Stories in My Pocket: Knowing Smiles (Part 9)

To read from the beginning: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

I power waddled through the outlet mall in search of an Auntie Anne's Original and a cold cup of lemonade. And maybe some summery PJs that I could squeeze into a few hours after delivery. I veered off course to take a closer look at an adorable jean skirt that would have fit nine months ago, longing for the day when I could again wear a garment that wasn't strung out on elastic or overdosed on fabric.

I nearly dumped my drink on the denim temptation when the phone rang.

"Hello?" I fumbled, pretzel butter-fingered.

"So, the results came today. Looks like I won't be starting my clinical rotations anytime soon."

"What? Are you serious? Tell me the truth. Did you really fail?" I panicked, belly tightening.

"Yes. Well, I mean no, I didn't fail and yes, I'm joking. I passed. One down, two to go."

What followed was a happy dance among the chinos, but what probably looked more akin to a crazed pregnant woman practicing labor coping techniques. After Larry had been sufficiently lectured on the hazards of teasing his poor hormonal wife and inducing minor contractions, the phone call ended and the shopping continued.

It was a year and a half later than we'd planned, but the USMLE Step I was finally behind us.

Within a week, my new baby blue PJs made their way to the hospital. I came along too, now perfecting the antithesis of the happy dance. Labor had begun.

Lightning flashed and tornadoes touched down that day. Indoors and happily drugged, I babbled about Phil's disappointing performance in the Ryder Cup and labeled myself on par with the frumpy woman on "What Not to Wear". Oblivious to the pouring rain and branch bullying winds, we tuned in only to the beat of the monitor and the contractions etching from dot matrix into paper-laden zig-zags.

It was a civilized day of labor, nine to five.

One arm in the brace, another locked around mine, he told me I was strong and I was almost done. The hardest part, he said. The hardest part is almost over.

And he was right.

A few minutes later, we watched our son strike a superman pose on his way to a high Apgar score . "Did you see that Jo? He just stretched his arms and legs straight out! Look at this little guy!"

I did. I saw it, along with the spray that spanned four feet and hit his Daddy and the L&D nurse in a two-for-one shot.

We had so many reasons to smile.

We smiled because we were hungry. In visits prior, we were full enough on the pits in our stomach.

We smiled because we could hold hands without wincing, as a family we weren't sure we would ever be. Yet here we were, the three of us.

We smiled because we could still believe, though our spiritual skin was rubbed raw from the grating doubt. Because we could still sing "Blessed be the Name", though our voices were hoarse from lament.

We smiled because we knew that hollowing pain made room for drenching joy that overflowed our depths and splashed out onto our cheeks. Without the carving suffered, there would have been neither room for nor recognition of this precious air gasping, of these lungs crying loud with life.

We smiled because we had lost and grieved and wept and worried, and because we knew the hard part was almost over.

We had so many reasons to smile. And so we did.

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