I keep looking at the 3-D ultrasound picture, at my baby’s wee little nose and chin and pretty lips. I thought she was the cutest fetus ever (I still think so). If there were ultrasound beauty contests, my little girl would have won, hands-down. She was the most perfect little person I’d ever seen. Everything I read said to expect a decrease in fetal movement, but no one told my baby. She kicked and wiggled happily a LOT. I loved it.
My back did not. I’m not a very tall person, and the extra 30 pounds I was carrying were murder on my spine. I invested in a few belly bands, which helped a bit. I hadn't taken more than a vitamin during my pregnancy but one weekend I finally broke down and took two Tylenol. I felt guilty for it, too. I was immensely proud of not having taken any medication. I was determined that, no matter what else, I was going to grow the healthiest baby I could.
I knew from ultrasounds and appointments that my little girl was healthy. But I wondered what sort of little person she would be. The 3D ultrasound lady told me that personality in the womb pretty much carries over after birth. So I decided she’d be a busy little bee, kicking and alert and happy (and I was right!). Kicking was pretty much my favorite thing ever. My baby kicked on a pretty regular schedule. She kept me up at night quite a bit. From 3 to 4am it was party time in my womb. I worked a lot of SuDoku puzzles since the kicking was hard to sleep through.
My siblings continued to call my mother and tell her what a horrible decision I was making. They apparently believed that I’d make my mother raise my baby while I went off and did … something else, I don’t know. It irritated me. It still does, even a year later. No one was excited for me, or for the baby. I knew that circumstances weren't ideal of course, but I HATED that my baby was being punished for my mistakes. I felt (and still feel, actually) that there should have been a little more compassion, and a bit more perspective. A wonderful, delightful little girl was going to be born, sweet and perfect and fresh from God. And not one single person on earth seemed happy about it, only me. No one asked how my pregnancy was going. They only asked if I'd come to my senses yet and got angry when the answer was no.
In retrospect, I'm able to be a bit more understanding about things, but the hurt is still there. Allow me to interrupt my story for a moment to say this: if you know a woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy, you've got two options. You can be supportive and kind, or you can be a jerk about it. You might think the choice she's made is a horrible, terrible mistake, but the choice isn't yours to make, it's hers. Being a jerk about it is going to accomplish one thing: hurt feelings. It's not going to make decisions or change minds. It's simply not. It's going to hurt feelings and ruin relationships. Your choice, really.
May was notable for me because it was then that I took childbirth classes with my mom. It sucked to be there with her instead of a husband. I hoped people knew that she was my mother and not my ... partner. I worried that people thought we were a lesbian couple. My mother laughed at the thought.
"Easy for you to laugh," I told her. "They think the best I can do is a woman in her fifties!"
I learned quite a bit - there were videos and handouts and at one point I thought, you know, I've changed my mind, I really don't want to have a baby after all. I decided that a good way to encourage teenagers to use birth control was not, in fact, to make them carry around flour sacks, or those electronic baby dolls. Childbirth classes seemed a much more effective contraceptive to me.
I bought baby things here and there. In the back of my mind I was still considering adoption, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from buying baby things. I made a few trips to Babies ‘R’ Us. It is a horrible place to be in alone. Couples everywhere, happy couples, starting registries. I envied them. I wanted to start a registry, too, but I didn’t see a point in it. You only need a registry if people are going to buy you gifts, and people only buy you gifts if they're happy for you.
No one was happy for me. I hated that. I wished that people could look past circumstances and just be happy that a baby was going to be born. It irked me that no one could, or would. But my little girl always seemed to know when I was upset. She’d give me reassuring little kicks just when I needed them the most. It was like she was saying, "It’s okay, Mommy. I’m here, and it’s okay."
At my mother’s insistence, I met again with S, this time to gather information about single parenting. LDSFS had initially told me that they’d help me explore my options, and give me information about whatever I chose. It became apparent, however, that they were not used to dealing with women who chose to single parent once that decision had been made. S wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea of me single parenting. She told me that she’d put a "soft hold" on one of the couples I’d met with, meaning they weren’t really available for any other birth moms to choose. I was irritated. It was no wonder they’d been e-mailing me so frequently! I hadn't asked her to do that, and it bothered me that she’d have done so without my input. S told me that no matter what I chose the couple really liked me and cared about me and wanted to keep up a relationship.
"Seriously?" I asked. "So if I keep my baby and single parent, this nice married childless couple would still like to hang out with me?" I couldn't see it happening. I couldn't see the couple ever liking me once I'd told them no. I didn't even much like myself for telling them no. They were the perfect adoptive couple - I couldn't have asked for anything more from them. I wasn't sure why I hadn't chosen them, really, except that I simply couldn't bear the thought of not being my baby's mommy.
As my pregnancy progressed, I became more and more moody and emotional. And as the weather heated up, my feet got fatter and fatter until the elastic on my socks cut into my ankles and I decided to give up on shoes and socks and wear flip-flops everywhere. Even if my feed hadn't puffed out, flip-flops were inevitable because I reached the point where I could no longer touch my feet. I had vague recollections of once being able to reach my toes and ankles, but those days were long gone.
I had started attending church again. It was awkward going to a singles ward while pregnant, but I couldn’t forget the story I’d heard from a married birth mom. She’d met her husband in church when she was eight months’ pregnant. She’d been asked out a LOT at eight months’ pregnant. The men in her ward had been impressed by her consistent church attendance and obedience. I decided that would happen to me, too. If she could meet her husband while pregnant, so could I. If nothing else, I would charge ahead, make new friends, and show a little faith. I bought a simple black maternity dress from Old Navy and felt thankful, not for the first time, that I didn’t look as far along as I was.
Church wasn’t much fun for me. Ninety-nine percent of the time, no one looked at me, no one talked to me, no one sat by me. I think that my bishop was probably the only person who was glad to see me there. It was rough. I knew I’d messed up, but I was trying to do better. On occasion the Relief Society president would sit by me out of pity, but she never said more than “Hello” to me, and she always got up quickly when we were dismissed, as though she didn’t want anyone to see us sitting together. It hurt. I left church after Sacrament Meeting, went home and cried. It was a routine I’d stick with until the end of my pregnancy.
I didn't know everyone in my ward, but I knew enough about enough of them. I was certainly NOT the only one there who wasn't taking the sacrament. There were at least a handful of people in my ward who had done some pretty serious things. The only difference was, their mistakes weren't making their feet swell. I felt like my maternity dress bore a scarlet S for skank.
I used the word "unfair" an awful lot when I was pregnant, and this was another instance. I hated that I had to suffer publicly for my sins when there were seriously messed up people who escaped public scrutiny altogether.
But I wasn't going to church for them, I reminded myself. I was going for God, and for me. My Heavenly Father was happy to see me there even if no one else was. My baby wiggled around when I sang the hymns. Sitting in church, I was able to think a bit more clearly about what my baby's life would be like with me as a single parent. Would she feel as out of place as I did, being the only little girl in Primary without both parents at home? What would she feel on Father's Day when all the little kids got up to sing to their daddies? I knew what she would feel, and it broke my heart. I cried, thinking of my sweet, innocent girl feeling left out and sad because of something that wasn't her fault.
It made me question the idea of single parenting. I hated questioning. I pushed it aside as best as I could, and counted the minutes until I could leave church.