We’re going to be abba and omma!

The day I told David we’re having a baby, I waited till evening time, right before dinner, when David was done with work for the day. I felt like I had an itch all day, watching the clock tick till dinner time, my mind constantly wandering to the three positive pregnancy sticks hidden in my bathroom drawer.

Later, I tore out a page from my notebook and drew a little doodle of David and me holding a little baby with the words “We’re going to be abba and omma!” Then I folded that piece of drawing into a little envelope, and wrapped it around the three pregnancy sticks. I placed that into a kraft box that once held my 2022 planner (ironic, now that I think of it). And then I waited.

I made air-fried Brussels sprouts, sweet-glazed salmon, and mashed potatoes with gravy for dinner. At around 6 pm David stomped up the stairs, complaining about how tired and busy he is, per usual. Heh heh heh, I thought, knowing that soon he’ll be busier and more tired than ever. He then complained that we’re having salmon for dinner, and I told him to shut up and eat what’s placed before him. Practicing being a stern mom, you know. And then I slid out that Kraft box and placed it next to his dinner plate.

“Ooh, what’s this?” David asked.

“I got a little something for you,” I told him. “Open it!” I sat next to him as he opened the box.

He thought it was a present from Mexico City, so he got confused when he saw the folded paper, rattling with something plastic inside it. He opened the “envelope,” and froze when he saw the white pregnancy sticks with the pink lines. He stared at it for a few seconds, not understanding. Then he very slowly opened the folded piece of paper and read it. He whipped his head to me in shock: “WHAT?” He thought it was a joke, because we had joked about me being pregnant before.

I giggled at his shock. “Yeah, I’m pregnant!”

He stared at me, speechless.

“Seriously, it’s not a joke. I’m really pregnant. And I think I’m pretty far along, maybe 16 weeks.” I pressed my overalls to my belly: “See?”

He touched the little bump on my lower abdomen, and his eyes widened. “Wow,” he breathed. And then he looked up at me, his eyes shining, his mouth dropping and stretching into a shocked, amazed grin. I wish I had captured that expression on camera, but I’m also glad that private, unforgettable moment is ours to share alone. He looked like a child himself, full of wonder and awe of this world, of life. Then he asked, “How do you feel?”

Tears welled in my eyes and I felt like I was burning up in a flame of confusing emotions. “I don’t know,” I said. “How do you feel?”

“I’m excited!” David said. “And also in shock.” He flapped his hands. “I just need time to process this. This is a lot!” He turned down to his dinner, which was getting cold. “Well!” he exclaimed, “Our lives are going to change!” He continued sitting in a daze, then said, “I don’t think I can eat dinner anymore!”

He did. He finished every bite of the salmon he complained about, but he ate without tasting, mechanically shoving food in his mouth while his mind tumbled into a completely new world– our world. Our world with a child. Can we imagine? No, we can’t. We don’t even know how to begin.

We decided to call my parents that night. But when I asked him if he wanted to call his dad that night as well, David’s face turned red. “I don’t…I don’t…” he stammered, words failing to describe the pain of a sudden realization that he would never, ever be able to call his mother to tell her the good news. Every muscle in his face scrunched into grief as he tried to hold back his tears, and I cried again watching him weep, watching him thinking of his mother, missing her, longing for her.

“I know,” I said quietly, and wrapped my hand around his clenched, shaking fist.

We sat in the hush of so much unspoken, inexpressible emotions and thoughts that didn’t need to be uttered, because we thought and felt them together.

And then, inevitably, we talked logistics. All the unromantic, boring, mundane worries about health insurance (I’m in between jobs, I don’t start work until March 1, when does my health coverage kick in? How much is prenatal care out of pocket?), where to put the nursery, what to do about childcare once the baby is born, what’s the next step, how do we know the baby is healthy?

Oh life. Oh humanity. Every great joy and celebration, weighted down into the mud of this world’s dreary realities.

We finished dinner and went for a walk. I called my parents on speaker, and though it was past 10 pm their time, they picked up almost immediately. “We miss you David!” abba boomed from the dinner table: “We always think about you!”

“Thank you,” David said, and we nudged each other, mouthing, You tell them. No, you tell them! I decided David should break the news. “So…” he began. “We have something to tell you.”

My parents went quiet, though I could still hear abba chewing his late dinner.

David started telling the story of how when I was at Mexico City, a guy at the gym approached me and asked, “You’re pregnant, right?” But he didn’t get any further in his story, because the moment my parents heard the word “pregnant,” they flipped out.

“Aaaaah? PREGNANT?” omma interrupted.

“Eeeeeh? PREGNANT?” abba yelled in the background.

So they didn’t get to hear the whole story of how the guy at the gym made me suspect I was pregnant, as the word “pregnant” clanged and dinged and buzzed and donged in their brains.

I jumped in to explain in Korean, as briefly as I could, that I had just taken the pregnancy test the night before, and abba, still in his stupefied daze, heard the words “positive” and “test” and screeched, “Eeeeeh? You have COVID?”

David looked at me, mirth dancing in his eyes, and voiced exactly what I was thinking, “Where in the world did you get COVID from that?”

I barked at abba to pay attention and dig his ears, because he’s clearly not listening properly, while omma laughed and shushed abba to keep quiet for a second.

They were overjoyed, of course. “I’ve been praying for this every single day!” omma cried, to which I felt a pinch of annoyance. I always get triggered when my parents tell me they’re praying something for me, because often it feels more like a pressure to conform to their wishes rather than a blessing. And then omma proceeded to compare me to Sarah in the Bible: “You know, you’re just like Sarah! She was a dried-up old prune, but when God decides to open up the womb, lo and behold, nothing can stop Him!” Thanks, omma.

Abba told us in his broken English, “Don’t think you are parents-to-be. You’re not mother-to-be, or father-to-be. You already parents. You already mom and dad.”

That was hard to imagine. I mean, I had only just discovered I’m pregnant less than 24 hours before, and David had found out about an hour before. It was hard to wrap our mind around the fact that we had created a little kid we’ve not yet met before, this tiny growing thing inside my womb, who had been so patiently waiting for us to acknowledge its existence. We didn’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl, how far it’s along, when it’s due. We don’t have a name for it, we don’t know if it’ll look more like David or me, if it’ll like kimchi or tacos, if it’ll have my brains or David’s heart. It is a blank canvas, and someone else is the painter, gradually adding in hues of color and blobs of shapes, and we can only wait and see, wait and hope, wait and pray.

What helplessness, to be parents. How do you prepare for it? You can’t. It just happens, and you just let it happen, I suppose. And take it one step at a time, letting the seasons wane and shift in their own timing, realizing more and more that you have little control, and learning to accept that, to walk alongside that.

We did not prepare for this baby, could not prepare for it. But we’re already parents. We are abba and omma! And so we make room for imagination to grow, for out-of-control situations to happen, to expect the unexpected– perhaps for the rest of our life. And if there’s any way I can prepare for this baby, it’s to get excited for that.

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