The following piece of creative nonfiction is part of a series I started on my personal blog a few years ago called “Alphabet: A History,” which is a collection of short, autobiographical vignettes, focusing mainly on relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, and self). I will be publishing the series on Fridays.
Alphabet: A History (J) Jackson
It’s February 10, 2011 and I’ve taken two pregnancy tests today and they’ve both been positive. The first one is so faint, I think it’s negative, but a second test an hour later confirms what I feel in my gut: I’m pregnant.
When Drew comes home, I show him the tests and he looks at me like, “Oh my God!” and I look at him like, “I know!” And we hug and kiss and jump around.
That night we go to dinner at a tiny Italian place on Vanderbilt to celebrate. We’re giddy and nervous like we suddenly don’t know how to be. The waiter brings a wine list and I do a little groan and giggle. It feels like I’m playing pretend.
In July, I get sick and start going into preterm labor. I’m not even at home. I’m in St. Louis visiting family. I have to stay in the hospital for four days. It’s terrifying, but Drew stays in the hospital with me on a fold-out couch. We have a big room in the maternity ward and we take walks to the nursery, wheeling my IV pole behind us, to look at the babies.
In August, I get sick again and have to go back to the hospital. This time we’re in Brooklyn and the hospital is sad and I’m so tired of being pregnant. I’m in the hospital for three days and when I get out, I switch doctors. My new doctor tells me to stop working out and to eat more. I like this new doctor.
In September I turn 35 and I think, “This year, I’m going to become a mom.”
On October 8th, my water breaks. We’ve just come home from the flea market and I lie down for a nap when I feel a “pop!”. Eight hours later, contractions finally start. At the hospital, everything goes crazy. I expect labor to last for hours just like on TV, but it doesn’t. It happens so fast and suddenly I’m not ready. I haven’t had enough time. I don’t want everything to change, and I scream and scream.
At home, I’m the happiest and saddest I’ve ever been. I mourn for everything — for the life I’ve just given up, for my younger self, for my relationship that won’t ever be the same. I don’t sleep. I cry. I hold my baby and we rock back and forth and we wail together. What if I’ll never be good at this?
I look at pictures of us and I’m smiling and I know the smile is real but I’m so … sad. And exhausted. And my body still hurts. When Drew comes home from work I hand the baby to him and I curl up in bed and sob.
October becomes November and slowly, it starts getting easier, just like everyone said it would. Jackson looks me in the eye now and I can see something there. Like he knows me. Like he knows we belong together.
“I’m your Mama, Jackson, and I love you,” I say. Jackson’s seven weeks old now.
“I’m your Mama, Jackson, and I love you.” I repeat. And he smiles. And that smile breaks my heart like I know it will for the rest of my life.
I’m your Mama, Jackson, and I love you. And everything’s going to be okay.