There are certain events in all of our lives that are so knock-out overwhelming, we can’t predict how we’ll react when they happen.
Eating a Wispa bar without dropping any chocolate onto our crotch; finding a tenner in the pocket of a jacket we haven’t worn for three years; your mum calling, asking how you are and actually listening to what you say.
You know. The Big stuff.
Or . . . finding out YOU’RE GROWING A HUMAN INSIDE YOU.
We think we know what we’d do, what we’d say and how we would feel or react in these situations.
We imagine the moment over and over again, play out every possible scenario, every chain of events, rehearse it a thousand times in front of the bathroom mirror from different angles (especially the angle which makes our face look less jowly), fill in the weather, lighting, much nicer clothes than we actually own, background music, come up with killer lines and practise their delivery until we're Oscar-ready and have this perfect, Hollywood scene DOWN PAT.
But when and if it comes to pass, I guarantee it will happen in the ONE way you never, ever thought it would.
Because what actually happens is that the gut kicks in and takes over - and sometimes spills over into the nearest available container or lap.
How we react is just how we react. Pure, unplanned, unpredictable. It’s the most true reflection of how we feel in that moment.
It’s never what we expected or planned. And it can be a thousand times better.
Write ‘I am pregnant!’ on the glass shower screen and wait for him to see it next time he’s steaming up in there, be overjoyed and immediately want to have vigorous, smudgy sex with me in there, until it reads ‘I gn !’ and we have to take a minute to remember what it was supposed to say.
Bad plan. He showers so infrequently I’ll be in 2nd trimester by the time he sees it.
Need something more immediate.
Send him a text telling him the exiting news. That way he can process it before responding. Give him a chance to come up with something more supportive than ‘FUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!’
Bad plan. His data is always running out and I’ll be staring at my phone for hours, hating him more and more as every second between ‘delivered’ and ‘read’ passes. Not the best parenting start.
Order him a latte and get the barista to write ‘I’m pregnant!’ in the foam.
Bad plan. He drinks black coffee. And he might wonder why the heck the barista is telling him this. And just HOW drunk he was on Saturday. Or how on earth Daniel managed to get pregnant.
Dusk. Glaringly subtle lightning. Offensively inoffensive music.
Wooden table set for two, with one candle in the middle, lit.
We are sitting opposite each other at the table.
He is eating all the bread, because it’s been an hour since he last had carbs.
I’ve subtly not drunk any of my wine, and keep adjusting my bra as if it's suddenly uncomfortable and full of much more breast than usual.
I reach across the table to hold his hands, look what I hope might be wistfully into his candle-lit blue eyes, smile what I hope might be maternally, but not in such as way at to suggest that I want to be his mother, and say,
“Fuck ME this is the most horrendous cliché of the moment a woman tells a man she’s pregnant. Please kill me now so we can shoot this do again?”
Wait, not that. This moment is important. Re-write.
I try a nice, simple,
“I have something to tell you.”
Glowing in the candlelight that’s making my foundation melt down my face slightly, I smile again. Smiling seems key right now. Better than screaming.
I feel certain that he knows what I’m about to say, but he's not letting on. He has an expectant-but-hardly-daring-to-believe, look on his face.
It’s also possible that he’s just slightly constipated. He has been going to the loo a lot lately. But no, let's go with anticipation of the fulfilment of his life, not the emptying of his bowels.
I take a slow breath in, and lean further towards him, into the candle light.
Maximum radiance. He will SO want to have my glowing baby.
“I’m . . . pregnant.”
Neither of us moves. Everything suddenly appears shrouded in a magical, white cloud of happiness.
Then someone shouts "FIRE!" and we both start frantically blowing at my smoking sleeve.
Choking slightly on the burning cotton fumes, he busts into tears and kiss me just the way George Clooney kisses Michelle Pfeiffer in THAT kitchen scene in One Fine Day, and he tells me this is most incredible news ever and he is now the happiest man on Earth, and we can now have starters AND pudding.
Hell, and champagne! But not for me, obviously. Sorry, love. Mineral water?
And then he cries some more, and I do too, and I get mascara on his shirt but it doesn't matter because it already has charcoal and candle wax on it, and we hug for 4 hours until there are no taxis left and we have to walk home but we don’t mind because we are going to be parents. AND they had sticky toffee pudding on the desert menu.
