The following is an excerpt from Situation Momedy by Jenna von Oy (2015 Medallion Press)
Houston, We Have a Pregnancy!
A scenic view of my past
It was season four of The Parkers, the black sitcom on UPN on which I’d been costarring since episode one, and I still felt totally out of place. I didn’t fit in, and it made me insecure. You know the old Sesame Street song that went, “One of these things is not like the other”? I was “one of these things,” and I was having trouble letting that roll off my back. They could talk about things I couldn’t. They had stories to tell that I couldn’t relate to and special inside jokes to share that proved I wasn’t “one of them.” I wasn’t a member of their exclusive club. Every now and then, Countess Vaughn would even make a comment like, “You can’t possibly understand. You just haven’t been through the same struggles we have.” Gee, thanks. Way to make a girl feel like an outcast. Way to make me feel like . . . the nonparent I was. What, you thought I was referring to being the only white cast member? Ha! Not a chance. Skin color never made an ounce of difference to any of us. In fact, Mo’Nique often quipped that I wasn’t Caucasian, just “light-skinned.”
Being the only cast member on The Parkers without a kid made me feel like a petulant child in a roomful of working adults. I was the only one who didn’t have a family to go home to, who didn’t know what it was to be a parent and have that special love in my heart for a tiny human being. And I wanted it desperately.
So desperately, in fact, that I started adopting dogs. Lots of them. Which led me to believe, in all my twentysomething wisdom, that I knew what it meant to be a parent. Why alienate me just because my kids had four legs instead of two? Because they barked instead of crying? Because they left their toys strewn across every room of my house and drooled all over my furniture? (Technically the latter two examples cover both dogs and children, but you get the idea.) I thought parenting puppies should at least grant me a pass for their elite clique, but no one else seemed to take that notion seriously.
Single life was sucking big-time, and my biological clock was spinning out of control. I wanted a family to ground me; I wanted to finally belong . . .
Cut to . . .
So much for a feeling of belonging. Turns out I had no clue what to expect when I was expecting, dogs or no dogs. After all, my canine kids go to sleep when I tell them to, clean up any food that gets dropped on the floor, and were potty trained by two months old.
And wanting a family to ground me? What was I thinking? Impending mommydom made me feel like I’d been sent to orbit the moon for a while, armed with only fuzzy pink slippers and a casserole dish . . .
But hey, at least I was finally in on all the jokes.
My cradle chronicles
“So you’re having a baby.” In my experience, most instructional pregnancy books start out with this phrase or some equivalent of it. Thank you, faceless authors, for stating the obvious and handing me my sign. After peeing on a stick (or four), racing to the doctor faster than I could say “biological clock,” throwing out a refrigerator’s worth of soft cheese and deli meat, flagging every baby name site on the Internet, reading all the back issues of Parenting magazine, prematurely plotting a nursery design, and indulging my urge to tell every pregnant woman I saw that I was becoming a member of her club, I’m pretty sure I’d already established the fact that I was bringing a child into the world.
Or had I? It’s amazing how long it took my head to catch up to my heart.
But still, “So you’re having a baby” seemed like such an unceremonious introduction. After waiting for so many years to get knocked up (I was thirty-five when I gave birth to my first daughter, Gray), I wanted a parade in my honor, dammit! But one has to start somewhere, right? Parades take time to plan, and I suppose a float in the shape of a uterus would be a little weird. Also, “So you’re about to spend the next eighteen years letting a tiny human be the CEO of your life, huh?” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
In retrospect, I guess there’s really no better conversation starter than the one they’ve all resorted to. But how about adding a little enthusiasm to the mix so it sinks in? I know it isn’t feasible to be showered in confetti or offered a congratulatory neon marquis via book pages, but some amount of excitement is nice. You know, slightly more than one might experience when one’s bologna is ready at the supermarket meat counter.
How about trying this version on for size: “So you’re having a baby. Holy hell!”
Or “So you’re having a baby? You did it! You got the little guy to swim upstream! Go kiss your spouse and celebrate with a pint of peanut-butter-and-chocolate ice cream, for heaven’s sake. You deserve it! Here’s a coupon for a complimentary cream puff!” I swear I’d send you all a bottle of champagne right this minute if it were feasible. On second thought, perhaps I’d send a nonalcoholic beverage such as sparkling apple cider, so the pediatric police don’t hunt me down. Either way, consider this my written version of a celebratory rally for you. I’m whistling “Hail to the Chief” as I type this.
Click here to read our Q&A with author Jenna von Oy