One Christmas removed from finding out we were going to have a child, it’s easy to look back and see the path. But on Christmas Day 2012, it was all trees, no forest.
Colleen took a random pregnancy test mid-morning. Not because we expected a positive reading, but to eliminate the possibility before a Christmas party with friends. A Christmas party in which Colleen was supposed to bring the alcohol. That certainly made for some awkward moments later.
There had been plenty of anticipation leading up to this point. Plenty of times when Colleen had gone behind closed doors thinking maybe, and returned saying no. I’ll never forget the sound she made when the line on the test appeared so suddenly, so clearly a year ago. It was “Huunneeee?!” said as both a declaration and a question, inflection creeping closer to the sky with every syllable. A deer-in-headlights moment if the deer was about to be hit by a tidal wave of chocolate. Glee. Shock. Uncertainty. The situation all the more surreal because it was happening on Christmas Day. And because we were fairly certain we’d missed our mark that month. It’s just strange when you spend months throwing darts, not even hitting the board, and then one day, you throw a bullseye. And that bullseye is then dependent on you for survival for years to come.
A year earlier–Christmas 2011–we weren’t even sure we wanted kids. We were four years into our ongoing discussion about children, and seemingly no closer to an answer. Yeah, it might be cool, but think about all we’d miss. How much we’d be tied down. How little time we’d have to just be us. Back then, we had no idea how much joy it’d bring us when he did something as simple as sticking his thumb in his mouth, or better, giggling at our antics.
On Christmas Day 2010, we were talking about our upcoming trip to Egypt, still looking at each other, and repeating “No baby” out loud every time we’d run into wild children and disheveled new parents. Back then, “no baby” was our mantra. The path of least resistance. A way to delay a decision we weren’t quite ready to make.
In 2009, we spent our first Christmas in Phoenix, figuring there wouldn’t be many more of them before we moved back to Colorado or maybe to the west coast. At that point we didn’t know–couldn’t know–the support system of new parents and young couples we’d find here. A support system that would make us redefine where home is.
2008 was our first Christmas in the house we bought outside of Denver…a place we thought we’d raise our kids should we decide to have any. We never expected to move a year later, to be back to apartment living shortly thereafter, and to eventually be thrilled to sell that house for just a shade over what we paid. We never pictured bringing a baby back to an apartment. We didn’t know that the place wouldn’t matter. That, big house or small apartment, we’d still be spending a disproportionate amount of our time trying to get a 10 lb. baby to take a 20 minute nap so our 30-year-old bodies could have a brief respite.
2007 was our first Christmas living together. We were in a college town with New York-style pizza AND a liquor store just down the stairs from us. And being newly-engaged and madly in love, we didn’t spend nearly as much time talking about poop. And by nearly as much I mean…we never talked about poop. Normal people don’t talk about poop! We had no idea how large a role changing a diaper would eventually play in our lives. That, at some point, it would rise in difficulty to the level of an Olympic sport. And that, on his worst days, we ought to get a medal.
Back in 2003–10 years ago, incredibly– we cuddled and exchanged gifts at her mom’s house, and a few weeks later, broke up… even having admitted to each other that we could see–down the road–the house, the dog, the 2.5 kids. It would be four years before we got back together. We could picture the forest, but not the trees… like the moment our son took his first breath, or the moment we would hug in the bathroom of our Phoenix apartment, look into each other’s eyes, shake our heads, and say, “I can’t believe we’re pregnant.”
Time will tell if we decide to have another child (and a half). But our path to number one was a deliberate, decade-long process. Some couples know immediately they want kids. Others have babies simply because that’s what you’re supposed to do. We all have our paths. Ours was marked by plenty of uncertainty and a lot of feeling it out. We needed time. But once we found out we were pregnant, each day brought with it assurances our decision to have a child was the right one.
There was a scare at 10 weeks that we might be more at risk of having a developmentally-disabled child. It was terrifying. We cried. But ultimately, it reaffirmed our commitment to loving whatever child we had, whatever the situation, whatever the consequences. There was the gestational diabetes for Colleen that brought even more restrictions to an already restricted diet. But ultimately, that served a purpose, too, and allowed Colleen to have the birth experience she wanted. Along the way, we experienced the garden variety of doubts, discomforts, and struggles associated with the ticking time bomb inside soon-to-be-mom’s tummy. But overall, pregnancy was an exciting, connecting experience.
When we unwrapped (meaning: when Colleen–with great, um, enthusiasm and much vigor and beauty–pushed out) our Christmas present on a rainy September night in Phoenix, it wasn’t a new journey that started. It was another bold, slightly unnerving step down a path carved out well in advance.
We’re fortunate to know a lot of new parents, and to have their insight keeping us sane, grounded, and in good humor along the way. We have friends celebrating the holiday with a child they never expected to bring into the world together, yet can’t imagine living without. Friends who tried for years to get pregnant and only now are celebrating their first Christmas as a family unit. Friends who’ve spent thousands of dollars to bring a baby into the world and friends who’ve tapped deep into their emotional reserves as one pregnancy after another fades. Friends who have opened their homes and hearts to children not of their own flesh and blood, and have seen their love grow so much, they’ve chosen to adopt again. Friends with twins who toddle, babble, and coo in surround sound, and friends who swear they are one and done. Friends with babies not yet born, wondering when the water will break and their lives will change. Friends who’ve known the joys of one child’s birth and the despair of another’s loss.
This Christmas, I’m thankful for all these paths converging, and I’ll be fascinated to see where they all will lead next. Merry Christmas all.