The revolving door spit me straight into The Loft’s sweater section, where patrons like me were offered 50% all new arrivals. I touched the top row of acrylic cardigans displayed on a table, my hand stopping on the last one (black) while the pain passed and I checked the time.
I was using the stop watch function on my iPhone, which required me to do math. “Fifteen minutes,” I said aloud, to a saleswoman who approached me to tell me about the sale I already knew all about, thanks to the seven-foot signage.
Spotting the lounge wear, I bee-lined for the back wall. My vision was something comfortable but stylish, with the added obstacle that the waist had to be stretchy, since I might have an incision. I found a striped blue and white outfit meeting my criteria. Extra bonus: it was vaguely nautical, which seemed cheery because it reminded me of Gilligan’s Island.
I massaged a few more sweaters in the outerwear section and then paid for my new outfit. The revolving door spit me back onto the sidewalk.
I had another one sharp enough to take away my congested breath. When it was over, I shuffled down the sidewalk into my office building, one hand fishing for my access card, the other timing contractions on my phone.
Everyone was expecting me to be out the following week, but no one knew I was actually in early labor as I sat at my desk finalizing discovery requests for a case in New York superior court and preparing to turn my entire caseload over to my colleagues.
My stomach tightened and released all morning long. The smug smile on my face that no one could see said it all: I’m a mother f*cking bad ass doing my job while having contractions.
By 2:00 PM, the yellow post-it note where I was recording the timing showed my contractions were seven minutes apart. I shut my door and called the doctor. I was told to call back when the contractions were two minutes apart.
Still enthralled with my own badassery, I attended a firm party held in honor of the receptionist’s 56th birthday. “When do you think you’re going to have this baby?” my boss asked, chocolate frosting gathered at the corner of his mouth.
“Probably tonight,” I said, straight-faced.
The horror flashed on his face instantly. “You probably shouldn’t be here then,” he, the father of three mumbled, cake crumbs raining on his tie.
He didn’t know that I had to be there. I had something to prove. I wanted to look back on this last day of work before my second child was born and see myself giving it my all. I needed to be there alternately gripping the desk while the pain subsided and shuttling my files to and fro. I still thought the whole enterprise of being a mother was about being this particular kind of badass—the kind that works through labor pains to prove that she’s tough, no—tougher, no—toughest.
I know better now. I know better than to endanger myself trying to prove something. I know better than to chance having my water break in the employee kitchen next to the dude from accounting. I know better than to buy nautical-themed lounge wear. I know I don’t really have to prove anything.
And I know the difference between a badass and a jackass.