Tugging unsteadily at his t-shirt sleeve, shifting awkwardly inside the gaze of several parental eyes, the tiny boy with the sandy scruff starts to sing. A miniature chorus collects about him, swaying within a spell of tunefully high, pre-dropped voices;
“There’s a new life in front of my face,
And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place,
So, I swear I’ll remember to say
we were both born today”.
I dimple five profound prints across my water bottle, gripped on the threshold, every muscle occupied in overtime to remain calm. “Everything Changes” is a tune from the musical Waitress, sung here by the adolescence Summer School, who had just spent a week at my work, honing musical theatre skills to now parade and exhibit in front of proud-to-burst mums and dads. I saw Waitress when it opened on the West End, the play, nor this cheesy as fuck number, made the remotest impact on me back then.* But this tentatively adorable performance, just weeks after I found out, was by far the toughest moment I had to get through at work. It overtook every time I wanted to explain my greaseball mop or why it must look like I had a raging hungover on a Wednesday.
It wouldn’t have mattered if I had told my work earlier, in hindsight it might have made things easier. It’s ironic that at the three-month moment you typically tell people you start feeling healthier and in a much better position to hide that anything is happening. Apart from the growing belly. But I had decided to wait until after the first scan, not because this was considered the safer period but more because I wanted someone professional to confirm that there was actually a being inside me, before I went jabbering off about something I’d later have to take back out of idiotic stupidity.
Therefore, the day after the scan, I went into work fortified with my little black and white print, pleased to be finally getting it out in the open (I’m not a fan of concealing anything and find it very hard to lie). My news was met with the most supportive hugs and genuine joy from the women in my team, these were the two people at work I really cared about knowing.
“Was it planned?” Not everyone, however, was as sensitive, tactful or professional. “Are you scared? Are you happy about that?” Reactions from men, in senior positions, when the only word they really needed to muster was “congratulations”. It was shock, I guess, and I can understand that. It wasn’t planned, I was scared and I did have a period when I wasn’t sure how I really felt about it. I know I’m often mistaken for being much younger than I am, and I’m not married, but I’m not sure these questions should be asked of anyone, regardless of age or marital status, within the setting that they were asked of me.
To even up the playing field, my favourite reaction did come from a man at work; “It just makes me so happy when certain people bring certain other people into the world. And you will be such an amazing mum.”
That evening I stood, water cascading and crashing over my skull, steamy clouds blooming across the glass, fully appreciating just how lovely it is to own enough energy to wash your hair. To be completely clean. A privilege we take for granted and yet it can make us feel, in an instant, like a brand-new person. I felt like I was finally clawing myself back from wherever I’d been hiding.
When people talk about “the pregnancy glow” in your first trimester you basically want to tell whoever is talking to go fuck themselves. In those moments of exhaustion and weakness, with the ever-looming desire to puke or not-to-puke, it’s impossible to imagine a different way of feeling. Depression is the same. When you are within it, the cloud falls so heavy that it’s incredibly hard to see through to anything else.
Here, on the brink of the second trimester, looking back at the first, I could see the chemicals and hormones that had played such a huge part in how it had been so far, an easy thing to identify with perspective, too hard to pin point at the time of being in them. It’s empowering and important to remember that there is more at play than simply your mind and what you can control.
Another more physical thing had shifted too. After all those long hours, the strain and anxiety it had caused us both, Clifford had been given a promotion at work, meaning he was now working very similar hours to me. This was something I never thought would happen for him, working in the event industry. I’ve always prided myself on being fiercely independent, needing no man; the idea of someone being the “other half of me” has always made me feel very uncomfortable, and just seems absurd. The first three months of pregnancy, or at least the last two months of knowing, had made me more needy that I’d ever wished to be. Suddenly, having Clifford around again, felt like a light switched on in the gloom. When it’s dark we easily forget what we cannot see, what is out there, what is possible. But even a small light can spread so quickly, bringing everything back into focus. Just like that, nothing is concrete and everything changes.
*Waitress, for those who don’t know, is about a waitress who plans to leave her nasty and troubled husband before getting pregnant by accident. She ends up having a beautiful baby that she never knew she wanted.