Pregnancy, Week by Week
by Joelle Barron
The father is on his way over. His best friend (who I’ve also been sleeping with) is already at my place. I want to learn shibari; he’s going to show me some basic knots. I text the father. He’s bringing wine. Can you also pick me up a pregnancy test?
I don’t sleep that night. I do some drunk-Googling.
Vancouver abortion clinic
lsd and pregnancy
At 6 AM, I take the test. It’s not my first rodeo; I know that early morning is the best time to take a pregnancy test; your pee is full of hormones. The second line appears almost instantly, dark and unquestionable.
I call my mother.
I wait for two hours at the walk-in clinic. My mother told me they would do a blood test, but they don’t.
In her little office, the doctor confirms that I’m pregnant.
“And what do you want to do about it?” she says.
“I… uh… I mean, keep it.”
“Do you have a partner?”
“Yes,” I say, because it feels like what she wants to hear.
She explains pregnancy to me as if it’s a concept I’ve never heard of. Then she asks what medications I’m taking. She suggests that I quit my anti-depressant.
“Risks can’t be ruled out,” she says.
I pick my mother up at the airport. I’ve just had a fit of anxiety and quit my job; I tell her this, sheepishly. She is not impressed. At baggage claim, she asks me about the father.
“Honestly, I can’t stand to be around him,” I say, half-laughing, as if she might join in in the spirit of feminine camaraderie.
“We’ll talk about it in the car,” she says.
On the drive back to my tiny apartment, I explain to her that I’m not in love with him; I’ve known him for two months. I’m not interested in being with him. I’m not afraid to do this alone.
“Well, you know,” says my mother, “sometimes you can learn to love someone.”
“But why should I have to?” I ask.
“For the sake of the baby,” she says.
“He doesn’t have a job,” I say. “He’s 70k in debt. He’s a rebound I was sleeping with to make myself feel better and I screwed up and got pregnant. How is forcing myself to be with him better for the baby?”
I decide to move home to Ontario. I have terrible morning sickness, except it actually lasts all day and gets worse in the evening. The only things I can eat are soda crackers and chocolate-covered digestive cookies.
My mom is packing kitchen supplies into liquor store boxes.
“Why do all the pregnancy apps compare the baby to fruit?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says. “That wasn’t done in my day.”
I flick my finger across the screen of her iPad. “How can a baby be the size of a banana?”
My mother, my dog and I make the 1800-mile drive from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Fort Frances, Ontario.
I’m not showing at all, but my nipples seem to have tripled in size. They weren’t small to begin with.
I spend the month of June in bed. I still can’t eat. Everything smells terrible. It rains every day. I check the weather in Vancouver on my phone; nothing but sun.
My mother and I get into a screaming fight when she discovers that I’ve used one of her good bedsheets as a drop cloth for painting.
The new season of Orange is the New Black comes out. I watch all of it in just over 24 hours.
I begin to obsess over my ex-boyfriend. I got pregnant barely a month after we broke up. I fantasize constantly about the .01% chance that this baby is actually his.
We were on good terms after the break up. I texted him the night before my mother and I left the city to tell him about the pregnancy. I assured him it wasn’t his.
I decide to text him again, to say I’m glad we’re friends.
Actually, I don’t think I can talk to you anymore. It’s not fair to my girlfriend.
I turn my phone off and refuse to look at it for several weeks.
My aunt, an accountant at the local clinic, lovingly shames me into making a pre-natal appointment.
Fort Frances is a small town; there’s only one doctor who delivers babies. I’m not keen to give birth in the hospital at all, but the closest midwife is a two-hour drive away, so it seems like the only option.
My aunt tells me that I can see the nurse practitioner until 22 weeks. I love the nurse practitioner; she gave me my first pap smear when I was 17. I make the call.
One of my cousins works reception at the clinic. I check in with her, and she hugs me, but makes no mention of my pregnancy.
It turns out that the nurse-practitioner-in-training is working. She’s lovely but nervous. She asks me a million questions, including the name of the baby’s father.
I blurt it out without thinking and she writes it down. Later, I’ll ask her to erase it.
She asks me if I’ve ever been pregnant before. For some reason, I lie and say no, even though I had a miscarriage two years ago when I was 21.
They need to do a vaginal exam to check the size of my uterus. The trainee has never done one; the regular nurse practitioner asks if she can demonstrate and then let the trainee try.
I’m honestly not bothered by vaginal exams in the least, so I say that’s fine. The nurse practitioner puts two fingers inside me and her other hand on my belly. “Your cervix is hiding,” she says. I wasn’t aware that this was a skill my cervix possessed. I feel a weird sense of pride.
When it’s the trainee’s turn, she lubes up her gloved fingers and, without looking down to check, shoves them confidently into my anus. It takes me a minute to get up the courage to tell her that she’s made a mistake.
In a fit of pregnancy hormones, or possibly sex-deprived insanity, I call my ex-boyfriend.
