You know that hour of your life you can never get back because you’ve spent it watching something completely stupid or insane? I’ve just spent the past hour watching “The Maury Povich Show.” Instead of complaining about how crazy or silly I found it, I have to say I actually found something of value in yet another one of it’s “Whose the Baby Daddy?” shows.
A year ago, I took pleasure in these kinds of shows. The basic setup is usually a young woman who has given birth to a baby and is either unsure of who the father might be, or is certain beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s one particular guy. Maury talks to the woman, then he interviews the potential father (or fathers). Nine times out of ten, the girls claim these men as the only possible man to father their children. And also, nine times out of ten, the men go off on tirades about the woman’s sexual history (“She’s a slut, Maury! Everybody knows it!”). Eventually, the graphic appears across the television, “The Results Are In!” It’s not always pretty even if it is often mildly entertaining.
Last November, I learned I was pregnant. There was never any doubt or hesitation as to whom the father was simply for the fact that I don’t get around like some people might. I also wasn’t trying to get pregnant. Yet, here I was, a single woman who had briefly dated a much-younger man and had a contraceptive failure during our first night together. Things with the baby’s father started out amiably enough, but after I asked him to step up a little more than he was ready for, he disappeared. I started to feel a lot of empathy for the women who make that public and embarrassing pilgrimage to The Maury Povich Show. They are scared. They don’t want to do motherhood alone.
I am almost 27 weeks pregnant now and wondering what the future holds with this tiny daughter I have growing inside me. Will she ever know her father the way I hope she can? Will he come around and see her for the innocent person she is in all of this and simply love her? I have a lot of hopes. One thing I know for sure right now is this: I am having a baby and from the looks of things, I am doing it all alone.
Papa don’t preach
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 41 years of living. I am sure of at least half of them because I can draw a line from a decision directly to a consequence and figure it all out. Some things are slightly more nebulous. My father begged me not to move to the east coast when I turned 18; I told him I couldn’t stay in Utah. I had to leave those wide, open spaces of blue skies and crimson cliffs to discover not just a world, but myself. Going from a small town country girl to a tear-up-the-city girl-about-town was not something so planned, but it changed my life. I eventually met my future husband and charted a life that was radically different from what I feared awaited me had I stayed in Utah.
Before I married, I fell into a natural state of rebellion. My parents had become radical fundamentalist Christians when I was 10 and this informed my entire teenage experience. At home in Utah, if I wanted a life, I had to sneak around to have it. I crept off with friends to high school dances (“Those ‘worldly’ boys only want ONE thing,” my father snapped). I chased after boys from the passenger side of my father’s car driven by my sister as we joined our friends in “dragging Main Street.” I even let a few boys into my heart, but never into my pants. I had seen the consequences of teen pregnancy and I didn’t want to be one of “those girls,” even though a few them were my friends. I had goals in mind for myself and a future to that belonged to me, not some rug rat in a wet diaper.
I should have saved the congratulatory back patting for someone else. Yes, I graduated from high school with my maidenhead intact, but barely a year or so later, I found myself prone hanging over a toilet waiting to see if the small bathroom chemistry kit I’d purchased at the local drugstore would tell me whether or not I was pregnant. When I realized it was positive, all that smugness I’d been carrying around with me was wiped away with a dirty towel. I wasn’t the immaculate person I thought myself to be.
Driving to the abortion clinic that cold, September morning with my 34-year-old boyfriend, I can still remember the picket signs help up by clinic protestors and their shouts at me as I locked hands with my boyfriend and tried to simply look ahead. A few hours later, still woozy from the anesthesia, those same protestors called me every despicable name in the book except for one: hypocrite. While I slowly got past the guilt of terminating my pregnancy knowing I was not ready to be a mother at 19, I still felt like traitor to the women before who had somehow “sucked it up” and marched forward into the throws of motherhood, prepared or not.
Excuse me your life is waiting
Now that I’m about to become a mother soon, I realize there is no such thing as feeling prepared. Even at 41, I often find myself wanting my own mother at my side. It won’t be happening because she passed away more than 14 years ago. So now I have to mother myself, too.
A few weeks ago, when I realized just how close I was getting to my third (and final) trimester of pregnancy, I had a minor freakout. I looked around my one-bedroom high-rise apartment that showed almost no evidence of the changes that are about to rapidly take place. I had no baby things lying about to tell the world (and remind myself) that a little girl is on the way. There wasn’t a crib in the corner or even a bassinet. Just mounds of my stuff everywhere like some sort of denial. When I shared my feelings with my friends, they immediately stepped up to help. One girlfriend texted me to say that a baby shower was in the works. Another girlfriend told me to stop being so modest about letting people give me things for my daughter. “It’s not like you’ve got baby things just laying around unused,” she said.
And then there was Cindy. We grew up together in our small Utah town. We went from enemies to friendship between middle school and high school. By the end of our senior year, we were part of a group of wonderful friends who were all the square pegs trying to screw ourselves into the round holes of our town. Cindy was also nearly eight months pregnant when we marched in our cap and gowns to collect our high school diplomas. I remember how radiantly she glowed as I stood beside her to sing with the rest of our choir group at the ceremonies. I also remember feeling a bit relieved that her fate was not my own. After seeing my panicked status update on Facebook, she sent me a tiny pink package filled with handmade baby things and a heartfelt note. After laying things out on my kitchen table to inspect and admire, I finally felt like things were finally coming into focus. I felt such gratitude and joy. I also felt my daughter kick.
The Big Picture
I’ve learned to let go of many things since learning I was pregnant. One of them is expecting others to do what they should or what I think they should, including the baby’s father. I do hope that he’ll come around after she’s born and want to form a relationship with his child. I realize that it is about her and not me. If, however, he decides not to show up, I know I’ll be okay. I know plenty of good men who are friends with big hearts and room for my daughter in them. They’ve told me so and I believe it. So I worry less about her having a father figure than I used to and just feel how lucky I am to know so many good people.
As much as I’d like to continue doing things the way I’ve always done, I can see that things must change for the simple fact that my life is changing. I have started setting new goals for myself so that I can better take care of this tiny person the Universe has entrusted to me. I plan to return to school and get my law degree. I’m making my first short documentary this Spring (I’m trying to wrap shooting up before my daughter is born). I’m also just taking in the wonderful things I now notice in the world that I know must have been there all along, but I just failed to see.
Late at night, when the world is quiet, I sit silently in bed and feel my baby girl as she tumbles and kicks inside my belly. I wonder what she wonders. I have such big dreams for both of us, but I know I must let her have her own dreams, too. I look forward to bringing her into this world and giving her her first kiss, first hug, first “I love you.” We may be alone from time to time, but I realize we are not completely alone. We have a world of people who are pulling for both of us and incorporating us into their village. I can’t wait for the world we get to know together. We are not alone, after all.