Warm, honest, funny, and empowering, Rattled! is an unforgettable memoir of a life that takes an unexpected turn—and a brave young woman who decides to follow where the road leads. Everything in twenty-six-year-old Christine’s life was going as planned—great friends, a promising job as a magazine assistant, New York City at her feet . . . even a cute guy. Until the fateful day she realizes she’s pregnant by said cute guy, whom she’d only been dating for a few months. The next thing you know, he bails and Christine is left to wonder, What now? Trading Manhattan for the suburbs, skinny jeans for sweatpants, and all-nighters with the girls for 3 a.m. feedings with a restless infant, Christine chooses to live a life that honors what’s important to her—and finds strength she didn’t know she had in the process.
|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 5.14(h) x 0.93(d)|
About the Author
CHRISTINE COPPA is a freelance writer and pens the popular Storked! blog on Glamour.com. She lives in New Jersey with her son, Jack Domenic.
Read an Excerpt
"I might be pregnant. But I'm not," I nonchalantly announce.
"O-kay. I'll give you a test, then?" she asks.
"I mean, I took a drugstore test over the weekend and it says I am," I say, looking past her at a big pink model of a vagina.
"Those tests are pretty accurate and a lot like the ones we give here," she says.
"Really?" I say and pull my sleeve down and feel my stomach flip-flop. Crap, in a low muted whisper, tumbles from my lips.
"What?" the nurse says. I look up and half smile, shaking my head.
She tells me my blood pressure is normal and asks me to step on the scale. Mother fucker, I think as the scale reveals my weight. Why am I two pounds heavier? Next, she opens a drawer stacked with pregnancy tests and hands one to me.
"Put it in the direct stream of your urine," she says and points to the restroom across the hall. Sounds way too familiar.
As I sit on the toilet yet again, I examine the package before tearing it open. It's the exact same test I took in my apartment. I'm screwed. Alone in this tiny, impossibly clean bathroom that smells a little like medicine and mouthwash, I hear my internal dialogue loud and clear: You're in there, Baby, aren't you? I hand a little paper cup with the stick in it to the nurse and linger in the doorway. There's a bulletin board on the wall tacked with baby pictures. One baby is naked, plopped in an oversized flowerpot, and the card says: "Thanks for bringing me into the world!" People need to stop putting their kids in flowerpots. I'll never do that. The nurse is writing something in my chart. She looks like America Ferrera from Ugly Betty, except her nose is narrower.
"Am I pregnant?" I ask her, with hair hanging in my face.
A phone is ringing. "Doctor's office, please hold," the woman behind the counter sings. The nurse pulls the tube from the cup and cocks her head. I fixate on her face, thinking how for the rest of my life I'll never forget how Ugly Betty in green scrubs held my fate between her fingers.
"You are," she says and leads me to a room that has an exam table with stirrups cupped in purple socks that advertise some kind of birth control, of course.
I'm pregnant. There is no misunderstanding here. I start to panic. What does this mean? A and I get married? I get fat, I crave things; I become someone's mother in nine months? Nine months? Nine months from now the start-up magazine I've been working on for almost two years will have launched. I'm supposed to be promoted to Senior Associate Editor--and, wait, six months from now I'm supposed to be in Spain with my girlfriends.
"Undress from the waist down. The doctor will be in shortly," she says.
"O-kay," my voice cracks.
I hop onto the table and try to imagine what A must be thinking. He has to be freaked out. Though, right at this moment, he's probably standing in line waiting for his coffee, or eating a soggy premade sandwich from a chain deli. Even though he seemed okay with the news, it feels like we're in different galaxies, or like we're about to break up over e-mail. But we can't just break up. We share something real. I can't just throw his toothbrush out and buy new sheets. Maybe he'll ask me to marry him. Maybe I want to marry him? I examine the statement for a minute.
Knock-knock. There are urgent knuckles at the door.
My gynecologist, Dr. Collado, enters with my chart.
"I see," she says and sits across from me on a little backless chair with wheels.
I feel my cheeks spread with red and I look up at her with tears welling in my eyes.
"How's your Nanny? I see her all the time in her black outfits, taking short walks on her block," she says and smiles kindly. "She waves to all the cars, you know. She's like the mayor."
How's my Nanny? Seriously?
"Good," I say and it occurs to me I'm going to have to tell people I'm pregnant, people like my eighty seven-year-old grandmother, who constantly asks about my "love life" or when I'm going to get married.
Dr. Collado tells me to lie back so she can examine me. From under the sheet, I hear her say, "I feel six or so weeks along." Now she wants to send me to an ultrasound technician to get a read on a heartbeat to be positive. She says she'll send me for bloodwork, too. I hate needles.
"Be positive? You mean there is a chance I'm not pregnant?" I urgently ask.
"A heartbeat can sometimes be detected at this stage," she says.
"So, if there isn't a heartbeat?" I persist.
