On the morning of my 28th birthday, I woke up and realized I was pregnant. What else could explain this strange, hot, buzzing feeling? I elbowed my husband, asleep beside me on my brother-in-law’s futon.
“Adam,” I said, “I’m pregnant.”
“Really?” he said dubiously, suddenly wide awake.
The timing was abysmal. We were in an unmoored and uncertain state, having spent the past six weeks moving among the apartments of various friends, bouncing back whenever necessary to Adam’s brother’s place. The $7000 Obama tax credit for first-time homebuyers, coupled with the foreclosure crisis, had suckered us into believing that we (a writer/CUNY adjunct married to an artist/CUNY adjunct) ought to seize this opportunity to become apartment-owners. Assured that we’d close by mid-July on the 650-square-foot Ditmas Park fixer-upper, we gave notice to the beloved landlords of the envy-provokingly cheap and charming Kensington apartment we’d rented for the last five years. It was the affordability of that apartment, paired with money saved from our wedding two years before, that enabled us to get the down payment together.
But now here we were. Late September, and it was starting to look quite likely that we’d never close, the property tied up in all sorts of mysterious red tape. We were waiting (at least, we thought we were—the dealings with the bank were inscrutable) for the paperwork to come through so the foreclosure could be completed so the property could be purchased. We’d already handed over half of the down payment; the fear that we’d never see that money again kept me up at night. Weeks passed without any progress, and meanwhile we wandered from borrowed bedroom to borrowed bedroom.
We kept finding ourselves on street corners waiting for cabs to carry us to the next temporary housing solution, the mess of our life piled around us, suitcases and canvas bags exploding with unopened mail and half-eaten boxes of cereal. So often, it seemed, these transitions took place on rainy nights. And whatever umbrella we had was always busted.
It was a disorienting time, marked by irrationality and mystical thinking. I became convinced that since this was a foreclosure, and thus a sad chapter in the life of the previous owner, we’d been cursed for getting so excited about acquiring the apartment. I developed a superstitious side, walking around Brooklyn with my fingers crossed and asking my parents to send sage sticks from New Mexico.
The most dramatic instance of this irrationality occurred one evening when Adam strode through the door of yet another borrowed apartment and announced that he’d seen an utterly charming baby on the subway and was ready to have one of his own. I was the right audience for this declaration; since we’d started dating at age 21, we’d fantasized about having kids together, I always a step ahead of him in terms of timing.
His delightful spontaneity catapulted the looming problems (So little income! Nowhere to live! And weren’t we, by college-educated standards, too young for parenthood?) into a distant sphere. Ignoring the protests of the sensible voice in my head, I laughed and opened my arms wide. It was impossible to imagine a life growing out of such a capricious moment.
Yet here it was, the blue line on the pregnancy stick confirming that evening what I’d told Adam that morning. We were crouched together on the floor of my brother-in-law’s bathroom. We didn’t seize each other up in a life-affirming hug. Instead, we stared at each other in shock. A sublime feeling of terror and joy split me in half, a feeling that manifested itself as a panicky giggle.
That night on the futon, my heart pounded so hard I couldn’t sleep.
“My heart feels like a tin can being kicked down a street,” I said.
“Yeah,” Adam said, also sleepless. “Tell me about it.”
What surprised me was how passionate I became, and how swiftly. Never mind that it had been a whimsical conception. After that first night of fear, a maternal ferocity overcame me. The ferocity of: I love you, future child, and will do anything that needs to be done for you. Your dad and I will take three buses to an unfamiliar neighborhood on a rainy night to get to an OB/GYN with an open slot who accepts our insurance. We will go out for cheap Thai food to celebrate you and will reassure each other of our scrappiness. After giving up a morning of work to try and find a midwife, I will cup my stomach and think of you and let that brilliant flash of happiness burn away the logistical headache. We will find a home for you.