Well, I’m in a better mood today, having just discovered there is maternity underwear (I know!). I’m now sitting in two layers of stretchy heaven and feeling magnanimous towards the pregnancy-detractors I trounced the other day.
I got to thinking about how easy it is for me to focus on the negative, on the I-can’t-believe-she-said-that morons that inhabit my environment. When, really, I have had some wonderful positive experiences on the other side of the fence.
My friend Nicole, who I have only seen face to face twice, has sent me over a practical laundry list of “frugal mom” tips, along with tried-and-true advice on what to spend the big bucks on and what to get from craigslist.
My co-worker, Nancy, proclaimed in her sweet Southern drawl (despite being raised in Rockton, IL), “Oh, you’re going to get big!”
I took this as the compliment it was intended to be, mostly because it means Nancy does not think I am big NOW. I love Nancy.
My cousin Michelle remarked on one of my baby-news-related blog posts that she would even consider coming to Rockford for this “momentous” event. Since Michelle lives in California, and I have seen her maybe twice since her sojourn to the sunny state, I took great joy in her comment.
Whether she’s able to come or not, the thought of my sister-less cousin considering traveling to be by my side as a stand-in for my own non-existent sister, brought tears to my eyes.
Alice has also offered me great advice. Her first comment on how I shouldn’t worry about being constantly worried, that it was part of being a mother, brought me peace and more restful nights.
Her recent reassurance on the soon-coming barrage of nightmarish labor-and-delivery stories had me grinning.
“I had one of each delivery – one easy and one difficult. I wouldn’t trade either experience for the world, and neither will you. Don’t let the stories get to you. Your experience will be unique, special, and treasured no matter how it all turns out!”
A dear friend at church is also pregnant. She approached me a few Sundays ago, steadying her 7-month belly out in front with one hand. Her three small children raced around her, while her older daughter made a beeline for the teen group.
She wrapped me in a hug, as best she could, and whispered, “Welcome to the party,” with a wry grin.
The earliest encouragement I received was especially needed. After Brett told our Pastor and his wife, I received an e-mail from my Pastor’s wife asking how I was feeling.
I reeled off all my worries and how scared I was. Her response was a sweet spring of relief, “Remember, Ann-Marie, God is the giver of all good gifts.”
Her kind words reflected God’s love back to me, and I realized (again) that God is managing this pregnancy, not yours truly.
Both Carleen and Alice gave me mom-to-be books upon hearing the news. Carleen also helped me brainstorm ways to tell Brett, coming up with a sure-fire, memorable winner.
Another previous co-worker and friend, Julie, officially bought Baby Sod’s first stuffed animal, an adorable gray elephant, along with his/her first bottle and toy.
Heidi, who was out of town during the big reveal, offered to loan me her maternity clothes (and even more books). She also had me smiling when I finally did see her. She stamped her foot impatiently and said, “I have been waiting forever to give you this hug!”
I’ve also received personal boosts from other church friends. One friend sent me an e-mail the other day saying - after she read my blog - she thought of me as “a female Jerry Seinfeld,” which I have to say made my whole day.
My cousin Candice, despite having hard evidence to the contrary, keeps insisting I’ll be a good mom (I’m not so sure myself). “Now, it’s my turn to give YOU the shower,” she told me just the other day.
But the most moving moments, the ones that swamped me with emotion, were completely unexpected.
As Mom slipped the paper off the ultrasound gift, I slid off my chair and into the child-sized chair next to my Aunt Jan, Mom’s sister.
“Watch her face,” I whispered to Aunt Jan.
Aunt Jan looked at me, surprised (but then again, I think I surprise Aunt Jan most of the time). We turned our attention to the front of the room where Mom was bidding Santa an enthusiastic goodbye and distractedly unwrapping her gift.
I have to stop here and give kudos to two very special people.
First, my cousin Beth’s husband Brad, who volunteered to be Santa for our family’s Christmas Eve party this year. It was his first time as Santa.
I had ducked out of the crowded room to retrieve THE gift from where I had hidden it earlier. I ran into Brad, in full Santa regalia, in the hallway.
“Brad,” I whispered, sneaky as a covert KGB agent. “After you hand out all the gifts, could you just wait a second? Brett and I are going to give Mom a special gift tonight. Brett is going to head up there and say you forgot one. Then, he’ll give you a gift. Can you do that for us?”
I have to give props to Brad, who was clearly nervous about his first time playing Santa, hefting a red felt sack that had to be 120 pounds worth of gifts, and listening to his wife’s cousin babbling about secret gifts in the hallway next to the men’s bathroom.
