“You’re supposed to talk. A lot.” How right she was.
When Mr. Everything and I decided we wanted to have a baby, it took me a year to get pregnant. That gave me plenty of time to read books on how to be pregnant. I read books and magazines and articles and more, and I felt completely prepared. During my pregnancy, I just kept reading. At one point, my doctor actually told me there was such a thing as being “too educated” when it came to pregnancy. He told me to trust him, and I tried really hard to.
It really wasn’t that I didn’t trust my doctor. It was that I wanted to know exactly what was going on. I was so excited to be pregnant, and I did not want to miss a single moment of it. Mr. E and I attended child birthing classes. (Of course, that’s a subject for another day. I will just say we were the class clowns.) When it was time to have the baby, I was ready. Even the birth was planned as my labor was induced due to some issues I was having. I did not even have the surprise of having my water break. Everything was planned. I was Ready, with a capital R.
The Beetle was born on a Wednesday. I remember looking at him in the delivery room and thinking, “I know I should be feeling something here, but I’m really not sure what it is.” Of course, later, I realized that was the beginning of a little bit of post-partum depression. I was just numb, and it took a while for my feelings to awaken.
When it was time to be discharged from the hospital, I remember looking at the Beetle and feeling a little bit of terror. All at once, I realized I had not studying for this. I had been so busy preparing for the pregnancy and experiencing the pregnancy that I forgot to prepare for my next big exam: Keeping the baby alive.
I remember being in the elevator with my mother, Mr. Everything and a volunteer from the hospital. My mother asked if I was excited to go home, and I told her not particularly. She asked why not, and I said I did not know what I was supposed to do. My mother asked what I meant, and I told her I had forgotten to study up on what to do with a baby. I did not know how to be a mother, and I did not know what I was supposed to.
At that point, the nice volunteer said something I will never forget. She chuckled, and she said, “Oh, honey. You’ll be okay. You’ll make it. We all did.” Looking unsure, I said, “But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” She said, “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”
With that, the elevator doors opened, and we headed to the car. We put the tiny little Beetle in the backseat in his car seat. Mr. E made sure he was strapped in tight. I was glad I wasn’t responsible for that part of the job. All the way home, I pondered what the volunteer lady had meant. “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”
Over the next days, months, years and even decades, I learned exactly what the volunteer lady meant.
I talked about the color of the sky. I talked about how many fingers and toes the Beetle had. I talked about how much I loved him and how much his daddy loved him and how much God loved him. I talked about how I did not know why he was still crying and that I felt he was being unreasonable. I talked about how it was 3 in the morning and I really, really wanted to go to sleep. I talked about how his bottle was heating, and he was going to have to be patient. I talked about how, if he did not stop crying soon, I might lose my ever loving mind.
I talked about how close he was to walking and what a big boy he was. I talked about how it wasn’t nice to pull the dog’s tail. I talked about how peas were yummy and dirt was not.
I talked about how it was not a good idea to put a popcorn kernel up his nose or in his ear. I talked about how pinching was not nice. I talked about how, if he wanted to share a toy, he needed to use his words.
I talked about how I knew sounding out the letters was hard, but if he tried, he could do it. I talked about how it was okay that the lines he cut were not perfectly straight. I talked about how he should not cut his shirt and how scissors were for paper.
I talked about how everyone felt like they did not have friends sometimes. I talked about how if he just tried again, I knew he could catch the ball. I talked about how God loved him even when it felt like no one else did.
I talked about how deodorant was his friend. I talked about how everyone felt embarrassed at some point in life. I talked about how washing his face nightly was so important. I talked about how brushing his teeth was just as important.
I talked about how strange girls were and how just when he thought he had them figured out, things would change. I talked about Jesus and baptism. I talked about honesty and integrity.
I talked about sex. (Those were his favorite talks.) I talked about the future and how God had a plan for him. I talked about how my life really had not begun until I met him. I talked about how important he was and what a blessing he was. I talked about how he might not like me that day but I still adored his pea-picking little heart.
I talked and talked and talked. Just when I thought there was nothing more to say, I found something else to talk about. I talked about fears and failures and achievements and pride. I talked and talked and talked some more. I began to wonder if I would ever be finished talking.
Then, as the Beetle seemed to stop listening, I wondered if my talking days were over. I decided to keep talking anyway. I talked through closed doors sometimes. I talked when he was trapped in the car with me. I talked every time I got a chance.
I have spent the last almost-eighteen years of my life talking. Non-stop. Talking. And, yet, as I contemplate my Beetle becoming an adult, I find myself wondering: Did I talk enough? Did he hear me say I loved him? Did he hear me say God loved him? Did he hear me tell him to be nice and to be good and to brush his hair? Was he listening when I spoke? Did I say it clearly? The volunteer lady did not tell me to expect that. She said I would talk a lot, but she did not tell me that, no matter how much I talked, it would never be enough. She was definitely right about the talking though. -Al