Aversions, “Allergies”, Soap Operas, and Preggie Pops
The Most Not So Wonderful Time for a Baby Announcement
During the holiday season of 2018, I became a full-time vegetarian. Don’t read me wrong, it wasn’t intentional by any means. One week I ate only ham and mustard sandwiches on toast, and the next any mention, scent, or notion of meat made me sick. Ordinarily, a steak dinner fixed by my husband would have been an aphrodisiac, but instead it turned my stomach. I immediately launched myself into our bathroom, and we had an inkling that all was not as it seemed.
Mind you, these symptoms had happened before to a certain degree just not for the same duration of time. Female hormones are tricky things after all, and sometimes PMS symptoms may also include pregnancy symptoms and vice versa. At that time, my husband and I had a similar previous and fairly recent concern that turned out to be nothing after a week. Still, it was the first time I had ever turned down a steak dinner, and as I sipped my replacement dinner of sparkling water and cranberry juice we both began to question whether things were different this time.
It would be a week before we would confirm anything. I was in denial and also insisted on waiting for the pregnancy test’s accuracy. I procrastinated further by insisting on blood work to confirm the at-home test because well, false-positives can happen, right?
My workplace at the time was not an understanding location. Despite working there for a few years, I was still the “newest and youngest” employee which meant I was the metaphorical office punching bag. As it was explained to me, “crap rolls downhill.”
Announcing my pregnancy was the last thing I wanted to do. Things were difficult enough as it was. To make matters worse, a high ranking public official and superior officer was planning a luncheon we were required to attend the same week I found out. I may have been lucky enough to get a doctor’s appointment and bloodwork before work hours so that no one in my office knew yet, but how was I going to handle that? He was discussing all of the "generous", “delectable” and "bountiful" meat offerings throughout the office trying to stir excitement.
Before 10 a.m., however, my stomach had enough. The people in my office noticed that I was pale as a sheet as I launched myself to the bathroom once more stifling vomit. My supervisor came in a short while later to check on me, and overheard the ruckus. Thankfully, she took pity on me and told me that I could go home instead of attending the luncheon (as any decent supervisor ought to have). I think I worked an hour and a half that day; an all-time record low and definitely something else that had never happened before.
I managed to make it home for more sparkling water, toast, and bran cereal which were the only palatable things I could stomach the remainder of the day. I was relieved I was sent home, but knew that the office was likely buzzing about my illness. True to form, I was confronted after the weekend about whether my illness was a virus or not. One of my co-workers insisted that I gave her and her family my illness, which I later laughed hysterically at. I wanted very much to tell her that unless I had an uncontrolled penis I was unaware of, I most certainly could not have given her my illness. However, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.
I mustered my courage to confront my supervisor about the news. I knew I couldn’t hide it from her with my need for prenatal appointments. She shouted, “I knew it!” almost too enthusiastically. She expressed how “baby crazy” she was in general, and fortunately for me she treated me kinder than she ever had until she retired. She kept my secret except for telling her superiors, which I appreciated as there was yet another backdrop going on in my life outside of the workplace.
In the familial backdrop, another “great” drama was unfolding. Whether I wanted to be in the center of it or not, somehow, someway, I was going to be drug into it kicking and screaming. If I didn’t mention before that my extended family, my mother in particular, was a fan of soap operas, perhaps I should mention that now. I swear The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful are plagues on mankind, but hey whatever sells I guess. That being said, my mother and father had ongoing marital strife and drama.
Mother enjoyed playing the victim, and that gave my dad license to do much of what he wanted. Did my father cheat on my mother? Yes. Did it happen more than once? Yes. Did my dad like that he could have his cake and eat it too? Yes. Did my mother think she never did anything wrong at all ever? Also, yes. Was she overly critical about everyone and everything? Yes. Did she play mind games and tricks of her own? Yes. Was she coercive and manipulative? Yes. They were birds of a feather.
So, anyway, there was yet again another cheating scandal and affair that my dad was having during the holiday season this particular year. They were set to divorce yet again for who knows how many times.
I was the recipient of squalling, sobbing, incessant calls of, “Your father is a sociopath. If something happens to me, if I die, you make sure that the police know that he is the one who killed me. Make sure they prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. Nothing I’ve made is to ever go to your father. You kids get it all. I’ve sacrificed everything in my life for him and for you kids, and it is all for nothing. He is going to kill me. He’ll do something to get rid of me. You’ll see, but I’m not leaving this house I tell you. It is mine. He can’t have it. He’ll have to kill me first.”
