|I made it to 37 weeks. |
That night, my water broke.
On the visit to my OB during my 35th week of pregnancy, he seemed concerned that I would go into labor early. He ordered me to take it easy and get through two more weeks before meeting my little one. I was horrified. I was barely ready to become a mother in five more weeks and now he was telling me that I might have even less time. I needed every second I could get. Doctor Lopez didn't care about that though. And neither did my child, apparently.
That visit to the Doc shook me up a little. I decided to keep the findings on the down low. I didn’t see the point in worrying everyone else. I told my roommate about it. I told my Aunt Melodie who was also my birth coach. She basically told me not to move a muscle for any reason and that she would be praying for Emilia to wait for the due date. I called the restaurant where I worked and said it was time to stop coming in.
“Is everything okay?” the woman who did the schedule asked me.
“Oh yeah. Just feeling huge and like I need to put my feet up.”
“I totally understand. I got the same way with both of my kids! Let me know if you want to come work at all after the baby comes. After you heal, of course.”
I was already working from home two days per week for the newspaper. I decided the only difference between home and the office was a car ride so I’d still go in for now. My boss was CERTAIN my baby would be at least two weeks late. When I went into the office the next day I told her to be prepared in case I needed to start my maternity leave earlier than May 15.
“Oh the first one is always late. Both of my boys were. You’ll be more than ready when she decides to come out.”
I didn't argue. I tried to warn her.
I debated telling my parents. There was really nothing that they could do to delay the inevitable and my mom would freak out and wonder if she needed to change her flight – a question I had no conclusive answer to. So I didn't tell them.
As I laid in bed that Thursday night, I folded my hands across my belly. All quiet on the baby front. No contractions. No butterflies. No kicking. Just a napping baby with no indication that she wanted to greet the world anytime in the next decade.
Thoughts swirled through my head and kept settling on Jason’s Mom. She was an attractive red head who I had met pre-pregnancy when she and his step dad had come into the restaurant for dinner. She had a Polish maiden name and wanted to meet this Polish girl from Chicago that her son had been talking about.
She was my height. My build. My weight, at the time. We had been introduced but I couldn’t remember her name exactly. Denise? Diane? Debra? Some name that didn’t even start with “D”?
One of the few conversations I had with Jason during the pregnancy was encouraging him to tell his parents about the baby. They had both seemed so kind. Like the type to embrace grandparenthood. And even if they weren’t either of those things, they deserved to know that there was a little girl in the bloodline.
At first Jason just refused. As months went on, he told me he had told them and that they called me a liar. When invitations for my baby shower went out, girls at the restaurant asked me if they should send his mom one. I said that since she didn’t believe the baby to actually be her grandchild, maybe they should skip the niceties.
“You know he’s probably lying,” said one of the party planners.
“About something that big? I doubt it.”
“Well, I can always send an invite. If she really feels like he says she does, then she will just throw it away. If she doesn’t know about the baby, then I guess she will find out.”
Both of those options sounded dreadful to me.
“No. Don’t invite her. Just leave it alone.”
As I laid there with hands draped over Mount Belly, within weeks and possibly days of delivery, I thought about the beautiful Polish lady from Pennsylvania who was the grandmother to my daughter. Maybe she did hate me. Maybe she thought I was trying to put the squeeze on her table-waiting son for every penny he was worth. Maybe she felt that she was too young to be a grandma and resented the suggestion.
But what if she didn’t hate me? Maybe she wondered what happened to the pretty Polish girl that her son had seemed so crazy about nine months earlier. Maybe she was already a grandma and would welcome another little one with open arms.
A few months prior I couldn’t deal with the emotional implications of a deadbeat grandparent so I just avoided the issue. Now as the inevitable delivery was within a calendar page I felt like I needed to revisit the idea that it might be me who needed to step up and be the bearer of bad, or joyful, news. Whatever the reaction, these grandparents needed time before the baby arrived to accept the concept – even if that time period ended up being a day or two.
I asked a researcher in my department at the newspaper how a person would find the phone number of a person who’s first or last name he or she didn’t know, but knew the name of the searched person’s adult son.
“You know, hypothetically.”
“Are you sure you want to do this? To call his mom?”
I guess my intentions weren’t well masked.
“No. I’m not sure I’ll even call once I have the number. I just feel like I have the responsibility to do this.”
