I slipped my bare feet from beneath the covers and tiptoed across the hardwood floor to the bathroom. Locking the door behind me, I quietly tore into the foil wrapper, removing the plastic stick marked PREGNANT and NOT PREGNANT.
I inhaled. I peed on the stick.
I looked at the clock. I picked up a Backpacker magazine, turned some pages. Looked at the clock. Wiped a water spot off the bathtub ledge. Closed the magazine.
Peeked at the test. Looked at the clock. Leaned towards the mirror. Plucked a stray hair beneath my eyebrow. P eeked at the test. Flossed a couple incisors. Threw the floss in the trash. Looked at my long second toe. Looked at the scar on my knee. Looked at the clock. Peeked at the test. Looked at the freckle on my left thigh. Looked at the print of a fern on the wall. Looked at the dust on the baseboards. Looked at the clock.
I snatched the test off the counter. Two lines. Two lines?! Pregnant? Pregnant! TWO LINES! PREGNANT! HOLY MOSES I AM PREGNANT!
I lifted my nightgown and placed my palms on my abdomen between my belly button and suntan lines. There’s a baby in there. A microscopic baby bean. My baby.
I slid back into bed and whispered in my husband’s ear. “Chad. Are you awake? Chaaad. Are you awake, Honey? CHAD. CHAAAAAD! Oh, you’re awake!”
“Mumble, mumble. Did that dumb dog pee on the floor again?”
“No, I have something to –“
“Did he shred the toilet paper?”
“NOO. Liiisten to me! I have something to tell you. I’m PREGnant! We’re having a baby. You’re gonna be a daddy.”
“You are? I AM? YESSS!”
We hugged and cuddled and did all the happy things people do when they find out they are going to become parents, and then I immediately subscribed to every pregnancy and parenting email list, blog, and notification service in existence. I called my doctor’s office the minute they opened to tell them my news (could they be a little more enthusiastic? I’m PREGNANT for gosh sakes!) and headed straight to the library to check out pregnancy books. I had to know what my little embryo baby was achieving inside the amniotic sac. Did my adorable tadpole have heart chambers yet? Was the neural tube open or closed? Was my primitive placenta developing? I needed the facts, stat.
Throughout my pregnancy, I read every book I could find in my local library and book store about pregnancy, labor, and delivery. When I ran out of new material, I
ordered more off Amazon knew I was ready to have this baby. I had read hundreds of birth stories, and was scared shitless excited and prepared to experience a glorious, natural, drug-free vaginal birth, and to be the smartest and awesomest most loving mom ever. I couldn’t wait to hold my perfectly-nourished prodigy sweet baby in my arms.
On the day of my delivery, I reviewed my birth plan with my nurse, emphasizing my wishes for a drug-free birth, explaining my hope to
relentlessly adhere to follow The Bradley Method of childbirth, a natural childbirth approach developed my Dr. Robert Bradley in which the woman, with the help of her partner or coach, deals with the stress of labor by tuning into her own body.
“Did you say Robert Bradley?” my nurse asked.
“Yes, Dr. Robert Bradley, a well-known…”
“How many babies has he given birth to?”
“Just remember, Sweetie, there are no awards for being a hero around here.”
A few hours later, I was deep in the throes of labor, contracting every one to two minutes, doubled over on my birth ball, sometimes vomiting with the intense blasts of pain. At full dilation, I began pushing. I pushed for over an hour, breaking capillaries in my face and lips. My doctor and several nurses tried stretching my cervix to allow my baby to move into the birth canal, but it just wouldn’t happen. Someone said the word cesarean.
My mind flickered. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t part of my plan. No one prepared me for this. I can’t have a c-section.
My doctor talked to me about options, told me I could push for another half-hour if I wanted to. I agreed, but I was beat. Defeated. In that moment, all my knowledge, all my planning, was futile.
God, please please please get this baby safely out of my body and into my arms.
Forty-five minutes later, I was on the table in the surgical unit, a spinal block in my back, the surgeon sterilizing my abdomen while casually chatting with nurses about the best local burger in a way that was both bizarre and comforting.
