My editor fixed me with her pitiless eyes and said: “You’re not going to write columns just about pregnancy now, are you?”
My colleague took one look at my belly and exclaimed, “… but you’re huge!”.
The woman at the maternity shop shrieked, “20 weeks? You’ve got nothing there – you’re tiny!”
The man I just met rolled his eyes at my declaration of health and good feeling and snapped, “Well, you might be feeling great now, but just you talk to me in six months’ time.”
I am not the first person to observe this. I will clearly not be the last. But my word, everyone has an opinion on this mysterious and wonderful state of expectation, don’t they? And aren’t they all too happy to share it?
Because the sentiments contained therein are so upsetting, I will not share in detail with you the letter, written in elegant old-school copperplate, that I opened at my desk one cold and dark morning. It was from an elderly country woman with much advice about what was almost certainly about to go imminently, tragically wrong for me. I’m sure it was well meaning. I wish she had not written it – to me, or to anyone.
I have any number of people telling me about the work, work, work, work that this new adventure will entail. Do they think I imagine I’m getting a cake delivered? One that I will languidly and peacefully consume over the period of a year? At the risk of drawing similar fire to that endured by the most unfairly attacked Jacinta Tynan when she exulted at the happy work that having a baby was, I think I can say that I’m likely to love the focus of this work a little more than I did, say, the Sharpies for whom I once flipped burgers at the Box Hill bowling alley cafeteria. There is work, and there is work, dear friends.
There’s something interesting going on here. It’s not that people aren’t overjoyed at the news: they really are, and their pleasure only increases my already dizzying joy to new heights. But just as any of life’s great turning points – completion of school, relationships, new home, new job – involve some loss as well the prospect of untold gain, anxiety bursts through the celebration and fear insists on having its voice heard.
I don’t think many of my inquisitors know they are speaking fearfully, or from fear. Many, I’m sure, are actually talking from hard-won experience. But poet John O’Brien’s Hanrahan is a persistent fellow, and just as the rains might come and bring a wonderful spring, there’s always the prospect that we could still all be “rooned”. They want you to know this, to be careful, and to be prepared.
I think loss, and the mostly undiscussed nature of that loss, is at the heart of this fear. I know one woman who, having been pregnant at her wedding with her first child, has spoken to me of literally yearning for her husband, and for the time they never got to spend together, just they two, before this small explosion of activity burst into their life. Others seem to unknowingly mourn an intangible loss of self; others a loss of time, or quiet, or each other. When they darkly warn of dark times to come I suspect they are talking of a shadow that once crept over them, and perhaps clouds their life still.
After years of wanting so many things and people and circumstances to remain exactly as they are, it has taken me years to understand that life is actually change; that stasis is death; that change is loss and gain all at the same time. It’s almost a relief to let go and to see that life will unfold and change before you, like the unspooling of a celluloid film, and that letting it go brings a peace of its own. Bring on the change: let the chaos begin.
This post first appeared in The Weekly Review and has been republished with permission from the author
Virginia Trioli is the presenter of ABC News Breakfast on ABC1 and ABC News 24, 6-9am weekdays. She has an established reputation as a radio host, television presenter, news reporter, features writer and columnist. You can and should visit her blog here .