I tried to talk Mother down as much as I could, but it didn’t really matter so much. She just wanted me to choose a side; her side. If I wasn’t with her, I was for my father and supported him. Explaining that I wanted neutrality and did not want to be involved kindled her antics further. I became an enemy for a time, one that even my grandmother called to “counsel” me about. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins always excused my mother’s behavior because she was “going through a lot.” I, however, did not find her behavior so excusable. Nevertheless, I let Grandma talk and took her call. I tried to remain polite, yet firm and still held fast to my disapproval of Mother’s actions.
The truth was, Dad had never shown any violence toward my mother. Once when I was really little, she yelled something at him and locked herself in the bathroom while shouting more harsh things at him. He was angry that she shouted whatever she wanted and refused to hear anything else; she had started the argument, and now he wasn’t even allowed to speak. The trailer walls were thin, and when he opened the locked door to speak the doorknob knocked a hole in the drywall. That was the worst of it. My brother and I did a similar thing to our bathroom wall while we were goofing off, so it didn’t take a lot of effort. Otherwise, Dad could be loud but not near as loud as mother. They both looked to “win” arguments and fights with each other, but Dad often “lost.” He simply chose to spend time elsewhere doing other things. It was sadly their dynamic and norm. Nothing had changed.
The worst thing about Mother’s allegations is that if my father had wanted my mother gone, he wouldn’t have taken some of the actions he did. Because she is a Type 1 Diabetic, he could have made sure that she didn’t take her insulin or that she took too much insulin, both of which she regularly does on her own. Instead, he woke her if her sugar was too high and she slept too long. He knew where her glucose tablets were, and we all knew where her glucagon kit was. Even when my brother and I wanted to prank Mom with a dead bat we found, Dad strongly dissuaded us from doing so because he “didn’t want us to scare her into a heart attack and we didn’t know how deathly afraid of bats she really was. It isn’t funny.”
Anyway, in between her phone calls of hysteria, she called me demanding to know who a good attorney was since she knew I had connections to attorneys. The next phone call was another hysterical one as Dad had already hired the attorney she wanted. In the end, they never did or would get a divorce.
However, these sorts of proceedings and events were ongoing throughout the entire holiday season of 2018 and the beginning of my pregnancy, so I decided to keep things secret from all extended family until after the first trimester was over. Firstly, I thought it prudent in case of miscarriage, which can be common in the first trimester. Second, I was hoping things would work themselves out between my parents before I made any announcements about baby. The last thing I wanted to do was put another human being in the middle of their soap opera.
On top of this conflict, my mother’s side of the family was tasked with putting together their big family Christmas Party. Obviously many of them were overwhelmed with actively participating in the conflict at hand, and because I was “artsy-fartsy” it was suggested that I decorate and orchestrate this event. I willingly agreed to the decorations portion of the task, but informed the family that a stronger personality would be a more effective communicator. I wasn’t willing to take on the sole responsibility of every task.
I received some assistance from an unlikely source; the cousin my mother idolized and constantly compared me to. We got along surprisingly well throughout our event arrangement, and I expressed my deepest gratitude for her taking over the communication portion of the task. She inquired about my family’s situation, but I didn’t give away much information. I had already felt sick from smelling the raw, marinating, and finally cooked turkey that was in the roasting pan.
Folding out chairs and tablecloths was a welcome distraction between bathroom runs. I thought for sure some member of the family would pick up on it, but most everyone was too preoccupied with the unfurling drama going on with my mother to notice anything out of the ordinary. When I was asked by a few individuals who noted my bathroom habit, I swiftly blamed my soy "allergy" and no one was the wiser.
I remember getting peeved at my aunt for barking orders at me (especially because she was more than capable of doing so herself), but otherwise I was shocked and relieved that I made it home with my husband and I’s little secret. I was exhausted, and fell asleep promptly at 7p.m. while watching The Great British Baking Show, which I insisted I was still watching. I was very thankful to come home to a drama-free zone.
Shortly thereafter, my brother became the sole extended family member to put the pieces of my pregnancy together. He had been mercifully insulated from much of the ongoing family conflict. Although he received a hysterical phone call from Mother as well, Dad just confessed and told him not to let it ruin his college experience. My brother was angry, but did take the suggested attitude of staying out of it.
