It all started in the middle of Mardi Gras, the biggest party in the world, during a two-month road trip of America. I am drowning in metallic beads and wearing a diamond-encrusted denim cap. My life is flashing before my eyes. I am thirty, married and expecting a baby. I know nothing about babies. In an ideal situation, I would be thirty-five and prepared. Instead, I am thirty and terrified.
We leave New Orleans and drive on to visit a friend in Miami. We go for seafood and cocktails where I order a 7up and tray of veal. I am a fish out of water. I am starting to feel nauseous and less carefree in the way that I was a month before in Savannah when we had beer and burgers for lunch and then more beer. I am teetering on the edge of something bigger than myself and bigger than the veal that just arrived and gave away my secret. After dinner, we join the throngs of carefree students, tall and unencumbered, their only worries involving the opposite sex and how many is too many shots of tequila. They seem alien to me. Or am I the alien. Everything feels different. I feel different.
Home and time to face the music. My GP confirms I am indeed pregnant. I am going to bring another human being into this world. It will happen on 8th November 2019. A baby. It is mind-boggling. I lurch between feelings of euphoria and terror, like a roller-coaster I can’t seem to get off. This is bigger than anything my life has seen thus far.
Nothing can prepare you for being pregnant. I had never given it a second thought. Or I thought of it as something that happened to people who weren’t me. Maternal figures who kept plasters in their handbags like Mary Poppins and knew how to hold a baby. I did not know how to hold a baby. I am not good with sympathy. It makes me uncomfortable.
There is nausea and an extreme aversion to food in general. There are no more Indian takeaways and diet cokes and flat whites and cocktails. Instead, there is retching over a toilet seat on a sporadic basis. There are migraines that blind you and a claustrophobia that renders you speechless. There is bloating and stretching and struggling to stand up. People use the adjective ‘glowing’ to describe you because they think that’s what they’re supposed to say. There is extreme exhaustion and pain when you walk and a bump that gets bigger and heavier until you feel like Kangu in Winnie the Pooh and there is no avoiding the elephant in the room or the baby in my belly.
These long stints are punctured by visits to the obstetrician where we get to know our baby. Our fridge documents her growth from a black and white blur similar to a mouse to a small baby with a face and eyes and ears and feet that kick. She does somersaults when the doctor attempts to capture a photo of her face for our fridge. She is jumping and kicking and moving like only the best footballers can. We find out we are having a girl and my heart skips a beat. It is magic. We decide to call her Florence unless she looks like a Sarah and everything becomes tinged with euphoria and only euphoria. Until it is still only week twenty-seven and I miss a close friend’s wedding because I collapse and get sick on myself in a hairdressers. It is the highs and the lows combined and the whole time I am picturing myself in November after giving birth to Florence, sitting in a sauna surrounded by red wine and sushi and ice-cream and my high-waisted jeans and all the cocktails I passed up over the last nine months. And I have a baby girl. And nothing in the wold could have prepared me for this feeling.