A little over a month ago, I was sitting in a bar on the tenth floor of a Berlin hotel. I had a rum and coke in one hand and a cigarette in the other and as I laughed and chatted with my boyfriend and two pals, I felt pretty contented. It’s been a pretty testing year so far: the graduate job hunt seemed like a series of defeats, I was turfed out of my shitty bar job and I’d been feeling that things were at a bit of a standstill. However as I sat on the bar’s 360-degree balcony, taking in the Berlin cityscape, I had a weird feeling that things were going to be OK. It might’ve been the half litre of wine I’d had (to myself) with dinner, the pre-gig anticipation or just the atmosphere, but bad luck can only last for so long. At the very least, I had another job to get me by, I was in my favourite place and I was in great company.
Exactly a week later I was back in Glasgow, standing in my flat, by myself, with a positive pregnancy test in my hand.
I’m not sure what the most common reactions are upon finding out that you’re pregnant, although I’m guessing they run the full range from shock, elation, worry, panic, happiness and everything in between. Me? I didn’t feel a damn thing. I got through the rest of my day in ‘function’ mode: I got showered, spoke to my mum on the phone, went for a drive with the radio up, visited my nan for a chat, met some pals for a coffee, drove home with the radio up even louder and sat watching something or other on TV. I’d almost managed to make it through the day without thinking until I heard my boyfriend’s keys turning in the lock.
At that point, I realised I had to actually tell someone.
We’d never planned on having kids, and in actual fact were pretty much against it. I feel the same way about children that I do about cats: pictures of them are kind of cute but I can’t deal with them in real life. Babies are cute, and when they get to about 4 and start making up stories and learning swear words, it’s pretty hilarious. I liked everything that came with being an auntie, but the actual parenting part- the crying, whining, sleeplessness, sharing endless memes about how they’re worth every precious minute- did not appeal. The thought of touching a baby bump made me boak. Besides, we had plans for travelling and I had yet to escape bar work and make the leap into high rollin’, creatively challengin’, degree usin’ employment. I figure we’d get a dog or two first, and maybe adopt when I got to 35. My boyfriend’s reaction was pretty much the same as mine, which I guess was reassuring. Yeah, it would’ve been nice if one of us knew what to say or do, but it was something of a comfort that we were both in equal amounts of disbelief. In all honesty, I’m not sure that there was anything that he could say to resolve the situation anyway.
I’d felt a few changes, but had managed to explain all of them away: missed period? They’d always been irregular anyway. Tiredness and sickness? Well, that’d be the adjustment to full time shift work and a flu bug that was going around. Bigger boobs and bigger appetite? I’d been upping the exercise classes and lifting more weights. Nausea? I thought I’d maybe developed lactose intolerance and figured I’d cut out cheese and see how I got on. Crushingly low mood that wouldn’t seem to lift, to the point where even my ever-supportive boyfriend asked why I was being so negative all the time? Well, work woes, perennial lack of funds, seeing friends go on to better things and ever-tightening clothes would do that.
The only thing I couldn’t explain away was the nagging gut feeling that told me this wasn’t like the other times I’d felt this way. It wasn’t going to pass as it usually did because something else was going on. In all honesty, the bigger boobs should’ve given the game away. Yeah, they got a bit bigger when I was pre-menstrual, and if I gained weight they grew in proportion to the rest of me, but other than that they’d stayed the same since I was 16. They might not be able to tell when it’s raining, but they were telling me something else was up.
In those first few hours, days and weeks, my feelings were all over the joint. We hadn’t been planning on having a baby, and spent a while unsure of our next move, so I had no idea how to feel. Social media mums are quick to talk about how excited they are about their impending bundle of joy, but no one ever seemed to talk about feeling worried, anxious, unsure or scared. Women are more likely to experience symptoms of ill mental health than men (or so it’s reported), so it seemed natural that at least some of them would feel that way, but I wasn’t seeing any evidence of it. There’s plenty of advice on post-natal depression, but nowhere near as much for during. Certainly not a great deal about what to feel when you’re unsure. It felt like once you found out you were expecting, you were only allowed to THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS. It didn’t even feel real- I didn’t know how far along I was, didn’t feel pregnant and couldn’t detect any movement, so I sort of just carried on as normal, waiting to be seen by GPs and going about my business.
Even after we decided that we were going to go ahead with the pregnancy (I’ve got more to say on that, but it’s a story on its own) it didn’t really sink in. We told our families and friends, bought a baby record book, I stopped holding my stomach in (honestly, the biggest relief of all) and started adjusting to the idea of being parents. As the li’l bean was pretty far advanced when we found out, I didn’t get my first scan until 15 weeks, and didn’t have my first midwife scan until 18 weeks. Only after the second one, in all its high definition, “I can actually see the shape of his nose” glory, did it hit me that there was a baby in there.
It’s only been a month, but so much has happened and we’ve had so much to get our heads around. Gradually the feelings of detachment have given way, and I feel a weird sense of protection. The stronger this sense grew, the more confident I felt in telling people our news: not just family and friends, but my work (whose cooperation I was going to rely heavily on). It became more and more normal to discuss things openly. Once people started to know, the pressure and worry lessened and gave way to relief.
Yeah, it’s still scary, but we’re not going through it by ourselves.
Most women suspect- or even know- that they’re pregnant around week five or six, giving them almost two months to adjust before their first scan. They know to look out for the signs, they have time to decide how they’re going to proceed, they know to adapt their lifestyles and get whatever appointments made weeks in advance. We’ve been flung head first into the end of the first trimester and into the second- without a huge amount of time to adjust- and we’re taking it one step at a time. I haven’t yet translated “there’s a baby in there” to “I’m going to have a baby”, and seeing newborns doesn’t immediately make me think of my own.
And you know what? That’s OK. As with everything else in life, people experience things differently. No two journeys are the same, regardless of whether they share a common destination. I’m adjusting to the fact that some things in life are going to be put on hold, that things as we know it aren’t going to be anymore. I’ve gone from not having much direction about the future to something I never thought would be included in my life plan. I knew I’d been waiting for something to change, but I never thought that’d be it. However, the bigger I get, and the more I read my baby books, the more I think that this might just be one of the things that I get right. At the very least, I’ve got an excuse to buy tiny Batman pyjamas and Nightmare Before Christmas toys.