I called him.
He was unusually and particularly calm. The conversation did not go as I’d hoped. The specifics of the conversation can’t really be shared here, but what I can tell you, is that he made the decision to not be involved, as in doing so “would ruin his life.”
Now what? I’m pregnant. Alone. In a foreign country. And completely and utterly heartbroken.
I’m not sure where to go from here. This adventure that I had spent months planning had suddenly turned into something else entirely. How do I tell my family? Do I go home now after only five days? What will people think of me? Am I capable of doing this alone??
I can’t remember exactly how much time past — my memory only recalls darkness until I finally got up the courage to call my mom. She says it was October 1st, but I’m pretty sure there were days that past, months even.
“It’s ok, Kate. Come on home — everything’s going to be fine. This baby is going to be so loved.”
Moms. God’s gift to us all, am I right? It’s the most vivid memory I have — that conversation, and I felt my strength slowly starting to creep back in.
The hardest was telling my dad; I called him over FaceTime the next day. Through soft sobs, all he said was “please come home.” It crushed my soul. Bless his heart, he is one of the most emotional men I know, and I love him all the more for it.
Telling my sister was nothing short of, well… devastating. She hung up on me almost immediately after I said the words and proceeded to not speak to me for close to three weeks. Abbie and I have always had a very honest and open relationship, albeit contentious at times, as sisters do. Her disappointment in me was felt as sharply as she intended. Then, there was my brother, who responded with a “ok, sounds good — gotta go to class now.” Cool, cool. Thanks for treating my pregnancy like a reminder to buy socks, bro.
In looking back, Abbie’s reaction was absolutely justified. I had everything in the world going for me. She looked up to me; I was her paragon. My carelessness struck her like a slap in the face. And the final nail, she wanted a baby more than anything and had been trying for over a year (that was year one of her five year struggle). She was just mad — and very rightly so.
I decided I couldn’t go home, not yet. But I couldn’t stay the entire three months I had intended. My cheap, internet-special international medical insurance didn’t cover maternity care. So, I would stay six weeks and spend the weekends trying to fit in everything I had planned for my three months in Italy. My dream of going to all the vineyards was now shot (womp), but Cinque Terre, Florence, Pisa, Vatican City, and as much of Rome as possible were all on the list. I had to make it happen — it would be years before I’d ever get the chance to come back, if ever.
But just as quickly as the first symptoms subsided, the morning sickness overcame me in a way that I would never wish upon my worst enemy. I couldn’t move an inch and even the tiniest scent sent me into an hour of retching. Italy in September/October is HOT. It’s not the cleanest place in the world either. So just imagine the smell of dirty big city + extreme heat and humidity. Vomit.
Through the week it took all of my energy to just sit up enough to work on my laptop. The weekends were filled with my feeble attempt to see as much as I could from sunup to sundown. With zero shame, I threw up on every single train ride, right in front of the Vatican doors, in a trash can in the corner of the Sistine Chapel, and atop of all five villages hiking through Cinque Terre. It’s almost like it became a game — in how many historic landmarks can the baby cause me to hurl my guts up. Answer — all of them.
I lived off of dry cereal, lemon tea, and the hot and sour soup from the little Chinese restaurant around the corner. I lost more weight than I gained and could feel my body and mind fading. Looking back, I actually don’t have many memories of the beauty of Italy — it’s all overshadowed by the emotional exhaustion, the weight of disappointment I felt from myself and others, and the massive life shift I was all of sudden having to face.
I made it look graceful. I put on a strong face for the camera and in public, but when I got home, I wasn’t ok. How I wish I could say he was out of my life for good after the first phone call, but unfortunately he lingered, pulling me back and forth for over six months. I could fill an entire series of books on these six months — the lies, the deceit, the outright cruelty he put me through, it’s almost unfathomable looking back. It was the most emotionally and mentally draining time of my life. I had never known a depression of this magnitude, one that affected every aspect of not only my own being, but also of those around me, and as research shows, likely my baby as well.
But as time passed and spring finally arrived, I started to feel a bit normal again — it’s crazy what a change in seasons can spark in you. He was finally gone for good and I got to focus on what life would be like when my sweet girl finally arrived. Those three months leading up to her birth were so drastically different than the previous. I was outside soaking up the sunshine daily, focusing as much as I could on things that made me happy. It was the least I could do in these final months of brain development to make up for all those sad months I put her through.
She arrived in the most beautiful fashion in early June. It was as calm and relaxed as could be in the delivery room — with everyone just chitchatting and laughing away. I had the “labor and delivery” station playing on Pandora and right as she entered the world, “Ode to Joy” started playing. It was the most spectacular moment, even the doctor was crying.
My new adventure had started. And it’s been nothing short of pure joy from that day on.
Four Years Later
As they say, time heals. Here we are today and life is just one grand party. My sweet girl is 3.5 and is as happy and healthy as can be.
There’s so much more to this story. I could fill pages upon pages with the infinite details of my pregnancy and the drama it included. The individual stories from travels across Italy, like the sweet paramedic that took care of me when I couldn’t stop vomiting on the train to Venice. Or the night I sat on the steps of Piazza del Duomo in Florence until the wee hours of the morning waiting for some miracle sign from God. One day I’ll share it all with you, perhaps in book form.