Things are a bit tough at the moment. You’re telling a young woman who at the moment thinks far too much of you that you think it would be best for everybody involved if you went your separate ways. Everything is going to be fine, but things are going to hurt a little bit in the meantime. You know what she sees this coming. Over the past couple weeks she has latched on to you with the increasing ferocity that comes with knowing that something is about to be lost. You start talking, but before you can get there, she drops a bomb.
“I think I might be pregnant.”
The words echo in your ear and you forget the platitudes that you were attempting to put out there with all earnesty. The strategizing for how you are going to handle the decoupling gives way to a wave of different thoughts, mostly pertaining to not expressing the string of cursewords running through your mind. It’s okay, though. In the narrowest sense of the word “okay”. You don’t know what it says about the current state of affairs that it’s not the first time you’ve been in a situation like this.
Frankly, you think that she’s lying. Probably to herself, but maybe just to you. She is always best at lying to herself. Regardless, the correct response to “I think I might be pregnant” is not “You’re full of excrement” but something else entirely. You’ve never been able to put your finger on exactly what, but you know it doesn’t involve substituting biological terminology for expletives. So you ask “Why do you think that?” when you’re really thinking “Okay, lay out your case, woman.”
She doesn’t have anything concrete to hang her fake fear on. They never do. Either because the symptoms of incoming heartbreak mirror those of pregnancy or because their subconscious is performing some wicked trickery, it’s always vague things like increased breast tenderness, headaches, cramps, and the like. The sort of thing one finds if they google “symptoms of pregnancy”. You try to express with confidence and consolation that she’s not pregnant. She tries to get upset that you don’t want her to be, but she can’t get too upset because that’s what she claims, too. Three times something along the lines of “Of course I hope I’m not, though if I am I’m glad it’s with someone that would help me through it.”
Therein the lies the groundwork for the fork you have in the road. You can dig your heels and tell her that she is of course not pregnant and get on with the whole breaking up thing. Since she almost certainly is not pregnant, you’ll probably get along just fine being straightforward like this. There is always the risk that she’s going to tell people that you ditched her when she said she was pregnant, but her friends don’t matter to you, anyone that knows you knows that you’re not like that, and it’s not in her character to start a smear campaign even when hurt.
If she is pregnant, though, the results can be devastating. You’ve just alienated the mother of your child. You’ve hurt your chances at custody hearings. Most of all, though, you’ve injured the likelihood that you will be able to work with her to come to a satisfactory arrangements and out there on the fringes you’ve probably killed any chance of raising the child with her, which would be ideal with the childz. If she is pregnant and she’s not making any of this up, then the goal is not to keep you from leaving. If you’re the asshat that would call her a liar and ditch her when she’s legitimately pregnant, she might want you to leave.
Everything depends on what you don’t know and by her account you won’t know for a couple of weeks. So you have to go with the other fork in the road, which means dishonestly straddling and waiting to find out if you’re going to leave or if you’re going to try to fix the voluminous problems in your relatively young and previously imminently-discarded relationship. It’s important that if there is a child that you try to make another go of it, you reason. You know that you could do a lot worse than to marry her. You think that if you were insistent on fixing the problems rather than bolting, you’d have a chance of making it turn out all right. The most immediate problem, after all, is her attachment to you and her jealousy over you. With a child in the picture, that becomes moot. You would be attached, after all, and the things that you’re doing that make her jealous would immediately stop.
Regardless, the ball is entirely in her court. When it comes to pregnancy, women have the power. The power to bring it into life and the power to make it go away. The power to tie you down or sometimes to cut you out. She gets the benefit of the doubt in court. She is likely the gatekeeper to your potential child and the person with the legal authority to prevent your child from actually becoming a child. With the burdens and responsibilities that she is under and you are not, she has the power.
So you straddle. You tell her that of course you will be there for her. She puts all the cards on the table and tells you that she’s been getting the impression that you were about to bolt. You can’t outright lie because you probably will be bolting once it’s determined that she’s not pregnant. Instead you say that there are problems but that if she’s pregnant you will work through it. the preciseness of the language is not lost on her. “So you’re only doing this because I might be pregnant?”
You think that she knows that damn well to be the case, but that has to stay as far underground as her intrinsic motivation to try to salvage everything by feigning pregnancy. So you have to come up with some sort of reason beyond the absurdly obvious why her pregnancy matters as to whether or not you will stick with her without coming out and saying it. To tell her that you don’t enjoy her company and don’t want to be with her would likely create some variation of the same problems that dumping her now would. You have to pretend that it’s not about the kid while it surely is and she has to pretend not to see through you while she surely must. So you decide to tell her that you’re giving this your all whether she’s pregnant or not. You just contradicted yourself, but you didn’t outright lie. After all, until the pregnancy test comes back, you’re really going to try to repair things as best you can. It’s important for the child, if it exists, to do the best you can. You keep telling yourself how much worse it could be. You come around eventually and believe it.
Over the next couple of weeks you really do try to make things better. It’s hindered by your subterranean belief that she’s deluded herself or is lying to you, but bolstered slightly by knowing that if she is pregnant then neither of those things are true. You live in two different realities at the same time. In the first, she’s the mother of your child. In the second, she’s a liar or a self-deluded broken heart that’s trying to trap you. On the surface you exist in the first world. Below the surface, you remain cognizant enough of the second so that you do what you had intended to do before this (Staged? Staged. Probably staged).
You and her see one another more over those weeks than you had in the month prior. Gambit or not, she’s getting exactly what she wants. You’re treating her like a princess. Like the mother of your child that you know she isn’t, in one reality at least. You’re keeping all your doubts and anxiety below the surface. You’re being as strong as you can. She periodically brings up the truth that you’re there because she might be pregnant, though she always brings it up in question form in hopes that you will answer unequivocally that you’re in for the long hall. But you’re not, and even the compliant part of you that exists in the surface world knows that to be the case.
You’re sitting in a car in the parking lot of a loan center. She can’t drive because she’s crying too hard. You’ve asked twice what the matter is, hoping that you know the answer, but she just sobs. Finally, she gets it out. Her period started. She wasn’t pregnant. You don’t know whether to tell her that this is good news and that she herself had proclaimed not to want to be pregnant. At this point she could come clean and tell you that she was hoping that she was. She sticks to her story, though. “I know that this is good news, but I feel like I’ve lost something here.” She then looks over at you. “And I’m about to lose something.”
A plane flies above you, indifferently going from somewhere to somewhere else and of no relation to you. Its sound scrapes in your ears, however. The truth is scraping in your ears, too. It’s indifferent to your efforts to imagine your way around it.
You try to comfort her as best you can, but you can’t say the one thing that you know will stop her crying. You hedge. You straddle. You know that now isn’t the time, so you say something vague about knowing what she means about losing the baby that wasn’t there. You make more than one reference to the baby so that she doesn’t get the idea one way or another about losing the other thing.
“You would have been a great father, you know.” She tells you. “That’s what I’ve been telling myself this whole time when I’ve been wondering how I am going to have this baby. I told myself that it was something that we were going to do and that there is no better person to have a child with.”
Two weeks later, you are both single again.
[This post was originally written for Hit Coffee. It has been posted here for possible reference on a future post]