Tag Archives: Momma Guilt

A Very Revealing Baby Story: A Barbaric Yawp

I want to start at the end, at the glory.

You’re supposed to hear a cry- a drawn out newborn wail, tearless and gasping. That’s how you know everything is ok. A little squawk will do, or even a gurgled protest, but Willa came out with what I imagine Whitman meant by a “barbaric yawp,” something more animal than human.

To hear her voice calling to us was the sweetest assurance, even more so than the muffled percussion of the sonograms at our prenatal appointments or the early pokes and flutters felt in my womb.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby. “She’s so withholding,” we would say to disappointed grandmas with their hands on my stomach. Willa, who moments earlier had been violently rippling my stomach flesh, held deadly still under the watch of others trying to catch her acrobatics.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby.

In her thirty two week ultrasound, the doctor pointed out the improbable presence of hair on her head, and the tech showed us the way she was practicing her breathing, preparing her lungs for inhaling  those first  gulps of air.

After forty two weeks of waiting, we were alert and ready to find out who this baby was.

“Not a small head” announced Dr. San Juan, the doctor who had joined our birth team. Was this in place of the announcement that the baby was a girl, do doctors feel like they must announce something about the baby? “Medium sized hands for a baby.” or “Thought you should know your baby has well-proportioned ears!”

Drew took over at this point, finally able to touch our baby who had been wrapped up in my body, snug behind my tissues. She held his finger as the neonatologist checked her out, since she’d gotten busy pooping in the two weeks since her due date.

“She’s so nice,” he kept exclaiming. “You’re going to love her.” His words became my comfort, a mantra as I laid there opened like a sardine can, exposed and helpless. Inhale, she’s so nice. Exhale, you’re going to love her.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb. On the inside, she was overpriced pink shoes at the baby gap, she was lumps protruding from my stomach of maybe a butt, maybe her torso?

She was waves of nausea and back aches, and a basketball with flowy blouses draped over top. She was my wide-awakeness in the middle of the night and an occasion for strangers to offer me a seat in the lobby of crowded breakfast restaurant. She was a name, carefully recited to make sure it sang just right in the air. She was so many abstractions and hunches, but now she was nice and not a small head and a voice that could muster a primal yell.

When I become sad or start to feel shame about my story, I think of that blessed moment where she, scrappy and brave, met the air with an unapologetic screech, wild and wonderful, arching her neck with strength to meet the world.

She was nice. I was going to love her.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: Trying or Surprised

In the world of baby conception, society dumps moms into two categories: trying or surprised. I have prepared the following infographic to illustrate these sociological groupings:

When Drew and I began to tell people about baby Vosburg, many presented us with this binary question, “So were you trying, or was it a surprise?” In other words, were you having copious sex with the purpose of making a baby, or did your forget to take your birth control pill?

Not only did I not want to let mere acquaintances into my boudoir, neither category painted me in the way I wished to be perceived.

Baby stuff is weird. It seems like magic, things swishing around in some primordial alchemy, and then… a baby? So many friends, and siblings of friends, friends of friends, and kids of friends struggled to get pregnant. Sometimes, out of the blue, the reproductive magic worked, but others continued to wait. I wanted to skip over this part, the “trying,” which involved taking your temperature, paying attention to what comes out of your cervix, and making monthly pass/fail appointments with your period.

I also rarely like to admit I’m “trying” for anything. Trying reveals desire and volition. Saying I’m trying to become a professional writer exposes me and spotlights the fact that I’m mostly a part time library worker who occasionally takes freelance work and even more occasionally writes on her personal blog. Saying you’re auditioning or applying or throwing your name in… all of these things invite commentary, invite phone calls and text messages, invite prayer, invite vulnerability.

I wanted to be breezy about my fertility and baby-making. But people who say they’re breezy are rarely actually breezy. Breezy was a phrase I repeated over and over again on my wedding weekend when the napkins didn’t show up or the roses weren’t garden roses, or when our intimate first look included a fairly distant uncle sniping pictures from the bushes.

By “I’m breezy!” I actually mean I’m wound as tight as a top, I live in fear of what people think of me, and I carry an overwhelming sense of doom and worst case scenarios.

