Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Broadway Baby

I was sitting in the waiting room at the gynecologist’s office annoyed at the other two women there who had brought along their (male) partners.  Just because they happened to get themselves knocked up, I thought, doesn’t mean I have to be subjected to a random dude while I wait to get my vagina inspected by a complete stranger.  You never see women waiting in the prostate doctor’s waiting room, do you? No doubt those dudes were sitting there imagining me getting my vagina probed.  If not by themselves, by some hot doctor who takes her glasses off and lets her hair down in slow motion before we have hot lesbian porno sex. . .  I mean, sure, the dude’s wife or girlfriend or whatever is carrying a human life, but I’m pretty sure he’s thinking about my vagina.

It was October and technically I was 2 months over due for my yearly exam.
Like any proper date, Dr. Yamaguchi got to know me a little before asking me to strip from the waste down.
“Do you use birth control?” She asked.
“I just went back on The Pill in August,” I said.
“Why did you go off it?”
“I was on it for 14 years.  I thought I might want to give my uterus a breather.”
“Do you always use a back up?”
“Well… not always,” I admitted.  “But the thing is, Doc, have you ever watched the original Star Trek series?”
“Um, yes?” She looked up from the clipboard.
“You know when they beam down to an alien planet?  I’m pretty sure my womb is like one of those sets.  Dusty and barren.  With poorly painted backdrops and rocks made of Styrofoam.  Minus that last part.” 
“So, you’ve never been pregnant.  To your knowledge.”
“Or to anyone else’s.”

I have been having sex for 17 years with very few dry spells.  I don’t say this to toot my own horn.  It’s not like I’m some incredible catch.  Mostly it’s just that historically my self-esteem has been so incredibly low that I’ve had a tendency to sleep with a guy if he looked in my general direction.  (“Look, mama!  I’m pretty!”)   It wasn’t until my late twenties that I finally realized a man will fuck pretty much anything given the opportunity.  My glowing personality and sharp wit had very little to do with the multitude of notches on my bedpost. 
Not only have I had a lot of sex, but I’ve had a lot of stupid sex.  I had sex with a complete stranger in an alley in France when I was 17, without a condom.  I was roofied once when I was 19 and woke up in the morning with a man I had never seen before humping away at me like he’d bought me dinner or something.   But more of this anon (I know, you can’t wait.)
The point is I have done some monumentally dangerous things in my sex life.  I’m not proud.  All of this is to say I had become convinced that I was incapable of getting pregnant.  I was absolutely sure the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly played constantly in my empty womb.  I was on The Pill to treat my debilitating monthly cramps that made me want to die every 28 days.  (I’m fairly sure I’ve already lost my entire male audience at this point.  Let’s get naked, ladies!) 

Dr. Yamaguchi continued,
“Have you experienced any recent weight gain or loss?”
“As a matter of fact,” I said, “I went on this kick ass diet in April, I can give you the deets, if you’re interested.  Not that you need it.  Your body is slammin'.  I lost 20 pounds.  What?!  I know.  Badass.  Then, uh, I gained back five in the last month or so.  I’ve been tucking in pretty hard to the pasta and wine lately.  But, don’t worry, I’m back on the diet!”
“When was your last period?” 
I thought for a few moments.
“Well, technically it was in July…  But I had, like, PMS and cramps and stuff in August and September, I just didn’t technically get my period.  As in, my Aunt Flow never actually made an appearance.  But, you know, I had just gone back on The Pill in August, so I’m pretty sure my body was just readjusting.”
Dr. Yamaguchi blinked at me a few times.
 “Any chance you’re pregnant?”
“Any chance Kim Kardashian will win the Nobel Peace Prize?  I’m telling you, Doc, my womb is not a friendly place.”

After the exam I was sitting on the floor tying my shoes (because apparently I can’t sit in a chair to tie my shoes like a grown-up…) when there was a soft knock at the door.  Dr. Yamaguchi came in, closing the door behind her.
“So,” she said.  “You’re pregnant.”
“I’m sorry?”
“You’re pregnant.”
“That’s impossible,” I explained.  “I don’t like children.”
“Be that as it may, you’re pregnant.”
The next 20 minutes were the funnest of my life.  I had to wait in the exam room for another exam room to open up so I could have an ultrasound so we could DETERMINE HOW FAR ALONG I WAS. I opened the door and found a nurse.
“May I have a glass of water?  There’s a strong possibility I might have a panic attack,” I informed her.
“Sure,” she said calmly.  She’d seen a lot worse.
I called the baby’s father.   

We had broken up two months earlier.   

Circumstances had us still living together.  I had been traveling so much I hadn’t yet had time to move.  I was planning on moving after I got back from my next trip to New York.
“Breathe,” he said.  “Okay, well, don’t hyperventilate.”
I texted my sister.  The week before I texted her asking how often she casually contemplated suicide.  She was getting used to me dropping bombshells via text.  She called me back.
“Do NOT tweet about this!”
“I’m not stupid,” I snapped back.  “Never mind.  Scratch that.”
“Are you thinking prenatal vitamins or a trip to Planned Parenthood?” she asked.
My mother had had an illegal abortion when she was a teenager and raised my sister and me to be ardent pro-choicers.  This just happened to be a choice I had never thought I’d have to make.
But the only thing I was thinking at this point was that I hoped the test had been wrong.  I don’t believe in “The Secret”, but you can bet your ass I was “Secret”ing that shit as hard as I could.
The ultrasound room opened up.  I undressed from the waist down again.  And out came the TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUND WAND.  I’m a size queen.  I was not impressed.
“Got anything girthier?”  I asked.

