How We Got Here, Vol. 1

How We Got Here, Vol. 1

As I sit and stare, glassy-eyed, at a detailed listing for a pair of gently used baby sandals on the moms’ consignment group I’ve recently joined on Facebook, I wonder how I got to this place.

Three years ago or so, anyone who knew me would be able to tell you that I never wanted kids. I don’t particularly care for most children. They always seem to be very sticky and unpredictable, characteristics I prefer to experience in things like ice cream cones. In fact, when I started dating my husband Matt, I was pleased to set his mind at ease when I learned he did not want kids. “Oh, don’t you worry about me! I don’t want any either! Gross!” For years, I was annoyed when anyone who heard about my decision gave me a knowing look and cajoled me with, “Just wait. You’ll change your mind!” And lots of people did this. I’d show them! I’d have dogs, and cats, and I’d travel, and I’d enjoy date nights with Matt every night of the week, and I’d live happily ever after.

And I did! For a while.

Gross.
This child looks like it might try to touch me

One ordinary night, a couple of years ago, Matt took an Ambien and settled in for a peaceful eight hours of rest. Because that’s the typical result of his taking Ambien, maybe nine times out of ten. But occasionally, before he falls asleep, he gets… weird. The Ambien kicks in, and rather than drifting off to dream of guitars and Squidbillies, he wants to talk about weird things for several minutes before he passes out. He never remembers anything he’s said, the following day. (Side note: This is why I never have to worry about Matt having an affair. Or really being deceptive in any imaginable way. I have access to inexpensive and effective truth serum, around three times each month.) His transition from total lucidity to being completely out of his senses can be quite subtle. He will usually say something vaguely nonsensical, which tips me off. Examples of things he might say: 

1. “I need to search for flights to Japan.”

2. “Can you explain how electricity works, but better than the way I already know?

3. “I know you think my feet are weird but I’m just so used to them. So is my mom.”

On this particular night, Matt explained to me that he wanted us to have a baby as soon as possible. Then, he calmly informed me that he’d be happy to “go in and rip that IUD right out of there.” Then he fell asleep, practically mid-sentence. I sat there, mouth agape, my usual pre-bedtime game of Candy Crush instantly abandoned. Sure, I recognized the telltale signs of an Ambien kick, but I was still floored.

The next day at work, I felt a little out of sorts. I tried to remind myself that Matt had no idea what he was saying. I finally got so agitated that I called Matt and told him I was coming by his office at lunchtime to talk. When I arrived, I solemnly recounted everything that he’d said the night before. “Do you secretly want a baby and you’re not telling me?!” I demanded. Matt just laughed. “No! Listen! Everything is fine! It’s just baby fever!” Oh…. was that all this was? What a relief! That was a close one. I decided to immediately put it out of my mind.

Matt would occasionally contract what he called baby fever, a temporary malady causing him to wish he had a baby of his very own for a period of time ranging from one hour to several weeks in duration. The baby fever would eventually break, returning him to a comfortably anti-baby stance and leaving him with little memory of his baby-craving delirium. Luckily, I had always seemed to be immune to this virus, preferring to hold babies for no more than five minutes at a time (and that only happened when the mother of the creature looked at me expectantly, as though I’d obviously want to hold it, which I didn’t, but then of course I felt like I had to). 

Baby fever
Baby fever at its worst. This person is screaming violently into her hankie because she is so sad about wanting a baby

Inexplicably, once the Ambien incident happened, despite my intentions to ignore it all, I started to get baby fever too. All the classic symptoms. I started to think a little about what that Matt/Courtney person might be like. Some things would be almost a given… High forehead. Sensitive. Sarcastic. But would he be musical like Matt? Would she enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer like me? Would her feet be weird like Matt’s? Could I teach him to love all felines, big and small? And I began to wish I could get to know that little being. I realized that, for the first time, I had so much love for another person, Matt, that I was curious to experience the full depths of what our life together could become. Yes, I know it sounds very dramatic and vaguely churchy and makes you want to roll your eyes. But it’s what happened. Suddenly, I felt fine with the prospect of hanging out with this particular nonexistent child, even knowing he or she would definitely get sticky frequently. 

We eventually decided to go for it (more on that in Vol. 2). Over time, Matt and I talked about other reasons we might want a kid. Our families would be elated, we had good stable jobs, and so forth. But I’m proud to say that my future child was ultimately the product of her father’s drug-addled ramblings. We’re off to a great start. 😍

Funereal Fat Jokes

Funereal Fat Jokes

My grandmother died in December. The day after my birthday, and a week before Christmas. She succumbed to an aggressive form of leukemia, and her decline was too swift and too ugly. I have always been close to her, and have always admired her charm (that Virginia accent was one in a million). I sure do miss her. More than that, I miss knowing she’s not far away.

 

Her memorial service was held on a gloomy winter’s night, right after the holidays, which might be the single most depressing time of the year. We were all feeling pretty low. (Nanny, seriously, couldn’t you have passed away in the spring? Birds chirping? No? You liked the idea of the drama that comes with a gloomy winter’s night? Fair enough.) My friends, I discovered something new about myself that night. Something I didn’t know. Was it my own personal inner strength? Was it the bittersweet retrieval of my grandmother’s voice in my memory, telling me to be strong? Alas, no. What I discovered was that I make fat jokes about my husband when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. 

It started when we arrived at the family homestead in Winston-Salem to get dressed for the service. As Matt brought his suit inside, I announced to the entire room of family members, “I guess Matt had better go see if that thing still fits! But I don’t know what we’ll do if it doesn’t! Haha!”

My family jokes around a lot, so this wasn’t immediately spotted as a completely inappropriate comment. We all laughed, and Matt glanced at me quizzically and went to put on the suit. When we got in the car to head to the funeral home, he said, “what was with the suit comment?” I said, “what suit comment?” He repeated it. I said, “Did I say that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from.” 

We began greeting friends and family, and I did it again.

Obscure Third Cousin: So this is your new husband!

Me (cheerfully): Yep! 

OTC (Smiles and holds my hand, saying nothing):

Me: …We were worried he wouldn’t fit into his suit!

When Obscure Third Cousin moved along, Matt gave me an incredulous “WTF?” look, because the only thing more fun than spending an evening at your wife’s grandmother’s funeral is to be called fat at the same time. I threw my hands up and said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s happening.” I was genuinely astonished at my compulsive need to comment on Matt’s dietary failings at my grandmother’s memorial. I finally started explaining it to people in an attempt to stop doing it, succeeding only in making it much worse.

Some Woman Who Can’t Believe How Grown-up I Am: It’s really nice to see you again!

Me: Nice to see you too. That’s my husband over there. I keep making jokes about his weight. I don’t know why. 

Some Woman: …

Me: …So thanks for coming. 

I am not a spiritual person, but part of me took comfort in imagining Nanny’s laughter at this uncontrollable humiliation of my poor husband. She’d have said to Matt, “Don’t pay any attention. You have the prettiest legs,” which she’d said to him more than once before. I know she would have loved it. She would have appreciated the humor on a gloomy winter’s night.