All kinds of ships haunt the seas beyond Singapore’s artificially sandy southern shores. On my birthday, the last day of our 5-month journey around part of the world, Andrés and I wanted to take advantage of one more day in the tropics. Tomorrow we would haul ourselves back to wintery New York City, though not the way we had planned. Up the beach, a group of people on an employee retreat tumbled onto the sand, hooting with forced workplace jolly. A lifeguard sounded the whistle at a group of British men who had climbed the craggy rocks of a nearby island. From behind the island, a massive blue ship slid into view and began docking further up the shore. Its hull was stacked high with red, yellow and white containers, and blocked white letters gave us the boats name: the Thames. It was our ship, scheduled to leave Singapore the next day. But we wouldn’t be on it. I was pregnant, and this trip was over.
In another universe where I’m not pregnant, Andres and I are on the Thames right now, riding the 35 foot waves of the winter Atlantic. With the help a few mysterious security personnel joining us in Colombo, we would have navigated the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden. After passing through the Suez Canal with our questionable “Yellow Fever Exempt” documents, and drifting by the whales and rocks of Gibraltar, we would have chased storms across the cold open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, New York just across the way. We would be writing prose and music in our cozy stateroom. The sailors would tell us tales of adventure over delicious dinners in the mess hall. I wouldn’t feel sick for any reason. Mine was a romantic idealization of cargo-ship travel, but I still mourn the adventure a little.
It wasn’t to be, at least not this time. A doctor confirmed the pregnancy two days before my birthday, and laughed when we said that it probably happened in China. “Made in China!” she cheered. Yes, yes, but what we really wanted to know was if a month-long ride across half of the world on a doctor-less cargo ship (under no circumstances would a pregnant woman be allowed to sail, stated the contract we had signed months earlier) was still in our stars. “Not a good idea,” she informed us somberly. It didn’t seem like a great idea to me either. I admire mothers-to-be who defy the myths and realities of pregnancy’s discomfort. Serena Williams won the Australian Open when she was in the queasy first trimester of pregnancy, and Olympian Alysia Montano competed in an 800-meter race at 8 1/2 months pregnant. Some women rock climb even when their bellies have become big and round. Andrés and I considered taking the cargo ship home up to the last minute. We really wanted to go, and now that I was pregnant I saw the decision as a bell-weather for the rest of parenthood. Would we be the kinds of parents who blindly follow whatever advise comes our way? Would we become adverse to risk, huddling our family inside of an apocolypse-proof yurt, isolated from the dangers of the world? Defying convention by taking that ship would be a statement: I make the choices here! Being a mother won’t get in the way of my life!
In the end, I realized that defiance is not a good basis for decision. Unlike Serena Williams, I had no doctor, no job. In the best circumstances, the internet-less boat would drop us off at some dark dock in New York in the middle of February, four-months pregnant and possibly a little panicked. Our decision to give up one plan for another means we are beginning parenthood with a flexibility and spontaneity, and even a touch of responsibility. Being a mother won’t get in the way of my life. It will be my life. JUST JOKING that is not the moral of the story here. I just don’t know how to end this. Any suggestions?