And Baby Makes Three
“Wow!” I can remember saying as soon as Vivian stepped out of the bathroom and showed me the positive result of the pregnancy test. “That’s great!”
In truth, my feelings were closer to… Really? Already?
It was more shock than anything, with a bit of terror mixed in. We’d been married for a little more than a year and she’d already told me that she intended to stay home for the first few years when we decided to have a baby. I’d always agreed when she’d said it – I wanted the same thing – but in that moment, I also understood that our life as a couple with two incomes would soon be coming to an end. Moreover, I wasn’t sure whether I was even ready to become a father, but what could I do? It wasn’t as though she’d tricked me, nor had she concealed the fact that she wanted to have a baby, and she’d let me know when she stopped taking the pill. I wanted children as well, of course, but she’d stopped the pill only three weeks earlier. I can remember thinking that I probably had a few months at least before her body readjusted to its normal, baby-making state. For all I knew, it could be hard for her to become pregnant, which meant it might even be a year or two.
But not my Vivian. Her body had adjusted right away. My Vivian was fertile.
I slipped my arms around her, studying her to see if she was already glowing. But it was too soon for that, right? What exactly is glowing, anyway? Is it just another way of saying someone looks hot and sweaty? How were our lives going to change? And by how much?
Questions tumbled around and around, and as I held my wife, I, Russell Green, had answers to none of them.
Months later, the big IT happened, though I admit much of the day remains a blur.
In retrospect, I probably should have written it all down while it was still fresh in my mind. A day like the big IT should be remembered in vivid detail – not the fuzzy snapshots I tend to recall. The only reason I remember as much as I do is because of Vivian. Every detail seemed etched into her consciousness, but then she was the one in labor, and pain has a way of sometimes sharpening the mind. Or so they say.
What I do know is this: Sometimes, in recalling events of that day, she and I are of slightly differing opinions. For instance, I considered my actions completely understandable under the circumstances, whereas Vivian would declare alternately that I was selfish, or simply a complete idiot. When she told the story to friends – and she has done so many times – people inevitably laughed, or shook their heads and offered her pitying glances.
In all fairness, I don’t think I was either selfish or a complete idiot; after all, it was our first child, and neither of us knew exactly what to expect when she went into labor. Does anyone really feel prepared for what’s coming? Labor, I was told, is unpredictable; during her pregnancy, Vivian reminded me more than once that the process from initial contractions to actual birth could take more than a day – especially for the first child – and labors of twelve hours or more were not uncommon. Like most young fathers-to-be, I considered my wife the expert and took her at her word. After all, she was the one who’d read all the books.
It should also be noted that I wasn’t entirely deficient on the morning in question. I had taken my responsibilities seriously. Both her overnight bag and the baby’s bag were packed, and the contents of both had been checked and double-checked. The camera and video camera were charged and ready, and the baby’s room was fully stocked with everything our child would need for at least a month. I knew the quickest route to the hospital and had planned alternate routes, if there happened to be an accident on the highway. I had also known the baby would be coming soon; in the days leading up to the actual birth, there’d been numerous false alarms, but even I knew the countdown had officially started.
In other words, I wasn’t entirely surprised when my wife shook me awake at half past four on October 16, 2009, announcing that the contractions were about five minutes apart and that it was time to go to the hospital. I didn’t doubt her; she knew the difference between Braxton Hicks and the real thing, and though I’d been preparing for this moment, my first thoughts weren’t about throwing on my clothes and loading up the car; in fact, they weren’t about my wife and soon-to-be-born child at all. Rather, my thoughts went something like this: Today’s the big IT, and people are going to be taking a lot of photographs. Other people will be staring at these photographs forever, and – considering it’s for posterity – I should probably hop in the shower before we go, since my hair looks as though I’d spent the night in a wind tunnel.
It’s not that I’m vain; I simply thought I had plenty of time, so I told Vivian I’d be ready to go in a few minutes. As a general rule, I shower quickly – no more than ten minutes on a normal day, including shaving – but right after I’d applied the shaving cream, I thought I heard my wife cry out from the living room. I listened again, hearing nothing, but sped up nonetheless. By the time I was rinsing off, I heard her shouting, though strangely it seemed as though she was shouting about me, not at me. I wrapped a towel around my waist and stepped into the darkened hallway, still dripping. As God is my witness, I was in the shower for less than six minutes.
Vivian cried out again and it took me a second to process that Vivian was on all fours and shouting into her cell phone that I was IN THE DAMN SHOWER! and demanding WHAT IN THE HELL CAN THAT IDIOT BE THINKING?!?!?!? Idiot, by the way, was the nicest term she used to describe me in that same conversation; her language was actually quite a bit more colorful. What I didn’t know was that the contractions that had been five minutes apart were now only two minutes apart, and that she also was in back labor. Back labor is excruciating, and Vivian suddenly let out a scream so powerful that it became its own living entity, one that may still be hovering above our neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, an otherwise peaceful place.