Pregnancy is a life-changing event and can be a very scary thing. The fear over possible pregnancy is so much that women are reducing their frequencies of sexual encounters.
I once asked my mother why she had me, and she gave me a characteristically practical, even methodical, answer. “I was financially stable,” she said, “I was in a good place in my career. It seemed like the time.”
My knee-jerk reaction to her rationale was disappointment. No tears expounding on the joys of motherhood? No anecdotes about holding my little body in her arms? It wasn’t as if she’d ever been Hallmark-grade heartwarming, but I figured when it came to the miracle of creating life for the first time she might have a few kind words. Nope. All business as usual.
Here in Manhattan, pregnancy surrounds me. Every day I see baby bumps cloaked in charcoal maternity wear on modelesque West Village residents, or Upper East Side hausfraus clutching the hands of their Ivy League husbands. (Don’t worry, you can tell they’re Ivy grads because this type of man is always oh-so-casually sporting a t-shirt or hat with his alma mater affixed). The belly seems like another accessory, like a dog or even a Prada bag. Manhattanites make pregnancy look like a VIP list you’ve yet to be on.
Because I am of childbearing age, it should come as no surprise that my peers and superiors are reproducing at an increasingly steady rate. A whopping total of three co-workers fell pregnant during the same month this year, followed by my successful cousin in academia, an old beau’s wife, and then by my college friend based in Ohio. The talk of bathroom breaks, body pillows, having nothing to wear, constant nausea and going home early, swollen fingers and toes … the chitchat jingled in the back of my mind as I watched women, and ultimately families, grow.
I have yet to plan my life this way. A big part of me still enjoys playing the game of electric banter with a not-quite stranger, but the tipsy caressing inevitably leads to low-grade dismay in the morning stupor after a long night out. Through smeared makeup and eye bags, I squint at the poor man I managed to wake up with and think, “I’m too old for this. Why did I put myself in this situation again?”
One such night happened about three weeks ago. I was working on a Sunday, and my two European friends stopped by to visit me. When my shift was up, we started drinking at all my favorite places around Nolita. Half a bottle of wine, three cocktails, a few rounds of shots and one irresistible British accent later, I was back where I always am in some form or another … on a blow-up mattress in a $5,000-a-month studio with a stranger, because he’d just moved to town and hadn’t had time to buy furniture.
The condom broke. I hope you’re thinking, “Oh no! This is how so many unwanted-pregnancy stories start! Here we go!” That would be the wise, or at least cautious, reaction. Then the responsible parties in said liaison would take Plan B and get tested for STDs. Instead, the jaded social butterflies in this story simply shook their heads.
“Oh, it broke,” said the disinterested Brit.
“I’m sure it’s fine. I didn’t feel anything,” said the numb voice inside me — for me.
My sincere lack of emotion was surprisingly out of character. I did not take any further contraceptive measures, never saw the boy again, and basically let bygones be bygones.
Then three weeks went by. I should’ve had my period, but it did not come. I was stressed, my stomach hurt, and my female friends were starting to get worried. I decided to buy my first pregnancy test.
I walked with shaking legs to the Family Planning aisle at Duane Reade, trying to decipher which test was best. I settled on Clear Blue, because it seemed like a trustworthy brand, and the system had a surprising attention to detail. Did you know that a five-second sample of urine can determine how pregnant you are down to the week? Insanity.
If the test confirmed my fears, I would most likely schedule an abortion. I am in no position to support a child in my current lifestyle, after all. Yet here I am, an able-bodied, educated woman. I’m not a teenager on MTV, I’m not living in poverty, and I’m relatively self-sufficient. If the women around me were having children, couldn’t I?
I refused to make eye contact with the cashier as he (of course he was male) rang me up, and smuggled the purchase into my bag as coyly as I could. My walk to the subway was haunted by more and more pregnant women and their partners, which I took as a bad omen. I’d had to use a bathroom for over an hour, but was holding it in for the best test results. Finally, I made it home, put the stick between my legs, and within three minutes almost all my fears were gone. The test had spoken. Not Pregnant.
Capitalizing on the hindsight that a “Not Pregnant” verdict brought, I looked back at the hysteria of the last month. Maybe, just maybe, a small part of me wanted to be pregnant. It certainly seems like the thing to do nowadays. But what about the planning that goes along with that decision — prenatal, testing for diabetes, budgeting for diapers? Maybe I subconsciously consider myself too free-spirited. Maybe the life my mother lead, staying on the path, still seems off to me somehow.
But of course I’m not trying to get pregnant. I think I was just shocked by my own numbness, so out of league with my typical pathos, that the next phase of my brain envisioned the exact counterpoint to my first reaction. I didn’t care at all because I was so sure it wasn’t the case. But what if?
I wish I could have stayed a virgin…