I stand alone. My hands cup the subtle rise of a three month baby bump and a smile takes over my face. I hold for a picture that I know will be seen with shock, but I’m bursting with excitement to finally share my news. I post the image on social media with the words, “Cooking up my next creative endeavor! Grand reveal: January 2018!” and the responses immediately start flooding in.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not in the ideal situation. There is no doting husband or white picket fence. I had envisioned a brave and supportive partner, embracing me as I cup the baby bump, both of us beaming with excitement to welcome our first child. I mourn for what I don’t have.
But sometimes life is unpredictable and accidents happen. I learned a long time ago that change is usually uncomfortable. Sometimes “mistakes” are really miracles, and it is our choice how we see them.
I knew that my news would be shocking, but the huge wave of unconditional love, support and excitement has given me the courage that I need to share my story. And there has to be a story! A beautiful, suspenseful, surprising, bittersweet story. Almost as if it was written for the movies…
. . .
The events that lead up to me being accidentally happy began about a year ago at my grandfather’s 90th birthday. We sat in a circle around the fire pit, 3 generations of my family, rarely in one place, creating music and laughter as we roasted too many marshmallows. Maybe it was something about the hypnotic fire, or the rise and fall of my family’s laughter, but I found my mind wandering off into a hypothetical future. How would I like my life to be when I’m 90? There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted that. I want to be surrounded by several generations of my family, each of us a branch of the same Family Tree, sharing roots that deeply bind us together.
After I returned home it was obvious that something had shifted inside of me. It was a strange feeling, as if wobbling on the cusp of inevitable change. I became hyperaware of every moment and began conscientiously enjoying every aspect of my freedom: going out with friends every day, staying up all night, laying around for countless hours, consuming whatever my heart desired. And I decided that I must immediately complete one of my life goals and see my 50th state, Alaska, but now I’m jumping ahead in the story…
I had been bravely putting myself out into the modern dating world for over a year at that point, but it hadn’t yielded a life partner, so perhaps I had been going about it all wrong. I decided to ground myself from dating for a whole month and reset. I called it No Member November, and it was torture for a boy-crazy girl like me. But I spent the time reflecting and questioning how it was that I found myself alone in my 30s.
I resurfaced from No Member November more determined than ever to find the man of my dreams to help me cook my eggs before they went bad — but also a tad discouraged and insecure. The quickest cure for that was to force myself on a date with the hottest guy I could get my hands on. (We’ll call him “J”.) Getting myself out the door that night was a Herculean task. That pesky inner voice wasn’t on my side, but luckily some friends were and I stopped by for a glass of wine before walking down to meet J. The cool winter breeze painting my cheeks with an attractive glow, the wine and fresh air putting a little bit of confidence back in my step. Or at least I could finally fake it.
J arrived a few minutes after me, and positive first impressions quickly gave way to undeniable chemistry. It was simultaneously intense and comfortable. Laughter undulated as conversation flowed, weaving together in effortless banter. It was as if we had always known each other, with the excitement of first time discovery.
If life was a movie, the playful montage of the evening would have faded into a scene of us still sitting across from each other, dishes emptied and abandon, the rest of the room blurred out with insignificance, our bodies straining to be closer, our faces innocently unaware of our all too obvious future. We chatted at great length about DNA and Family Trees and anyone watching would have become painfully aware of a foreshadowing that we were oblivious of: We were destined to conceive a child, the following year, on National DNA Day.
When the pull between us grew too strong, and the table between us too large, we excused ourselves from the restaurant and spent the night together. It was magnetic, stronger than logic and larger than us. Kismet. When we finally made our goodbyes, he was so taken with me that he tripped over his exit, ran into the rose bush and stumbled his way toward my heart. “In case you couldn’t tell, I really want to see you again,” he wrote later. And thus started one of the most significant connections of my life.
4 months later, I awoke next to him on a redeye flight to Alaska, opening my eyes to the Aurora Borealis dancing around us. It was his idea to join me for my 34th birthday and to see my 50th state, and it goes down in history as one of my all time favorite adventures. The trip itself is an exciting story, but for our movie theme the significance of a simple inside joke becomes the main point. Somewhere along the way we had started joking about “our children”. We had “willed one out of existence” one morning so that we could stay in bed a little longer. “That one was a jerk anyway,” J joked, “We can do much better than that!” Later he mentioned that we could only will one child out of existence, the next one we would have to keep. Somehow foreshadowing is only obvious in movies. Be careful what you joke about!
Our incredible Alaskan adventure ended in a beautifully intimate moment where I summoned the courage to ask if he would like to be official. His face lit up, but he hesitated. And for me that was the beginning of the end. I wanted a yes or a no, but what he needed was more time.
I challenged myself to live in this unknown instead of forcing a decision. But I didn’t even last 2 weeks before I forced an answer out of him, and it wasn’t the one that I wanted.
It was another 2 weeks of not talking before I had successfully flipped the friend-zoned switch, and he and I resumed our friendship. Our “soul-friendship” as we affectionately called it — giving it more value than just your average run of the mill connection. And it was 2 months after that, on the fated National DNA Day, that we went out for our weekly Taco Tuesday and our lives were changed forever.
