The lines on the EPT test confirmed my suspicions. I had made an egregious error in the family planning department. Apparently, I had started a family while actively trying not to. I was the 99.999999999999 % of females the insert in the prescription birth-control warned about. “I’ve never been in the 99th percentile of anything. What celestial being did I piss off? You couldn’t set this up so I scored this high on my SAT’s and got a scholarship to Yale? That, I failed miserably, but I can pass a pregnancy test with flying colors,” I yelled angrily at the sky, as if there was some kind of Divine, Sara centered, focus group in progress over my head.
In an exasperated state, I search the test instructions for a loophole. I found something promising in the fine print, below the step-by-step directions on how to properly pee on the stick. I called the customer service number on listed under the disclaimer and held tight to the glimmer of hope that the Error Proof Test was wrong. The operator who answered, I could tell, was doing his best to understand my hurried attempts to speak the English language. As hard as I tried to slow myself down, it seemed as if all the words I was saying kept falling out of my mouth at once. I was trying to ask if the cough drop I had ingested a few days before would do anything to alter the result of the test and give me a false positive, but I know that’s not what I said. I’m guessing these operators must get extensive training and speak panicked idiot quite fluently, because he began to rattle off all of the medications that would create an incorrect result and not one of them was of the soothing Ricola mentholated variety.
As the enormity of the situation sunk in, I audited my life and created a mental list of pros and cons to assess my baby readiness level. My thought process meandered thusly: I wasn’t 16 and a child, myself. I was 28 and much older than my mother was when she conceived her first born. She had three children and not one of us went to prison or wound up on reality TV. I didn’t have a crack problem, which I deemed to be a good thing. I was a smoker, but much like everything else I put in my body during the early stages of pregnancy, that was making my violently erupt like Mt. Vesuvius. I was pretty sure could kick that habit, along other vices like eating, drinking or smelling anything. I wasn’t married or even through the test drive phase of the relationship I was currently in, so that wasn’t working in my favor. But I was lucky enough to be living in a modern society that would not strap a scarlet “A” to my bosom and send me to live in the wilderness, alone. In the unlikely event that I was excommunicated, I lived in Florida. So the wilderness wouldn’t be unfriendly terrain. I was responsible enough to make regular mortgage payments on my condo. Ideally, I could provide that shelter thing everyone was always talking about. I did have a job. I wasn’t particularly fond of it, but, it paid the bills and would cover food and other silly incidentals. I had never independently cared for a small child; definite con. I had a cat and some potted cooking herbs; I hadn’t killed them yet, so that made me fairly confident about my ability to maintain the needs of another living creature. As an added bonus, I already drove a Sport Utility Vehicle that was large enough to accommodate a stroller and a car seat, even though its intended use was to haul coolers full of beer and people over 5 feet tall. I could repurpose it. After a few days of soul searching I determined I was sufficiently equipped to rear a child and I had a lot more going for me than the average person who found themselves inadvertently knocked-up and terrified.
As scared as I was, I was excited to dive into the motherhood; which I did- head first and without the assistance of Coast Guard Approved Flotation Device. I had never read a book or even had a pregnant friend. But, I figured there were people around long before the advent of Barnes & Noble and my body would take care of business; with or without the help of Dr. Spock or any other charlatan trying to make a buck off of my ignorance, fear and failed birth control.
As my stomach expanded, I became the target of unwanted advice, coming from every angle. Hoards of well-meaning strangers flocked to my abdomen, as if I was emitting some kind of weirdo homing signal. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, gas station or a restaurant without someone telling me the excruciating details of their 96 hour delivery and all of the terrible things that went wrong. The stories would always start out with the same question “Oh, is this your first?” “For the love of God, what is wrong with you people? Why on Earth would you tell a first time mother, whose brain has been so hormonally altered that she cries when you ask her if she wants paper or plastic, all about your cousin Roger and why the family speculates he’s retarded?” I questioned within the confines of my own head.
When my fear hit a fevered pitch, my mother bought me a book and I tried to follow along and learn “what to expect, when I was expecting”. But, I mostly just obsessed on all of the warning signs the book helpfully suggested I watch out for. It didn’t help that my doctor was very thorough and sent me for tests whenever he suspected there might be something amiss. By my fourth month of perfectly normal pregnancy, more doctors look under my hood, than a low priced, late model Porsche on a used car lot next to a med school. I had five months to go and I already couldn’t wait for this to be over.
