I'm What?! (Part 1)

A pregnant woman holds baby shoes. Text: by Jay Fadden

I remember picking up the phone and calling Shirley on a cold winter day. I am not sure what inspired me to make the call, but I did. It was random and a bit off the beaten path. Shirley picked up the phone and asked what I wanted. She was clearly busy, and my call was interrupting something she was doing. I took a breath and just blurted it out: “I think you’re pregnant.” There was silence on the other end of the phone. My statement was unexpected and jarring. Then she spoke with forcefulness. “I am not pregnant.” With that, she said she was busy and our call ended rather abruptly.

The day before, she had triumphantly stated that our 2-year-old son James was now potty trained and our days of changing diapers were over forever. It was a cause of celebration. We had actually made up a potty song to help with the process that I still remember today.

After I hung up the phone, I continued with work, putting the call in the past. I have the ability to move on quickly and had done just that until my phone rang. I looked down and saw Shirley’s name on the call. I was in trouble and I knew it. I hesitated and slowly picked up the phone and raised it to my ear. There was no hello, but only the impatient voice of Shirley saying, “Pick up a pregnancy test on the way home.” “Ok,” I said, and that was the extent of the conversation. I had kicked the beehive.

I did as I was told and arrived home to a loud house. Amelia and James were playing and running everywhere. Shirley looked at me and I looked at her as I stood five feet in front of her. Even with the children running around and playing, it seemed as if it was just Shirley and me in the house at that moment. In my hand, I held a bag with the pregnancy test in it. Without diverting my gaze from her, I lifted my arm as if I were a puppet being moved by strings and held out the bag. Shirley looked at me intensely, and in a swift movement, she grabbed the bag and was off. It was a surreal moment and time stood still.

I waited several minutes, and then I met her upstairs. She had taken the test and awaited the results. Her arm hung low with the test dangling from her fingers. With a slow and deliberate motion, she raised the test and looked at the results, both of us frozen in time.

I did not see the results, but only looked at Shirley. Her eyes squinted, and then they grew wide and filled with tears. She started to shake, and I knew the results. Baby number three was on the way. I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “It will be alright,” and it brought me immediately back to when Amelia was born. That day, Shirley had been in labor for 40 hours and we were walking the halls of the hospital when I made a mistake that I will never forget. I looked at her and said, “It’s alright, you are ok.” Try saying that to a pregnant woman in her 40th hour of painful labor and imagine the response. Shirley was kind that day and only said, “What?” To this day we chuckle when the story is told. Most women are surprised I saw another birthday after that comment.

So here we were, 6 years later, and I clearly had not learned anything. Shirley shot me a glance and said, “I just need a minute.” It was the kind of voice that tells you to back off and give some space. I gladly obliged. I left, and in a short time, Shirley came downstairs with a smile and a look of peace on her face. She had gotten over the initial shock and was already excited about our expected bundle of joy. Now, you may read this and think that it was Shirley who needed to come to grips with the pregnancy, but she was fine. I was the one who, after much thought, began to panic. After the initial joy, it was me who was racked with anxiety. Next week, I will tell you why and the great concern I had that would shake me and change my life forever.


I'm What?! (Part 1)