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Just a simple threadbare gypsy soul, wandering from blessing to blessing on this earth.

January 3, 2013

The Sinister Stick

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When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I cried. Sobbed, actually, into my husband’s firm shoulder, as he methodically rubbed my back. We were scrunched into the tiny sink alcove in our one-butt bathroom, me clutching the Sinister Stick with Damning Double Lines, my husband watching his freedom flutter out the door in the beak of a stork. 

The "Tell Our Families Via Text Message" method of avoidance.
Seen here, apt images of our immediate responses to the Sinister Stick.
Comic made using the PhotoComic app for iPhone.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012

Nobody thinks pregnancy will be upon her with a single shot, despite the fact that the plight of thousands of teenagers can’t be a hoax. In a loving, stable, and financially secure marriage, there is no shame attached to surprise pregnancy. With a husband like mine, gentle, generous, selfless, and kind, there is no reason to fear. But I was afraid, and the guilt of the Sinister Stick was piling on.

In my age demographic, women fall into two groups: 1) they are either desperately trying to find everlasting love; or, 2) they are desperately trying to conceive. The latter (and sometimes the former, as well) are de-romancing the sex act with timetables, thermometers, ovulation schedules, and shots. They are visiting specialists and enduring multiple invasive tests and treatments. Their hopes of ever becoming biological parents would shatter but for the cryogenic frozenness that keeps everything dead-but-alive, waiting, like Snow White in her glass coffin.  The stress of being unable to bear children weighs heavily on them; they feel responsible for their husband’s lost chances at being a father to a child born of the wife he cherishes. They see babies everywhere but in their own homes, and they start to lose their faith, asking God with broken hearts that omnipresent and unanswerable question, “Why me?” I, having lost myself once to wild-eyed ardor in the wake of a grand romantic gesture by my wonderful husband, knew eleven days later that an actual human was forming in my body. Instant bulls-eye! Or, as my father said when we made the telephone call, “Nice shot. Good work knocking up my daughter.” I didn’t have to try at all, and that makes me feel guilty.

But the guilt brought on by the Sinister Stick doesn’t end there; it multiplies and expands until it covers the entirety of life in a greasy film that is repulsive to touch but cannot be escaped. 

The actual photo announcement at 18 weeks.
"Bump Ahead" idea shamelessly stolen from Pintrest.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012
First, it’s, “When can I tell all my friends?” But you’re not ready to appreciate the limelight that comes from being the first or the last in your family to have children, or to tell all your friends that yes, you are finally going to have babies. You’re trying to wrap your own brain around the boggling knowledge that you are going to be a parent. That you have to prepare yourself to raise a real, live being into a person. A good person. A person that neither sucks nor loathes you. 

Not wanting a large audience in the event of any negative outcome before baby is born, you hold off on making the announcement, which leads to: “This pregnancy isn’t just your news to share!”  Yet once the announcement is made, an exponential increase of guilt explodes in your face, and you carry its offal with you wherever you go. Should I talk about my pregnancy with this person who has lost three babies to miscarriage, or to this person who has been trying to conceive for five years?  

The 20-week non-existent Baby Bump.
Pregnancy clearly isn’t much of a choice. It happens, or it doesn’t, and whether it does is largely out of our control. How it does is also out of our control. I don’t have any hideous stories to share. I haven’t been nauseous a single day – never spent the morning with my head in the toilet, or wildly sent my husband on a midnight quest for buffalo burgers and tinned cranberry sauce.  I don’t want to vomit when I smell certain things, and no part of my body is experiencing any discomfort. I can still wear all my own clothes. I am on no more of an emotional rollercoaster than is typical for a Type A woman married to a Type Z man. I don’t fit into the club, and that makes me feel guilty.

Further, others’ expectations of your body and pregnancy experience cause you to be assailed by nonsensical fears. Someone thinks the photo of my partially formed baby looks like an undressed Christmas turkey, and should I be worried? I’m already halfway done; why am I not showing a bump yet? I’ve only gained six pounds in five months; am I starving my baby? I just wolfed down an entire plate of cheese fries; have I condemned my child to a life of unhealthy habits and obesity? My resolve just crumbled and I drank a Coke; is my baby’s sweet face getting eaten away by acid?
3-D ultrasound image of our miracle of life.
S/he was moving too fast to get a clear image of everything but the face.
Photo credit to the fabulous ultrasound techs at SLUCare.

Oh, the Sinister Stick. I’m told that the guilt gets even worse once baby is born. Things like what type of diaper you choose, whether you breast-feed or not, and whether you choose to stay home or go back to work all factor into a whole other set of unmet expectations and guilt. Can’t wait for that! But I suppose that this system of questioning and self-doubt has its uses: it helps you recognize all the ways in which you wholly and completely suck, and forces you to improve them before you inflict yourself on a new life. I’m game for self-improvement. 

Bring it, Stick.