Tokophobia, or June Is Bustin’ Out All Over

I don’t know if it was the long winter all on its own that did it or that the long winter delayed people shedding their layers, or both, but something made me forget the hallmarks of spring—pregnant bellies. Suddenly I’m surrounded by them, and there seems to be waaay more of them this year than usual. I’m not one of those women who looks wistfully at a pregnant woman and trots out an out-of-focus montage of memories fit for a Hallmark channel movie. Nor do I wish I could go back there again. No way. I had one and done, and since then, I think I have become tokophobic, that is, having the fear of pregnancy—I love that there is even a word for it. I was going to make up gestationphobia, but tokophobic is way better.

As my son gets to be an older, more independent teen, my fear also seems to be getting worse. Or is it really just that the bellies are everywhere I turn this spring? Curse the nice weather! I look up on the train, belly in the seat across. Walk from the station to work, three of them are bearing down on me. The third one is even more frightening—she’s pushing a stroller with a kid already in it just ahead of the belly. Dear, god in heaven, have mercy! A walk at lunch reveals the same. I was lulled into a false sense of security when I walked by the river after work, and was blissfully accosted by leagues of runners, all of them non-gestating. But then I rounded the curve in the path and saw the belly and her partner talking to another pair, post-belly, with their offspring in a stroller. I nearly jumped into the river to keep from getting pregnancy cooties.

I don’t have anything against pregnant woman, as I was one myself, and procreation is generally the way to go from an evolutionary point of view. It’s more like I have an irrational fear that I will catch it from them if I get too close. This happened once before when my son was only about three and three women in my office got pregnant, one after the other. In an office of only 25 people, it was kind of alarming, and those of us who weren’t pregnant nervously joked that there must be something in the water. I switched to bottled beverages. I knew I was a prime target for a second child, and I had my hands and heart full with one, so I didn’t need any extra risk, thank you very much.

And the truth is I am the kind of person who would also have been fine not having a kid. I’m glad I did, just as long as you don’t ask me about the baby and toddler years, or when my teen hasn’t taken out the trash….again. I have no nostalgia for the pregnancy—five months of fighting nausea with my only weapon: eating and ultimately hating every cracker known to mankind. Meanwhile the pregnancy books mocked me with their grossly small and unfair estimates of how much weight I should be gaining and when. Those books ain’t for women who are nauseous morning, noon, and night—“morning” sickness, my ass. You eat to keep the feeling of puking at bay and then you gain 30 pounds out of the gate. I looked for the pregnancy book to validate that little fun fact for me, but I couldn’t find it.

But it’s more than the pregnant bellies that terrify me. They remind me of the countless stories of the “oops” baby women have later in life. Although I imagine you can only have an “oops” baby if you’re not as phobic as I am. But still, it’s the proximity and the idea. Here I am, happily post-divorced, and on metaphorical Boylston Street in the Boston Marathon. I can see the finish line, where my offspring will head to college and find life at-large way more interesting than at home. And I can do all kinds of interesting things beyond ensuring my kid is interesting. And cue a … baby? Sleepless nights, spit up as a permanent accessory, and the cuteness that can kill.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it. Mother nature knew babies can be a royal pain in the ass, so she made them like crack or meth. The highs and lows are insane. One minute they are wailing as if you are trying to murder them and the next minute they smile and giggle and you’d do anything for them, including accessorize with spit up and not sleep.

I prefer my no-talking, easy-going, game-playing teen, thanks very much. So, pregnant women of Boston, don’t taking it personally if I dodge you or move away. I’m just embracing my tokophobia and saying no to pregnancy.

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