I was at work, pushing a jogging stroller with a babbling baby in it down a bumpy Brooklyn sidewalk, while on the phone with my mom back in Mississippi, complaining that I had been exhausted and grumpy for a few days, and just, hungry… and I could not figure out what was wrong with me. When she suggested that I might be pregnant I completely disregarded her. There were so many other things it could be. For one thing, just two days ago I had broken up with a sweet smart guy I’d met online, and even though I was regretting it a little, I was pretty sure I’d made the right decision. I was about to leave New York City and it hadn’t seemed worth it to try to resolve something that was going to end in a month or so anyway. Maybe that’s why I was in such a funk. I was actually leaving New York.
I had put in notice at the job I loved, working as a nanny in Park Slope for some very cool parents, the silliest 14-month old baby boy on the block, and his 8-year-old sister. I had recommended two cool girls I knew to take over for my part-time gig as a contributor to the celebrity gossip blog I wrote for. I had also produced an awesome comedy show about a month before in honor of my best friend Emily who was moving home to Florida because her and her boyfriend had gotten pregnant and were expecting a baby boy.
I feel it’s important, if it’s not obvious, to say that not everybody who lives in New York has to leave just because they get pregnant, but it’s what Emily wanted, and honestly, I knew that if I ever got pregnant, it’s what I would do too. It’s just hard to struggle and raise a kid there. I know people who’ve done it beautifully, but I didn’t fault Emily and her boyfriend one bit for their choice. I totally got it. After Emily left, I had also moved out of our messy but comfortable apartment in Astoria, Queens and was sleeping on the couch of a friend in Brooklyn until the day my flight would take off from LaGuardia.
The possibility that I could be pregnant was absolutely the furthest thing from my mind. Emily was the pregnant one and she had a supportive steady partner. I was still single and about to go traveling for several months, work for my 6th summer at the girls camp in Minnesota that I loved being a part of, maybe visit Key West like Hemingway, and hide out in a cabin in the woods somewhere. I loved New York, and even though I was taking a break, in the back of my mind I assumed I would come back eventually. I just wasn’t done with the city, but I didn’t know what was in store either. I had a lot on my mind, so when my mom asked if I thought I might be pregnant, it threw me for a loop, maybe because my boss, the cool mom of these two great kids I took care of, had asked me the same thing earlier that day. Two moms asking if you’re pregnant in one morning will make you wonder.
I couldn’t be pregnant, could I? I mean, for starters, I’d had a few pregnancy scares in my four years as a single gal dating in New York City, but not one of those times had I ever actually been pregnant. My “pregnancy” symptoms were usually just PMS. Also, we were careful… weren’t we? I mean, sure there was that one time after I’d gotten back from a weekend trip to D.C. but, I had been tracking my menstrual cycle on that app I’d downloaded on my phone and I wasn’t supposed to be ovulating that day.
Why was I tracking my ovulation cycle you might ask? I have PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition that makes me not menstruate regularly (and that by the way, doctors had told me, would make it pretty unlikely for me to get pregnant easily). Tracking my period was just something I did to make sure that I wasn’t too far off a relatively normal monthly cycle so that I could tell if I might need treatment for it. I was trying to be responsible about my health, because the symptoms of PCOS are nasty, painful, and mind-altering. Everything from mood swings to weight gain to long brutal periods… it isn’t fun.
I wasn’t on regular birth control, so I always knew there was some minor risk of getting pregnant, but, as a nanny, I didn’t have health insurance to help pay for it. I rarely dated anybody for long and almost always used protection. Having short term flings and online dating was pretty normal for me and my friends. Honestly, nobody in New York thought it was weird that I was single and almost 31. Most people thought I was just independent and responsible, like they were, waiting for the right time to settle down, having fun in the meantime. It wasn’t like back in Mississippi where literally every person I kept in touch with from high school was married, or even remarried, and most of them had kids already.
Sure, my mom hoped for grandkids, but I frequently cautioned her not to get her hopes up. I wasn’t sure I’d ever go down that path, even though I liked kids a lot. I had been working with kids for years, as a nanny, at summer camp, and in pre-schools. I love babies. Lots of people assumed I would be a great mom if I ever settled down and had kids, and I admit, I know I’ve got a pretty good skill set with the under-aged, but you have to trust me when I say, I was fine if it never happened.
So when I bought the pregnancy test at the little pharmacy it was, more than anything, an effort to just get a little peace of mind about the possibility. It was to prove my mom and my boss and my nagging subconscious wrong, if anything. I’m telling you, I sat on that toilet in my boss’s apartment, positive that I was not pregnant until literally the very instant the second line on the test started to appear, changing my life forever, just like that.
Once I got past being flat-out astonished that this could even be happening to me, and only seconds before all the anxiety flooded in, I had a moment of perfect clarity and confidence and overwhelming joy. I was actually pregnant, despite every reason I knew it couldn’t be true. I was really going to be a mom, and the next 60 years or so of my life were just staring me in the face with perfect serenity, pride and gratefulness. I cannot ever explain to you how that moment happened, or how it managed to eek it’s way in amongst my shock and fear. I am not a religious or superstitious person really, but I don’t know what to call it other than a miracle. I experienced the utter joyfulness of being a mom and I knew exactly how much I wanted to meet my child, how desperate I was to see his or her face and how much I loved that kid instantaneously. This moment, which was so powerful and beautiful, lasted, I’m guessing, maybe 3 seconds long, and then I started to panic.
