Shocked I stare at the pee strip.
‘Two lines means I’m pregnant.’ I look again and again. It doesn’t change. My heart’s in my mouth, this wasn’t planned. In fact, it wasn’t even on the horizon of my life plans.
‘Shit…how?’ Absently tapping the test against the basin, I remember something about antibiotics and their effect on the pill. I should have been more careful. It’s now too late. For a brief second, I consider keeping quiet and getting rid of it, but if Andy found out… No, I couldn’t do it. Besides I will grow to love the idea and the baby. Won’t I?
Reluctantly I let Andy know. He’s ecstatic, bouncing around the table he grabs me and hugs me so tight I can’t breathe.
‘How…? Jessie I thought…’
‘What?’ I smile.
‘I thought it would only happen later on, we weren’t even trying.’ I shake my head and shrug, wishing that I was as excited as him.
Everyone around is so positive, a few screams and endless chatter about babies. I crave the same level of excitement. It doesn’t happen and my dread grows along with my stomach.
By the 3rd trimester I am ready to slit my wrists if I get one more piece of advice.
Aunty Bets “You must get the baby into a 6-10-2-6 routine as quickly as possible.’
Brenda my cousin ‘Brush your nipples with toothpaste to harden them, it makes it easier when you breastfeed’. I don’t know what horrifies me more, the brushing my nipples or the breastfeeding, I just nod.
Pete, my brother-in-law. “You have to go natural birth. It’s a woman’s right to experience this.’
How the hell would he know!
I retreat further into myself as the birth looms, desperately waiting for the mother’s glow and the loving feeling towards my baby. It’s not there and I am desperate. I feign interest and love when talking to Andy. I don’t want to break his heart, he’s a good man and will be a good dad. I hope so, at this rate I’m going to be a shit mom.
Of course the baby’s late. Purple fingered stretch marks color my stomach, I pee when I breathe and my boobs are hot globes. Andy loves the boobs but I am so unsexy now I cannot bear to be touched. What’s up with forthright strangers at the mall, cooing and cuddling my belly.
I’m a whale. A fat, farting, bloated, uncomfortable and unhappy whale. When will it end?
He’s 2 weeks late now. I try not to think of the baby as spiteful and lazy. He’s got to come sometime doesn’t he? He can’t stay in there forever. My only light is Andy, attentive to a fault. Running baths, painting red polish onto my fat feet. I cry all the time. If I could find a way to make this baby come now…
I’m walking into the gynae. He doesn’t know what’s coming. THIS BABY IS COMING TODAY… Or tomorrow. But no later. I will lie on the couch in his waiting room until he agrees. I need a pee and rush to the loo, but I don’t make it. I’m mortified. How embarrassing, in front of a full room, I burst into tears, racking sobs that everyone can hear. I don’t care. I pee and pee.
The gynae aide knocks on the door.
“Mrs. Cooper are you alright?’
‘Yes’. Still sobbing.
‘I think your water broke.’ My heart stops.
‘How will I know?’
‘Come let’s get you all cleaned up.’ Her kindness starts me crying again and she leads me to the exam room. I wait, heart beating wildly. I’m scared.
“Yes already 2cm dilated.’ The gynae’s moustache smiles at me. Everything is a rush, I call Andy, book in, thank goodness I have my bag in the car. An endless stream of people are in and out of the room, all smiling and happy. I am enjoying the attention and lying flat on fresh sheets.
My labor pain starts, slowly at first, bearable, then gets worse and worse. Andy is a rock, holding my hand. Cooing, rubbing my back, bringing me ice chips. I am so grateful that this pregnancy will soon be over.
7 hours, lots of screaming and swearing later, after an unbelievable amount of pain, I’m done. Miracle, my ass. I push and push to get this huge baby out. I’m grumpy as hell and Andy is calm and loving. Finally, he screams his way into the world. Andy cries, everyone is smiling and I feel nothing.
Oh no. How can I feel nothing, where is the maternal crap everyone is talking about?
Baby Ewan balls his little fists and shouts out his unhappiness with the world. Terror overtakes me, I try to smile. They show him to me and take him away, no-one notices my lack of emotion.
‘I’m so tired.’ I hear myself say as I close my eyes hiding my confusion.
‘Sleep sweetheart’ Andy kisses my forehead. ‘Well done.’ He whispers his voice thick with emotion. Just go away, I wish. Finally I’m alone in my bed. I drift off, praying I will feel different when I wake.
The nurses kindly let me sleep, only bringing little Ewan to me the next morning. He’s hungry and lets me know. I cannot bear the thought of breast-feeding – its barbaric. I made prior arrangements for him to be bottle fed. A large, ruddy-looking nurse brings in the bottle and helps me feed him. I feel nothing but fear. Not of him but of my lack of feeling for him. Its confusing and I just want to sleep. With a full tummy he sleeps and so do I.
I keep feigning exhaustion to keep visitors to a minimum. Andy is fine, feeding and changing little Ewan so I take full advantage. People are so understanding, they cannot begin to know how I am feeling though. I don’t. I never told anyone about my fears – hoping that they would disappear the first time I laid eyes on Ewan, they didn’t. I feel trapped. Scared. Scared mostly of the judging I will get, the sideways looks of disbelief and anger. His mother and sister… I shake my head.
What the hell do I do?
Ewan is a week old. I have black bags under empty eyes and function like a zombie. He needs more than milk, bathing and blankets. He needs cuddles and skin. I can’t. I am disgusted by this life sucking, shit machine. My resentment builds and slowly becomes apparent to Andy. I try but I can’t hide it anymore.
‘It’s normal hon’ he says. I can see in his eyes that he doesn’t believe that, I want to but don’t either. His family step in to help and I wish for a mother, sister, Aunt to talk to. I have no-one but Andy and this baby. They are all so kind and giving I feel the guilt grow and keep trying but I realise it’s a losing battle.
Standing I ball my fists and shout ‘I don’t love him.’ The room goes quiet except for Ewan fussing away.
‘I don’t love him’ I say again, more to myself. Looking up I say, ‘I don’t even like him.’ Andy steps forward, fear and anger fight for dominance on his face.
‘Jess you don’t mean that,’ he extends his hands to comfort me. I step away, shaking my head.
‘I…I don’t, I don’t want him, I never did.’
‘Then why are you crying?’ Andy is pale and his mother and sister stare like I just grew a third leg.
‘I’m hurting you. And you don’t deserve it. I’m sorry,’ I whisper and walk away.
Its remarkably easy for me to leave. In fact, it’s a relief.
‘I AM sorry’ I tell the quiet room. My mother-in-law’s eyes are black and angry, my sister-in-law is crying quietly. And Andy, my Andy is sobbing.
He reaches for me again, but I step away quickly, grab my bags and almost run out the door. Just for a moment, I feel regret, just for a moment. Its not enough to stop me and I rush with my things to the car.
1 tear for Andy runs down my cheek and I am glad to be gone.
I take a deep breath and face the rest of my life for myself.