Because of this, he was aware of his surroundings and noticed the “Preggie Pops” I had accidentally left on the counter before our holiday shopping trip. He asked if I was pregnant with a smile, and offered congratulations. He was sworn to secrecy and to my surprise, he did indeed keep this secret until we announced. My dear brother was maturing. However, that maturity did not keep him from cracking jokes about my meat aversions and morning sickness. It was nice to have someone to joke about these things with; so much so, that I’ve even rewrote a small little jingle about it, Weird Al style.
“Jingle bells, red meat smells
Poultry’s even worse
It seems to both my body knows
That it’s become averse
Oh, jingle bells, too many smells
Dry-heaving all the way
Off to the toilet I should go
And that’s where I shall stay.”
My brother was even going to get me flannel jammies with meat on them for Christmas, but found out that when you look up meat pajamas online, you don’t get pictures of turkey legs. I’m still laughing about it!
As time wore on, the conflict between our parents dialed down. Dad would yet again be portrayed as an infamous villain to Mother’s extended family. They’d treat him “normally” during the holidays when he still was urged to “show his face” and “play nice” for the sake of “peace and family.” He grew weary of it though. He’d admit to messing up and move on about his business. He wasn’t at my grandmother’s house when I made the announcement to my mother’s side of the family.
My husband and I wore matching “There Is a Cookie in this Oven” and “I Put a Cookie in this Oven” sweaters. We also added an ultrasound photo in my grandma's and mother’s cards. My aunt squealed, hugged, and congratulated me as I watched her daughter, the cousin my mother favored, rush upstairs visibly upset. Apparently, my aunt wasn’t as enthusiastic when her daughter told her about her pregnancy. I felt bad about that even though, technically, it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t want the news to hurt anyone. I just wanted everyone to “hear it from the source” at the same time so no one was left out. Mom was overjoyed that she was finally joining the grandbaby club, and then went to make sure my cousin was okay.
Dad had the flu at Christmas, so we announced the news to him separately. He apologized for not being enthusiastic about it. I knew he was sick and tried to understand, but he did seem like he needed to warm up to the idea. He had voiced before that he didn’t want us to have children, but had never stated why. I never could get that out of my head. He never did directly express happiness to me about the baby. He had apparently bought not one, but two ponies with youth saddles for his soon-to-be grandson and talked about getting a tractor with a buddy seat, so at least I knew he came around to the idea. No one had any clue that it would be Dad’s last Christmas.
Mother, however, wanted us to have children straight away. She had been angry with me since I had gotten married because I “did not give her a grandbaby sooner.” She often stated that she wasn’t even the youngest in her family, and yet her younger sister already had a grandchild and she didn’t. I was unfair to her as a daughter for making her wait. She still chooses to inform her friends, coworkers, and anyone she meets about her grandchild in this manner. Just recently, she ordered photos and told the photographer the same thing. I’ve heard it told shamelessly on repeat, and know that I’ll forever go down in history as “the daughter who made her wait.” I’m okay with that.
Now that her siblings are having more grandchildren than she currently has, and now that my child is no longer a baby, insistence on another grandbaby is popping up.
I still say, “It will happen when it is meant to happen. I’m not in any hurry, and am still enjoying the time I have with the little one I do have.” Pushing me isn’t going to change things. I don’t think she will ever understand that life isn’t a competition, and children most certainly aren’t.
Mom and Dad’s marital troubles eventually ended less than a month before my son was born. If you didn’t know anything about my parents beforehand, you would likely not be told now that anything was ever wrong. Well, except by brother and me. We'll tell you. I know we remember that Christmas and the events therein. I'm sure my family remembers it too, but prefer to sweep it under the rug.
Once Dad was murdered by a neighbor, however, he achieved martyrdom in my mother's eyes. Now my mother talks about what a wonderful loving husband he was and how grieved she is that he is no longer around. Strange how this world works isn't it?
Looking back, it was definitely one of the most not so wonderful times for a baby announcement. It was stress and chaos. Unknowns abounded that year at nearly every holiday event. Some people like my brother, husband, and in-laws made it brighter. I'm also happy to say that the holidays post-baby have been a less stressful and much more wonderful affair. This holiday, I hope the only hijinks that happen to you or to me will be funny ones!