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Six weeks before Shane and I get married, I pee on a stick.
I haven’t had my period in a few months, but I’m not worried because it’s never been regular. I rationalize I’m tired from waitressing, preparing for my first year of teaching, and just don’t do well in the humidity.
When I feel a little nauseous, I buy a pregnancy test. Actually, I buy two. I go home and read the directions in the bathroom with my black lab puppy, Brady. It’s not first thing in the morning like the directions recommend, but I’ll do one now and the other one tomorrow morning.
I pee on the stick and start to carefully place it on the sink. I see a plus sign. I look at the pregnancy test graph and look again to make sure I’m reading it right. A plus sign is positive. A plus sign means I’m pregnant.
Brady wags her tail, and I sit on the toilet seat. I’m scared my Irish Catholic, do-the-right-thing dad will be so disappointed (and scared that Shane will be upset). I’m not sure I’m adult enough to have a baby, but I’m kind of excited because, oh my goodness…there’s a baby in my belly!
I’m not sure what to do. Who do I tell? Do I call the doctor? Do I wait? Should I tell my mom? My best friend? I’m not ready to tell Shane because this is too real and not real. I will wait.
About 12 hours after peeing on the stick, Shane gets home late and is talking about food and patrons and a broken something. I nod my head. Do I wait until he’s had a few beers? Do I tell him now? Do I wait until I’ve seen a doctor and it’s confirmed? Tomorrow will be better. He’s mid-sentence and I blurt, I’m pregnant. Well, I think I’m pregnant.
My heart is beating fast, and my tone is flat and apprehensive. His eyes widen and he smiles. “Seriously? How do you know? Are you sure?” And I’m pretty sure because I peed on the other pregnancy stick right after the first one, and it was screaming, waving, and dripping positive. He hugs me and says, “This is going to be so great!” I believe him.
He asks me lots of questions, and I don’t know the answers. Questions about a due date, doctors, and how I am feeling. Then he asks, are we going to get married? Do you want to get married? His tone is gentle and sincere. As if he wants it to be my decision and something that I want to do, not something that I have to do. But I don’t have an answer because there is too much to process. Babies and marriage in one day is too much.
Being pregnant makes everything so complicated and yet so simple. First, I think we should wait and not rush into marriage. But then I think, we know if we love each other by now, why wait? What would change if we waited? Were we getting married only because I was pregnant?
The decision to get married comes from logic; it makes sense to get married. It’s what people do when they care about each other, and there’s a baby on the way. It’s the right thing to do.
The idea of getting married isn’t a total surprise. Before there was a baby in my belly, my best friend and I picked out wedding rings in Boston. I learned about cut, color, and clarity. The rings were sparkly and made me stare at my hand. I got the SKU number of the one I liked and told Shane, whose idea it was to go ring-shopping because he’d “never pick out a ring on his own.” But that is the last conversation about rings and marriage.
I am 26 years old, and I think I know things, but I do not. I think everything will fall into place—the husband, the baby, the job. Initially, my problems will be normal ones that seem really big, but are not. I will give up a lot to make my marriage work, but I don’t know that until later, which is good because my 26-year-old self would have struggled at the thought of being selfless for eternity.
At 26, I’m not sure who I am—never mind who’s a good match for me. I’m not sure what I’m willing to give up and what I must keep. I have no idea how to be a wife and a mother. I have goals and dreams and don’t stop to think that they don’t include so much of what I’m agreeing to. Some of it will make me resentful later.
In the months and years after saying, “I do,” I will question why I didn’t think about the reality of living on Cape Cod indefinitely. I will question why I became a teacher when I didn’t really want to be one. I will question if I am okay spending every holiday and weekend with my children and no husband because he is working. And I will question if I am okay being third in a priority line behind our children and his work.
These things aren’t on my radar because I’m busy pretending that everything is okay.
On my wedding day, I run my hand over my belly a hundred times to make sure my Spanx has flattened the baby bump. Today is about our wedding, not our baby. No one needs to know my peanut is squished in my amazing Vera Wang dress.
There are white folding chairs set up on the lawn that overlooks the water. There’s an arbor and a harp player and friends and family watching as my dad walks me down what we decided will be the aisle. My father puffs his chest and leads me down the thick, green grass to the arbor where Shane is standing in his black suit and tie. I smile knowing that there are cameras and people who came to see me be happy on what they are calling the best day of my life.
As I stand under the arbor with Shane, I am overcome with emotion while reading our vows. Vows that we didn’t write ourselves but maybe should have. Vows that will sustain a fatal car accident, our younger daughter’s cancer, and a million decisions about her medical care. Vows that will forgive my tone, his priorities, a dirty dishwasher, and who has to drive our kids to school to sports to radiation. Endless vows about unforeseen events that almost will break our marriage, but miraculously, make it stronger.
For 19 years, we’ve celebrated and questioned our love. We’ve shared things and kept things. We’ve shown up on the days we don’t want to. We’ve asked for forgiveness. And we’ve forgiven. We’re two imperfect humans trying to coexist in chaos. We’ve held space for the each other’s triggers and traumas. We’ve reminded each other, I love you. And sometimes, that’s enough to make it through the days, months, years, and promises of “I do.”