Last week, I wrote a blog post about the recent addition to our little family, a baby boy or girl who will be joining Andrew and me in February. Just a few days prior, I posted a similar (but shorter) announcement on my Facebook page. This announcement had been three months in the making, and I had spent those three months anxiously awaiting the moment when I would be able to share our secret with the world. Before our baby became “Facebook official,” he or she had been mostly our little secret. If anyone knew, it was because either Andrew or I had personally told them. By the time we announced the newest Whitmore on Facebook, we had told many of our closest friends and family in person. In fact, one of the main reasons that we waited as long as we did to publicly announce our news was because there was a rather long list of people who we wanted to tell ourselves. With people’s busy schedules, it took this long just to make all of our phone calls and arrange all of our visits with friends and family. And even after all that, there were still a few people who slipped our minds in the process.
As we told more and more people, there were certain reactions that became fairly commonplace. The most common response was definitely joy. There was also quite a bit of confusion, since Andrew and I have not been married that long. There was even one person who actually asked me if the baby was conceived before our wedding (he or she was not). There were also some very well-meaning people who were apprehensive about our decision to have a child right away. They were concerned about finances, our location, and even our age. Some people were just surprised that we didn’t choose to enjoy a year or more of “alone time” as a married couple before conceiving. But even the most skeptical people were obviously very happy for us.
More often than not, once our friends and family expressed their initial excitement at the news, they’d ask me how I told Andrew (or did we find out together?) and how our parents responded to the news. Since I’m sure some of my readers are just dying to know, I figured that now would be a good time to clue everyone in.
Andrew and I found out that we were expecting a child about two weeks after our wedding, but we didn’t find out at exactly the same time. I began to suspect when I noticed some of the more obvious first signs, but I was still skeptical. I mean, Andrew and I had only been married for two weeks, and the chances of having conceived in that time frame were slim. But with each day that passed, I wondered more and more if I was pregnant. Finally, one morning I caved, purchased an at-home pregnancy test, and verified what I had already suspected: I was pregnant. Immediately, the wheels began to turn. I needed to tell Andrew immediately. I also needed to pull myself together in time to go on retreat with my mother, aunt, and grandmother that weekend (I was traveling by myself, and I already knew that Andrew and I would tell my parents together). Finally, I was already brainstorming fun ways to tell our families. Conveniently, my parents and Andrew’s mother were coming down to transport some furniture for our apartment. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We just needed to figure out how we were going to tell them.
I told Andrew that afternoon. We had dinner plans that night with friends near campus, so I showed up a little early to surprise him. Andrew assumed I showed up early because of traffic concerns. When I arrived, I asked him to join me by the outdoor Mary shrine, a favorite place of ours. We liked to meet there from time to time to talk, so my request was not unprecedented. Once Andrew joined me (waiting for him was the longest ten minutes of my life), I told him that a final wedding present for him had just arrived. I asked him to close his eyes and hold out his hands. I placed my gift- a stuffed dinosaur- in his hands and told him to open them.
In the weeks following Christmas the year before, my mother and I were shopping at Kohl’s when we found a stuffed Rex from Toy Story. I had already given him a dinosaur for Christmas, so I decided not to overdo it when Valentine’s Day came around. Instead, I stashed the stuffed toy in my closet and practically forgot about it. Until we got married. As I packing my things to move, I found the toy again and made the decision that I would hold onto it until I learned that I was pregnant. I once again stashed it in a closet, unsure how long it would need to stay there.
Two weeks after Andrew and I got married, I found myself digging it out again. I tied a ribbon around his neck and attached a little note: Congrats Daddy! I stuffed him in my backpack and drove to campus to meet my husband.
With the stuffed Rex in his hands, I waited for his reaction. At first there was none. I watched as he read the little note, and I watched as he continued to stare at the toy. I assume that I watched him for only a few seconds, but it felt like minutes. Then he looked up, clearly still confused by the note. And then the question, “Wait, are you pregnant?”
As soon as I told him the truth, his countenance completely changed. It was sheer joy. We had become parents. I was a mother. Andrew was a father. We were going to have a baby.
Andrew and I had about fifteen glorious minutes to marvel at this new information together before we had to meet our friends for dinner. For the next few weeks, Andrew and I had this huge secret that we had to keep between us. We knew that we couldn’t tell our friends until we our family knew, and we knew that our family couldn’t know until our parents came to visit. Those few weeks between our discovery and our parents’ visits felt agonizingly long. It felt even longer because I spent three days on retreat trying to keep my secret from my family despite repeated references to pregnancy and parenting, as well as the occasional question directed at me: “So when do you think you’ll have kids?”
Despite all the opportunities that I had to blab, I managed to hold my tongue until my parents came to visit. In the days prior to their arrival, I flitted from place to place getting things ready. I packed away all the pregnancy paraphernalia: our sonogram photos, my prenatal vitamins, and the Shutterfly gift card I received for registering at thebump.com. I ran to the grocery store to order a customized cake for my parents announcing the expected arrival of their newest grandchild. Andrew and I scrambled to make the apartment more presentable. Finally, I picked up the cake, coming home to rest for a few hours before my parents arrived. Then it was still several hours before we were able to share our news.
After we got home from dinner, my parents came up to the apartment for dessert, as planned. Once they were settled down on the sofa, Andrew and I pulled out the cake, which read “Congratulations Grandma and Grandpa!” in green and yellow. We set it in front of them on the coffee table, and stood back to wait for their reactions. It didn’t take long. For my dad at least.
My mom took a little while longer. Okay, a lot longer. My dad needed to push her towards the revelation, but eventually it clicked. Then the wheels started turning, and big plans were being made. Before my parents even made it back to their hotel room that night, my old bedroom already had a crib in it. To say that they were excited about their new grandchild would be the understatement of the century.
The next day my parents headed home, and just a few days later, our second shift of visitors arrived. In the short interim between visitors, we prepared for Andrew’s family to stay in our apartment, purchasing a new comforter and pillow, laying out fresh towels, and baking a tray of brownies that read “Congrats Grandma” across the frosted top. After they arrived, we went out to dinner together, and once again we came back to the apartment for dessert. After they were settled on the couch with their cups of tea, we presented them with the brownies and awaited their response. Once again, we were met with more joy than we possibly could have imagined. By the time the trip was over, we had already discussed baby names, grandparent visitations, and holidays with Baby Whitmore. The excitement in the air was palpable.
In the weeks following our parents’ visits, we had the opportunity to share our big news with our best friends and closest family members. Everyone was absolutely thrilled (if not a little surprised) when they heard the news. For a final anecdote about not figuring out the secret right away, we made the announcement to my immediate family with pink and blue plates with their new designations on it: Aunt, Cousin, Great-Aunt, Great-Grandma, etc. When I handed a pink plate to my aunt, she was thrilled to read the words written on it: Great-Aunt. Apparently the hyphen wasn’t clear enough because my aunt believed that the note meant that she was great as an aunt. When we pointed out the colors of the plates, she mistakenly assumed that she had received a pink plate because it was her favorite color. Finally, we told her to read the other plates, hoping that it would make the message clearer. It worked. Everything clicked, and my aunt was able to join in the celebration.
At this point, we’ve learned that people generally need a little help when they’re learning about their new roles within a family. It took me a minute of staring at two little pink lines before I realized that I had become a mother. Andrew needed confirmation before understanding that he had become a father. My mom needed some help before realizing that she had a new grandchild, and my aunt needed a few clues before figuring out that she had become a great-aunt. But I wouldn’t change those moments for the world.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!