First Came the Baby

First I cried. Then I decided to keep it. And then I decided that I was going to get married.

He had more reservation to keep the baby, but ultimately, we both acquiesced to eminent parenthood.

There was no romance in our decision to marry. There was no proposal. There was no engagement ring–just a positive pregnancy test.

We got married because I became pregnant.

Of course there was love, but we had actually never discussed marriage prior to the pregnancy.

Our decision to marry hedged on one huge factor: my parents.

Years after my feminist undergrad training and years after living on my own in New York City the prospect of having a child out of wedlock and facing my parents was still unbearable.

You can take the Chinese daughter away from her parents but you can’t take her parents out of her. It was in the moment of reckoning–how to plan two shotgun weddings (one on the East coast and one on the West Coast) before I started showing. Thankfully, I had a first pregnancy on my side.

Some may have nitpicked what appeared to them to be my lack of autonomy. Some may say I should have really stood my ground and had my child married or not.  A few may have asked, why even marry? All those are questions I posed myself. It didn’t matter. My decision to marry before I unhatched my pregnancy plans on my old parents was based on one simple principle: there is an order to things and even the semblance of the correct order gave me some comfort in the big reveal.

When I told my parents in the beginning of September that we wanted to marry with a traditional tea ceremony during  the Columbus Day weekend–they had no questions for me. I asked them to look for a restaurant and to invite the heads of households for a nice Chinese banquet meal, they just asked me for a budget. I said, anything–so long as the food was good.

Timing was of the essence. The weekend came. My future-in-laws flew in and enjoyed the city with us. It was Fleet Week and we caught a beautiful Indian Summer weekend. I wasn’t showing.

My parents still had asked no questions and my sisters and I breathed collective sighs of relief.

Now it was time to plan my East Coast shindig. We scheduled with the New York City’s clerk’s office to get our official marriage license by the end of the month. By then I still wasn’t showing at 5 months in. My parents and one of my sisters flew in  red-eye and we went straight to lower Manhattan from Newark. There we convened and officially got married by a woman named Blanca.

A day later while sightseeing at a zoo up in Bear Mountain and at the foot of of the black bear exhibit, I finally scrounged up enough nerve to tell them that I was with child.

30 years old, 5 months pregnant and tears muddling my words, I asked both my parents for forgiveness.

They looked at me with amusement. Why would they be upset? It was perfectly commonplace. Of course, they had known all along.

We found out I was pregnant on my partner’s 30th birthday on a cold summer’s day in San Francisco. We cried holding each other in the bathroom. All I heard was my heart pounding in my ears. We went out to Swan Depot as planned but we had lost our mutually ravenous appetite. Naturally, I skipped the raw oysters.

Sister #2 accompanied me to Planned Parenthood a few days later and with my donation I got confirmation that I was indeed pregnant. My eldest son probably has one of the earliest portraits anyone has ever taken–a 3 week old grainy ultrasound image, at which point, he was the size of a grain of rice.

Where this story may sound bleak and romance-free, I think it’s fair to note that my partner and I both like each other a lot more these days. We have no illusions; however, that if it weren’t for our unexpected pregnancy, we probably would not have married. More likely, our pregnancy is what kept us together. We have  both been guilty of being reluctant to parenthood. I’ve referred to my reluctance to motherhood some time ago and it’s important to note what kind of a father he has become. We have surpassed our own expectations of childrearing; it hasn’t been so bad at all. In fact, we’re pretty good at it.  

After our little wedding ceremony at the Clerk’s office, we headed into Little Italy to enjoy a family style meal. The prix fixe menu wasn’t too bad. My mom thought the fresh mozzarella was tofu. My dad thought the mussels were very pungent. All along they knew the reason they were there was because I was going to become a mom.

The marriage ceremony was a convenient way of telling them.

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