The next day, as I jumped into my car, my whole world shifted. Try to suspend your disbelief, because if this was a movie the camera would have revealed a warm golden glow radiating from my abdomen, flooding the car with light, and taking my breath away. My logical brain was already desperately trying to rationalize the experience. But I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t alone anymore. I had just experienced conception, and it was nothing shy of a complete miracle.
I spent the next 28 days lost in thought, teetering between I definitely am! and How could I possibly be?! pregnant. When I told J he held me tight and told me that no matter what we would get through this together. “It’s your body, your choice,” he said as we walked hand in hand under a canopy of green leaves, through an old growth neighborhood.
My choice? My choice. The weight of that was intimidating, but I knew that I needed to make a decision, even before the results were definite. Deciding on what I would do if I was pregnant was the only thing that was going to offer me any relief. I wrote about it every night, looked at my options from every angle, weighed the pros & cons and tried to picture all the different potential paths of my future. I spent half the time in denial and the other half marveling over the changes in my body. All of the sudden I could smell every spring flower on the block.
At the soonest possible moment I walked down to the store to get a pregnancy test. I had made my decision. No matter what the test said, I realized without a doubt, that I wanted to be someone’s momma. Even if that meant being a single mother. My life was never going to be the same again, and it felt so right!
The next montage would be of me, crouching on the cold bathroom floor tiles, every morning for the next week, as I counted down seconds and waited with bated breath for a pink line that never showed up.
“Well, there’s a 99% probability that you are not pregnant,” the nurse said holding the stick and giving me an apologetic half-smile, her confidence in the test almost convincing me that my body was making the whole thing up.
Mother’s Day morning, as I crouch once again on those cold bathroom floor tiles, a clear line began to emerge. I stared at it with a unique combination of shock, excitement, fear and relief that the wait was finally over. Turns out that we are the 1%. Happy Mother’s Day to me.
The next bit would most appropriately be depicted by a series of flash moments:
J and I in the doctor’s office, my belly smeared with jelly, our eyes glued to the monitor as the sonographer searches with the wand. J reaches for my hand. And then there it is! A tiny little being; a head, a body and a tail, its little heartbeat fluttering on the screen. I’m in love!! I can’t stop beaming at it, a big goofy grin taking over my whole face. J’s still holding my hand, but he feels miles away.“How are you feeling?” I whisper over to him. “You don’t want to know,” he whispers back.
Us at lunch. J telling me how scared he is. How unready he feels. How he already loves the baby more than anything in this world and how unfair that seems. Me reassuring him of how capable we are, what a wonderful team we will make, and how incredible our little one already is!
Me alone on an evening walk. Smiling at all the children and pregnant ladies that I pass in the park, secretly already part of their club. I start envisioning my own little one and all the things that I want to experience with it, even on a neighborhood walk like this.
J and I sitting at our usual table for Taco Tuesday. I tell him about my potential plans to move into a one bedroom apartment in my childhood best friend’s condo. He suggests that we buy a house together instead.
J and I on a walk together, our arms around each other, leaning on each other, physically and figuratively.
“One of the biggest downfalls of our country is that men aren’t stepping up to be good fathers to their children. I’m 99% sure that I want to be an active parent to this child.” “I know how big that 1% can be,” I answer. We laugh.
J and I cuddling and laughing about baby names.
Hours spent reading and writing letters back and forth between J and I. Like an onion, one layer being peeled back to reveal another, most of it making me cry. Our childhood, fears, hopes, possible futures, and desires all being reflected on.
“There are going to be some challenging moments ahead. It’s really important to me that, no matter what is going on, we continue to get together once a week to share a meal,” J says to me, his eyes serious with concern.
J and I laughing together, our empty dinner plates abandoned. Once again the rest of the world is blurred out and insignificant.
J and I in counseling. We sit on different couches, a million miles apart. “So I think what is important right now is that J decides if he is in or if he is out so that you can both move forward,” she’s saying to us. We can’t even look at each other.
Morning sickness lasting all day. Constantly thirsty, peeing, eating, napping or attempting to work. I’m starting to really show. I turn sideways and smile at my reflection in the mirror.
“You’re bringing my child into this world without my permission. This could ruin my life! Please please please please don’t ruin my life.” As he repeats the word please, his pleading begins to awaken the Mama Bear in me. I start to see that his inability to man-up will be this innocent child’s deficit, and I can’t believe how selfish he is. But instead of attacking I invite him to leave. He does so without argument, pausing at the door to give me one last look. Our eyes exchanging all of our memories, emotions and wishes without words. This is the last time that we see each other.
Cutting ties on social media and speaking to lawyers. A beautiful friendship is lost, and we both feel it go. My hand on my baby bump, a wave of bittersweet relief comes over me. This next period of waiting and not knowing is finally over. It hurts my heart that this little one won’t know its biological father. Maybe if I had said the right words, or been more patient perhaps he would have stuck around. Or maybe this was always how it was meant to be.
. . .
I stand alone, my hands cupping my growing belly. I hold a smile for the camera and my happiness radiates from deep in my soul. I may be the only one in the picture, but I’m not lonely. The space where he could have stood invites a whole village. Friends, family and other single parents gather to embrace us both. It’s not ideal, but somehow it’s just perfect.