I woke before Ben on May 14. It was earlier than usual, still a little dark outside. I had gone to bed at 8:30 pm the night before. I worried I was coming down with something as I unpacked my suitcase from the most whirlwind week of our lives because I felt tired in a way I had never felt tired in my life. In the 7 days leading up to that morning, we had spoken all weekend at the Mississippi Mercantile event and operated our second store location there. The next day, Ben and the guys watched our friend win Talladega for the first time from the pit crew box. We hopped a 5 am plane from New Orleans to New York a couple hours after he made it home so we could be on the Today Show for the first time and on our last day in the city there was an important meeting that’s been a dream my entire adult life. As I unpacked our bags Saturday night, May 13, I could barely stand. I felt like I needed to lie down. I took a bath and crawled between the sheets at 8:25 and was sound asleep by 8:30.
When I woke up, I knew. Parts of my body felt like they were made from lead, heavier, as if I was stuck in molasses, thick and sweet. I tip toed to the bathroom and took a test. I kept them there, with the extra towels and old toothbrushes for scrubbing grout, beside the Lysol, just in case. It confirmed what I thought, in tiny pink vertical lines. I ran crying, falling onto Ben who was sound asleep. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I just held out the test to him, shaking and crying, “What does this mean? What does this mean?” though I knew perfectly well what it meant. Through half-open eyes, the reality started to wake him up. He wrapped his huge, heavy arms around me and held me so close and said, “Everything is going to be great.” And we cried. Ben felt nothing but joy. I was surprised by the overwhelming relief I felt. The hardest part for me was done—the decision had been made for me. I would be a mother. It was like pushing a car up a hill all this time, my anxiety about when, when, when I would finally be brave enough. All of a sudden, completely by accident, I was watching the car coast away from me as it tipped over the top of this hill, a dead weight lifted. An hour after finding out, Ben began to sketch his plans for building the baby’s crib. I called Mallorie and cried. We told our parents. We resolved to keep it secret.
That was Mother’s Day.
One year earlier, on Mother’s Day 2016, I stood humiliated in the church when our pastor asked that “All women, even those without children, stand up to be honored because all women mother the people in their lives in many ways. Women are gifts that deserve our respect and honor today and everyday. So if you are not a man, please stand.” I cringed, looking around the room at mother after mother, standing without hesitation in their pews. I made eye contact with the 22 year-old college student in awkward solidarity for us, the childless. One of us by design, the other, out of fear. Becoming a mother was my greatest, and most hated fear. It had followed me since I saw the photos illustrating childbirth in my daddy’s medical books at the tender age of 6. I didn’t want to be afraid of it. I wanted to be like the other women in my life who never considered pregnancy something to be feared. I wanted so badly to be brave. That day I felt sorry for myself, with tears on the verge of spilling over as I waited for my undeserved peach-colored rose from Annie Byrd. I sat quickly and whispered to Ben, “I’ll give it to mama at lunch.”
At the end of each service, Ben holds my hand and walks me to the altar where we pray to begin our week tucked in close, arm in arm, side by side on the needlepoint kneeling rail. That day, for the first time, I prayed that God would finally give me a desire to be a mother that was stronger than my fear. If not biologically, then by adoption. After church, we took a long walk around the neighborhood checking on the progress of the houses from season 1. We were walking across Gardiner Park when I told Ben, “I think I’m ready to start thinking about a baby. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” He picked me up and toted me through the park, kissing my forehead, my cheeks, my lips. He told me, “Whether we do or we don’t, I’ll be happy as long as I’ve got you.” It was a secret between us from then on. That I might like to be a two-headed flower, as Ben put it.
We’ve kept it a secret because it felt too close and too important to share. I’ve not written about it here, but you’ll be able to follow along with our whole journey when season 2 airs, the date of which I am excited to tell you about tomorrow when HGTV releases it. It’s too hard to hide now, and Laurel has been whispering but respectfully keeping it here in our family of community. Lately, everything in our life feels like it’s so much, so big, all the time. It’s like looking directly at the sun. You can’t, or it would be too much. And so this one thing, this person who would make us three instead of two, had to be something normal without fuss or fanfare or onesies that say things. It’s the way life goes, the way the family tree changes and grows, and I’m grateful to be part of it, this completely, utterly normal part of life that for so long felt too big and too scary for me to do. Normal has been a luxury.
I am now almost 7 months pregnant, and it has been thankfully a healthy and easy pregnancy. The long hours of filming have been hard on my very tired body each day, and in the first trimester there were headaches daily but never morning sickness. I thanked God for it, and still do. She’s a girl and we will name her after my grandmother. My prayer for Helen is that she will be brave and kind. I pray that she will not be bullied the way I was, and that she will be a protector of the ones who are. I pray that she will learn that from her father, the protector who loves the people in his life so well.
Every night, he pulls the covers over his head, and moves down beside my belly. He talks so low I can’t hear, long talks with Helen, just the two of them. Every morning, he does the same.
Thank you for making me a mother, Ben. Thank you for your heart and your love that’s big enough to carry Helen and I both, and for holding my hand every step of the way.
Photos by Brooke Davis