Designated Drinker

Who is driving home?

Not that we’ve ever had trouble before, sorting out who would be our designated sober driver, but one perk of being the non-carrying mom-to-be is that I always have a driver. One would think.

But one of the things neither of us realized was how tired she would be. This means that as much fun as it is to have a few (responsible) glasses of wine, there is no guarantee that you’re staying out past 11 pm.

When a couple of our friends were expecting their son we came up with the cruel idea of starting our wine club. Wine club = hanging out as often as possible, cooking increasingly elaborate meals and pairing them with wines we hadn’t tried yet, or tried and loved. Wine Club became more extravagant as we got more creative with our themes: Welcome to Argentina (wines from Malbecs to Tempranillos with copious amounts of meat), Beer and Bacon pairings, the time we tried to prove (to our meat-addict friends) that you could do a delicious vegetarian pairing menu, or the Not-So-Hungry Games (which involved wines inspired by Sherwood Forest, hearty French and German fare, and a surprise visit to the gun-range/archery lessons).

The club has lasted past our friend’s pregnancy, where she would feel giddy from smelling the wines, to our own pregnancy where my lovely wife has been so gracious, smiling as she holds out her hands for the keys, nodding her approval as I say yes to a second glass.

Maybe eventually this will transition into Baby Club, where we swap DIY project ideas, make our own baby food or plan birthday parties for toddlers.

I hope not. Because Wine Club is where I got to hear some of my favourite stories about what it’s REALLY like being a new parent.

Telling the Parents, Not telling the parents

For my folks, it was an easy ‘yes’. They have been on board since the question of having kids was even a possibility. I recall a conversation from when I had first come out, maybe around the time they were telling their own friends about it; I was about 17 and my mom told me a friend had tried to commiserate with her: “Isn’t it sad that Alison won’t have children…?”

Fortunately, my mom responded, “why on earth wouldn’t she have children if she wanted to?”

On the other hand, my own ideas about how easy it would be were mostly predicated on the amount of interest/offers I’d had from straight men (seriously/not seriously) to help out in this department. When it actually came down to it, choosing how to go about having a child was way more complicated than I’d anticipated and our ideas about how we wanted to proceed, as a couple, have evolved as the hypothetical turned into a reality. But that ‘s another story.

How do you tell parents who have been patiently NOT pressuring you, their oldest, for a grandchild, who have fully supported your relationships (even the not-so-good ones), patiently watched you search for the right person, supported and nurtured your engagement and marriage, openly been thrilled as you and your spouse talked about staring a family and how you might do so… that in fact… it has worked!?

We wanted it to be special and had a friend suggest a variation of a pretty cute idea. We even managed to get the whole thing on tape.

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We thought we would wait until Christmas eve, before aunts and uncles arrived to celebrate around the table, to give my parents an early gift. My perennially un-punctual brother arrived late and so we decided to tell them our news after dinner.
My mother has as much difficulty as I do containing her excitement when her mind is fixed on something, so she has been sharing the news with her sisters about our plans to start a family. As people arrived for dinner it became harder and harder to field the ‘progress’ questions. Allia pulled me into the kitchen to suggest that now might be as good a time as any. 
We told them we wanted to give them an early present and nonchalantly pulled a large box from under the tree, explaining how hard it was to find things they’d love that they didn’t already have, since usually they just get things for themselves as soon as they see a need. images
A little confused, but in the spirit, they sat side by side on the couch and tried to handle this very large, but almost weightless box. As the package was unwrapped, my aunt taping the proceedings on her camera, Allia and I watched, amused by the dramatic irony of the situation. 
Mom opened the top of the box, startling herself as a helium balloon emerged, fixed to the bottom of the box by a ribbon, but still visible with the words “Let’s Celebrate” emblazoned on the balloon. It bobbed above them as they repeated the words, perplexed. Big smiles on our faces, the dots connected and my mom screamed with excitement. Full-on hand claps. My dad, I’m sure of it, had some tears in his eyes. Huge hugs all around. 
“Best Christmas present ever!”  IMG_5088
Finally, a gift for the people who seem to have it all. 
Merry Christmas,
Love A + A

What to expect, when … people don’t know you’re expecting

This was extremely hard for me. Not as hard, mind you, as carrying a baby or making a person. But hard, in that… I’m an open book. A picture book. Get ready for people to notice that you’re smiling weirdly to yourself. For no reason. But there is a reason. Get ready to become a really good liar. Or a really bad liar, depending on how much you say and how much people believe you. IMG_7646And get ready to find multiple excuses to explain why one of you is always not drinking.

I’ve had a really hard time not spilling it. Luckily, Allia is even worse at this than I am. But not as bad as our friend who, knowing we weren’t telling anyone, declared at a birthday party, in a packed bar, full of people we knew somewhat-to-not-much “Get some of those apps over here for the pregnant lady” in a voice rivaling a loud speaker. Ironically, she is half of the only other lesbian couple we know who has already gone through a pregnancy/birth with her wife. So, she should know better. It gives me leverage for some future moment when I’ll need a favour. Plus, it was sortof funny watching her do the verbal equivalent of what Devon Sawa does in Idle Hands, when he has no control over his possessed limb.

So get ready to keep secrets badly.

Telling People

This is a hard one.

The first wave began at the Unconventional Breakfast: How do people usually find out this kind of news? Ironically, as with many couples, it felt like an accident. An on-purpose accident, but accidental in that I  found out we were pregnant when – house full of Christmas guests – Allia shouted my name from upstairs, in a tone that was panicked… leaving me to conclude that some kind of injury had been sustained.

I ought to have known that the temptation of a pregnancy test would be too much for her to resist and that I’d walk upstairs to see a little white stick with the word PREGNANT discreetly, but unmistakably written.

