When I was about 8 months pregnant, I took a lactation class at a boutique baby store. This time in my life had been so joyful. Being pregnant had given me so much more excitement, joy and happiness than I had ever expected. I mean, I knew having a son would be like that, but I didn’t know I’d be one of those crazy happy pregnant ladies… yeah, I really was crazy happy.
I did have little pangs of am I missing something by doing this alone moments. Not often. But sometimes when I saw other pregnant women with their loving partners, I’d have a moment. But mostly, I was just happy.
When I arrived to lactation class, the woman at the counter asked for my name.
“Husband’s name?” she asked.
“Nope,” I said.
“Cookies and bathroom that way,” she said.
Everywhere I went; the OB, the fertility clinics etc, people were telling me that there were so many single moms by choice. I wanted to see them and meet them…. but it didn’t look like I was going to meet any here.
I went down the hall and helped myself to a cookie. There was also a big bucket of beer on ice.
Twelve women and one man milled about until the instructor Pam came in yelling, “Everyone have a seat!” Then she looked around and shouted, “Where are all the husbands? I hope your husbands are coming! There’s beer for your husbands! Are your husbands coming? Do they know they should come? Husbands can have BEER!”
She said husbands with a lot of force and frequency.
The whole husbands thing caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting there to be partners in a breastfeeding class. I had a little bit of that I’m missing something feeling. I had to give myself a quick, internal pep talk: It’s OK. Remember how good things are and how excited you are. Remember how you can do this and you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone. Remember, you are doing this your own way.
As each woman took her seat, Pam called, “Where’s your husband? There’s beer for your husband!”
Was Pam so sure there were no wives here?
When it was my turn to get asked “where’s your husband,” I wanted to give a cute answer like, “I don’t know, you tell me.” Or “I haven’t met him yet.” But I didn’t want to sound bitter, so I just gave a little smile.
Pam spoke loudly, “You all need to take notes for your husbands if they aren’t here, but I hope your husbands are coming because we have beer for them!” She was giddy. “I’m sure most of your husbands work in the biz and so they are coming late, after their shoot.”
It was like she had this weird fantasy of who took her class. Like anyone but a heterosexual couple, living in the hills, working at Warner Bros, should take their newborn needs somewhere else.
A man walked in and Pam lit up. “Go get a beer!” Pam cheered, even before he had a chance to say hi to his wife (or girl friend or whatever…. Pam was the one assuming everyone was married.)
I looked around the room to see if anyone else thought this beer obsession was crazy. If they did, they weren’t showing it. It was a room of tepid stares.
Pam repeated “Go get a beer,” to each man who walked it. Within 30 minutes, most of the women were paired up with husbands, swilling their brews like we were at a sports bar. Crap. I wanted a beer too.
Pam finally began to talk about breast feeding and why she loved it so much and how great it is for you and the baby and how everyone can do it if you know what you are doing. Then she asked everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves and our babies-to-be. I got excited. I was excited to tell people I’m a single mom – so they have awareness and because somehow, it gives me more strength. After all the husband talk, I was going to shake things up a bit for Pam.
So, going around the circle, the women introduced themselves. The husbands didn’t talk much but I’m sure they were nice guys. I didn’t wish any of them were my husband (meaning, I guess, I didn’t find any of them very attractive.) Is that mean? I felt like the other couples were already tired. They were all very subdued and quiet. The pregnant ladies all seemed to be asking their partners to get them things. I told myself the couples were all probably fighting a lot and that gave me confidence. When it got to be my turn, I looked the men-drink-beer instructor in the eyes and said, “Hi, I’m Evie. I’m having a boy and I’m a single mom and I’m so happy and excited.”
There was silence. I silently pep-talked myself again. I felt like a freak. I was trying too hard. I wasn’t fooling anyone. I couldn’t look but I tried not to imagine horrified looks and armpit snuggles.
“Of course, you are so excited,” Pam said, smiling extra huge. “Will you have support and help from friends the first few weeks?”
“Yes,” I said.
The class continued introducing themselves. All the women had big diamond rocks on their hands, except for one. I prayed she was a single mom. Please, don’t let me be the only one. If she was single, she didn’t take my lead and announce it (and eventually, her husband showed up.)
Pam launched into lessons: “Husbands, your job is to…” “Husbands, make sure the doctor does …” “Husbands make sure mom eats…” stuff like that.
I wondered if the word husbands bothered anyone else. Was everyone here actually married? Didn’t lesbian couples ever take this class? Was dads better? Moms? How about Partners? Whichever it is, I don’t have one with me. I did wonder what she would do if there was a lesbian couple staring her in the face.
Pam launched into a whole rehearsed bit about something called The Witching Hour. She dramatically set the scene:
“It starts in the early evening. Moms, your baby is screaming and crying and you can’t make her stop. You bounce on your ball, you nurse, you swing, and nothing helps. You are starving but you have no time to eat. Husbands, you call from work and say you are bringing home dinner.” She looked at all the men, as they got their beer buzz on. “Husbands… don’t ask what the wives want for dinner! Just bring something! You know your wives! Bring them what they like, Husbands. Then when you get home, you take the baby so your wife can eat!”
Pam looked around the room, making eye contact with all the husbands, until she got to me, the Lone Mama, the Partnerless Parent and her eyes locked on mine. She paused, and then said… “For you… Trader Joe’s is your husband.”
I was horrified and yet… now I had a husband! Trader Joe! Well, maybe I had husbands – I have all the Trader Joeses. I’m a polyamorist.
I could do worse.
(I had no idea that Pam’s proclamation would really come true.)