The following is told from Sherrill’s (dad to be) perspective.
Families are defined by the stories that they tell. One of my favorite things about a major life event like a wedding, the birth of a child, or even a death, is that not only do the “old stories” get dusted off, but new ones get written. When two people meet the first experience they share is the telling of their story and listening to the other person’s story. It is in this sharing of our stories that we decide whether or not this person is for us. A familiar (note the same root the word as “family”) story usually shows to the other person that we may be a good match. Well, at least that’s the way it happened for us.
My wife and I met under circumstances we choose not to disclose in a public forum, but suffice to say they were not unseemly nor were they in a bar, night club, singles event, on-line, through a friend, or through any other pre-arranged event. As Jenny tells it, it was the stories I told that convinced her that I was the one for her. She says she fell in love with me listening to me talk. I still can’t wrap my head around that. One night we ended up telling the aforementioned life stories to each other in a bar and by the end of the week, I had met her family and we were planning a weekend trip away.
Three months later she accompanied me to England to defend my doctoral dissertation, which was postponed less than one week before the trip, but the money spent we decided to spend a week there anyway. Several of the stories that now define us were written there. Three months after that, I went back again to actually defend my dissertation and while telling stories about her to a dear friend, I decided that I would ask her to marry me. One week later, at her 30th birthday party, we got engaged in front of about 40 of our friends and family. One year later we were married. A fast forward of another year, brings us to the reason for this story, Olivia.
My wife loves Disney. She and her mother used to go as a matter of principle about two times a year to pin trade. While I still am not sure of the intricacies of bargaining for unbuyable items with people who have nothing better to do than hang around theme parks waiting to haggle with other like minded people, I think I understand the fascination. So we went for our one year anniversary with the intention of seeing Disney together, visiting Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (because we both love Halloween), and the possibility that our family may start to grow.
Several weeks later I’m on a train to a conference in Philadelphia. I’m just getting comfortably situated, I have my laptop for working, my MP3 for listening, and a book which is probably actually where my time will be spent, when my phone rings. Her voice shaking from excitement and anticipation, my wife eked out, “I’m pregnant”. My next words are still unclear to me, although I’m sure she could tell you exactly what they were, went something like, “Why did you wait until I was on an eight hour train ride to a four day conference to do this.” In my defense, I knew even then it was the wrong thing to say, it just came out that way. She cried, I called back to apologize, and the next four days were very long. For the next few months we did an OK job of keeping it quiet, so of course everyone knew.
The next few months were a whirlwind of doctor’s visits and concerned pillow talk about everything from if the baby was going to be OK to what color the nursery would be. We had ultrasounds, blood tests, and all that other stuff that you read about in the dozen baby books that ended up piled up on the bedside nightstand.
Speaking of baby books, there is one that has become a part of our story. While I can’t disclose its title, I will say that you only read it once a week, although you can refer to it in case of a dispute about what it said, and reading it on Thursday morning has become a part of our pregnancy ritual. Before her eyes are even opened on a Thursday morning, I hear, “Will you read to me?” I groggily reach over the three other, non-pregnancy books I’ve let go in the last seven months and find the tattering cover of the one we read. It always starts with “How big is your baby?” followed by “How big are You”, and then gives some details about something pregnant women should be thinking about around that week of pregnancy. Like an out of sync oracle, it seemed to be telling us things nearly one week too late for about six weeks, until the doctor moved the due date up two weeks. Now things are more or less on time. Some weeks we hang on every word, others it deals with subjects that Jenny feels don’t apply to us so we skim through it. I always feel best when we get to the “Dad tip” and she tells me that I’ve already been doing that anyway. That’s nice.
Nearly eight months into this pregnancy, my thoughts are turning to how this pregnancy story will end. I’m even feeling a little “preemptory nostalgia” and wondering what we’ll be able to tell Olivia when she is born about this time and what she’ll tell her friends when she’s a grown up about her mom’s pregnancy. That’s the great thing about a family story; it never really stops being written.
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