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Claire Bidwell Smith Headshot

The First Year

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Greg and I got married on a hot July day on Cape Cod. Two months later, I walked into the bathroom of our Chicago apartment and took a pregnancy test.

You're not pregnant, Greg called through the door.

When I came out of the bathroom, I handed the test to him, watching his face as he stared down at the miniature plus sign. He looked back up at me and I offered him a wobbly smile, and he returned one of his own. I was indeed pregnant.

Greg wasn't entirely convinced, though. I think this was mostly because my being pregnant didn't quite fit into his idea of what our first year of marriage was supposed to be like. It didn't exactly fit into mine either, but then again, nothing did. Marriage and pregnancy are two things I've always felt ambivalent about. I even told Greg on our very first date that I didn't know if I ever wanted to have children. We were walking across a bridge in Chicago's Millennium Park and it suddenly seemed like one of those things he should know about me right away.

The words trickled out of my mouth before I'd even had a chance to consider the impact they might have on my future with this man, but I needn't have worried. Greg simply smiled at me mysteriously. Either he didn't care, or he knew something I didn't.

The Monday after I took the test, Greg met me at the doctor's office to confirm the pregnancy. We spent that night in a daze of wonderment. Someone was growing inside of me, part him, and part me.

It's one thing to commit yourself to spending the rest of your life with someone. It's another thing to create a physical manifestation of that commitment, one that's going to grow up and go to school and need new shoes and kiss someone for the first time.

As the months drew themselves out, we both grew a little wistful.

Pregnancy didn't suit me. I was huge and listless, prone to hormone-induced anxiety and tearful days. I could tell that Greg missed the vibrant and happy young woman he had married only months earlier.

Sometimes we whispered secrets to each other in bed, in the dark.

I wish we'd had more time to just have fun, he said into his pillow one night.

Me, too, I admitted, lying on my side to accommodate my protruding belly.

I'm afraid that I won't be a good mom, I told him. That I won't love the baby.

I'm afraid that I won't be able to support all of us. I want our baby to have a good life, he whispered back.

While our secrets stayed safe, hidden in the hushed gloom of our bedroom, I caught glints of them now and then in Greg's eyes or in mine, reflected back in the mirror as I observed myself. There was nothing either of us could say that would reassure the other. Because the truth was that we didn't have the answers.

On the day our daughter was born we both cried, overcome by the enormity of it all. By the swift disappearance of our quiet union. By the way we had produced something so much bigger than either of us. And by the way that we would forever move through life, inextricably linked by a living extension of the first moment we met.

The full version of this essay was originally published in "Wedding Cake for Breakfast: Essays on the Unforgettable First Year of Marriage."