries. However, for most people it takes at least six months, maybe more. And you’ll be another year older soon, and at six months we’d start looking into why there’d be a delay, so then it could be another year before we start trying more serious measures. I would say if you want a child anytime in the next two to three years, I’d get on the stick.”
And then it got real quiet in her office, the only sound the paper shifting under my butt as I leaned forward to ask in a confused, slightly horrified tone. “…Do you…do you mean get on his stick?”
“No!” she shouted, so offended.
“Oh. Then do you mean…do you mean the stick I pee on?”
“No! What is wrong with you?”
I’d never heard the expression ”get on the stick” before, so my southern partner in baby-making had to explain it to me.
Before the stick had even been legit straddled, I was working one morning on the final manuscript pass of You Take It From Here when I was suddenly overwhelmed with deep anxiety. I knew, without a doubt, that I was pregnant. I felt different, puffy, sad and confused. I felt odd.
I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t wait to talk it over with Jason. I tore through my medicine cabinet until I found an old pregnancy test (don’t judge me; you don’t know my life). I had jumped out of a plane with less panicky hand trembling as I peed on that thing and waited the millions of years it takes before it told me…
I was pregnant with a book.
Perhaps you’ve never been pregnant with a book before, so let me tell you what it feels like. It feels like being an enormous nerd. I had literally put down my manuscript to pee on this stick, and the test said, “Congrats! You’re about to have a new novel! I hope it’s a hardcover! May you sell a million copies! PS: we’ve added this helpful arrow so you know to begin reading on the left-hand side of the book.”
It’s stressful enough just taking a pregnancy test alone in your bathroom with your pants around your ankles, holding a stick you’d just pissed all over. It’s another thing entirely to then need to bring Google into this situation.
Google told me that the book means “consult the manual” and it was basically an error message that the stick was too old and worthless. I called Jason and swore I’d never take another test without him again.
Many, many (brand-new) pregnancy tests later: we were confident I wasn’t pregnant. And I was relieved. It seemed too crazy to just suddenly be pregnant right after we were like, “Okay, maybe it’s about time to start trying.” I hadn’t even done the trying!
I went back to finish my manuscript remembering what everybody had been telling me, reminding myself of everything I’d seen all my friends go through. I calmed down. Even though I’d never once tried to have sex without birth control before that month, even though I’d spent my entire life convinced that unprotected sex = immediate embryo, I had to remember that it’s not that easy, it’s not that likely, and it’s not going to happen for some time. Two to three years, the doctor said! That’s so much time to just kick it and go about my business. It’s like all the other jobs I do. Lots of hurry up and wait and most of the time the answer is no. I’m used to that kind of day-to-day.
Six weeks later Tara came to visit while Jason was out of town. We flew on a trapeze. We went to see Friends With Kids — during the day. We took surfing lessons. We ate snacks and watched dance movies. I turned to her at one point and beamed, “I love my life! Everything is perfect!”
“We should figure out where we’re going to see Step Up 4,” she said. “Hawaii? Japan? Rio?”
I’d flown to her to see one of them; she’d flown to me to see one. We almost saw Step Up 3D in Paris. Almost. And then instead I ended up in Paris with my mother. (See: the story I still need to finish) (see also: the part earlier where I was bragging about my awesome life.)
“Why, is it the last one? They aren’t making any more?” I began to panic.
“No,” Tara said. “It’s just that you’ll probably have a baby by the time they make the next one and you won’t be able to go anywhere.”
“What?! That is crazy. No. That’s not going to happen. Another one of these things will come out next year and we can watch it anywhere in the world because I will totally not have a baby by then. That’s so soon.”
“Just in case, I think we should see this one in Hawaii and have surf camp and have one last lady-trip.”
Ten days later I was getting ready for my birthday party at a wine bar, where we were going to break open many, many bottles.
“I’m going to take a test, just so I have peace of mind in case I get birthday-blitzed tonight.”
“There’s barely a chance you’re pregnant,” Jason said. “I mean, we didn’t do any kind of planning or prep and I was out of town when the app said you’d be ovulating.”
So Jason came home with sixteen pregnancy tests. I peed on one and we waited in the hallway for thirty seconds.
“Let’s go look now.”
“You know what it’s going to say.”
“I just need to see it say that.”
“Maybe it hasn’t been long enough.”
“That’s it. I’m looking. And then pouring a scotch.”
I got one foot in the bathroom door before I saw the giant pink word PREGNANT.
I believe my first words were “HOLY SHIT.” And then I had to sit down for quite some time. And then I took to bed. And then I cried, because everything was about to change, and I never got to properly say goodbye to wine, to scotch, to pots of coffee and plates of sushi. I cried a very selfish cry for about an hour because I knew that conception/implantation happened while I was flying from one trapeze to another, or popping up on a surfboard, or – most likely – the second I said to Tara, “I love my life! Everything is perfect.”
[BOOM! Cue “Circle of Life” and fireworks and that high-speed video of flowers blooming and sperm bonding with egg.]
The tears and fear and despair came from knowing I had just entered something I couldn’t yet imagine. Our child isn’t here yet, and we’ve never raised one before, so I can’t truly comprehend the fun/work that’s coming.
My life used to be relatively imaginable. Not predictable, but within my concept of perception. I knew what my December would probably look like back in January, when I thought I’d be spending my holidays like I always do – at my cousin’s house, in the basement, kicking their kids’ butts in the latest version of Dance Central.
This December we will be having a baby, and our year will end in our home, and our next year – and all our years after that – will be filled with the unknown.
Jason and I loved our life together– enough that we wanted to share it with someone who would be our responsibility, who would be with us for all our adventures in the decades to come. We have been lucky enough to experience some amazing things, and know we are even more fortunate to be expecting so quickly. But I still get a little weepy, when I think about our years in the past, and how they’re now firmly in the past, because I loved that part of my life. But I also know if I didn’t love it so much, I wouldn’t be so excited about our future.
So here’s to the unknown, where everything is different now, but where life can be a different kind of perfect.