It seemed like perfect timing, since we didn’t have even a minute to hold the news hostage. We were able to share the experience with her family, who had spent the night to celebrate the holidays.

I try to remember the details of these stories. For myself, but also for our future children. I find it completely fascinating looking through my mom’s old photo albums, bound in a seventies fabric with large psycedelic flowers on them and polaroids pressed carefully to sticky pages, from regattas, in braids on the front lawn, wearing a pea coat, sporting a retro bikini, or making a moustache out of her own armpit hair. It’s face I see in my own face, having moments I feel like I recognize from my own life. I’m as in love with the past as I am excited about the future. IMG_3457

I have always journaled. Our guest books from the wedding were notebooks for the years ahead. But here, I feel like I’m journaling for an audience, a future part of us that hasn’t been born yet. Who may want to know what it felt like to be so in love with them before they even had fingers and toes, and to have so much hope focused on the idea of what they might become.

No pressure, right?

Part of the story is in the telling. Who will we share this with . Why do we wait? Why do we risk sharing this news? Because nothing is certain. But nothing really is. I have always found it easier to share and hurt for having been open, than to hold it all in and miss the connection.

So far, bursting with excitement, we have told our siblings.

My parents would have to wait for another few days. But we had a plan.

Dec. 22, 2014 – 8:53 a.m. Surprise!

It was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the house…

Allia’s family was over, and we were enjoying a delicious post-X-mas dinner sleepover brunch with the gang and the nieces. I was engaged in a serious conversation between Barbie and kid sister (our niece was the older sister, I was the little sister) when I heard Allia scream my name from upstairs.

I thought for sure this was a repeat of the Acky-can finger slicing accident in the kitchen, so as I ran to the upstairs bathroom – leaving Barbie, and our niece, bewildered where she landed – I was expecting the worst.

Al peeked from behind the door, still dripping from the shower and thrust a pregnancy test towards me. I could hardly process what I was seeing. She held a white stick out that read: pregnant.

OH. MY. GOD.

I could hardly believe this was happening, not even having realized she was going to sneak this test (‘it was just sitting there on the counter’ she said.) while we had a house full of people.

Sterling and Yan were in our room, looking at clothes to take to Jamaica. They quickly clued into the commotion. Our niece had also crept up the stairs to find out what the hell was going on. By then we were all hugging. She joined in our celebration, not quite sure what was going on, but happy that people were so happy. Wow. IMG_5016

To find out, surrounded by family and to have the news be so amazing was an incredible moment. Hyperbole required here.

Not surprising that my ‘can’t wait for a surprise or keep a secret for more than five minutes’ wife rolled out the announcement this way! James and Nick were added to the inner circle and we quickly called Sean to fill him in. Relief. Good news for all.

You’d think it would end there, or start. Or whatever, but…

Obviously, Allia decided to take a second test, but after she had guzzled a ton of water, which gave her a NOT PREGNANT result. Then we were left to figure out which was more likely… a false negative or a false positive.

We set up an appointment with the clinic.

Long story short. The news was good. We are doing this!

Dec. 6th, 2014: Rewind a little less

IMG_3387So after weeks and days of turning to your mid-section and asking,

‘so , are you pregnant, yet?’

‘How about now…?’

‘… what about… now?’

We are back for round two.

No real sadness; we hadn’t fooled ourselves into thinking we could be so lucky.

The awkwardness of looking my brother in the face when he has done us this huge favour has mellowed somewhat. And he has a new lady in his life, so we were wondering how that conversation would go.

Sigh. How lucky, for us, that she is such a reasonable, modern gal.

Message 1: “Today is the day for Round 2”

Message 2: “Good luck.”

Message 3: “looks like we’re inseminating at 2:30”

I actually sit down to mark an essay, beside my wife, while we wait. If only that kid knew what was on my brain … or beside me while I did that marking. Maybe it will improve their grade.

Good luck. All round.

Rewind. Has it happened yet?

Baby Entry 1. Retrospective.

Some things will be left out. Some things have to be left out. But others stick out now, like never before.

It occurs to me,
as I look down into the frying pan
that my egg isn’t just an egg anymore.

Not when you have reproduction on the brain.

When we were in Shoppers Drug Mart and got the call,
I knew the second her face changed.
It was the ‘surge phone call’.

Arms full of stuff-you-need-when-you-want-to-get-pregnant,
pre-natal vitamins, razors…

This is no ordinary phone call.

She says, ‘I’m going to shave for the nurse.’
‘Nice,’ I reply.

We’ve been married less than a year and this nurse is getting special treatment.

We put the items into the basket. We are giddy as we make our purchases.

My face gives me away.

‘You should see your face’ she says.

And I’m thinking, ‘holy shit. this could be happening.’

Right.

Now.

Did it work?

‘Are you pregnant yet,’ I smile.

Apparently I’m having dreams and saying out loud ‘Don’t worry,’ about what I’m not sure.

How many times will we go through this?

And I’m back to making eggs, which are no longer just eggs.

And I’m curling my hair, putting on lipstick, brushing my teeth, waiting. Thinking how I need to pick up tampons, for me, and … maybe a pregnancy test.

Running late for work, I pop in to kiss my wife goodbye. Maybe this is the weirdest thing in the world.

Love you… we parrot, with a pregnant pause at the end.

I call her from the car. Excited. Are you pregnant yet? How do you feel? It’s like waiting for Santa Claus.

We talk later and the strangest part is realizing that I’m always thinking about it. I’m hyper aware of this thing that nobody knows. Except that I’m sure my stupid face gives it all away.

I consider getting her flowers. Instead, I opt for a basket full of pregnancy tests … and tampax. And flowers. Either way. Baby, I love you.