When I see the three positive pregnancy tests lined up on my bathroom counter, my first thought is that I wanted another baby, but I did not want another baby like this. I am 34 and a mother already to a six-year-old daughter from a marriage that ended in divorce. I have been dating a man for long enough to know that I want to marry him, but we are not married yet. I know that he has talked to my parents and bought the ring, but I do not have the ring yet. What I do have is our baby inside of me.
Later that night, he comes over to cook me dinner.I had hoped to be able to make it through dinner, then tell him about the big news, calmly, sitting together on my couch. Instead, while he is slicing a shallot, I blurt out that I took three pregnancy tests and they were all positive. He sets down the knife and looks at me in disbelief. Then, happiness. He puts his arms around me and tells me that we will figure it out. I show him the positive tests, and he starts to cry. He loves me. He has always wanted to be a dad. He will love this baby.
But it was not telling him that I was afraid of.
I am afraid of telling everyone else.
I grew up going to a conservative church in a conservative central Texas suburb. I grew up thinking premarital sex was the worst thing I could do. And because I would never have premarital sex, I would never do the only thing that was worse than having premarital sex, which was to have an out-of-wedlock baby. I heard that God was gracious, but graciousness was a characteristic of God that I never experienced because I never really did anything bad. I followed the rules, fit the part, and pleased my parents. I wore goodness like perfume, until my divorce that is.
Life since has consisted of unlearning everything I thought I knew about God and then building a new kind of faith . I thought I was making positive steps toward growth and getting my life back on track and actually understanding grace and so how could I get pregnant now?
I am ashamed to be pregnant and unmarried, in other words.
The next week, the nausea begins. For a day or two, I experience only mild nausea, before it intensifies and then does not subside for the rest of the summer. A part of me hoped that the pregnancy tests were inaccurate, that there was not actually a baby so that I would not have to tell anyone. But the nausea is a confirmation and a constant reminder.
My counselor assures me that this is not the Middle Ages and most people have experience with receiving out-of-wedlock pregnancy news. He tells me that I do not need to explain myself when I announce my pregnancy, that it is no one’s business but mine and my not-yet-fiancé’s. We tell my family and my not-yet fiancé’s family and some of my friends and my boss that we are having a baby. Most of them react well, which helps. We go to the first ultrasound and an image of a still-forming baby appears on the ultrasound technician’s screen. We were going to wait until the end of the first trimester to tell my daughter, but I am so sick and tired all the time that we tell her after the appointment that she is going to be a big sister. She hugs me tight and wonders if the baby will be a boy or a girl. She wants a boy, she says, and I do, too.
Around this time, I see a bump start to appear.
My not-yet-fiancé becomes my fiancé one night in early July, when he slips the ring on my finger and asks me to marry him. I start to cry, and I tell him that I will. We get married in late July at Mt. Bonnell in Austin. In the days and weeks after the wedding, I tell more friends and people at my church about the baby. I try not to look down when I give the news, I try to hold eye contact. I try not to explain myself. I try to remember that it is no one’s business but mine and my husband’s.
My abdomen expands. Summer ends, and my daughter starts her first year at school. I go to work there nearly every day, substitute teaching. My nausea subsides and something like gratefulness replaces it.
I wanted to marry the baby’s dad, and I did. He lays next to me every night and puts his hands over my stomach. Every day my stomach gets a little bit bigger and my shame gets a little bit smaller. We find out that the baby is a boy. He is not a consequence or a mistake or the worst thing I could have done.