|After two bottles of Chianti, we conceived a child in right in the middle of that picturesque vineyard while our tour guide begged us to stop.|
My wife Liz and I enjoyed the wine in Italy so much we had several bottles shipped back to our home. The plan was to spend the summer sipping the fine wine we'd enjoyed in Italy and telling anybody who would listen every annoying detail of our trip -- e.g., in Monterosso (Cinque Terre), I almost made us miss our ferry back to Manarola (Cinque Terre) because, at the last minute, I insisted on climbing the hill of San Cristoforo to see what an Italian cemetery looked like. See, all the wine in the world wouldn't make that interesting to you, now would it?
Anyway, a few weeks after our return, Liz starts to worry she's either: A.) going through menopause extremely early, or B.) pregnant. She then sends me off to Walgreens to rule out the latter possibility. Even though it was a little less awkward then purchasing the Plan B pill, buying a pregnancy test has always made me uncomfortable. The moment I picked up that Clearblue package, I no longer felt like the confident, relaxed man I pretend to be in public. Instead, I was again that scared shitless high school kid who walked down the pregnancy test aisle of a Norristown K-Mart like a death row inmate making his final journey to the chair.
A change of plans
Obviously, Liz passed the test with flying colors, or rather, flying color -- blue. But the news caught me completely off-guard. We had rarely talked about having children and managed to slip comfortably into our 30s without any, so I thought we might become that married couple who doesn't have kids and instead uses the money they save not taking care of a non-contributing human being to jetset around to lots of really cool places. Because of these factors, I probably didn't handle the pregnancy news as well as I could have. Here's some advice: When you're a 33-year-old married man and your wife tells you she's having your child, don't say: "Honey, I will support you no matter what you decide to do."
When she found out she was pregnant, Liz made the surprising decision not to drink during the pregnancy, a decision unheard of in my family where one to four daily glasses of wine was thought to be "good for the baby." Nope, Liz did all of the things you were supposed to do while pregnant and swore off all the things you weren't. And she was generally pretty miserable doing it.
For nine long months, Liz endured migraines, insomnia, pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome and a husband who drank like prohibition was only a few months away (with a huge assist from a younger California-born cousin who recently moved East). Despite all this, she opted not to indulge in the daily glass of wine that helped so many women through their pregnancies. Instead, Liz wanted to wait until she went into labor to indulge. Her birth plan consisted of: A.) recognizing that she was in labor B.) taking a long shower C.) pouring a healthy glass of wine from our Italy collection, and D.) watching "Pitch Perfect 2." Only after each of these four steps in the thought-out birth plan were completed would Liz go to the hospital to have the baby.
By the eighth month of the pregnancy, we'd whittled down our list of potential names from anything except for Elizabeth to just three: Sydney, Julianna and Emma. The only thing we were sure about with the name was what would follow it: Marie. Regardless of whether our daughter was a Sydney, a Julianna or an Emma, Marie was the perfect phonetic stepping stone on the path to the harsh-sounding Bilski. Plus, I have an Aunt Marie whom I adore. I figured, if we weren't going to pay tribute to our parents with the baby's name, we could at least give a nod to an amazing aunt.
About two weeks before the due date, it seemed like the contractions had already started. For a few hours every night, Liz would use the little contraction timer app on her phone, and every night the contractions would eventually subside. When we went to the doctor's appointment on the actual due date, we were fully expecting to hear, "Looks like this baby is coming some time today. You guys should head home so you have enough time to make it through that shitty Rebel Wilson movie." Instead we found out Liz was barely dilated, were assured it was very common for the first baby to come late and were given a date on which Liz would be induced if things to progress.
That was on a Tuesday. When I walked through the door from work that Friday, Liz was having the same type of Wait-This-Could-Be-Something-Here feelings she'd had for the past few weeks. "Look, it's probably nothing, but just in case, can you open up one of those Italy wines?" We had three different bottles in a wall-mounted wine rack in our kitchen. The bottles had been sitting there for since for the better part of a year, but I'd hardly noticed them. I'd made a pact with Liz not to touch the Italy wine until she could enjoy it, too. I grabbed the bottle from the bottom of the rack; the easiest one to remove.
A lazy coincidence
The wine I chose was a Chianti Classico from a little family-run winery about a half hour outside of Florence that specialized in Chianti and combining warming, charming hospitality with sweeping views of the picturesque Tuscan countryside. It was called Casa Emma. Of the three potential names we had for the baby, Emma had seemed least likely to come out on top, with Sydney looking like the clear favorite by the end of the third trimester.
"It's a sign," Liz said when I showed her the Casa Emma bottle. "If the baby comes tonight, we're naming her Emma." By arbitrarily choosing a wine with one of our potential baby names in big, bold red letters right there on the bottle, I'd catapulted Emma to the top of the potential names list and virtually ensured our daughter would have at least one thing in common with with Bon Iver's obsession.
|The bottle from the title of this post.|
It would've been nice if Liz's contractions steadily increased that night until she was absolutely certain it was time. Instead, they subsided enough for her to think it was yet another false alarm. Deflated, we watched the Amy Winehouse documentary to remind ourselves that things could be a lot worse. By the time Amy died, so did Liz's hopes of having a baby that night, so she simply went to bed.
I had a bit more difficulty falling asleep so I poured myself another glass of Emma wine and popped one of the Ambiens I'd been prescribed to help with my pregnancy-induced insomnia. A couple hours after Liz had fallen asleep and right when my Ambien was really hitting its stride, the contractions returned with a vengeance. This time Liz was sure it was the real thing so she calmly showered, called the hospital and, after several unsuccessful attempts, roused her drugged husband to let him know the baby was coming. While I stumbled around the house getting ready and wondering if I was in the midst of a very lucid Ambien dream, Liz made coffee. I'm guessing that trip to the hospital is surreal under the most stone-cold sober circumstances, but the addition of my little sleep aide/mild hallucinogen took the experience to a whole new level.
An easy decision
|"I'm so glad they didn't name me Sydney."|
Technically, Liz didn't have the baby the "that night," but she did go into labor -- a long, arduous labor -- and that was close enough. At 9:30 pm on January 9, 2016, twenty-seven and a half hours after she first asked me to crack open a bottle of the Italy wine, Liz gave birth to our daughter, Emma Marie Bilski. Not only had a bottle of wine had been the deciding factor in the our name-selection process, the picture on Casa Emma's label was also memorable enough for me to include it with the tattoo of my daughter's footprints I had done (below).
|When I'm old, this tattoo will look like a Rorschach Test.|
When all was said and done, we'd spent maybe two hours tops at Casa Emma, and when we loaded back on to the bus to continue our Tuscan wine tour, I took one long final look at the sea of green rolling hills surrounding the little stone island of Casa Emma, because I was sure I'd never be back there again. Now Liz and I argue over how soon is too soon to take Emma to see her winery. It's bound to be several years before we make that trip. In the meantime, we just received the first of what's sure to be many shipments of Chianti Classico (aka "Emma's wine"). These shipments will have to tide us over while we wait.