How To Have a Baby
Notice your partner has missed her period by at least two weeks. Ignore it. Consider that she’s “been late” before, but then fail to deflect a series of blood-pressure-increasing thoughts that you’re not ready for a kid, that you can’t “see yourself” with one, both in the clichéd sense and also literally – you cannot visualize a son or daughter – not that you can’t imagine “being a dad” – you can actually, although more in terms of doing things, teaching your kid to surf maybe, something at least a decade removed – but then again, now is when partner is in her physical prime, a kind of “ripeness” (which, thinking about it now, you remember her asking the day before if her breasts seemed bigger, which, strangely, they did), and suddenly you’re 99% certain she’s pregnant.
Talk to her. Ask about a pregnancy test. Go to CVS. Spend several minutes in sort of disbelief at the selection of contraceptive / female hygiene / home pregnancy test products. Fail to deflect incoming thoughts of a “guy-going-to-get-a-pregnancy-test-for-his-wife” movie scene. Select a CVS brand test kit (“99.5% accurate”) on sale for $2 less than other brands. Complete the purchase with a young Latina clerk in Spanish. Walk home feeling that the test-kit purchase was strangely In The Flow.
Go home. Unfold / read instructions out loud with partner. Laugh at the phrases “urine stream” and “test wand.” Wait for her to come out of the bathroom, then examine the wand with a focus-level so intense you feel, ironically, detached from the event. Note the rapidity / absoluteness of the indicator showing positive, registering this as an In The Flow sign of fertility, health, and, for the first time, the health of your future child. Remark “positivisimo,” a sudden bilingual invention that you’re not sure is a word, but which seems to precisely juxtapose your sense of “I knew it” with spontaneous Stoke-levels / sense of In The Flow, and also “holy fuck.”
4. [1-10 minutes later]
Remember that your weak-ass health insurance doesn’t “cover” maternity care / pregnancy. Contemplate facts that (a) partner has never been to a doctor in the US, (b) her lifelong support network all exists 6,500 miles away in Argentina, (c) you only have about $2,000 in your checking account, and (d) 10 minutes post test-kit reading Stoke, partner has now become hysterically emotional, screaming phrases you could translate as “happy moment” and “calling my doctor” and “sharing the news” all linked together with complex verb tenses designating that this isn’t what will happen or is happening, but which should’ve been happening. Do several rapid and blood-pressure-increasing internet searches for local doctors / “emergency pregnancy insurance” / “cost of pregnancy out of pocket.” Learn that “standard” prenatal care + delivery in a US hospital will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 “without complications.” Shift your eyes from the word “complications” back to partner.
5. [Next day]
Attempt to go to local “indigent care” clinic. Note the line at the door, the physical conditions of the people (mostly elderly) in line. Check partner (staring through the windshield). Go back home.
6. [Next day]
Go to Planned Parenthood. Walk in holding hands. Note nurses, receptionists, and patients are all young women and that the environment itself emits a powerful Pre-Language “female energy” that seems to be causing minor ball tingling / retraction into upper scrotal area. Attempt to follow partner and young white nurse to the examination room before being directed to stay in the waiting room. Study posters about STDs and “Your Choice.” Engage in mental projections of coastal terrain / surfable wave conditions that crossfade with incoming thoughts / images of “tribal-like” pregnant women sitting around a fire. Stand up when partner and young nurse reenter waiting room. Zoom in on partner’s face. Perceive increased levels of comfort / familiarity between her and young nurse via body language / facial expressions. Experience a sudden juxtaposition of envy / anxiety / relief (also with In The Flow elements) re: the time that was just spent apart. Receive nurse’s confirmation of pregnancy with an affirmative nod that, while spontaneous, feels like acting to some degree. Consider how interactions with medical personnel always induce a hyper-attentive / “studious” behavior. Listen to partner say “the baby’s 4 weeks old, tan chiquito,” in a way that contains Pre-Language elements you’ve never heard from her or felt before. Note how attempts to contextualize / “process” the words “tan chiquito” and corresponding emotion(s) displace the medical-environment-induced hyper-attentiveness so that you’re only minimally registering the nurse reviewing information that includes the words / phrases “in 8 weeks,” “heartbeat,” and “vitamins.”
7. [A week later]
Follow the Planned Parenthood nurse’s recommendation to go to a different public healthcare facility. Observe multiple languages spoken in waiting room, several of which you can’t recognize. Note the only other white people present are obese women whose appearance / body language / breathing patterns seem to signal poor health. Squeeze your partner’s hand. Receive paperwork. Fill out paperwork. Process paperwork with a young female attendant in a cubicle. Attempt to control medical facility / paperwork-induced anxiety with surreptitious breathing exercises. Nod as attendant tabulates your income, then places you “one up” from “indigent care,” a plan which will “cover all visits and delivery for about $800.” Smile at this with a sense of “God Bless America.” Note sudden twitch in attendant’s face however as she says to partner: “oh wait, one thing, are you a US citizen?” Process corresponding information – that if you were “one down” from this plan, it wouldn’t matter, but that because you make slightly above indigent-level your partner has to be a citizen (not just legal resident) to qualify, registering attendant’s nod / response that “I’m sorry, it doesn’t make sense to me either” with a sense of “God Damn America.” Collect documents. Leave rapidly with partner crying.
Spend several days fighting with partner. Perform daily tasks at work with increased isolation-levels. Decrease communication with family / friends.
9. [Several days later]
Discover that partner can begin a health insurance plan in Argentina that covers pregnancy even though she’s already pregnant. Discuss options again. Reduce everything to the facts that (a) it will cost less to travel back to Argentina and have the baby there than to “deal with this bullshit here,” and (b) it seems more In The Flow for partner to have the baby in her home culture / language. Formulate a plan based on traveling back a few months before due date, and in the meantime paying “out of pocket” for a “real” OBGYN.
Begin notifying IRL friends about pregnancy status. Notify parents via phone (“Y’all ready to be grandparents?”), experiencing super complex levels of Pre-Language tenderness towards them which seem paradoxically increased by “presenting” the pregnancy in a different manner (suggesting “things are under control”) than you did with your friends. Receive your dad’s wishes to assist financially (“anything we can do to help. . .”) with feelings of relief / gratitude mixed with a not fully definable sadness that all of this is transpiring via phone.
11. [3 weeks later]
Choose OBGYN via internet based on sex (F), nonthreatening appearance in profile pic, and credentials. Go to first appointment at local community hospital. Note spaciousness and sterile-seeming condition of facility. Fill out forms, asking about discount for “prompt-pay.” Sign documents. Accompany partner in examination room. Meet OBGYN. Listen to baby’s heartbeat. Fail to match partner’s physical / emotional connection to the moment — justifying that the heartbeat is coming from within her body – and that you’re distanced from it, that even as you hear it you register it as an abstraction (thinking something like “160 bpm, damn, drum and bass” ), which later you’ll recognize as the beginning of a preemptive defense mechanism against the possibility of “things not turning out ok.”
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”