When I was a preschooler, my mom’s sister had a baby. I was excited, because I loved my baby dolls. My favorite was a bald little Cabbage Patch baby whose plastic head bore the odd scratch and streak of marker that most of my belongings had. It’s been something like twenty-three years now, but I still remember how excited I was when my aunt gave me one of her baby’s diapers to use for my Cabbage Patch baby. A real diaper! It was too big for the doll, but it was still smaller than the last diapers I’d seen (which would be my own diapers from a few years before). That real diaper is still on that Cabbage Patch baby, packed away in a box in the garage.
That diaper was nothing compared to the newborn–size Pampers I’d bought for my baby. They were the absolute tiniest diapers I’d ever seen. I can’t count how many times I’d pick one up and squeal over how tiny it was, and get excited for the tiny little person the diapers were for. Pregnancy was fun that way - I got excited about things like diapers.
The nice thing about my crazy hormones was that if I was feeling depressed, I just had to wait it out. Sure enough, I’d be feeling something else soon. Depression this month gave way to an excited nervousness. I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl.
From my journal: “I can't believe I'm going to be a mommy to a tiny new person. I know you will be a LOT of work but you will so be worth it! I love you so much already. I can't wait to see your squishy little newborn face and count your fingers and toes (even though I know they're all good from the ultrasound). I just know you will be the cutest, smartest and cleverest baby in the world, ever. I'm going to be an unbearable braggart. I can't wait to have you to brag about.”
One night my mother and I were in the living room, talking about things, and I was getting uncomfortable so I shifted to my side to relieve the pain. Something felt amiss but it took me a few minutes to realize what it was: my baby wasn’t wiggling. She ALWAYS wiggled when I was on my side. I panicked. I spent the next hour rubbing and patting my belly, crying and praying, desperate for a flutter or a foot in the ribs. I got half a hiccup.
I drank some OJ. Baby Girl loved OJ and usually did a happy dance when I had some. Nothing. I pulled the stethoscope out of my mom’s first aid things and searched for a heartbeat but I was so nervous that all I could hear was the frantic pounding of my own heart. Then, finally, after what felt like an eternity, I felt a little outward push.
I calmed a bit, but even though the perceived danger had passed, I had a new fear. My pregnancy had been healthy and uneventful thus far and I hadn’t had to worry about that – my baby was safe and warm and happy in her watery home. Now I didn’t have that assurance. I felt helpless. Something could have been wrong and I couldn’t have done anything! I was glad I was due soon. The last thing I needed was something new to panic about.
I bought a crib and mattress on sale. I was relieved to know that I finally had everything I needed for a baby. But I was a bit nervous at the prospect of being the only one to care for my baby. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m the youngest in my family and my experience with babies was limited to my nieces and nephews. When they cried or fussed or needed new diapers I just passed them on to their parents.
I wondered for the millionth time if keeping my baby was a selfish choice. Was it wrong to raise my little girl without a father? I hoped not. I hoped that I could find a good man soon to be her daddy. I continued to go to church every week, even as my belly got more and more conspicuous. My baby seemed to like church. She wiggled happily throughout. I’d grown accustomed to people staring at my belly and then pretending they didn’t see me. I didn’t care. God had been there for me when no one else had, and I knew I wanted my little girl to grow up going to church and learning how much her Father in Heaven loves her.
I had a little panic in church on Father’s Day, though. This was a whole new can of worms I hadn’t even thought of yet. My little girl was going to feel so left out when all the other kids got up on Father’s Day to sing to their daddies. She would have no one to sing to. She would wonder why the other kids had dads and she didn’t. What if the other kids made fun of her? Made her cry? I couldn’t bear the thought. I pushed it aside. Something could always be worked out, I thought. I just didn’t know what.