Surprised by Joy

I spent several days and nights of my childhood fantasizing about being the first female player on the men’s World Cup soccer team. But early in my quest for soccer stardom, I realized that was a pipe dream. So I shifted my focus to space travel, then to veterinary science, and then to marine biology – all pipe dreams because they all involve science, something for which I have a huge distaste and very little attention span.

With a healthy dose of reality and a little steering from my family, I finally zeroed in on writing as my official career choice. According to My Plan for My Life, I would write screenplays, and I would start by studying the craft at college.

After just three weeks at school, I met Scott. We married the autumn after I graduated and moved to Augusta, Georgia where he was first commissioned in the Army. It may be host to the Masters, but the city itself is not exactly a screenwriter’s paradise. But staying true to my journalism roots, I began producing the local news for a CBS affiliate. Though not going exactly the way I had intended, My Plan still proceeded in the right direction.

Then the Army transferred us to a small town in Missouri – also a far cry from Hollywood, though some folks in those parts think Branson’s the next best thing. I beg to differ. Anyway, I decided to teach myself HTML and somehow managed to convince the staff at the local university to hire me as their Webmaster. For the next two years, I developed Web sites and seriously contemplated adding it to My Plan.

In the summer of 1999, fresh out of the Army and free from home being whereever the military says it is, we decided to move to Montana. Scott started graduate school while I worked as a Web developer for an advertising agency. The job was long on hours and short on deadlines, but I figured it would pay off, especially if I wanted to work in San Francisco after Scott finished his degree.

Then life handed me a huge U-turn. After a year in Montana, I became pregnant, and frankly, I was not thrilled about it.

When I saw the two lines on the home pregnancy test, I instantly started bawling. I hysterically called Scott on the phone, and with all the forced excitement I could muster, I sobbed to him, “you’re going to be a dad.” He was ecstatic.

“Oh sweetie, that’s great!” And all I could say I was, “but I want to go to Europe.”

Yep. I’m not proud of that response, and actually, I have no idea where it came from. But darnit, at that moment, I wanted to be anywhere but our bathroom, staring at anything but that pregnancy test. I was not pregnant until I said I was good and ready to be pregnant, thank you very much. It did not fit in with My Plan.

I spent the next nine months trying to get used to the idea of having a baby. Picking out names helped. So did a little vacation. But even though hearing the baby’s heartbeat several times and seeing her yawn on the ultrasound made my heart smile, my head still had a hard time wrapping itself around the idea of being a mom. I remember days before Rainey was born, I was afraid I wouldn’t love her.

Another pipe dream. As soon as the nurse laid her on my chest, I knew my life couldn’t get any better if I had planned it myself. Having her gaze into my eyes and stop crying immediately upon the recognition of my voice was the closest thing I had ever come to experiencing a miracle.

Nine months later, I continue to be surprised by the joy she has brought into my life. Rainey said “Mama” for the first time today, and I’m amazed that with just two letters she has said the one thing I never knew I’ve always wanted to hear.

Yes, Rainey has completely changed my life. I’ve traded in a brief case for a diaper bag and lace bras for giant white ones. I hardly ever spend more than five minutes in the shower, and I can’t remember the last time I dried my hair or shaved my legs or dried the hair on my legs. But these changes just graze the surface of my life. The real renovations are taking place deep down inside me. My mind, my emotions, and my purposes are daily being reengineered to match the kind of “Mama” Rainey needs me to be.

During my pregnancy, I blamed my unborn baby for altering the course of my life. Little did I know that with me at the helm, I might have steered it in the wrong direction. But thanks to the intervention of a seven-pound, eight-ounce miracle, I’m traveling on a path full of surprises that I could not, even in my wildest dreams or plans, imagine.

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