Ten years ago in July, I walked down the hall of the radiology department at the hospital where I’d gotten a job just a month before. My friend walked with me to an open doorway. A man sat in the low light next to a bulky ultrasound machine, paging though paperwork, but looked up with a smile as we appeared. It was a quiet Friday afternoon, the weekend having already begun for most of the white-collar workers in the hospital. My friend whispered a few words to the man in blue scrubs. He looked at me, motioning toward the cot next to his machine. “I just realized I need to test this new transducer before I use it on patients next week,” he grinned. “Let’s see if it can find anything.” I obediently lay down, pulling up the long hem of my own blue uniform. He squirted warm gel around my bellybutton before placing the transducer on it. And that was the moment my life changed.
I don’t know why it surprised me. We’d been married four years already. We weren’t doing anything to prevent it. But when I saw the grainy black and white picture of that cherry-sized baby with a real honest beating heart, I caught my breath. A month’s worth of emotions flooded me in those 60 seconds. Awe, terror, pride, worry, exasperation, jubilation, nausea, and a dose of wonder spilled from my eyes. This little thing was the biggest thing I’d ever done. And I wasn’t very sure how I was supposed to do it from here. Not at all.
We bought our first house that Fall. We bought baby books.
We got insurance. We got a used crib.
We took childbirth classes. We took pictures of my expanding frame.
We picked names. We picked out little baby shoes and wipes warmers and fancy diaper bags that we didn’t yet know that we really wouldn’t need.
I learned to count contractions. And I learned that none of that really matters when you finally hold your newborn in your arms for the first time.
Today, my firstborn is nine. He’s sitting across from me on the sofa with too-big sunglasses on, intently creating a new language in florescent yellow highlighter. When he gets to the end of the paper, he looks up to ask (again) if he can play a video game. I refuse (again). So he wanders out to the kitchen to get a banana, he says, but reappears with an orange popsicle. Then he buries himself in the pages of The Hobbit, gangly legs draped over the sofa into the ever-present overflowing basket of laundry. I steal his flip flops to run outside to check on his little brothers clustered around the sand box. And I can tell you now, a decade to the day since I saw him first, I am still not very sure how I’m supposed to do it from here. Not at all.
Now I wake up to bullets and land mines littering the floor. Nerf bullets and legos – but it can still be disconcerting to have something whizz past your ear and something else jab your barefoot when you’re innocently making a double batch of lasagna.
Now my weight and hair color and what people think of me matters less.
Now much of my day is spent talking, moving, touching, and searching out margins of breathing space around the breathlessly full middle.
Now I try to explain fractions and long division and algebra, now I diagram sentences and try to make sense of the English language to 6 year olds even though it doesn’t, now I repeat the abc song for the upteenth time in 24 hours and listen to the latest mutilation of l-m-n-o-p by the preschooler. Now I do things I never believed I’d have to after I passed 3rd grade myself.
Now science is in the kitchen and history happens on car rides. Now math is at the grocery store and reading happens at bedtime in footie pajamas. Now I still stay up too late working on homework and research because I now know you’re never too old to learn something new.
Now I say “NO” at least every 2 minutes.
Now ice cubes and mud are fun and the world of bugs and rodents is full of wonder and cardboard and used cans offer hours of entertainment.
Now I know the unequivocally priceless laughter of a happy baby and the world-shaking moment when a child realizes he can read.
Now I am constantly challenged to be proactive rather than reactive to the many demands of my day.
Now I sit around home all day and eat Oreos and watch soap operas. (Ok, no, I don’t. Just throwing that in there for my husband. Hehe.)
Now I think, and vote, and surf the internet not to change how the world is, but how I want it to be when my kids grow into it.
Now someone else always gets the last piece of pie and I get the leftover used bananas. But now I hide the good chocolate and try to convince everyone else that kale is actually tasty.
Now I question authority more than I ever did as a teenager because what happens in the dark will be held accountable in the light at the ultimate end of the day.
Now I try to meal plan, form chore charts, establish routines, list everything, and learn grace when it spontaneously combusts. Every day.
Now people around me are smaller, but my car and laundry load are much bigger.
Now I know the kind of love that would offer my own two feet if it could make someone else able to walk. I don’t think I ever loved anyone that much 10 years ago.
Now I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to do it all from here. We’re still squeezed into our first house, but the baby books are long gone as well as the used crib, the wipes warmers, and everything I learned in childbirth classes. But it is still the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
Funny, I never realized that ten years of my life would effect eternity.
They don’t seem so long after all.