Sitting at brunch with my friend Meagan one day, we started talking about the differences between our 20s and 30s.
At the start of our 20s, our priorities were (and these are more or less in order) doing well at work, dancing until 4 a.m., karaoke, drinking, and trying to make a dollar from fifteen cents. As the years progressed, relationships started, burned, then fizzled. Friends who moved to New York with us moved back to Florida, went to L.A., or found another corner of the country to call home. Other, shall we say, acquaintances we only saw at 2 a.m. eventually stopped calling us, and us them. Apartment and roommate merry go-rounds slowed and settled.
Then we turned 30. Finally making enough money to do more than seek out the cheapest bars (though for the record, we still love doing this), a good time became eating at new restaurants and ordering from the fancier cocktail menu. Better vacations were taken. Laughing until our faces hurt with a giant bottle of wine in someone¹s living room was the perfect Friday night.
Some people got married. Some got divorced. Some shouldn’t have gotten married but did anyway. Life just evolved.
And it’s not that things are better now than they were then. Not at all. Both lifestyles were, and are, perfection in their own way. Growing up is just an amazing thing.
Then the topic turned to having children, a stage of life among many of our friends that hasn’t reached us here in New York. We were both surprised to realize we were less scared than we had been in our 20s to have a child. Essentially we agreed that if it happened – by accident! – it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Okay that’s actually a lie. We were approximately six (strong) Bloody Marys in (I may or may not have been very casually licking Old Bay from the rim of the glass?), and the way it was framed was more like “If I found out I was pregnant, I’d keep it!” followed by very guilty-sounding giggling. I’m not saying it’s right! Just being honest, guys.
But that conversation stayed with me in the following weeks as I got to thinking about how much my New York life had changed in my nine years here. It stuck with me as I became too lazy to go to the grocery store, which I have to physically pass on my way home every day, and instead opted to order a creamy ravioli dish from a local Italian place almost every night for two weeks straight.
It echoed in my head as I dipped into the candy bag repeatedly at work.
It was top of mind as I ate ice cream for dinner on those few nights when ordering ravioli from my computer and having it magically appear at my doorstep seemed like way too much work. (I don’t know. Sometimes it is.)
Around this same time, one of my best friends, Erin, discovered she was pregnant. Erin and I met at work and bonded over our shared love of grandma crafts and happy hour – bonus points when these activities combined. Our deal was sealed when after one particularly late weekday night just two months into our friendship, I woke up on her couch at 7:30 a.m., puked in her shower, and then wore all her clothes – right down to her underwear -to work. But I digress. Erin’s pregnancy was very exciting because a.) she told me the minute (literally) the pregnancy was confirmed and b.) she would be my first close friend that I could actually see in person throughout her pregnancy; not just through Facetime and the eventual baby shower.
In hindsight, between Erin’s pregnancy and my conversation with Meagan, babies were somewhat on the brain.
One evening, about three weeks after the Meagan brunch/Erin news, I looked down to see my stomach pushing the elastic band of my yoga pants way, way out. Now, I am fairly good at keeping in shape and don’t, luckily, struggle with my weight. So this was a big surprise. Had I taken just one moment to think, I should have immediately dismissed the weight gain as the consequence of my recently horrendous — just truly horrific — eating and lack of exercise. The candy, the ravioli, the licking of glasses — it all should have clicked in my brain. Instead, my incredible ability to deny personal responsibility kicked in.
I cannot HAVE GAINED WEIGHT!, my brain yelled.
So within a matter of seconds, I had convinced myself I was pregnant. Which is SO weird, since my friends and I have ALL been talking about this!
I tamped down the small voice protesting the obvious. And by tamped down, I mean I told it to STFU.
I launched myself off the couch and walked into the bathroom. I looked deeply into the mirror and studied my face for signs that I was glowing in an expectant mother-type of way, thanks to the influx of hormones almost certainly now invading my system. I inspected my chest for any signs that my boobs were growing bigger to accommodate the new and precious life probably, definitely growing within. Finding neither of these things to be happening, I instead opted to place a protective hand on the new, delicate curvature of my belly like you always see pregnant women do.
I walked back to the couch where my brain quickly got down to business. The following was the series of questions – and answers – that cycled through my head within the span of approximately one minute:
- Am I ready to be a mom? Yes! No. Well, maybe? Don’t they always say that you’re never REALLY ready? Should I call Erin right now?
