Yesterday, I picked J up from work to go to our 19 week anatomy scan. I was nervous and excited. It felt like we were practically going to meet our baby. As we drove to the hospital I casually asked him if he had talked to anyone while at work. He mentioned that he spoke to his dad, and that his mother had been taken off her ventilator a couple of hours ago (J’s mother has severe MS and has recently become seriously ill with infection and has been in the ICU). I said that was a good sign. I thought it was encouraging that she had been breathing on her own for two hours. I thought that meant she had improved. Of course, I didn’t have all the information. J abruptly told me that if something went wrong they weren’t going to put her back on the ventilator. All this on the way to meeting our long-struggled-for baby.
I was hit by a wave of the most child-like, petulant emotions: “Why can’t I just have this one day of excitement and joy? Why did J have to bring it up right then? Couldn’t it wait an hour or two? Why did the universe have to make his mother seriously ill right NOW? Why!!?? J is supposed to be able to be focused on and excited about his baby now, not consumed by other things. It’s just not faaaaaaiiirrrrrr! Can’t I have just ONE special day in my life the way it’s supposed to be?” I try hard to tell myself that nothing is storybook perfect or protected from hurt/death/loss, and that I just have to accept the complicated mess of it all. This is what life is really about – joy and pain mixed together into a precious but SUPER uncomfortable concoction. I know in my deepest core that that’s true. And I try to my best to shove those angry emotions away so I can show support to J. He’s grappling with the possibility of losing his mother, and I absolutely can’t leave him alone there. Not surprisingly, I get a lot quieter; there are a lot of emotions too unhelpful to be expressed.
We see the baby. Reassuringly, he’s (it’s a boy!) moving around a lot, looks incredibly beautiful, and all his parts seem intact. Phew. Just like anyone else who’s survived IF, I don’t take any of that for granted, and am relieved and grateful. The sonographer gives me photos of my baby, and I can’t stop looking at his face. I’m in love with him already and immediately start imagining the little guy in our lives.
When we get home that evening, J mostly talks about being excited about the baby. He shared at work that we were having a boy. I think sharing the news and being congratulated helped make it all seem more real for him. We relax at home, and I start browsing online (I want to make sure my plans for the nursery are relatively gender appropriate). J sits next to me and calls his father on the phone. I look over at him at one point and can’t tell if he’s laughing or crying. You see, he was doing such a good job at trying to focus on the baby, he lulled me into thinking things were ok – at least for awhile. I’ll never, ever forget seeing him silently cry like that. When he gets off the phone he explains that she’s still there, but it’s only a matter of time now. She could go tomorrow or a week from now. I just can’t believe he’s really going to lose the mother who’s so precious to him and I wish SO FIERCELY that I could take away his pain. We try to focus on how much she wanted this baby for us, and how incredibly happy it made her to hear that I was finally pregnant.
Not surprisingly, I don’t sleep well, so here I am, writing this post at 4 in the morning.
Meanwhile, I have a lot of complicated emotions about having a boy (yes, I did buy myself a bunch of mini lemon bundt cakes to shove in my mouth after dropping J back at work). Again, it seems like there’s no space to express these emotions, so I hope I can work through them safely here. I just need to figure out what they’re all about. I think I always imagined as I was growing up that I would have a girl. I’m sure it’s not uncommon to imagine a “mini-me” or what’s familiar when you imagine a future child. And I’m not exactly a tomboy. I once went to a superhero-themed costume party as Super Femme, after all. Frankly, for awhile there, I didn’t imagine any husband. I’d just picture me and my daughter. No doubt that’s largely because of the fucked up (excuse the language, but it’s true) dynamic in my family. I had a (I know now) pretty dysfunctional relationship with my mother. We were super close, she relied on and confided in me much too much, causing me to become estranged from my father. Sounds healthy, right? In teasing out my feelings about having a boy, I realized I was worried about being left out – my son and husband would go off doing guy-like things and I’d be left alone. I’m sure much of that fear comes from the fact that I have my own parent-child relationships as models. I don’t want to repeat what I had, though. I’m not going to be giving birth to a new best friend – a ready-made shopping partner who’ll share my hobbies and listen to all my woes. No doubt, whether a boy or girl, my child would share some of my interests and we’d have countless amazing times together. But my mother used me to fill a gap where her own interests and friends – and frankly, an actual partnership with my father – should have been. I don’t want my child to have to do that.
My personal experience with boys is limited. I have one younger sister and no male cousins I was close to. But friends of mine have a boy, Nathan, who I’ve known and loved for ten years now – from three to thirteen. When he was little, he’d put on “Singing in the Rain” inspired tap-dance routines for us. Recently, in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah, he decided to live on a $5/day food allowance for two weeks so he could better understand first-hand what it’s like to be hungry. He’s a sweet, sensitive, super smart person I’m very proud to know.
I shared some of my irrational fears with J – that I’d be left alone while the two of them go on snowboarding trips and off peeing in the woods. He talked about how much our boy would adore me. How, when he was older, it’d be hard for him to find a girl as good as his mother. How he’d miss his mother horribly when he went off to college. And I knew as he said all this, he was talking about his own mother. I watched J with her in the hospital. I saw him gently stroke her hair and wash her face. I have – oh so vividly in front of me – an example of how tenderly a son can love his mother.
These two things happening at the same time are teaching me – yet again – that truth the perfectionist-planner-control-freak in me wants to ignore and deny – that when life doesn’t look like what glossy bridal/baby magazines show us – that’s when it’s the most heartbreakingly beautiful.
I can feel my little baby boy wriggling around inside me.