You, Me, Oui

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A beautiful Japanese maple preens its Autumn plumage in my parents’ front garden. A larger version of this tree, but with bright green leaves, had filled the broad multi-paned window of the Shoreline house where my parents first brought me home as a baby. And, to continue tradition, in the small triangle of soil that borders the edge of my townhome’s communal courtyard grows a little Japanese maple with pink and beige speckles on a field of pale green. The heritage of the window tree has been passed from one generation to the next.

A reader-board hangs above a local lumberyard that drive past multiple times a week. It currently says, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.” This description seems to fit so much of who I have been for the last eight months or so.

My sister has a Thanksgiving countdown on her phone’s calendar. She regularly tells me how many days are left because she’s eagerly waiting for more than the holiday festivities to begin. We’re both waiting for something big.

I meet a steady stream of women who struggle through the dark, hidden woods of a grief that I have shared with them. I recently discussed genetic infertility tragedies at a bridal shower, feeling a strange sense of This isn’t okay to talk about here–but maybe it’s fine, because we’re comforting each other.

What am I trying to say?

This.

I’m pregnant.

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Pic taken September 6, 2016

The news will not come as a surprise to some of you, but I have never made the official announcement here on the blog. Is it because I’m “stitious”? There are many days I feel this is the case. Don’t jinx it.

Did I delay releasing the news until now because I don’t want to bring hurt to the women wrestling in the darkness of their own childbearing journey, who cringe every time they open social media for fear they’ll see more mommy bragging photos? My answer: probably, at least in part.

My baby girl’s due date is November 24-Thanksgiving day. My sister is thrilled out of her mind. This particular holiday seems such a fitting and perfect due date. To be able to associate my baby’s arrival with a day of gratitude helps me feel the rightness of this.

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Little girl clothes!

I’ve had three baby showers for this girl. One was thrown by the ladies in my writing circles, one was thrown by my sister and mom, one was thrown by friends from church. I’ve washed a folded and laid into drawers a wide assortment of beautiful, dainty, and darling clothing items that were design especially for a little female human.

All of this makes her arrival firmer, something I can almost touch.

A mother asked me last week if I’ve stopped feeling anxious about the safety of this baby. I laughed coldly. No. That’s why I want her to arrive so very badly. To hold her in my arms and feel her breath against my skin and look at her tiny eyelashes and just know she is mine here on this earth.

Something changes in a person when that person longs and hopes for a thing four separate times and only gets to hold a tiny child at the end for one of those times.

At each ultrasound, I tell my story in a few short words. “What number pregnancy is this?” the sonographer asks me. “Five,” I say (referring to my current pregnancy). “Five pregnancies. One live birth.”

This girl will be my second live birth. She’s 36 weeks as of Thursday October 27th, she kicks and moves more than her brother did, and I can’t remember feeling so tired. (Of course, I didn’t have a toddler to chase while I was pregnant the first time around).

My son kisses my tummy. He sometimes brings little toys and holds them at navel level so he can show them to Baby Sister. He doesn’t like to witness me with any other babies in my arms. Ever. He’s learning to share playthings with other children. He sings songs along with me and agrees that he’d like to sing them to his sister.

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The big brother

It will be a major adjustment for him. I know this. I also believe that a sibling is among the best things I could ever give him.

Am I happy that I’m pregnant? Absolutely. I wish I were giddy. I wish it often. A strange lingering guilt trails me: shame that I cannot seem to bravely embrace a wild, fragile hope. That I somehow lack courage to be joyful for something so good, for this rainbow baby who is the bright beauty and color after the gray storm of death and despair.

My obstetrician, bless her, said the happiness might not become real for me until I hold my daughter in my arms. I was only a few weeks pregnant when she told me this and the future event of Birth felt so distant, my heart sank.

There have been moments, though. Seeing my daughter move on the ultrasound and noting her adorable nose and perfectly formed feet. Hearing my husband chuckle as he feels her kick against his hand on my belly wall. Watching my mother cry as we cut into the “gender reveal” cake and she saw the pink icing.

I predict that I will hold my daughter for the first time and burst into tears. Of gladness. Of relief. Of the delight in knowing I can move forward with my family.

A tree has always been a symbol of life and endurance for me, and seeing my family’s heritage of Japanese maples reminds me of this longstanding strength. Many people have told me that I’ve been so strong through all of this waiting and grieving and hoping and waiting and hoping.

Maybe so.

What I know is, I’m feeling really ready for this baby’s birth. I’m want that moment to come.

Anytime.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. She earned her degree in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. She is a recipient of the Eugene Van Buren prize for fiction. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges(2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015). She lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens

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