What the hell was I going to tell people? What the hell was I going to say to this sweet smart guy I’d just dumped? How in God’s name was I going to work at camp and be pregnant? Who should I tell? How soon should I see a doctor? How did I apply for Medicaid? How would I pay for all of this? Who would help me? Would people look down on me? Would he and I have a relationship? Why, oh why, had I trusted that stupid app on my phone? The whole thing was way too much already, and I was still on the toilet.
I had to tell someone. I needed outside assistance immediately, but I knew that for me, if I told someone, I would be making a very important choice, not that what they thought mattered so much, but that if I said this out loud, despite what those two lines on the stick said, that I would be really truly pregnant somehow, really a mom, and if I were really pregnant and really a mom, that 3 seconds of that miracle of being a mom would never leave me, and I would never be able to make another choice, even though it’s a choice I believe in and support for all women, a choice for women I would defend with my last living bleeding-heart liberal breath.
For me, my moment to decide was happening now. So I pulled my pants up and I weighed the facts. First I thought, I did know what I was doing with kids. I wasn’t unprepared or unskilled or too young to take care of a child. I was almost 31, not 21. This might have been an accident but it was in a consensual relationship with a nice guy, even if we weren’t together. I had made plenty of mistakes but I had grown and learned a lot from them. I felt mature. I knew I would be loved and supported no matter what I chose, even though it might hurt some people, either way. I was broke. That was true, and I was single. That was true too. This would not be easy, definitely true.
I would be put in a position with different people where I would have to defend my choices. I would have to walk bravely into problems that I just didn’t have solutions for. I might have to do this without a partner, but I knew I wouldn’t be alone. I knew my family loved me and would take care of me. I knew my friends would be enthusiastic and kind, even if they thought I was making a huge mistake. I decided I had a lot going for me, so I washed my hands, walked out of the bathroom, and knowing all this, I quietly and abruptly told my sweet kind boss that I was pregnant and held those two lines out for her to see. She was instantly happy for me and hugged me tight even though she could see I was trembling with panic, and that was it. My mind was made up. I was going to be a mom.
Oh, and I was going to cancel all my plans and move home to live in Mississippi. That’s where my family was, where all the love and support I needed was. I had to go there. I will not say that the transition from broke and fabulous single-gal in the big city to single pregnant woman living at home with her parents in a small southern town was ever particularly graceful or uncomplicated. Me and the father of the baby are not in a relationship but we are trying to work out how to both be good parents. I had plenty of difficult conversations with him, with friends, with family, and my pregnancy has been no picnic. I had seriously bad morning sickness for the first four months straight. I lost six pounds in a week in the beginning of it, and I still occasionally suffer from this problem.
I did not go to camp or travel the country or write the next great American novel, but I have been working on my writing, slowly but surely, and I have not given up any of my dreams of travel or career success. I know they’ll happen eventually. I have no immediate plans to return to New York either, but I haven’t ruled it out. I’m just going to see how things go for us down here for a while.
I’m also adjusting to small town life again. In many ways it’s a lot easier than struggling in the city. I got approved for my pregnancy Medicaid and found a great ob-gyn. My Medicaid also enabled me to get new glasses for the first time in 5 years. There are lots of things I don’t miss about New York, like pigeons, rats, or riding the subway with creeps late at night. I have central air conditioning and heat. My family is kind and lovely and they have a great sense of humor about everything. The seafood down here is amazing, and I like driving a car again. My mom is incredible. She takes amazing care of me.
On the other hand, my social life definitely took a natural downturn. I miss getting dressed up to go out. Everybody my age really is married with kids. Any cool concerts or comedy is an hour’s drive away in New Orleans, oh… and the local cable company doesn’t get Viacom channels so no “E! Fashion Police” or Comedy Central for me. I can’t exactly go out and have a drink at the local bar in my condition and there is nowhere to get a decent bagel or Chinese food. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I read all three volumes of the 50 Shades trilogy just for something to do.
Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my decision. At 24 weeks pregnant, a lot of my fear and anxiety has calmed down, and thankfully so has my morning sickness with the occasional hiccup. I am surprised by how much cheesy baby stuff I’m actually getting into. I totally dig filling out the memory book and helping my mom plan the baby shower (or plot it more accurately). Last weekend, I even got to go visit my pregnant best friend Emily for her baby shower, who’s due in a few weeks, and I had an amazing time. There’s a lot of love and joy around me, but the best part? The best part is that since I trusted that 3 second miracle mom moment on the toilet, I have had a lot more of those. For instance the first time I heard her heartbeat, and felt her kick, and how she pokes and squirms when she hears my voice. Call me a traitor, but it might be superior to a good Brooklyn bagel, even if just by a hair.