At first, not much changes, other than people’s perceptions of you.
Whatever you were before the second line bled through that pregnancy test window—intelligent, respectable, ambitious, in a stable relationship—is irrelevant, quickly (if not instantly) forgotten.
Now you’re a poor unwed soul. And your capacity for sound decision-making has been greatly diminished. It’s almost as if you haven’t been teaching college for two and a half years, as if you weren’t an online newsletter editor for four years before that, as if you hadn’t once collected unemployment for six months, rationing the limited benefits well enough to feed and shelter two people on them. It’s as if you’ve been tumbling carelessly into and out of tons of men’s beds, instead of just the one’s.
It’s like you’ve been a burden to self-respecting taxpayers and real God-fearers all your life.
You may as well be in rollers with four other toddlers in sagging Pull-Ups, tugging at your maternity skirt hem and wielding empty bottles. Now, when people look at you, they’re already judging you for the red watercolored ring around your unborn’s mouth, the residue of all the Kool-Aid you’ll inevitably force that poor baby to ingest.
Mind you, this is months before you’ll begin to show. Showing will bring its own compound stigma.
For now, you deal with the unseen and try not to think about the fact that five out of the six loved ones you’ve told are still trying to talk you into terminating.
There are lots of things not to think about, this early on. Like the necessity of changing careers or how cripplingly alone you feel, how terrifying a boy would be or whether or not he’ll be healthy. Like the aspersions being cast on your future or whether or not you’ve been prepared for this by any part of your past.
What’s important, right now, is avoiding delusion. You cannot think people care more than they do. You cannot expect comfort, where condemnation is quick and plentiful. It’s imperative not to let yourself forget that your life is different, that your body will become unfamiliar, even though it’s still easy to recognize your reflection in a mirror. You must remember who called you stupid. You mustn’t forget who assured you they wouldn’t help.
It will spare you future grief to absorb the full weight of these rejections now.
You don’t want to be the type of parent whose child feels insecure and isolated just because you do. You want to be the parent who spends the first years of your firstborn’s life on a reservation or a commune, teaching him to read by age two, teaching him to swim and flip and dance so he feels freer than he should. You want to be the parent with the costume trunk full of tulle and wands and cap gun holsters and the tradition of opening it every Saturday morning. You want to make sure he has a passport before the age of five, because you still want a Fulbright someday or a literature PhD from overseas and you see no reason why he can’t come along.
Some things are just resolved, despite everyone being convinced that your life must assume a monochromatic course and your emotions will largely consist of anger, depression and frustration.
Who are these people, who’ve known you lifelong and so easily write such grim life sentences? How hard is joy, even for a woman like you, who trades in melancholy and pragmatism? Don’t they know that things weren’t so wonderful before that you have no choice but to mourn this change? Don’t they know that intellect and hope and desire rarely wane when a child is conceived?
If anything, they become blastocysts.