opinion

'I was trying to get pregnant for months. Now I am, and climate anxiety has paralysed me.'

3 weeks pregnantread the digital stick I pissed on one Saturday after feeling fat and taking everything that came out my husband’s mouth as a personal attack. 

“Honey, are you ready to…” 

“I’M ALWAYS READY!”

How odd humans are, I remember thinking as the words rapidly appeared. We’re so smart we can digitalise our piss, but we’ll drink a credit card amount of plastic every week without complaining. 

Now, you would think an ecstatically married woman in her mid-thirties who had been trying to get pregnant for more than half a year would be beaming with the words on this stick. Not just in awe of the human progress of digitalised piss, but blissing out on the news itself. Would be overwhelmed with gratitude. Elated. Bursting with happiness. 

I was paralysed by it. 

Here’s how much we waste in Australia. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

If only the news had arrived a week earlier. I would have instantly felt a glow, floating around the house in cheesecloth, throwing knowing glances to my husband as we silently imagined what our magical baby might look like in a small pair of sneakers and a knitted cardigan. 

But that week, instead of clicking on a video highlighting the inspirational disabled contestant on The Voice, I clicked on the IPCC climate change report. Twelve years, it said. Twelve years for every individual to radically change the extravagant lifestyle they take for granted. Twelve years for nations, not famous for friendliness towards one another, to work as a team to save the planet from frying. 

Twelve years. You could barely watch all of The Simpsons in that window of time let alone dismantle systematic neoliberalism. 

 

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Beautiful protest Madrid. Leaders… We are watching ???????????????? #27deseptiembre #climatechange #cambioclimatico #ClimateCrisis

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The news knocked me for six. I lay in bed digesting it and my week’s worth of plastic-laced drinking water unable to move. Like Charlton Heston in the final moments of Planet Of The Apes, I was a crushed man.

“We finally really did it. YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU, GOD. DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!” 

Chocolate milk and being nothing more than horizontal helped, but still.

At the end of that awful week was when I digitalised my piss and the loaded words appeared. Pressing into my left breast like the barrel of a gun. Imagine if Planet of the Apes ended with an ape waddling to Heston, placing a hand on his shoulder and whispering, “Aaaaand…you’re pregnant. *fade to black* 

Knowing full well what the bomb of a miscarriage feels like, the three-month wait was hell as I wondered what I should be wishing for. On one hand, I wanted the baby. On the other hand, I had delved into those black facts we ordinarily wade away from. Instead of getting my promised dopamine dose of, “OH MY GOD — THE MIRACLE OF LIFE” I was just deeply, harrowingly sorry. 

Now, this is where older generations come in and say, “There has always been darkness. There has always been “the end of the world”. We had wars and the threat of the nuclear bomb. We truly believed someone was going to press the button…we had babies, we know how you feel. It’s gonna be allllllright.” 

I hear you. However, through all that petrifying patriarchal death-inducing dick-measuring there has been usable soil, plenty of fish in the sea, there has always been the comfort of the seasons – the summer, autumn, winter, spring to bring the suggestion of hope from…somewhere. 

Yes, older generations had the threat of someone pressing THE BUTTON. But for our generation and the next…the button has already been pressed.

When my husband and I finally got to the three-month mark and began telling people, I had to practice my smile in the mirror. OH MY GOD — I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU. THIS IS THE BEST NEWS EVER!” friends would say, and I would mechanically lift the corners of my mouth upwards around the response, “I know.” *Pat belly. Smile wider, idiot, they’re still looking. Activate light in eye. ACTIVATE LIGHT IN EYE!* 

Every action felt forced, like a slashing lie…but bringing up the uncomfortable truth that no one wanted to hear was unimaginable. Folks either hadn’t got the memo or didn’t want to deal with the memo. You don’t make friends with a memo like, “We did it, we finally really did it.” This is the kind of memo that makes people think you’ve been smoking the whacky tabaccy. The kind of memo that has you described as, “always so negative” behind your back. 

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I had to wait for a 16-year-old Swedish girl to do it for me. Isn’t that something. Kids do say the darndest things… 

“What is Time? 

“Why is a tree?” 

“The acidity of the ocean is killing all of the fish.” 

I’m not going to say this climate movement gives me hope because I respect Greta Thunberg’s fury over that word being thrown on this petrifying reality while parents tilt their head, sigh and go back to business and social media as usual, pretending everything is fine because now our children are dealing with it. But her truth-telling was certainly something. And I certainly feel an extreme sense of gratitude. 

The Mamamia Outloud team talk Greta Thunberg. Post continues below.

Now, at eight months pregnant, my child pretty much completely downloaded from wherever the heck he came from, I’m excited. Overwhelmed with joy, falling in love. I knew this would happen and of course, my impulse is to jump into it and backstroke, get out some aqua aerobics moves.

But I feel guilty doing so, diving into the weird drug that is a baby, dressing him up as a donut and leaving this difficult reality to the older less cute children as many seem to be doing. I’m desperate to find a balance because the only reason I am able to be conscious AND joyful is that a teenager spoke the truth. 

The daunting climate crisis facts have not changed, but they are being spoken now. They are out. And the truth, no matter how awful the details, is always a life-affirming thing. I can breathe — for now. I can smile — for now. I can be brave too — for now. All of this is good and makes life worth living no matter how short, hot, or uncomfortable.

However, while juggling this joy with this heavy truth…I’m finding a new space in my moby baby wrap, my bugaboo stroller…for fury. 

Greta Thunberg’s childhood was stolen, many people are scrapping the idea of parenthood altogether because how could you be so cruel? This basic human experience has been stolen from them. My motherhood, and your motherhood, if you’re awake, has been bleached of its full colour spectrum. 

If you’re not angry about ravaged childhoods, motherhoods, forests, soil, oceans, ecosystems…what do you get angry about? Are we even alive enough to die a death worthy of our existence if don’t keep the conversation going?

Or do we go back to pretending we don’t know, that we aren’t concerned, just fizzle out into extinction under the sweaty balls of some of the meanest maniacs in history, muttering “What memo?”

Abigail Austin is an Australian writer and nature-lover living in Madrid, Spain. 

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