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In 2018, my husband gave me the best Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever received, which (admittedly) was one I never thought I wanted.
It was a fairly typical celebration of love. We spent the day wine tasting in Sonoma Valley—the lesser-known half of Nothern California’s wine country. After a full day of wine flights (and bonus pours), we drank just a little more with dinner. We ate at a favorite farm-to-table restaurant. It’s the kind of place where you savor every decadent bite of your slightly underserved portion. “Country food with a French passion,” or so they say.
When we got home that night, the day’s good vibrations followed us right up to the bedroom. As our clothes hit the floor, I expected my husband to pull out that little rubber goalkeeper. But the passion took over before he managed to break away.
Momentarily wracking my brain, I tried to remember where I was in my cycle. Deciding I wasn’t in the mood to be the “bad guy,” I lost myself in the moment right along with him. I didn’t give it a second thought until about a month later. I was two days late when a girlfriend and I took a trip to Sephora. When I could hardly stomach the samples of perfume, I was all but certain of my unexpected gift.
Later that night, after my husband had gone to bed, I slipped down to our powder room with a pregnancy test. While I anxiously waited a whole half a second for the result, I called my mom. Before she even answered the phone, I knew it was positive.
“Is there any chance it’s wrong?” I sobbed through the phone, before optimistically adding, “The test expired three years ago.”
My mom struggled to hide the amusement in her voice as she kindly explained to me that the concern with an expired test would be a false negative. The speed at which that second pink line appeared didn’t bode well for my growing fear of the unknown. She knew my husband and I weren’t sure if we actually wanted to have children, so she tried her best to hide her own elation.
“What am I going to do?” I cried. “How am I going to tell Eric? What is he going to say?”
“It’s different when they’re your own!” she tried to reassure me. It was no use. After I finally dried my tears, I went upstairs to join my sleeping husband. My denial was crafting a plan in my head to buy a fresh test first thing in the morning. Just in case.
Far more often than not, my husband left for the day well before I woke up. The next morning, I woke up surprised to find I was not alone with my thoughts as I had expected. Normally, I would’ve been thrilled to find him still at home but not on this particular morning. Despite the unlikelihood of a false positive, I had every intention of getting a fresh box of tests. My plan was to drive to the drugstore the very minute it opened.
“Good morning,” he said with a tone of surprise in his voice. “Want me to make breakfast?”
“Don’t you have to get to work?” I asked, trying my best to keep my tone light, feigning delight at this highly inconvenient plot twist. I wasn’t quite ready to let him in on the potential surprise I had in store for both of us.
I did my best to act natural through the world’s longest breakfast (that more likely passed by in minutes). By the time he was leaving, I could hardly send him on his way fast enough. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding as I walked out to my own car just a few short minutes later.
It wasn’t long until I was leaving Rite Aid with a box of tests in hand. While checking out, I gave the clerk a look, daring them to feign excitement or attempt to wish me congratulations. Back at home, not one but two brand new pee sticks confirmed what my expired test had more than proved the night before: I was pregnant.
It wasn’t even lunchtime when I fired off a text to my husband, “Hey babe! How’s it looking? What’s your ETA?” I decided I couldn’t wait until a doctor confirmed my pregnancy. I was ready to loop him in on our Valentine’s Day surprise.
I put forth my best efforts to act normal, but by the end of the day, I had asked my husband at least two more times when he’d be home (the exact number is heavily disputed). Two kids later, those kinds of texts are standard practice, but back then, it was far more of an anomaly. (So much so that, later that night, when we discussed the day in retrospect, my husband would laugh at his own cluelessness, amazed he hadn’t caught on that something was up.)
When he walked in the door that night, I was sitting on the couch. The Kate Spade “His” and “Hers” tumblers we received as a wedding gift 2.5 years earlier were on the table before me. A bottle of his favorite whiskey sat by his glass and a bottle of my favorite apple juice was next to mine.
“Richelle…” he said, a questioning tone colored his voice as he approached me. He took in the glasses and the respective bottles on the table, a nervous smile turning up the corners of his mouth.
“I guess you’ll be drinking alone for the next 9 months,” I said, doing my best to steel myself for his reaction. The only conversations we had ever had were about not wanting kids. Our lives were about to change in a pretty major way, and I had no idea what he would think when I broke the news to him. After all, I had spent the better part of the last 24 hours falling apart. I told myself it was his turn now. I mentally prepared myself to be strong and hold space without judgment for whatever his reaction would be.
“Come here,” he said as he sat down on the couch, completely ignoring the whiskey glass sitting on the table in front of us, laughing as he pulled me into a giant hug.
“You’re not mad?” I asked in disbelief, my voice cracking. “Are you happy?”
“I guess I am,” he said with a laugh that immediately made me dissolve into tears.
“Well, if you’re not going to freak out, do you mind if I go back to doing so?” I asked through my tears.
He held me as I cried, trying his best to balance his unexpected excitement with understanding and support. Back then, I thought for certain my world was falling apart. Little did I know, it was actually falling together. A year later, we found ourselves retelling the story of our “VJ Baby” over a bottle of VJB wine (one of the four wineries we had visited that fateful Valentine’s day), dissolving into fits of laughter about our happy little accident.
Over the years, this has become one of my favorite stories. Five years (and two kids) later, it still makes me laugh every time I tell it. My husband’s unexpected reaction, my inexplicable fear that it would be anything other than supportive, and the irony that the journey to a career and identity that brings me so much joy started out with so much fear. If only I knew then, what I know now!
Becoming a parent (whether planned or unplanned) is anything but predictable. Society tells us we should look, feel, and act a certain way as we navigate these experiences (e.g., everpresent smiles, heaps of gratitude, and limitless bliss), but the truth is, the range of “normal” is wide on this emotional rollercoaster ride.
If you’re looking for nonjudgemental support for your own journey, we’re here to help! Click here to talk to one of our coaches or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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Richelle’s passion is supporting growing families through the unpredictable and transformative journey of pregnancy and the first years of parenthood. In 2019, she set out with a vision to create a modern-day parenting village: From Pregnant to Parent. In addition to being our founder, she is a certified doula, childbirth and lactation educator, sleep coach, and RETAIN parental leave coach. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kiddos around their home in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area).
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