What would Freud Say?


February 22, 2012 at 13:12 pm

In July, I taught a Literature and Psychology course to a group of high school students. At the end of the month, they joked that they were going to set up a class blog called What would Freud say?, as whenever one of them said something quirky, or suggestive, or eventually even just plain innocent, another would ask this question.
Usually while miming stroking a beard while holding a cigar. Okay, that was just me.

As far as I know, they haven’t carried out their threat, but the question has popped into my mind, unbidden, since mid September when I realised I was pregnant.

I say realised like the angel Gabriel dropped by for a chat, but it should not have been a surprise. I’d been feeling oddly seasick, tired, and unaccountably anxious. I was, for example, stricken with fear about my partner being in Washington on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He tried to reassure me rationally that as there were large men with big guns patrolling outside his hotel, it was probably the safest place to be on that date.

(Large men, big guns – yes, thank you, Dr. Freud.)

In an attempt to be more logical, I wonder if, as I am 43, I might be toying with the menopause. I search NHS Direct and manage to convince myself temporarily that this is a distinct possibility. I manage to ignore the chief sign on its own – a late period – until I do some calculations and realise that it’s not one week, but more than two weeks overdue. Now I am feeling that I should be responsible adult, so I buy a test (from Boots, in Bath, after doing a Jane Austen walking tour with students – what would she say?). I procrastinate, because I’m such a grownup, and take the test the next day.

It doesn’t even have the courtesy to develop slowly. I look at the stick 6 times and the leaflet 8, like I’m not an over-educated native English speaker. I half expect it to chastise me out loud. I literally shake my head in disbelief. I am reduced to clichés.

So I break the news to my partner who is doing the washing up. He is ecstatic. He hugs me, I cry, we list possible names, I cry, we talk about getting married after 16 years. It’s not like we want to rush into things.

The next morning, I throw up violently, but discreetly, at work. I feel so unwell and overwhelmed, and look the colour of a manky sport sock, I figure I should tell someone, discreetly, and go to see the college nurse. “Welcome to the world of stretch marks and saggy boobs!” she trills. Then she asks me nonchalantly if I ever have to teach PSHE sessions on contraception. Visibly relieved when I say no, she kindly lets me throw up again in her office, works out I am seven weeks gone, and sends me away with a handy portable sick bag. “Come back if you need to throw up any time!”

Various thoughts strike me in the ensuing weeks:
  • My goals have become: not throwing up in class, not throwing up in the morning, not throwing up in the evening, not throwing up after brushing my teeth.
  • I am old to be doing this for the first time.
  • There’s more than one reason the French word for pregnancy is la grossesse.
  • The only foodstuffs I can eat without being sick instantly (M&S microwave porridge and a vegetarian lunch pack from the Lebanese deli up the road) should be available on the NHS.
  • I really am rather old to be doing this for the first time.
  • I have spent most of my life in my head and now everything is about my body. Suddenly, I have to talk to lots of different strangers about my bits and pieces, invariably after peeing into a small plastic pot. This is weird, though my aim is getting surprisingly good.
  • OhmysogodIamtoofreakingoldtobedoingthisforthefirsttime.

And, of course, what would Freud say?

I think he’d say that you don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to work out that two grownups in their forties who weren’t being careful really just wanted to have a baby.

And that I should give up the cigars.

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