“Sure,” he said, giving me only a semi-strange look.
After all the gifts were handed out, Brad announced loudly, “LOOKS LIKE THAT’S ALL I HAVE.” I almost burst out laughing as he firmly refused to budge from the Santa chair.
Brett sprung up on cue, holding THE gift, and walked through the crowd up to Santa. “LOOKS LIKE YOU FORGOT ONE,” he said, having rehearsed this line in the car all the way to the party.
I will forever be grateful to Brad for playing along with our little game, and playing such a big part in our big reveal. Thanks, Brad!
Additional thanks go to Alice. When I told her about giving Mom the ultrasound in a frame as the big reveal, she gave me a priceless piece of advice. She told me her own pregnancy reveal story had fallen a little flat when her parents failed to realize the photo “gift” was of her baby’s ultrasound.
“Later, I realized our parents weren’t having babies in the age of ultrasounds, so they had no idea what they were looking at. You might want to think about putting a label or something on the frame, so your mom will recognize it.”
I had no doubt that Mom would see the frame, identify the photo, and put two-and-two together. However, I wanted to do this right, (and Alice seems pretty with it), so I printed out a label that said, “Hi, Grandma,” and stuck it across the clear plastic cover.
This turned out to be a stroke of genius, since Mom later told me she thought, “Oh, someone got me frame.” She didn’t even LOOK at the ultrasound, and it was the LABEL that caught her attention! It was the “Hi, Grandma” label that brought the look of disbelief, before the shouts of joy.
So, thanks, Alice.
Back to the magical night, as I sat next to Aunt Jan, Mom opened the gift and (after seeing the LABEL) sought me out in the crowd. When I nodded happily in confirmation, she began to shout, “I’m going to be a Grandma!”
Aunt Jan turned and wrapped me in a hug. She said, “This is an answer to my prayer.”
I noted the word “my.” She could have said “an answer to prayer,” and it would have still been nice. But knowing she has been praying for me, for this specific need, melted my heart.
There was much shouting, hugging, and congratulations coming from every corner.
I watched my Aunt Judi’s eyes fill with tears. Her own 8 year struggle with infertility mirrors my own. She now has four amazing children, three by birth and one by blessed adoption. Still, she knows first-hand the knife-in-the-heart that is infertility.
Earlier that night, she told me how she had read my Crying in Hallmark post and just wept. Now, she was crying with joy over my pregnancy news.
Elizabeth, Aunt Judi’s daughter, approached me with a big grin. Elizabeth was the 5 year old, cherubic-faced, fair-haired flower girl at our wedding. Over the years, she has grown into a lovely high-school aged young woman who is blessed with a lightning fast wit and a vivacious, social spirit.
“I am officially signing up as your first babysitter,” she told me proudly.
In the swirl of activity surrounding me, I caught a glimpse of my own grandma. She sat, slightly slumped by force of her shoulder pain, in the chair at the front of the room. The Bible was open on her lap in preparation of the traditional Rehfeldt reading of the Christmas story.
Two simple tears trekked down her face. This simply display of emotion from my stoic grandma swamped me with feeling, and I was unbelievably moved.
The most unexpected moment happened moments after Mom unwrapped her gift.
Later - my cousin Charity told me - Colleen, her sister, had whispered, “I’ll bet Ann-Marie’s pregnant,” when she saw Brett clomping through the crowd with a gift for Santa.
“Nah,” Charity told her. “Ann-Marie couldn’t keep it a secret for that long.”
(I didn’t think I could either!)
When Mom gave the shout, and turned the photo around for the room to see, Charity shot out of her chair like a rocket and raced over to me. She wrapped me in a hug, and I saw something I’ve only seen once or twice in my life – Charity was crying! She was so happy, she was crying!
As I’ve mentioned before, the Boehms have many wonderful qualities, but over-emotionalism is not one of them. A glance towards her sisters had me in shock. Colleen and Candice were also crying.
Candice was furiously wiping away tears. “I don’t know why I’m crying,” she said. “I’m HAPPY for you.”
“Hey! Why aren’t YOU crying?” She mock-accused me with a grin.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop smiling.
At the end of the night, my cousin Aaron’s wife, Linda, came up to me, “Now every time I see you, my heart goes to mush,” she said softly, cementing her place in my heart as a dear friend.
It’s been almost a month since that night, and I still replay the whole scene from beginning to end in my head. I marvel that God gave me the gift of telling my mom and my family in such a wonderful way – the way I had dreamed.
I feel very blessed to have the positive people in my life outweigh the negative in just about every way.
If I thought my family and friends were great before, I just had to wait…