The Parasite

by Frances Lysak

She was going to be sick again. She raced for the bathroom, but only just made it, feeling her insides coming away from her, losing part of her soul in the process. When she was done she stayed there, knees pressed against the cold, shiny tiled floor, hands clutching the ceramic of the toilet bowl.

"It'll be alright," she told herself. "It'll be alright."

If only she could believe it. Every time she had some peace, every time she thought he was going to leave her alone for a while and everything would be okay, he came back, right when she was least expecting it, his temporary absence only serving to make his presence more powerfully felt. She couldn't cope. She constantly felt nauseous and could barely keep food down, she was exhausted, her hair was falling out and she was gripped with a sense of fear that nothing would ever be okay again. And to think she had been so thrilled when she had first heard he was coming. Well, that's how you were meant to feel, weren't you? Otherwise no one would ever do it. She had danced in this same bathroom in a state of heightened excitement, desperate to tell anyone and everyone, even though she knew she should keep it quiet for the first few months at least. Jake was thrilled too.

"I can't believe it," he kept exclaiming, over and over. "I'm going to be a dad!"

He was still thrilled. But she wasn't. She had assumed pregnancy would be the metaphorical walk in the park, that she would waltz through it blooming, gradually morphing into the yummy mummy she had every intention of becoming. But it wasn't to be. Forget morning sickness " this was 24 hour a day sickness. The baby was stripping her body of all its vital nutrients, and two of her teeth had already fallen out. She felt like he (and it was a he, revealed at the 20 week scan) was bleeding her dry, sucking out the very core of her. She felt so ill that she couldn't remember who the real Kate was. She had become just a vessel, with the sole purpose of protecting this merciless leech. She felt none of her initial excitement now, and certainly no love for this vulture. And the worse thing was not the sickness, not the anxiety, but having to hide her feelings and pretend she felt nothing but joy. For who would ever understand? You were meant to love your baby practically from the moment of conception, not regret his very existence. She felt like a freak, a freak who should be scorned by the whole of womankind. It wasn't natural to feel this way, was it? For surely if it was, the millions of baby books, magazines and blogs designed to prepare you for the arrival of baby would have mentioned it? But none of them did. She was obviously so perverse that no one had ever contemplated that a woman might feel as she did. Even Jake hadn't picked up on her true feelings. Sure, he knew she was struggling with the physical aspects of pregnancy, but other than that he assumed she felt exactly as he did: thrilled, overawed, counting down the minutes until their child entered the world. But she didn't. She was dreading the birth. It wasn't the thought of the pain, humility and vulnerability that she was afraid of. It was what came next. How could she hold and caress and love a creature that had made her feel like this? She wasn't even sure she could pretend to. It was all too much, and there was no end in sight. Once the child was there, it was there forever. Being a parent doesn't stop when the child turns 18. It is all encompassing, and life is never the same again, as she had already found to her detriment. She could see no way out, and as a reminder, a wave of nausea overwhelmed her again, and she retched into the toilet.

"This is it," she said to herself. "As good as it's ever going to get."

She vomited again. There was nothing else she could do. She just had to get on with it.

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