I took a  pregnancy test within the “first response” window after our first month of being “breezy” with fertility. Nothing, same old control line and three minutes of nothing else. This justified my breezy path; a baby would come or not come in its time. I was so fricken breezy about it all.

Flash forward several nights, and I’m waiting in bed for Drew to get back from CVS with more pregnancy tests. I imagined that he probably wasn’t back yet because he got in a tragic car accident. The police would hand me the pink box of pee sticks along with Drew’s cell phone, wallet, and other items confiscated from the wreckage. I’d take out one of the tests and find that I was expecting twins and also that I had become the main character in a Christian romance novel about faith through trials called “Labor of Love” or “Fourth Trimester: Grief.”

So after Drew came home alive with a box filled with fate wands, I ripped through the packaging and headed to the bathroom to put my mind at ease, to continue my breezy journey where I painted with all the colors of the wind and accepted my body… and “GASP!” I don’t remember the test advertising sound effects but when the second line appeared almost instantly, it seemed to come with a “thwonk” or a “boom.”

I did not move from the toilet seat for forty five minutes, yoga pants still shoved down to my ankles, hand holding the debris of my breezy fertility. This was supposed to be a year long journey of life and love. But apparently my womb happens to share characteristics with the plot of land nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates River. I called my mom, I stared at the wall, I saw my breezy life blow out the window not in a gentle lilt of air, but in tempest gust.

Everything had changed. Oh my God, maybe I did just want a cute puppy.

So could I say surprised? I knew what happened when you mixed the boy stuff with the girl stuff, but quite frankly I was surprised. And weirdly ashamed. I felt like a Duggar getting pregnant before my first anniversary, like someone who naively thought the “pull-out” method worked 100 percent of the time or heard some other myth about birth control. “Surprised” was also a relative of the unfortunate sub-category, “accident” that usually lands kids in therapy (but seriously, everyone should be seeing a therapist anyway).

If I said “surprised,” I could take away my agency. I could take away my responsibility and the fact that I’d gotten mad at Drew when he wasn’t sure if he was ready. I could take away the moments holding up baby sleepers next to Drew’s 6’4″  tube sock body in Target and act like the universe caught me by surprise.

But I didn’t want to be in the trying camp either. I didn’t want to offend my friends who had been truly trying for so long. I hated my story because it seemed so stupid. I couldn’t really use the word “oops,” but I wanted to. My breezy fertility story sounded better in my head than when relayed to the Eastern European doctor administering my blood test.

“So do you want the baby?” He asked me the question as a formality.

And the worst part was, I didn’t know.


IMG_1291As I write through these posts, I’m continually reminded how complicated and sensitive pregnancy and fertility can be. By sharing my point of view, I by no means want to generalize or make light of other people’s experiences.

If anything, I hope to remind us all how specific and unique everyone’s story is. I want to create space for laughter and moments of honesty, but also want to encourage one another to be more careful and attentive in the way we approach these issues. For example, asking a woman if she is “trying” to get pregnant or pressuring young couples with questions about the start of their family may cause significant hurt. Lets keep listening in and paying attention to one another!

You are Here Stories: She Will Grow On Laughter

When my mother was pregnant with my older sister, she was a visiting nurse. She drove around Aurora, Illinois in her blue Plymouth Horizon, stopping at the Dairy Queen drive through on the way home from work. She’d slurp banana milk shakes while listening to the instrumental theme from St. Elmo’s Fire.

While pregnant with me, she chased around my toddling sister. She exercised weekly at a local Christian workout class called “Believercise.” That is, until mom lunged too far, causing significant bleeding; the doctor ordered at least a week of bedrest. She had to pee in a bucket, another reason she’s the best mom of all time. In her third trimester, she survived summer days by scarfing down dripping slices of watermelon, a fruit I still consider to be one of my favorites.

There’s something sacred and terrifying about the way babies go wherever their mothers go. They eat the same foods, hear the same noises, and even pump the same blood. They can benefit or be harmed from the womb they inhabit, which is why pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat Subway or drink cocktails. Now that I’m pregnant, I worry my tiny has been anchored to a sinking ship.

You see, I’m not the best at being pregnant…

Read the rest over at You are Here Stories!