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.
camille905 December 2, 2011, 12:46 pm
Love, love, love this! I really enjoy this series anyway but this in particular is pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing :).
iseeshiny December 2, 2011, 12:47 pm
I love this. All of your alphabets have that atmosphere of, like, nostalgia and hope. This one especially. Things change, and they can never be the same again. But they can be better. 🙂
JK December 2, 2011, 12:51 pm
Beautiful, Wendy. And that feeling when your baby recognizes you really is amazing. Right up there with when you alone can calm him, just by being you (but that is pretty frustrating, as well).
Jackson is getting cuter with each picture you post!
MissDre December 2, 2011, 12:58 pm
Wendy! You’re making me tear up at work! And I have a meeting in exactly 2 minutes… *ahem* get it together Dre…
mcminnem December 2, 2011, 1:55 pm
mcj2011 December 6, 2011, 12:17 pm
me too! This is wonderfully written.
Taylor December 2, 2011, 1:00 pm
Poignant and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Lianne December 2, 2011, 1:08 pm
You are such a beautiful writer. Thank you so much for sharing!
Landygirl December 2, 2011, 1:28 pm
There is a book I have called “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch, it’s super touching, especially for a mother that has a son. I used to cry everytime I read it, so I stopped reading it.
applescruff December 2, 2011, 1:55 pm
I used to work in a day care and I had to take that book out of rotation because it would make me cry when I read it to the kids!
Beckaleigh December 2, 2011, 2:25 pm
That book really is beautiful! My mom would read it to me when I was younger and cry. And then when I got a little older, I would read it to her and cry!
Morgan December 2, 2011, 1:33 pm
Well I’m crying at work. Awkward.
va-in-ny December 2, 2011, 1:56 pm
Beautiful, just beautiful!
I love how honest you are about this. A lot of times, people who talk about their experiences with newborns only share the amazingly wonderful things. It’s refreshing to see something real. Thank you for that.
MissDre December 2, 2011, 2:12 pm
CatsMeow December 2, 2011, 4:12 pm
I was thinking the same thing!
bethany December 2, 2011, 2:28 pm
Don’t make me cry at work!!!
Even though I’ve been a reader for a while and already know what you’ve been going through, this still brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for being so honest and for sharing with us! Keep the baby pictures coming!!
Skyblossom December 2, 2011, 3:11 pm
I’m so glad that it’s going well for you now. I knew you were hitting your stride when you started answering letters again this week! Way to go!!! You’ve made it through the newborn stage and now you get to look forward to a year of fun!
Skyblossom December 2, 2011, 3:12 pm
Isn’t that first smile a treasure.
Wendy December 2, 2011, 3:13 pm
Aw, thanks. But just to clarify, I’ve been answering letters all along — just not as many as normal. I’ve still managed to answer 3 or 4 each week, and in the coming weeks that number will increase.
Skyblossom December 2, 2011, 3:32 pm
I’m so impressed with the way you’ve managed to keep the site running while getting almost no sleep and to keep answering letters is incredible. I think this is one of those life experiences that teaches how much you really can do.
Rosie December 2, 2011, 3:11 pm
Goddammit now I’m crying as well! Beautiful piece.
Sue Jones December 2, 2011, 3:13 pm
Dammit Wendy! You made me cry again!!!! 😉
savannah December 2, 2011, 3:15 pm
This piece is beautiful and I like it’s sentiments more than the original J essay! Seems very lovely and ‘whole’ to slip Jackson into this project!
lumpie December 2, 2011, 4:32 pm
Wendy you just made me “aaawwwwwwwwww” out loud. So,so lovely.
Addie Pray December 2, 2011, 8:49 pm
Aw. I’m ready for a baby now. Like, now.
Becky December 3, 2011, 12:42 am
This is so beautiful, Wendy. You really know how to make a girl cry. Hope all is getting better and more smooth. We love you and can’t wait to meet Jackson! You guys coming to st. Louis for a visit anytime soon?!