The pregnancy stick
This is how it starts.
Saturday morning, early April 2009. I’m lying in bed with a nipping head. Tash is up, restlessly banging around. Unlike me, she isn’t hungover, having forgone alcohol at last night’s dinner with friends. She’s pacing our upstairs bedroom. I stare up at the ceiling, thinking about nothing in particular.
Then, just as my eyes close over and I begin to lapse into a gorgeous mid-morning snooze, a terse whisper hits my ear. “I’m a week late.”
I bolt upright. “I’m going to the chemist,” she adds.
And with that she’s gone, the door downstairs shutting behind her.
I sit there, glassy-eyed and befuddled, for more than a few seconds. Then I try rolling back over but sleep’s impossible; my heart rate is up now. I dig out some Panadol from the bedside draw and head to the bathroom where I take some solace in early morning business. With the door shut I feel safe from the adult world. There’s too much happening out there!
I’m in the kitchen making an omelette when she returns. She heads straight upstairs to the bathroom. I hear the faint rustle of a bag, and then silence. Rage is on TV. The animated film clip of Daft Punk’s One More Time has me oddly transfixed – and queasy. I stare at the stairwell for two, three, five seconds – then back at my omelette. In the end I turn the frying pan off, give the bug-eyed cretins on the television one last look, and head upstairs.
When I get there Tash is sitting on the bed, a goofy smile on her face. “What’s up,” I say, knowing all-too-well what’s up.
“Looks like I’m pregnant.”
She hands me the test stick. I can see two blue lines criss-crossing. “Check on the box,” she says, pushing it into my palm. Highlighted on the cover are the symbols to look out for. It’s a no-brainer, really: the plus symbol indicates a ‘positive’ reading and the minus, ‘negative’. It doesn’t matter which way I look at it – side on, upside down, standing on my head – it’s positive. Positive!
Yes, I know I should use more appropriate words than “bullshit” and “shit” to convey my reaction. But, truth be told, I am shitting bricks. I give her a hug, a wooziness in my guts that’s not linked to red wine. We sit quietly on the bed.
(First rule of thumb: don’t freak out too much. She’ll be in shock, too, even if she’s been ‘clucky’ for some time now. Try to think of it from her point of view. She’s the one whose body is about to start changing, who is about to make some necessary sacrifices. Imagine if you weren’t able to drink for nine months? Or, more disturbingly, but you can clearly remember reading or hearing this comparison: how about you try passing a watermelon through your anus?)
“But we weren’t even trying,” I eventually say. “How did it happen?”
She pinpoints the exact bedroom encounter from a month before; even offers some specifics to refresh my memory. Apparently my swimmers are stronger than I’d given them credit for. She’s still talking, her tone increasingly chirpy, as I struggle to move away from that frolic (at her parents’ house, of all places): “… so we weren’t careful enough.”
I am shitting bricks
She’s looking at me; there’s expectation in her eyes, like she’s trying to prise the words – any words – out of me. “Let’s not think about it too much until Monday,” she eventually offers. “When we get confirmation from the doctor.”
“Okay,” I mumble.
I head to the toilet again.
But of course, we do think – and talk – about it for the rest of the weekend. We go out for coffee, scanning the papers as usual, but the ‘p’-word hovers above us like some candescent halo. While Tash – whose yearning for motherhood has been a long-term thing, and became evident early in our relationship – struggles to conceal her excitement, thoughts criss-cross in my head just like the lines on that fiendish little pregnancy stick.
But I’ve just quit work to be a writer…
What about my freedom…sorry, our freedom?…
We haven’t even been together two years…
We’re not engaged yet…
What if I’m not mentally there?
Aren’t you supposed to have a career and money – a solid base – behind you?
I’m still a boy!
On the Monday we discover the ten-dollar pregnancy test is spot on; the doctor’s confirmation a mere formality. A due date is offered: December 4.
“Of course,” the goose-necked female GP says, “the baby could come later, or – just as likely – earlier.”
And so, here I am. In less than nine months I’ll be a dad. Shit’s about to get real.