I knew what my colleague wanted to say. I could see it in her face. She wanted to say that it wasn’t my responsibility. It was the lowlife-scum-bucket-douche-bag-deadbeat dad’s responsibility to tell his own parents that he had been half of a baby-creating team. That was a typical reaction from all my friends in those days. Instead, she wrote two numbers on a piece of paper, one with her name next to it.
“Okay. Call me at home if you need to talk after.”
It was a Friday. Normally I’d be heading for the restaurant straight from the newspaper and hoping the I-4 traffic gods liked me. Today I was just heading home for a quiet evening. My roommate was away waiting tables that night.
I made myself turkey tacos with homemade guacamole and sat quietly at a high-top table, watching the sunset out the sliding door into the backyard. My cell phone was on the table next to me. I texted my roommate and asked if Jason was at work. About twenty minutes later, I got the reply “Yes. Bastard.”
Okay. So now I knew that he was busy and not at home. I didn’t know if his Mom, or step dad, was home. But it was time to take the chance and make the call.
I dialed the number without hesitation. If I paused even for a second, I would turn back. I barreled forward.
The phone rang a few times. A strange recording picked up, asking me to identify myself for the resident. At the sound of a beep, I tentatively said “Katie.” Damn. I probably should have said my last name too. I must have spoken too softly, because the robotic voice asked me if I was still there, and that I needed to please identify myself at the tone.
What the crap was this thing? I was already a nanosecond from hanging up and now this audio contraption was making even easier to hit the “end” button. This time at the beep, I was ready.
“Katie. Poh – Wal – Ski. Katie Powalski.”
The voice thanked me and there was a long pause.
The ringing began again. A much friendlier voice picked up.
I froze. I tried to move my mouth. I tried to will my throat to open and the words to tumble out. I was horribly afraid suddenly.
“Katie? Is that you honey?”
Honey? Not only did she remember me, but she appeared to have defaulted to terms of endearment already.
“Yes. Hi. It’s me, Katie. Is this De….”
“Oh. You’re not Katie.”
“Um. Yes. Yes I am. Katie Powalski.”
“Katie! Katie Powalski! Okay. I thought you were my daughter calling. Her name is Katie too. How are you sweetheart?”
Okay. So she had accepted the call under false pretenses. But still a term of endearment was being thrown my way. The fear started to loosen its fingers around my larynx.
“Oh, I’m fine. Just fine, I guess. How are you Dee?” I decided to take a stab at the first initial.
“I’m great! Everyone is out but me, so just getting some cleaning done. Enjoying the quiet for a bit. I’m sorry but Jason isn’t here right now. He’s at work tonight. I guess that you must be off?”
“Yes. I’m off. I’m actually on leave for awhile. And I’m not calling for Jason anyway. I’m calling for you.”
Pause. Okay. Here goes.
“I’m calling for you because I wanted you and your husband to know that I’m having a baby in about a month and she is Jason’s. He said he already mentioned something to you, but I guess I just wanted to be positive that you knew about the baby.”
Long, ridiculous crazy pause.
“Katie… he hasn’t said anything to us. Does he know about the baby?”
I resisted the urge to bash the bejesus out of their son’s name. I was going to stick with the level, monotone plan.
“Yes, he’s known since September. He hasn’t been a part of the pregnancy and has made it pretty clear he doesn’t want to be involved with the baby. Which is his choice. But I wanted you to have the information and make your own choice.”
She was scrambling for words, battling the opposing emotions my revelation had surely brought on.
“Well, are you having a boy or girl? Do you have names?”
She sounded downright giddy.
“The baby is a girl. Emilia Grace. That’s her name. She’s due May 15th.”
“Oh wow. Are you having a shower? What do you still need for the baby?”
“I don’t need anything. I had a shower about a month ago. I would’ve loved to invite you but didn’t know if you’d want to come.”
“I would have loved to be there!” she shrieked. She was excited. I didn’t know how to react so just kept answering her barrage of questions. We talked about my jobs, my insurance, how much maternity leave I was going to take and when my mother would be in town to help me. We ended with her getting my phone number and telling me she was going to let everything soak in then call me back in a few days.
“I’m so glad that you called me. I know it couldn’t have been easy. Welcome to the family!” Denise said enthusiastically.
My roommate texted me ten minutes later to ask if I had called Jason’s Mom, because that was the rumor around the restaurant. I confirmed and she said that he was acting more relieved than angry. Part of me wished I hadn’t done his dirty work for him but then I remembered that the conversation I just had with his mother had nothing to do with him. I brought joy to a future grandmother and peace to myself and that was worth the call.
You can contact Katie by emailing her at email@example.com.