"Let's just take this one step at a time," she says. "Are your breasts tender?" she asks, feeling around under my armpits.
Yeah, they are. This can't be happening, is all I can think as she scribbles the order for a transvaginal ultrasound. After she's done writing she looks up, meets my eyes, and says, "You know you have options, Christine."
She tells me it's still early enough to take RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill. The name freaks me out a little. It sounds so official. She does not administer this pill, nor does she perform "procedures," but tells me she can refer me to someone if I decide to "terminate the pregnancy." Terminate. I turn the word over in my mind. Terminate is etched in stone. I once vowed to be a vegetarian, but two weeks in I suddenly got a craving for a strip steak and a dirty martini--so I ordered them. Not once did I wince in disgust as I sliced into the rare meat, while blood and marinade collected along its edge in a little pool I then sopped up with bread. I change my mind a lot. I know better than to get a tattoo--that's way too permanent for me.
Dr. Collado has striking cheekbones and her hair is set in soft, loose curls. She tells me I would take the first pill in a doctor's office. This pill would begin to slow then stop the hormones that sustain pregnancy. I never noticed how pretty she was, or the spray of freckles barely dotting her nose. She's got on panty hose and pretty shoes with a kitten heel. I imagine a doctor I don't know, his hands sheathed in blue rubber gloves, switching my pregnancy off like it never existed at all. Dr. Collado continues explaining that I'd go home and take a second pill, sometimes in the form of a "vaginal suppository," and wait--wait for the "cramping and bleeding." As she continues to tell me my options, I envision myself alone in my tiny bedroom while the rest of the world carries on. People hail yellow taxis just outside my apartment; my roommate clanks dishes in the sink.
One minute something is there and the next it is gone. Gone with no second chances to get it back. Gone without warning of how I might feel afterward. Except I know how I would feel, I think--in half. For the rest of my life, looking over my shoulder like there might be someone's hand to hold, or like I forgot to do something, until I remember I didn't forget a thing--everything is in order except it isn't. Like throwing the dice in the air unable to predict what will turn up in mere seconds. I don't like that breathless feeling. I know it well. It's like having a bad dream, except you're awake.
I feel a dizzying mix of panic and fear and then something different: Excitement? Happiness? Yes, I think so. I tug at my lip, thinking, This is my baby. I wish I had my little reporter recorder with me so I could tape this moment, because I know I will need its reassurance in the months to come.
"Got it?" Dr. Collado asks.
It's too early. If this was a normal day, I'd be thanking the Starbucks lady on Fiftieth and Second right about now, cursing myself for not wearing my commuter sneakers instead of stilettos, grabbing a copy of the Daily News and standing on the platform waiting for the late A train to whisk me to the George Washington Bridge, where I hop a two-second bus to my New Jersey office.
"Got it," I say.
Before leaving me to dress, Dr. Collado touches my shoulder gently. She's known me since I was fifteen. She gave me iron shots every week before I had an epic spinal surgery to correct an aggressive case of scoliosis (not fun). She told me to relax when I was seventeen and having my first pap smear, and she assured me I was just having "classic quarter-life" panic attacks when I thought I was going crazy a couple of years ago. She hands me the ultrasound order along with a sample pack of prenatal vitamins (and a prescription for more), and I lay back on the table, a tear streaming down my cheek. Before she leaves, she says, "Things happen for a reason," and I believe her.
As I make my way to the strip mall where the imaging office is, I think how easy it would be if there isn't a heartbeat--if there is nothing there at all. I could resume my day as usual and just dip into the office late because I was "covering an event." Oh, yeah--an event, alright, Christine! I chuckle to myself. I know this sounds rather contradictory, since moments ago I was resigned to the fact that I do want my baby--but what if there's not a choice to make? What if the two tests and physical exam are wrong? It's not like a miscarriage or an abortion--it's just a kink in the system, a big misunderstanding that would all of a sudden be a nonissue. As I pull into the lot, I thought I'd find a relieving comfort in my reasoning, but then it hits me, I might well be disappointed if Baby isn't there. As I drag myself into the office with my thoughts seesawing wildly back and forth, I realize how emotional I am--I'm definitely pregnant and my hormones are right on time.
I sit, slouched, in a chair in the corner and keep my sunglasses on. There's an old man with gray nose hair nodding off in the corner. His leg is propped up on the chair opposite him and his foot is bandaged in a blue air cast. A woman in green scrubs calls my name and I cower some in the chair, because even though I could very well be getting my big toe scanned, I feel like there is a word bubble floating over my head that reads: "KNOCKED UP." She leads me to a small room where she tells me to undress from the waist down, and that a technician will be with me shortly. I step out of my jeans and my underwear, yet again, and leave them carelessly crumpled like an accordion on the floor. There's a poster on the wall of an interior cross section of a pregnant woman's womb and I close in on it. At about six weeks, the embryo looks like a limbless blob blooming with buds. I palm my stomach, wondering if that is in fact inside of me.