I walk upstairs and see my partner (whom I shall call Mike from now on, because that's his name) – now also, as yet unwittingly, the father of my unborn cluster of dividing cells – sitting outside on the café’s long wooden pavement bench. I stumble numbly past the queuing customers inside, with the pregnancy test still damp in my bag, to join him.
Just him, and our coffees. And an invisible bombshell about to go off.
I step outside. It’s started spitting with rain.
“Yep, all fine.”
I don’t look at him.
The pavement is grey. The bench is brown. My coffee is murky. There’s a distinct lack of candlelight.
I sit down, still looking at the dampening pavement.
“You sure you’re OK?”
“Yeah, totally.” And then a slower, “Yeahhh.”
I stir the foam on my coffee. I’m still holding my bag on my lap. I don’t even get as far as putting the teaspoon into my mouth and licking the chocolatey milk off it, as I always do.
My gut takes over. Or maybe my uterus does.
“So, I'M pregnant.”
I don’t know why I stressed the ‘I’. As if he might have been.
But just like that, it . . . blurted out.
I’m still looking at the pavement. It’s raining harder. I’m now pregnant and wet.
I wonder if he might have got up and walked away, but decide not to look.
There follows the world's longest pregnant pause.
He’s going to leave. Fuck.
He's fucked me, and I’ve fucked my life. It's a fuckathon gone oh SO wrong.
I wish I'd never walked into the café where I met him all those years ago. I wish I’d never gone to Superdrug. I wish I'd never pissed on the stick. I wish I -
Someone is holding my hand. He’s putting my bag onto the wet pavement, turning my clamped, shaking, rain-splashed knees towards him and pulling on them gently so that I'm sliding slowly towards him across the wood, getting the beginnings of a wedgie and now at significant risk of splinters jamming in my buttocks.
“SERIOUSLY? You're....pregnant?? That’s . . . AMAZING. Isn’t it?!”
He is really gripping my hands now. And my pants are SO up my bum.
I look up at last. Straight at him. Straight at the father of my 4th baby. Straight at the man whose child I have thought about so many times in the last few years, dreamed of, already had imaginary adventures with, read books to, taught to play the piano, taken to the park and tucked into bed at night, almost fallen in love with before his or her creation, and cried so many painful, hopeless tears over every bleeding month, believing ever more that this could never happen for us because of me being so goddam geriatric that I'm probably infertile, and him having drunk so much wine and Buckfast and vodka and beer and Fernet Branca and sadness in the last 10 years he probably has pickled, depressed balls.
I look at this man. THE man. The man who had just stuck by me through the hardest years of my life, through the break-up and break down, through terror, pain and heartbreak of no longer living every day with my children, through the self harm and the rages, the tears and the fears, through his own horrendous times and struggles which have pushed us to – and almost beyond – the limit many times, and with whom I SO want to have a child and a life I've thought of almost nothing else since I first realised it one Cambridge Autumn morning, while drinking the lukewarm, mediocre cappuccino he'd just made me, and listening to his shit jokes.
And falling totally and utterly in love with him.
This man. This father to be.
“Yes." I say quietly. "It is. It’s absolutely bloody amazing."
"Shit." He says. "SHIT. We're actually going to have a BABY!!"
And then we did what all couples in love do when they realise they’ve created a human out of their shared DNA, will never sleep again and be poor forever - and couldn't possibly be happier about it.
We drank our coffee. Together. Holding hands in the rain. In perfect silence.
The two of us, thinking only of the three of us.
Me, acutely aware of everything pregnancy and parenting involves, and suddenly also of the immense size of his nose and wonderingwhether one can get rhinoplasty in utero on the NHS, to avoid me needing extra stitches after the birth if this child inherits it;
him uninitiated into the world of parenthood and thus uunable to comprehend or imagine any of it yet, but desperately wanting a chance to...and now being given that chance.
Both doing this for the first time, with each other. Both starting this journey from…NOW.
We sat there together, in a world so changed it felt as if we’d never seen it before this moment.
Because we hadn't. OUR world, the world of US, had appeared to us for the very first time just a few moments ago.
And even in the real London drizzle instead of imagined candlelight, it looked so, SO beautiful we could hardly believe it.
And no scene I could ever have imaged could have been happier.