We had been dating for seven-ish months when I stared down the line of an at-home pregnancy test. I would have pissed my pants, but there I sat, jeans around my ankles, quivering bum set to toilet seat, bladder all emptied onto that tiny, plastic, life-changing stick. Before I could wrap my mind around the whole person-growing-person wonder, I began planning. I would organize this chaos into submission.
Plan A involved an apron and pearl earrings, a man with a briefcase, and other such tidbits I’d picked up from re-runs of Leave It To Beaver on Nick At Nite. Plans B-G were the worst case back-ups consisting of my being a single, unwed mother and- if things got really desperate- a hooker with a heart of gold. When my boyfriend made it clear his plans to squash the whole Red Light District routine and stick around, Plan H was mostly just a sigh of relief. Together, a man, a woman, and a womb full of fetus and the unknown, we filled all sorts of alphabetically listed plans for what this future would hold. There was a plan for what to do if the baby were an alien. A plan for labor. A plan for nursery decor. A plan for some serious vaginal destruction. That plan I remember most as I has a whole 9 months to contemplate the badness of it. In the end we wound up with a list of to-do’s sounding a lot like Red Cross’s policy for cleaning up natural disasters. We planned for names. We set up a college fund and planned for education. We planned for sports to be played and prenatal vitamins to be swallowed and holiday cards to be printed with our quickie family photo splayed across the front. We planned and planned and when a rough cry scraped into this world’s air for the very first time one night, we looked at the baby before us (bigger and cuter and more human than we had planned for) and realized that all that planning was for nought. It was Plan Z, that final, last-ditch attempt to control the unknown that we found ourselves in. It was Plan Z that we prayed and chanted, repeated and tried pretty desperately to believe in those first few months.
Plan Z, again, popped up when we moved to a new city with a newborn. When all other plans failed (the one where I made a ridiculous number of friends, the one where we would all dress like a J. Crew catalogue, and the one where I was the world’s most perfectly put-together mom), it was this simple, tired plan that saved the day from being wasted.
I planned approximately 32-and-a-half weddings when I just really wanted to plan the one. My plan for budget was unrealistic. Somewhere around Plan K, two vendors quit, one changed jobs, and so many others showed up asking for more money that I stopped, dropped, and yelled: “SKIP TO PLAN Z!”. No plan for napkin colors. No plan for rain. No plan for how to swiftly remove the alcohol from the premises if grandma got too funky for her own good on weddint day. It was this plan, this brilliant thought a friend or parent or article taught me so many years ago, that stopped the mad list making, the fretting, the worry, the very act of planning at all. If there was nothing after Z, if that was an end, then I would start there. I would begin at the finish line. I would read right-to-left. I would stand on my head.
Packing becomes harder when trying to spell backwards. ELIGARF/ PU EDIS SIHT will surely throw a mover or two for a loop. Also, I can’t very well bubble-wrap our entire house while holding a head stand. I began to worry this week, as we pack a lot of life into a lot more boxes bound for new neighborhood-dom, that maybe this one time Plan Z was not the answer. Maybe I had to go against it, list and pack and pack and list all things in tidy order. Maybe there is no getting around the A-to-Y with such a tedious task at hand.
So, I braced my blood pressure for a spike, breathed deeply so as to contain this quiet panic attack a’brewing, and started anew.
Plan A: Pack all things. Find that packing all things is easy. Receive coupon for free dinner because restaurant owner is impressed with how easily you win packing.
Plan B: No free bread sticks. Pack some things. Find that packing some things is not easy. Try to compare packing to vaginal delivery of 10+ pound baby in hopes packing seems less awful by default.
Plan C: Remember you have a toddler. Look for missing toddler in sea of boxes. Google “Legal punishment for losing toddler”. Pray for lenient judge.
Plan D: Find toddler with filthy hands. Approach. Learn that toddler has experienced a poop explosion and also enjoys finger painting.
Plan E-X: Kill self. Sometimes the least messy option.
Plan Y: Cry fresh tears into bathtub while scrubbing poop from toddler orfices. Realize you have to unpack many boxes to find simple, poop-cleansing/ sanitizing materials. Also feel shame and bewilderment that your life now comes with poop specific baggage (three boxes, two duffel bags, and a jumbo pack of bleach wipes, to be exact). You’ve got something in your hair. Too afraid to check.
Ah, and there I was again despite my best efforts to stay on track. Plan Z, I’m starting to understand, is always the last and very best answer to life’s weirdly off-track moments.
PLAN Z: Chill out, home girl. Everything will be just fine.
Tell me your best laid plans gone awry moment!