I sit on the table with a disposable blanket draped over my bottom half and wait. My legs dangle, limp and heavy. I need a pedicure. I run my fingers through my hair and stare straight ahead at the door, thinking how stupid I was to have sex without a condom, and with a guy I'd only been dating for a few months. Who does that? Idiot, Christine--you're an idiot, I hear myself say. Then I think how stupid he was to just come inside of me, and I feel better blaming him. But who am I kidding? I could have kicked him off of me.
A woman with short, dark hair enters the room. She has on a scrub jacket dotted with little bears and toy blocks--perfect. She says hello, introduces herself as Pam in a Polish, no, German accent, and starts going over the test. I'm looking at her and her perfect bob. Her lips are moving, but I'm thinking about all the wine I consumed with my friends Lo, Ashley, and Stef just one week ago, during our girls' trip to the Napa Valley. That can't be good. We spent New Year's Eve in San Francisco at Lo's parents' house and her dad got me loaded on a concoction called Holiday Bombs that he served up in chilled martini glasses every evening. If I am pregnant, I wonder if my embryo is okay and make a mental note to Google "alcohol & fetus" when I get home. That gets me thinking about the last time I ate sushi. Crap, SF, I think. And why is there a sign outside of the steam room at the gym that says pregnant women should not enter? I did enter. Three mornings ago! I panic. My God, how much damage have I already done? I'm starting to realize why I was so tired in SF--it wasn't jet lag.
I hadn't felt like going out our very first night in SF and Lo couldn't understand why I was lying on the couch with an afghan pulled up to my nose, contemplating another serving of her mom's awesome chicken-and-artichoke casserole. It was the first time my girlfriends had to pitch "going out" to me. Lo especially knows how uncharacteristic it is for me not to be donning some glitzy top and heels, clutch in hand. I met Lo, a carefree redhead with great taste in bags and shoes, when we were both working at First magazine in 2005. I admittedly noticed her classic Louis Vuitton bucket purse and black Gucci heels with gold stems. She was new to the beauty department, and even though I worked in the "Real Life" department, I often pitched in and covered events for the fashion editor, Brian. Lo and I started showing up at the same open-bar parties and leaving with the same stuffed goody bags, like the Everlast event at chi-chi Marquee, where we bonded over vodka shots. We became fast friends--e-mailing during work to decide where Happy Hour would convene and sending each other links to scandalous industry stories on Jossip.com. As I sit here and think back to our vacation in SF, I recall a friend from work telling me how "wiped out" she was in the first trimester, or, as she called it, "T-1." Suddenly I feel like a private eye, putting pieces to a very easy puzzle together.
Pam says, "Got it?" but I have no clue what she just said, and suddenly she's holding a long dildo-ish thing sheathed in what looks like a condom and firing up the ultrasound machine. "Yes, thank you," I lie. She tells me to lie back. I don't want to but I collapse and a mess of brown hair sprays around me. My fingers fold into one another and I rest my hands on my chest.
Excerpted from "Rattled!"
Copyright © 2009 Christine Coppa.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
1. When Christine first learns that she’s pregnant, how does A’s reaction differ from her own? How do their feelings change over the next few months? Can you think of a time in your own life when everything changed in a split second, like when Christine saw her baby’s heartbeat and knew her pregnancy was real? How did you feel?
2. Were you surprised by A’s decision to not be involved at all? Given that women have the right to an abortion and Plan B, do you think men should have the right to walk away if they don’t want to be a parent?
3. Has anyone you loved ever been injured in an accident, like Christine’s ex-boyfriend Keith? How did it affect you? Do you think Christine was wrong to leave him?
4. Christine grapples with how to share her pregnancy news with her family and friends. Did her parents’ reaction surprise you? How did Christine’s girlfriends differ in their responses? How did you react when a girlfriend shared something surprising with you?
5. What do you think of Christine’s solo trip to Palm Springs, California? What does her “babymoon” teach her about herself? Have you or would you ever travel solo? Why or why not?
6. Christine remarks that moving to New Jersey seems, at times, “more impossible” than being pregnant. What do you think she misses most about city life? How does her move affect her relationship with her girlfriends? What are the advantages and disadvantages of raising a child in the city?
7. What do you make of Christine’s relationship with her brother Carlo? Do you think he helps or hinders her ability to become independent and ready for her baby?
8. Christine’s work as a blogger often makes her private life open to the public. Do you think her readers have the right to critique her decisions? Have her readers crossed a line by asking questions about child support, Jack’s father, and her financial situation? Do you think A ever read(s) her blog?
9. How do Christine’s feelings about being a single-parent family change as her pregnancy progresses? How does she overcome concerns about raising her son without a father? Do you think American society still views a nuclear family as ideal?
10. What is the significance of Christine’s return to New York City with her son to celebrate her 27th birthday? How has she changed since the beginning of the book?