By: Sica Schmitz
Image: Michael P. Hoyle
I took my son JoJo on his first silent meditation retreat when I was seven weeks pregnant. I didn’t yet understand how gestation was calculated so I thought I was five weeks pregnant, which was factually true, but in pregnancy, like life, the calculations don’t always work out the way you think they might or should.
While the retreat in rural Washington was planned, the pregnancy in my mid-thirties was not. My heart was still strained after the recent end of a serious relationship and my schedule was even more so. I was overwhelmed with the obligations of owning a sustainable fashion company, leading a social justice nonprofit, and teaching yoga- all done with the hope of making the world a little better for future generations, albeit someone else’s future generations.
Still, I was unexpectedly happy about this unexpected turn of events, even if the father was not.
We’d only met a few months beforehand, right after I had left Los Angeles and moved back to my hometown in the Pacific Northwest in search of a fresh start. The mothers of the town, including my own, had wasted no time in trying to set me up with the various men they knew. A family friend even thought I would be an ideal addition to her family and a perfect match for one of her nephews. He was just a few years older than me and only lived a few blocks away from me, and we we were both- I was told- avid travelers, single entrepreneurs, never married, and had no children.
I was flattered but skeptical. I didn’t think that I was ready to start dating again nor that I would find anyone suited to me in a sleepy retirement destination of only 7,000 people, but I quickly changed my mind after I saw him. He looked exactly how I imagined a Viking god might look. His aunt introduced us and he gave me a plant and his phone number, leaning over me, towering, saying with a sonorous drawl, ‘Welcome home.’ I was no longer skeptical.
Things had progressed quickly, casually but intensely, on-and-then-mostly-off as my feelings for him had deepened and his feelings for me had not, or not enough anyway. Ultimately, he preferred to be on-and-then-mostly-off with a 22 year old cashier who had a violent criminal record, and I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – compete with any of those qualities, no matter how pretty his eyes were.
The rejection stung, and the red flags were waving brightly. That should have been enough to steer me away, but every few days or few weeks he would call me again and my deepened feelings would override my good sense. His inconsistent words would lead – or mislead – me to believe that he was ready for something meaningful, something mature, something with me. And he was- for a night or a few nights until he would stop calling again.
I was completely confused. I didn’t understand the game or the rules. I didn’t know he was actually not single, was actually in a relationship with the 22 year old – and, in my defense, neither did his family or social media. I didn’t know he was only calling me as a filler after their constant fights and breakups. By the time I finally did figure all of this out and decide that I needed to end my part in this maddening cycle, my own cycle had abruptly stopped.
I spent hours writing out and rehearsing how I would break the news of pregnancy to him. I wanted to be fair, to be reasonable. I wanted him to know that I didn’t expect a relationship or money from him. Or anything from him. I wanted him to know that even though he hadn’t chosen me, he could still choose our child. I wanted to know if he would meet for tea to talk about co-parenting options. But, no pressure or anything.
He called at 3AM to decline my invitation, demanding that he wanted 50/50 custody and didn’t want to hear from me until I was six months pregnant. That would be, I suppose, 23 weeks gestation, or 21 weeks if you don’t understand how gestation is measured. And then he hung up on me.
His reaction was something I would have expected from a teenager (or maybe a 22 year old) and left me feeling sick to my stomach; although at that point in my morning sickness almost everything did, so that’s not saying much.
The only thing escalating faster than my nausea was my fear. I had quickly become fond of the little person growing inside of me, and I was worried about his father’s unpredictability along with his girlfriend’s instability.
I was worried about suddenly navigating motherhood and navigating it alone.
I was worried about all of the ways in which this would change my career, my body, and well- everything about me. My breasts had already grown an entire cup size in those five – I mean seven – weeks, and I knew deep in my shifting bones that going forward I would never be the same.
What perfect timing it was to escape off of the grid for a silent meditation retreat.