June 8, 2020

Baby Girl Everett

Photos: Courtney Cimo Photo & Film

I stood beneath too-bright fluorescent lights, shifting from foot-to-foot in the Family Planning aisle at CVS. It was almost dinnertime on a freezing cold Sunday in January, and my car was packed with thawing groceries. I knew I should get home to Andrew, but something had felt decidedly off all day, and I couldn’t stop myself as I switched on my blinker and pulled into the pharmacy parking lot. So, there I was, staring at the shelf.

Wincing at the price tag, I grabbed a First Response box, the kind with both the old-school pink line and digital “yes-or-no” sticks inside. If it came out negative, I would split a bottle of wine with Andrew. If it came out positive, well…

Two Pink Lines

Back at home, Andrew and I waited in the bathroom for a few minutes before the line test was ready. This was not our first rodeo. We officially starting trying to get pregnant at the end of the summer, and almost every cycle, I’d managed to convince him to go out and buy a test. They all came out with the same crushing “no” result, and then I would cry, burying myself in a rabbit hole of online research. Somehow, I fell prey to the lie that every woman should get pregnant her first time, or second time, or even third time. When will it happen for me, God?

Now, I perched on the edge of the bathtub and silently prayed that this test would be “the one.” Andrew held my hand. Unhurriedly, two faintly pink lines revealed themselves on the stick.

I couldn’t breathe.

No, I could breathe!

And suddenly I was screaming with joy and hugging Andrew and dancing around our tiny bathroom.

Andrew, forever the more detailed and cautious one, sat me back down so I could take the digital test. “Just to be certain,” he grinned.

The rest of that night is a happy blur. We cried, we called both sets of parents, and we ordered Chipotle burrito bowls to celebrate. Before we went to sleep, Andrew prayed for our baby, and together we thanked God for such a precious gift.

Secret Keeping

After we found out, Andrew and I zipped our lips. I went about my days with this tiny secret inside of me. It took true determination to keep it to myself, and there were many moments when I felt the words “we’re pregnant!” bubbling to the surface, so close to coming out.

They say — and by “they,” I mean the internet — not to share your news until you are about 12 weeks along. This is because the rate of miscarriage is so high during those early months. I abided by that rule as steadfastly as possible, but soon, the secret became heavy.

I was filled with fear in the beginning of my pregnancy. There was one day in particular, at about 10 weeks along, when I realized some of my negative symptoms had disappeared. Instead of counting this as a blessing, I freaked out. I bawled in bed for hours, eventually booking a last-minute appointment to visit my doctor for a check-up. They were able to squeeze me in a few hours later. Of course, the baby was fine, and I felt a million times better as soon as I saw the heartbeat flashing on the ultrasound screen.

That panic-filled experience was a lesson to me. Just like I needed to trust God with getting pregnant, I needed to trust Him throughout the pregnancy. He is the master author; He knows how everything will unfold. It was time for me to loosen my grip.

In March, just after our trip to New York City for Andrew’s birthday, we hit a milestone: Three months! Relief washed over me as I read the update from The Bump: “It’s the last week of the first trimester and you did it. We’re not just talking about getting through those work meetings without falling asleep (or puking!), we’re talking about how you’ve completed one whole third of your pregnancy — and the reputed toughest one at that.”

Here’s Andrew studying our “Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy” book!

While we prepared to settle into the second trimester, the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic. Life as we knew it changed in an instant as our city announced a sweeping “stay-at-home” order in response to the coronavirus. Restaurants, shops, parks, gyms, and non-essential businesses closed. Andrew stopped going to his office, and I stopped going out on showings. We hunkered down at home in Lincoln Park, taking every precaution imaginable in order to protect our growing baby.

This meant, of course, that we had to share our good news with friends and family by way of FaceTime, Zoom, texts, and phone calls. It wasn’t the surprise announcement I’d dreamed of, but that didn’t matter. Andrew and I glowed as we showed off our most recent black-and-white ultrasound photos. Finally, our secret was out!

Gender Reveal

We found out Baby Everett’s gender just after our 12-week appointment. I thought it was a boy. I don’t know why. I wonder if it’s because, deep inside, I really wanted a girl but did not want to be disappointed if it was the opposite.

Ultrasound reel from our 12-week appointment!

One evening during our quarantine, I sprawled out on the couch with my laptop open. We were awaiting the report from my last round of bloodwork, which would reveal the gender. But I figured it would be a few more days until we heard back, so there was no harm in logging into my portal to submit a question to my doctor.

A few clicks later, I blinked at the home screen. There, just under the “Latest Results” section, were our results in neat block letters.

I squealed, covering my mouth. Andrew had been reading in the office, and he flew into the room. “What? What?”

“Andrew, I am so sorry. I wasn’t trying to peek. I swear. But I saw the gender!”

“Melanie! You definitely were peeking! You would!” he teased, trying to sound angry. I could tell he was biting back a smile.

I turned the laptop toward him as he sat down next to me, pointing to the words. We fell into each other, hugging and repeating it. “Girl. Girl. Girl!”

I baked banana bread that night. We cut fresh-from-the-oven slices and brought our porcelain bowls into bed, talking about our baby girl in-between bites. What will she be like? Who will she look like? There was so much to discuss!

Almost There

As I type this on a summery morning in June, I am six months pregnant and our baby girl is 24 weeks along. She passed her anatomy scan with flying colors, and she’s moving and squirming and dancing constantly. Andrew lights up every time he gets to feel her kick! We have her full name picked out (top-secret!) and our crib is all set up in the nursery. It’s happening. It’s really, really happening.

Me at 20 weeks.

If I had things my way, of course, we wouldn’t be expecting a baby during a global pandemic. There have been plenty of sleepless nights when I can’t let go of the gnawing worries. What if we get sick? What if the baby does? Will Andrew be able to go to the hospital with me? Will our parents get to meet her when she arrives?

Whenever I fall apart and feel swallowed up by my own thoughts, Andrew is there to encourage me with God’s promises. He’ll read me Scripture, or pray with me, or just rub my back. I love this husband of mine so, so much, and I know he is going to be an incredible father.

Andrew modeling my new pink pregnancy pillow.

My anxiety aside, there have been so many blessings to note since March. For two straight months of our strict quarantine, I woke up every morning to Andrew’s voice floating from the office to our bedroom — a comforting reminder of his presence as he worked from home. We spent our days at our laptops, and at night, we’d read books, watch movies, or walk around Lincoln Park. “We’re best friends,” I constantly reminded him, giggling. “Never apart!”

Best friends at 22 weeks.

In May, we packed a few bags and went to stay with my family in Hinsdale. I walked into the house that day and burst into tears, hugging my dad and sniffling into his shirt. I hadn’t seen them since February — a new record for me. For a few weeks, everyone I love was together under one roof: husband, mom, dad, brothers, and baby girl.

It was the sweetest treat, and I know we’ll be back-and-forth to Hinsdale as much as we can all summer long.

Sharing my 20-week ultrasound photos & videos with my parents. Such a special moment!

Now, as our beloved city reopens and the city’s stay-at-home order is lifted, life is starting to feel a little bit more normal. I’m going on showings with clients, we’re seeing friends on their patios or in parks, and we are soaking up our last summer together as just husband-and-wife.

Our baby girl is scheduled to arrive on September 25th — three-and-a-half months from now. Andrew and I pray for her constantly, asking Jesus to protect her and lead us as parents. (Parents?! I can’t believe I just typed that!) We are elated, scared, cautious, joyous, and expectant.

To our darling daughter: Your dad and I cannot wait to meet you!