“I just want to talk,” I say. “Can’t we just talk?”
“I’m sorry,” he says. “It just really makes my girlfriend uncomfortable.”
“But why?” I ask.
“Her ex used to talk to his exes all the time and it just really bothers her.”
At this point, I begin to sob. In an attempt to be a Good Feminist, I don’t point out how utterly childish I think it is that his girlfriend would be threatened by a pregnant loser four provinces away.
“We don’t even have an ocean here,” I sputter.
He hangs up.
I’m still not showing, and I still feel like vomity shit.
I take a bath every single day, and re-read Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging series. I realize that I’m missing the last three, so I order them on Amazon. I literally wear out my vibrator; it coughs and lets a death rattle before it gives up on me forever. I wonder if I’ll ever have sex again.
Another ex-boyfriend (this one I dated for five years, five years ago) comes to town to play some shows with his band. I’m still not showing, which is convenient, because I plan to have sex with him.
We’ve had sex once a year or so since we broke up — it’s never that great, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I wonder if it’s ethically questionable to have sex with someone while pregnant without them knowing about the pregnancy. I decide that it’s not his baby, so it shouldn’t matter.
He comes over to my place one evening. I make stir fry and he draws me a picture of a bird. We plan to get together again in a couple days. Then he texts me to say that his family is going on a surprise 10 day camping trip and then he’s catching a flight back to Vancouver right after.
I pull my vibrator out of the drawer and whack it several times against the bedside table. There are no signs of life.
There are a couple of plumbers at the house fixing up one of our bathrooms. I watch them out the window as they come and go.
One of them, the tall one, touches the poppies that line the path to the garage with the tips of his fingers as he passes. He smiles, apparently delighted. I feel an annoying tugging at my heart, which I ignore. I have no desire for romance. I can’t relate at all to people who say they long for someone to fall asleep with at night. The only person I’m interested in sharing a bed with is my dog. And soon, I suppose, my child.
Still, when the tall plumber walks by me later and I catch a whiff of his sweaty man-stink, I nearly fall over.
I call my best friend. “I thought we were living in a world where people being weirded out by other people texting their exes was a major turn off??”
“Her name is Jessica,” I say. “Can you believe that?”
She agrees again. Shit name.
“Do you know how they met? She designed the artwork for his new album. She’s probably petite and she probably has bangs and wears adorable glasses and masturbates to Broken Social Scene records.”
My friend creeps Jessica’s Facebook and confirms that I am 100% correct.
“Fuck you, Jessica,” I say.
I no longer feel like an autonomous being.
“What does the baby want to eat tonight?” my mother asks.
“What the fuck does it know?” I say.
Health professionals and complete strangers alike continue to question my choices, especially vis-à-vis anti-depressants. I’ve developed a stock response: “Well, here’s how I see it,” I say. “If I go off my anti-depressant and kill myself, then that’s not super good for the baby either. Studies show.”
But really, it’s more that I’m not willing to resign myself to the realm of non-sentient flesh vessel. It’s not that I don’t want it; there was nothing stopping me from getting an abortion all those weeks ago, except some deep, feral feeling that I love it. I want to protect it. But I’m also not willing to be miserable based on less-than-teeny chances.
I go to visit my best friend at her family’s home two hours north of Fort Frances. I’m finally not feeling like shit, and I need to start gaining weight, so we eat constantly and swim in the lake and lie out in the sun.
One night, a friend of the family comes over for dinner. When she asks what I’m doing in Fort Frances, I say,
It’s meant to be funny but she looks sort of taken aback and I see her peering over to check out my ring finger.
Later that evening, during a lull in the dinner conversation, she asks, “So how does your mother feel about your… situation?”
I stare blankly at her.
The tone she’s trying to convey is something along the lines of, “How does your mother feel about that doomed bastard you’re lugging around in your accursed slut uterus?”
“I’m not a teenager,” I manage to say. “I have a master’s degree.”
She shrugs and goes back to picking at what’s left of her spaghetti.
I realize that I have watched every television program ever produced, so I switch to movies.
Netflix is insistent, based on my enjoyment of Community and Bridesmaids, that I should watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I relent.
Most of it is stupid, but the scene where Jennifer Lopez and her extremely attractive movie-husband finally meet their adopted Ethiopian baby makes me sob uncontrollably for 15 minutes.
Somehow, my pregnancy is half over. I’m finally beginning to show. I hate to admit how shaken up I am by judgmental-dinner-party-lady’s comments.
“I’m not ashamed,” I tell my mother.
“Nor should you be.”
“But I feel like people would find it easier to be happy for me if I wasn’t alone.”
“People are happy for you,” she says. “Are you happy?”
I have to think for a minute.
“Mostly,” I say.
Then I go to the kitchen and make a cheesecake, because I’m finally hungry.
Joelle Barron lives, works, and gestates in Fort Frances, Ontario. You can find her online at joellebarron.com.
Photo via bennedsen/Flickr