- What will my boyfriend say? Will he support this? Umm. Yes? But we’ve talked about this. It’s not a good time. For either of us. Soooo…maybe? Actually, no. But this is like, 2012. And I have a great job! So independent ladies!
- Would I keep it even without his support? Yes!
- When was the last time we even had sex or I had my period? Excellent questions both. I don’t feel like doing math right now. Let’s just be pregnant!
- Could my new baby and I survive in our own fabulous, brand new apartment that I would miraculously find for a great price in Manhattan even though right now I live in Queens? Duh! And it will also be no-fee because what broker would be so cruel as to charge a pregnant single girl an extra month up front? I’ll need to find a lady realtor. Increase those chances via sympathy vote!
- Wouldn’t that be so very brave of me, though, to start this new life all on my own? Yes! All my friends are going to admire me SO much for my bravery. They’ll talk about me for years to come.
- How much money is in my bank account anyway? Or my savings? Oh, I can’t remember. This is not the time for trivial matters like money! Boring! Aren’t baby clothes cheap anyway because they’re so small?
- How will I afford childcare when I return to work? Family and friends who will surely be jumping up and down at the chance to take care of my infant simply because it’s mine!
- Speaking of work, was I ready to be a single working mom? Sure!
- What would I name the baby? Oh my gosh, so many great ideas!
- What would the baby look like? Exactly like me! A teeny tiny replica of me!
- How exciting is THAT? A tiny version of myself? AGGGHHHH!
- Will the baby be a great singer and dancer? Of course! It’s MY baby!!!
- Will the baby grow up with a wonderful story of how its single mother worked so hard for years and years to give it everything it ever wanted and that’s why it’s now able to follow and fulfill its dreams of global superstardom? Yes! Global superstardom and my baby are practically synonymous already! Like Beyonce! Maybe I should consider naming the baby Lia-yonce! Or maybe it should be more like Li-yonce? Yes, we are onto something here!
In the deepest part of my heart, I was alarmed at how crazy I sounded.
But that didn’t even come close to stopping me when I remembered I had a spare pregnancy test hanging out somewhere in the house. (Lest it seem I’m always thinking I¹m pregnant, the test was from a two-pack I purchased a year earlier when I was just confirming a late period was just that. Late. Nothing nearly as dramatic as this.) After a furious five-minute digging session, I unearthed it deep within the closet where I shove random things I don’t feel like organizing ever. I held it in my hand and up to the light, staring intently. This piece of plastic could change the course of my entire life! I marched to the bathroom to go pee on it.
Peeing completed, I left the test on the bathroom sink counter and wandered to the kitchen to waste away the few minutes it would take to get my result. While I waited, I contemplated the ice cream in the freezer. I stared at the Trader Joe’s chocolate goods on the shelf. I turned away. It was time to eat healthy for the new baby. I walked back to the bathroom and I saw the single line that signaled not pregnant.
Unexpectedly, a sudden, crushing sadness took hold of my chest. I closed the lid on the toilet and sat down, holding the negative test in my hand. To my surprise, I found tears streaming from my eyes. Just kind of sliding down my face in this weird, unbidden way. I let them drip off my chin very dramatically. After a few minutes of sitting like this, I wrapped the test in toilet paper and buried it deep within the garbage can where neither boyfriend nor dog would likely find it, unless they, too, were planning to hide something weird and nonsensical. I wiped away the evidence of my crying.
I was not really ready for a baby. I knew that. But it hurt anyway. Everyone else was growing up around me and I was staying the same. Well not, everyone. Just some people. Well, just Erin really, but still. I like having the things other people have. Like babies! I laughed out loud because that was ridiculous. A baby is not like, a wine club membership, which is also something I want but can’t afford. I sighed and returned to the couch.
I watched my stomach settle into the position that caused this whole mess to begin with. I poked it and watched it spring back into shape. I thought of Erin again – married and settled. Ready for her next chapter. I thought of Meagan and how we ended our chat with how our ships would come in. Just not yet. But maybe soon.
I took a deep breath and remembered a quote I recently read that said something along the lines of, “Isn’t it a wonderful thought to realize some of the best days of your life haven¹t happened yet?” I allowed myself a moment to think about how nice that sounded. Then I turned on Investigation Discovery.
As I watched my very favorite show about murder, I had a new thought. The one I should have had to begin with: I needed to work out again and cut it out with the ravioli and ice cream.
So, starting the next day, I did.