When we got married in 2007, my husband told me he was ready for children whenever, but did not want me to tell him when we were “trying”. No special look, no secret code word, no headstands immediately following. He, “didn’t need that kind of pressure.”
As a magazine journalist living in the mega-not-really metropolis of Indianapolis, I would repeatedly deliver, with a big-city-girl, matter-of-fact flair, a rehearsed monologue in which I denounced the idea of motherhood for at least a year. I needed to focus on my career, enjoy being married, and all that other newlyweds jazz. Naturally, this meant I was pregnant by July, just 10 months after the wedding. I don’t know, it just all of the sudden seemed like a good idea.
Of course, as soon as I saw that conspicuous plus sign staring back at me on not one, not three, but six pregnancy tests, I was terrified at the magnitude of the impending upheaval. Hank was out of town when I found out, so I took a handful of primary-colored Planned Parenthood condoms left over from college and taped them to our bedroom door with a sweet little note from “the bean” to him. It was a list of requests, really. To console him/her when monsters lurked and teach them to be strong, like him. At some point I fell asleep, and woke up to a nervous, crooked smile about 2 inches from my face. “Is this real or, did you get a puppy or something?”
On the night I went into labor, Violet was attacked by a maniac on Private Practice. I was sprawled across my bed, a sunburned Beluga whale, eyes wide open as the unrealistically calm doctor instructed the psychopath how to cut the baby out of her womb (I really hope you’re following this, or else it just sounds terrifying), when my water broke. At 11:20 the next morning I was bearing down under a spotlight that stole the last of my humility, while the rest of the people in the room watched The View between contractions. One minute my doctor was declaring her distaste for Joy Behar and the next, an 8 pound 2 ounce human joined us in the room. It was a girl (a surprise for us) and she arrived looking wise and worrisome. In a fourteen-hour period, I’d gone from watching a baby come into the world, to watching my baby come into the world. I was a mom.
Since we didn’t know the sex of our sweet arrival, we went in with four contenders; two boy names and two girl names. When little Miss showed her precious round face, we were down to two choices. I knew what I wanted, but Hank needed to study her a bit. Frenzied and wired with all the moxie of a freshly minted father, he took off for the nursery, only to return 5 minutes later. “Well?” I poked. “What do you think?” He placed a thumb under the prominent part of his chin and rubbed under his bottom lip with his other four fingers. “See, they all have the same hat on, and …” We had been parents for 2 hours, and now sat together nervously smiling at the sobering realization we couldn’t pick our baby girl out of a pool of her similarly swaddled peers. It was a blow.
The next day Hank left for a bit. He came back with a flowering plant for me, and a small clear vase with a suction cup on it for the baby. It attached to the side of her small, clear crib and cradled a single yellow rose. The nurses gushed and cooed. How cute … her daddy wanted to be the first man to get her a flower. But we knew the truth. We knew those sunny petals were a beacon for picking our little chubby-cheeked chick out of the crowd. Maybe not our proudest achievement as “Mom” and “Dad”, but it was our first, and so it must be mentioned here for posterity.
Almost as soon as she could talk, she began referring to herself as, “JoJo”, an epithet inspired by her middle name. And so it’s stuck, for 5 beautiful years.