Two years ago today found us at a Pizza Ranch in Iowa, a gathering of my mom’s extended family. One of my cousins announced she was pregnant–followed by another cousin, who was due just weeks after the first! Mom elbowed me and jokingly whispered, “You don’t have anything to announce, do you?” Had we been in a Pixar movie, a light bulb would have appeared in a puffy bubble over my head.
We drove home, I nursed 8-month-old Jack to sleep, and Jon went for a run. The apartment quiet, I reached into our bathroom cabinet for the “backup” pregnancy test. Some people buy a two-pack because they need further proof, we bought it because it was more economical. I held the lone wand; its twin had changed our lives just 16 months prior. Surely we wouldn’t go two-for-two with this box of pee sticks.
The mental conversation began as soon as I tore open the foil package. Why did you open it? I thought, now you have to use it and it will just be negative because you can’t be pregnant–you can’t possibly–and then the test will be wasted and these things aren’t cheap. I tried to pee nonchalantly–because if I didn’t care much about the result, then it would turn out negative, surely. Have you ever tried to pee like you don’t care?
To further convince the pregnancy test that I could not, in fact, care less about whether it revealed one or two lines, I checked my voicemail while waiting the required two minutes. I walked to the couch and then returned to the bathroom, the phone still pressed to my cheek. The voicemail was not essential; I could delete it. I picked up the test and saw two lines. I dropped the phone into the sink.
I said a bad word, the kind you find etched into a slide on the playground when you’re seven and don’t know any better. I said it quietly because now I did know better.
I smiled like when I deliver unfortunate news; I can’t not smile while I say it, even though it’s not good. Not good. This was a shock, yes, but not good? For us, a married couple with a happy baby and two incomes? Did this surprise qualify as not good?
Guilt washed over me, warm and disgusting, like peeing your pants. I was a horrible person. No, worse. A terrible mother. Who doesn’t rejoice at a positive pregnancy test? I was still so new at this mom thing. He was still so dependent and I was still alarmingly sleep deprived. There’s no way you can do two. I counted on my fingers. Two in sixteen months.
I curled up in a corner of the couch and cried until I heard Jon on the stairs.
He came in red-faced and streaming sweat. I waited. He told me about his run and paused before asking delicately, “Have you been crying?” I wanted to be resolute but I crumbled. “I’m pregnant and I’m not happy about it,” I wailed.
His eyebrows shot up but under them, he beamed, the sweat glistening on his chin. “You are?!”
My sweet husband was so happy. Another baby! I was terrified. Another baby. I was so weak, so incapable.
We carried on like that for another month: He carried me on his excitement. I only imagined how hard it would be: I could not conceive (ha.) that just two years from that day, I would live a day like this day.
This day, with two happy toddlers who play independently and make each other laugh. Who feed themselves and help the other put on shoes and explore in the backyard. Who nap at the same time and have tea parties in the bathtub. This day found me crying-into-my-coffee grateful that I can be their mama. I did not know then what loving two babies would be like. Yes, some days are really hard. Any mother will tell you that. But in between, we have days like today.
All I have left are these nature metaphors. The fog has lifted, we’re out of the woods, the storm has passed. But really, the last two years weren’t a storm so much as a season. We carried on because we had to. Our family rallied around us because we needed them. And our babies made it; I did not break them.
As Gracie grows, I will tell her the story of these two years because she needs to see her mama is human. She ought to know that raising babies exposes a lot of control issues–places to be refined. But more than that, she has to know this story because for me, it is the truest illustration of II Corinthians 12:9 “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'”