Today is April Fool’s Day, which I always thought was a kind of fun thing when I was a kid, but became more of a pain in the butt as I grew older. I liked the idea of pranks, but never the prank itself. Then, 25 years ago, something happened that I wouldn’t call a prank, but sort of felt like one at the time.
A couple of days beforehand, my mother told me a secret. She took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. We were driving to our house in Kenmore from who-knows-where and I don’t really recall my reaction. I didn’t think much of it. To be honest, my twelve-year-old brain went straight to “she probably is just going through menopause.”
Then, April Fool’s Day. Mom received a call from the doctor, confirming that she was indeed pregnant. For a second there, I was waiting for the nurse to say “Ha-ha April Fool’s!” but I later learned that would have been very unprofessional. Mom and Dad cried and hugged and I kind of smiled and went with it because what choice did I have?
Mom told me not to tell anyone but I went bowling later that day with my friend Jill and told her immediately. The next morning in homeroom, I told my best friend, Christina. Her response? “Oh my God. Your parents still have sex??” Thanks, Chris, for that imagery.
On Easter, we told the family.
Now, a little background on my mom: she was 40, and she had her tubes tied after she had me. So, really, it’s no surprise that my aunt yelled out “Holy shit!” in the middle of church when my dad told my grandma during the Sign of Peace. Everyone was crying, and after Mass the priest even came to ask us what had happened.
We went to my Aunt Ellie’s after, and they called my Aunt Cathy and told her we were having a family meeting. Well, she comes over all in a panic because we have never had a family meeting before, and she thinks grandpa’s dying or something. Dad told her the news, and she was both overjoyed and furious with him for stressing her out. Then, a few days later, I spent the night at my Gram’s. I was pouring syrup on my pancakes when Aunt Mary came in the kitchen. She wasn’t at Easter, and somehow, she hadn’t heard. I don’t know how that’s possible given my family, but there it is. So, Gram urged me to tell her, and I did: “Mom’s having a baby.” Mary then proceeded to yell at me about how that wasn’t a funny joke until Gram stepped in and vouched for me. Anyway, my family was very excited. Which was cool, to me, because I loved my family and if they were happy, I was happy.
I spent about seven months going about my happy little day without a care in the world. Then, mom landed in the hospital for a month. I survived on frozen lasagnas from my aunts and spent a lot of quality time with dad, but the whole baby-arrival thing still didn’t hit me. It didn’t even hit me on Halloween, 1996, as they wheeled my mother into the delivery room while she was wearing a headband that had wobbly bats on it. I wish I had a picture.
When it hit me finally, she was already here. She was in an incubator being wheeled down a hallway and she was all red and her head looked like a turnip.
I washed my hands and arms up to the elbow. I put on a gown and a paper hat, and I went in and sat in a rocking chair. A nurse put her in my arms.
She was so small.
I took my finger and poked at her palm, and her tiny hand curled around my fingertip. “Hello, Bernadette,” I said. “I am your sister.”
Yeah, I was a self-centered preteen at the time who really didn’t grasp the life changes a baby would bring. And it was hard, in coming years, for me to adjust to the new situation. But everyday I would see her, and she would need me, and then I would do anything to make her smile. April Fool’s Day is not my sister’s birthday, but it is the start of our adventure with her, and I wouldn’t change anything.
Except maybe they could have called on April 2nd.