No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.
He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.
Even after we saw the fetal heartbeat, we only told my Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister and a few others.
About two months into the pregnancy, Andy knocked on the bathroom door and asked, “Can we tell my parents yet?”
For once I was spending more time in the bathroom than my husband. So far, pregnancy had been one long vomit-fest. It did not make me cheerful. I yelled back, “You aren’t telling your parents ANYTHING. Until we get the ultrasound that tells us whether it’s a boy or a girl, your parents know nothing. If we tell your father I’m pregnant, he’ll start calling again, asking if it’s a boy. So forget that.”
“What if my aunt figures it out and tells them? We’re supposed to see her and my uncle and cousins tonight and if you’re carrying around your chum bucket, they’re gonna figure it out.”
“Dude. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Yeah, but if I go and tell them you’re sick, they’ll tell my mom and –”
“Tell them I’m off on a girl’s weekend or visiting a sister.”
“Any of them! Pick one or make up a name. I have so many sisters I can’t even keep track of them. There’s no way your relatives will remember them. Now go away and let me puke in peace!”
When Andy returned from seeing his family, I was on the phone with my father and Current Stepmother. Out of eight kids, I was the only one who lived within driving distance. They were hoping we’d come to visit over the summer. Their invitation forced me to reveal a) that I felt too awful to travel, b) I din’t know when I’d stop feeling awful, and b) the reason for feeling awful.
Dad was pretty low-key, typical of a man who had eight kids and multiple grandchildren: “That’s wonderful.”
Current Stepmother, who had only 2 kids of her own and no prospects of grandchildren in the near future, was not low-key. Her lengthy shriek of delight had me holding the phone at arm’s length. Even Andy winced.
“Oh my God, oh my God that’s so exciting!” she gushed. “That’s just the best news!”
I said, “It’s nice that you’re so excited, since this is the sixth grand baby.”
“Yes, but we’re actually going to get to see this one!”
Invitations/ demands for visits at Thanksgiving and Christmas were promptly issued.
“Well, that was gratifying,” I told Andy after I hung up the phone. “I had no idea Current Stepmother was such a baby hog.”
Andy said, “Huh.”
“How were your cousins?”
“How was your aunt?”
“What’s the matter?”
“You’re mad that I get to tell people and you don’t, right?”
“You can tell your friends at work.”
“It’s not the same. And some, like my boss Frank, can’t have kids and that’s awkward, you know?”
“Yeah,” I told him with a sigh. “You really wanna tell your mom, don’t you?”
“I want to tell my grandma,” Andy corrected me.
“Can’t you just wait a little longer? Until we at least know the sex of the baby? Then they don’t get their hopes up and then get all disappointed if it’s not a boy?”
“But Popo’s almost ninety.”
“Okay, how about after the first trimester?” I pleaded.
“But what if something happens and I never get to tell her?” Andy argued, sniffing and wiping away a tear.
My husband’s words hit harder than he knew.
The Christmas I was fourteen, my then Stepfather gave my mother the ugliest, creepiest newborn baby puppet on the planet. He laughed and said, “You said you wanted another baby!”
My older siblings and I eyed Creepy Baby, said “Ewwwww,” and recoiled in unison.
Baby Singing Sister, who was three, screamed and ran out of the room.
Mom pretended to snuggle Creepy Baby, telling Creepy Baby it was adorable.
She saw my appalled face and said, “Hey, if this is the last baby, I have to make the most of it. You know too much about childcare. I’ll probably never get any grand babies.”
She was right. Mom died unexpectedly the following spring.
Twenty years later, I handed my husband the phone. “Go on,” I said. “Call Popo.”
Popo was thrilled. She told him to call his parents.
Andy’s mother was overjoyed.
Andy’s father? He let out one excited shout, before lapsing into speechlessness.
Which lasted about a week.