While the literature, tests and tales of other’s labor pains frightened me; what alarmed me the most was all of the people walking up to me and rubbing my belly for “good luck”, like it was the wood on Showtime at the Apollo. I couldn’t understand, as far as I knew I wasn’t incubating a leprechaun. I was forcibly molested on many occasions by someone that insisted on telling me about the memories my bloated gut brought back. Why anyone would think that this behavior is remotely acceptable is beyond me. I don’t walk up to fat people and rub their stomachs, fondly recalling the days when I ate lots of cookies. Nor have I ever strolled up to a paraplegic whose injuries were the result of a tragic car accident, taken control of their wheelchair and reminisced about all the places they used to walk. It’s just the wrong thing to do and it’s creepy. You can wax nostalgic from a perfectly acceptable interpersonal distance and not risk losing a limb in the process.
People I’d never been introduced to would circle my ever increasing body, looking at me up and down. I felt like a horse they were contemplating buying at auction; almost expecting them to pry open my jaws and check my teeth to make sure I was healthy. They’d then blurt out “you must be having a girl” and begin to explain to me their strange method of how they arrived at this conclusion. I’d politely tell them, “No, the doctor says it’s a boy,” and try not to laugh as they argued with me and implied that my OBGYN was a quack. I wasn’t sure of a lot at this point in my life, but I had sonographic evidence that the creature growing in my stomach had a penis, and I was pretty sure the doctor’s would have let me know if I was gestating the second coming of Chaz Bono.
Crazy, out-spoken and just plain rude people that I could avoid, before my body started to look like a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, started coming out of the woodwork. I had endured a litany of questions about my due date, received unwanted suggestions about what I should name the little blessing and insensitive comparisons of my body and the man-made structure, commonly referred to as a house. Stranger’s stopped at my table in restaurants and exclaimed “Don’t eat that!!! That has (insert terrible chemical that causes babies to be born with 3 eyes, uni-brows and a humped back) in it!”. Men, who as far as I know have never had to experience building a baby first hand, said things like “Oh, it’s not that bad, enjoy it and just wait until (unpleasant side effect of next trimester) happens”. “Really, pal? I tell you what, why don’t you endure a 9 pound weight, hanging from your ribcage like it’s auditioning for Cirque du Soleil for a prolonged period of time, then get back to me on how great it feels. Having just listened to you whine to you friend over there about pulling a hammie, doing squats this morning, I’m guessing you’d be tapping out in 2.5 minutes.” I’d think.
Towards the end of my last trimester, I had a man chase me down as I waddled through the parking lot at the grocery store. He looked every bit like Santa Clause in a Hawaiian shirt, and he stopped me “just to thank me for being pro-life”. It was at this point that I snapped, I simply could not be polite to one more person who thought they knew what was going on inside my body or my head. I wasn’t trying to make a political statement; I was trying to rendezvous with a Snicker’s Bar. I unleashed 8 months of frustration on this jolly ol’ elf and countered his thank you with my very own special brand of appreciation. I don’t remember everything I said, because the tiny being in my stomach used up most of the auxiliary power it took to run the part of my brain that retained information, but I do vividly remember loudly thanking this stranger for being “pro-doughnut”.
Since my son came in to the world, squishy, screaming and during an emergency C-Section, where a team of doctors discussed frequent flyer miles while trying to return my intestines to their original location; a lot of my friends have experienced the miracle of child birth. They interrogated me, wanting the details of every blessed way my body screwed with me over 9 months of forced sobriety and minimum caffeine intake. I tried to sugarcoat the unpleasant parts and leave out my own personal opinions. I never mentioned the dangers of tomatoes, tuna or artificial sweeteners. I didn’t touch their stomachs without asking first. I even refrained from scrunching my face up in disgust when they discussed baby names with me, as much as I though Declan LeBron Smith or Taylor Dane Roberts was a recipe for therapy, it wasn’t my decision.
However, I do have to confess, that I did buy a puppy during reproduce-a-palooza. As a public service to one little girl that was about to enter this sometimes cruel word, I christened my Saint Bernard, one of the names my close friend was seriously considering, should her baby be born of the pink variety. To spare a fellow female a life time of stupid people singing to her, I am now the proud parent of a 120 pound beast, named “Clementine”, we call her “Tiny” for short. I’ve never confirmed it with her, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mind the singing.