And then there it was on the screen.  A kidney bean with a heartbeat.  I was pregnant.

10 and a half weeks pregnant.  I survived almost my entire first trimester without any clue that I was pregnant.  Which means I had been drinking.  Not like a lush, but, like I said, mommy likes her red wine…  I flashed back to the answers I had given Dr. Yamaguchi in our pre-exam interview.  Any idiot with half a brain would have taken a pregnancy test two months ago.  But I’m not just any idiot.
I felt nothing.  I looked at the kidney bean and had no reaction to it.  I walked out of the office and passed the wall of baby pictures; The Codys, Tanners, Blakes and Haydens and felt nothing except the usual contempt for dumbass baby names.  I called my therapist.  I felt nothing.

Then I drove passed the Social Security office with the line out the door and around the corner and I felt something: Abject Terror.
Was I going to be standing in that line alone but for a screaming child at my aching teat?
I had decided back when I was married (I’m not even getting into that…) that I didn’t want kids.  For the past ten years I told anyone who would listen that I didn’t want kids; that if I got pregnant I would have an abortion.  Easy peasy.  Thank the good voters of California that I live in a state which affords me that choice (as of this writing, anyway). 
But here’s the thing, speaking in hypotheticals is way easier than acting on realities. 

I Googled “Single Motherhood” and got completely overwhelmed.  I Googled “Surrogate Pregnancy” and found out I wasn’t a candidate.  Apparently people who want a surrogate are, like, super picky.  A friend suggested adoption.  But I knew I wouldn’t be able to live knowing my kid was out there somewhere being raised by strangers.  I lost a beloved stuffed animal when I was 17 and I still haven’t gotten over it.  Besides, what if they were homophobes?  Or Mormons?  I went to my local library branch and asked the kindly librarian to help me find books on single mothering.  The selection was paltry to be generous.  She handed me a book called, How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Child.
“I need something more along the lines of, ‘How to find cheap day care’,” I said.
“Oh, we don’t have anything like that.  We can order something from the main branch.  It’ll get here in about two weeks,” she said cheerfully.
“I don’t have that much time.”
“Are you writing a paper?”
I looked down at my baggy jeans and Adidas.  I wasn’t wearing any makeup.  I probably looked about 16.
“No.  I’m…not writing a paper.”
She handed me Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I didn’t much feel like explaining that I wasn’t worried about how to raise a kid to get straight As and play the cello like Yoyo Ma by the time it’s 4.  I walked away with a few completely useless books and a sense of growing panic.  I bought a couple books on single motherhood that came highly recommended through Amazon.  But these turned out to be books about very successful women who “just haven’t had any luck in love” and have decided to “take matters into their own hands!” and have a kid on their own.  These were women with large incomes who purposefully went out and got knocked up.  It was much harder to find books about women who were unemployed and just broken up with their partners and unexpectedly 10 and half weeks pregnant.  I guess most people who have had to go on public assistance don’t much feel like writing books about it.

The next week was the hardest of my life (and I have watched my mother die, gone through a divorce and spent 10 days in a mental hospital).  The kidney bean’s dad, having also not wanted kids, reacted poorly.  Correction, the kidney bean’s dad reacted pretty typically for a dude who wasn’t expecting a child.  Discussions were had.  Fights were fought.  Shoes were thrown.  Insults were thrown.  Families were called.  Hotel rooms were stayed at.  Scenarios were considered.  Planned Parenthood was called.
My parents, in an effort to help asked if I had considered what having a baby would do to my career.  As if that wasn’t one of the first three things that had run through my panic-stricken mind.  Of course I had considered it.  I had just lost nearly 20 pounds so I wouldn’t be “TV chubby”.  I was considering growing my hair back out so I wouldn’t be “TV lesbian”.  I had just booked my first TV gig since I’d gotten back into acting.  Things were starting to roll.  If I had this baby my last trimester was going to coincide perfectly with pilot season (That’s in the winter/spring, for my readers who don’t live, breathe and eat TV industry facts.  And bless you for that.).  All momentum would be lost.  I’d be starting back next episodic season (fall) pretty much exactly where I was this year.  Except I’d have a 4 month old…
“We think we liked her for the part, but we couldn’t be sure because her baby screamed through the audition.”

Then I started thinking about baby shoes and baby giggles.  I pictured a baby grasping onto my fingers and testing out its legs on my lap.  I pictured the first day of Kindergarten.  I imagined teaching my daughter to add, “And I’m smart!” whenever people told her how pretty she was.  I pictured sticky fingers and wet diapers and sleepless nights and immense love and gratitude.
The more I thought about it, somehow missing another pilot season didn’t really seem like much of a loss considering the reason.  Besides, if Tina Fey and Amy Poehler could do it… Of course Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were both married and financially secure when they had their kids.  So, scratch that.  If Bristol Palin can have a kid…

And so, it was decided.

A week and a half later, I sat in the waiting room at the OB/GYN’s office with the kidney bean’s father securely at my side.  A young woman glanced over at him with a look of contempt.  But it’s okay, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t imagining her having lesbian porno sex with the doctor.  Then again, I didn’t think to ask.