At 33, Tabitha Blankenbiller believed she didn’t want any children, until — unexpectedly — she became pregnant. In this essay at Salon, Blankenbiller considers how the simple existence of her unborn child changed her perspective on motherhood and life, causing her to reconsider choices and beliefs, only to discover that just when she’d decided that this particular lemon would make great lemonade, sometimes life decides for you.
Think of how many passages you breach in a day. The driver’s door to your car. The turnstile of your favorite park. The impatient elevators of your building. The generous slide of the grocery store’s glass. Out of the bedroom, into the living room. One side of the tunnel, out the other. Hundreds of transitions switching backdrops, edging us forward in the routine, the occasional fresh adventure.
One in ten thousand will bookend us. We will pass through as one thing and emerge another. It will mark our Before and After. That day at work, I entered the single stall private bathroom as a drama queen clutching her pearls over a period missing for a scant blip of a week to take a test she’d managed to skip for an entire adult lifetime of Match.com horror stories and marriage and college, and then grad school bad jobs and dream vacations, first essay published and first book released, canning and handwriting and Thai cooking lessons, 40 pounds up and down five times over.
I peed on the stick, then set it on the counter while I played a game of Disney Emoji Blitz on my phone. The timer cut in for my three minutes, and I tilted the test toward me to discover the faintest line severing the woman I knew into another.
This was impossible. I took a picture in a haze and sent it to my best friend Charlotte, a parent of two.
Holy shit yeah, that is pregnant, she confirmed.
We weave hypotheticals of our lives, speaking over one another to announce what we’d do if it were us. We make lists, connections, promises. For 33 years I ran the simulation in my head of that improbable second line, and decided each time, without fail, that I did not want a child. I believed they were too expensive. I believed my life was already fulfilling and content. I believed that not all women should be mothers. I believed that the capacity and consumption of our species is unsustainable on this planet, and that some flavor of doom is inevitable. I believed that abortion is healthcare, a procedure that does not require an explanation to receive. I believed that a zygote is not a person, and a four-week-old clump of cells is a precursor to human life.
All of these convictions are still accurate. I stand by each one.
But there is the question, what would you do, and there is what happens when a sudden, impending new reality forks your life in two. Our hearts are a vast trove of too many secret reactions and desires to discover in a lifetime. And what I realized about myself is this: that I cannot name a time I have been happier than standing in our backyard gripping the back of the patio chair, demanding that Matt needed to listen to me.
“We have to keep it. I love her already.”