This was not in the books. This was not in the emails. No one had told me how it would feel to be on my back beneath fluorescent lights with my belly cut open on the other side of a blue paper sheet. No one described the sickening smell of my own cauterized flesh. No one said that birth might end up being something that happened to me, instead of something I did in my own flawlessly-planned, laudable way.
Or maybe they did tell me. But I didn’t hear them.
I felt a lot of pressure, some tugging, then a shift.
“Holy cow, somebody get this kid a cheeseburger!” the surgeon joked.
I felt a release in my abdomen. I heard a gurgle, and then a wail. The doctor lifted my baby above the sheet. A boy. My baby boy! My husband kissed my face.
The nurses carried my son over to the station to examine and weigh him. Twenty-one and a quarter inches. Twelve pounds, one ounce.
TWELVE? Twelve freakin’ pounds? That was NOT in the books.
The nurse placed my son on my chest. I pressed my lips to his warm cheek, whispered that I was so happy to meet him and I couldn’t believe what a big boy he was, that his name was Gray Daniel and that I have loved him for months and months, that I loved him before he even existed.
From that second on, there were no books. No books could explain the first sniff of your newborn baby’s hair, the sound of his first cry, the way his quivering jaw turns your insides to maple syrup.
No expert can prepare you for how different the parking lot will look when you exit the hospital to bring your baby home, the appropriate number of checks on the carseat straps and buckles, the amount of times too hot or too cold will flash through your brain before lunging over the car seat to make a human shield as a delivery truck permeates the bubble which now encloses your SUV.
No article can adequately describe the light in the nursery at 4:30 am, a perfect latch, chubby fingers resting on your breast.
No one tells you how vulnerable you’ll feel, really feel, with that first fever. That first shot. First hour apart. First bump on the head, first choking, first biting. First IV, first day apart, first cough, first cast. First pushing-you-away.
Or the first birthday party. First trip to the zoo. First sloppy kiss. First time you hear the word momma. Momma.
No one tells you that you simply cannot have nice things in your home anymore. That Pottery Barn Kids bedding will still end up smelling like urine. That the wisest dining room color scheme is marinara and blueberry.
No one breaks it to you that the grandparents and aunties and neighbors might not be as excited to babysit as you thought they would be. That grocery shopping will never be quick or easy again. That at some point, your kid will be the one thrashing in the aisle of Walgreen’s. That the smell of vomit can linger in a car for months. That you won’t even need a pregnancy test for baby number two because gagging your way through every poopy diaper change is the earliest (and truest) indicator of conception.
No one prepares you for sleep deprivation. For how insane you can feel at 3:00 a.m. For post-partum depression. For sitting on the closed toilet lid with the shower and faucet running full blast because you have to not hear the crying for a couple minutes.
No one prepares you for, “Please, have a seat.”
For, “We’d like to run some tests.”
“There’s been an accident.”
“I hate you.”
“I’m running away.”
And no one could explain the music behind, “You’re pretty, Mommy.”
“You’re my best friend.”
“I love you to Souf Carolina and back.”
This is the stuff that’s not in the books. All of it and none of it. This is the stuff no one told us we needed to know. And even if they did, we didn’t hear them.
There are no books. There are no newsletters, no articles, no manuals or rules for being a parent. There are no methods or theories or philosophies that will prove true all of the time.
We learn as we go. We notice. We sense. We believe. We pray. We open our hearts and minds to things we never acknowledged before.
We let go of control before gaining some back. We exhale before we can inhale.
We find our way as we find ourselves on paths we didn’t know existed, and with resolve we didn’t know we had. We gain wisdom through experience, and sometimes we gain it the hard way by failing, by being embarrassed, ashamed, defeated.
Sometimes we take giant steps in one day. Other times we go nowhere for months.
We do it our way. The way that works for our family. Our kids. Our selves. We write our own books, share our own stories in our own languages, each day the dawn of a new page.