I’m approaching my 34th week in this pregnancy, which means the baby is the size of a butternut squash, but I can assure you it feels much bigger–every space in my stomach is stretched and filled. Feet and elbows and a little cute bum, are always poking me, seemingly searching for more room within their confined home.
I have days where I still feel my globe-like belly is bearable, and then other days, I cannot stand having to squat and straddle my legs the way a novice stripper would, as I bend down to pick up toddler toys instead of cash tips.
But as much as I want to stop sharing my body with another human, I’m not entirely ready to share my time with Everett.
How will another child burst through these sewn motherly seams? Because right now, they are sealed shut with only my son, yet it’s like I can feel this slow, internal transition: the gentle pulsing of tight strings, beginning to loosen around my heart and create more space.
My recent pattern of thought has been: How can I love so much again? How can I divide my attention? And when I hold this baby for the first time, am I going to think of Everett? Am I going to miss him in that moment, when I feel my brain immediately embrace his brother or sister?
I know these questions sound dramatic, but you have to admit, they’re valid for a soon-to-be mom of two. I can’t be the only woman to have wondered such things.
My favorite thing to eat right now is a turkey sandwich, with mashed avocado, a sprinkle of salt, one fried egg and pea sprouts, swaddled between two pieces of “harvest bread.” It’s a bakery loaf from Whole Foods that is so deliciously tasty, it causes Chris and I to playfully bicker over who’s had more during the week.
That man seems to be in love with my ever-changing body, always telling me how cute or beautiful I look, when he catches me walking through the upstairs naked, with a bowl of cereal cupped in my hands, ready for our side by side movie time together. And for the record, I’m not naked to be scandelous. It’s just that by the end of the day, clothes can feel like a tangled layer of tight or unfitting skin, and like a snake, I need to shed them off.
I know Chris is thankful that I’m safely harboring our child. I can tell by the way he gives me space and allows for patience and more privacy, or how he’ll now thread his arms under my back and cradle my head with steadying hands, while our bodies come together in the familiar way they know how to.
Each morning, Everett still goes outside and plays, pushing his lawn mower or waving hi to the elder neighbors that walk by. He’ll take a few jumps on his little trampoline, then travel over to last summer’s wood framed and failed herb garden, which has now been transformed into a sandbox filled with old mismatched measuring cups and trucks.
I make sure to give him a lot of independence, allowing him to do things himself, like picking up his toys before a nap, slipping his shoes on, pulling his pants up, etc. When we come home from somewhere, he takes off his shoes first thing, and puts them away in the closet. This is honestly a habit his father has yet to consistenly remember.
Just this morning, I decided to put together his two new Ikea bookshelves. It took me over thirty minutes when it would’ve taken Chris a fraction of time, but I got to sit with Everett and watch him puff with pride when successfully, a bolt he was working with, would finally fall into its fitting place.
You could say nesting has officially begun. The nursery has been emptied of Everett, back to its bare mint colored walls, and the dresser drawers are now slowly being stocked with blankets and onesies and diapers. I have one boy outfit and one girl outfit, washed and folded, waiting to be claimed.
And hundreds of dollars later, after the cost of custom cut blackout blinds, two gallons of paint (because mama changed her coloring mind), a dresser and little fixings like the booksheves, Everett was all ready for the migration over to his “big boy” room. To our surprise, he loves it. I took retired toys from the basement and placed them in a basket, ready for his grand new entrance. When he walked into his room, his face was in a permanent O, shocked and surprised and excited over the toys, the extra space and the laid out train track for his coveted “choo choos.”
At my last prenatal appointment, the midwife asked who would be helping me once the baby came, and immediately I felt a stone drop to the pit of my stomach, crumbling and spreading like the weight of wet sand. I’m supposed to say my mother. I’m supposed to say my mother-in-law. And even though I remembered this exact question during my first pregnancy, it still felt like the words to my response were stuck in my throat.
Lying, I said my husband would be home for six weeks on paternity leave, and that he would be my main source of help. It’s something that his work is currently trying to pass, so while I don’t know if it will be cleared before baby time, it was the only thing I could get out. And I’m embarassed to say “my grandmothers” are helping, because to the midwives, I’m sure it sounds like I’m trying to rely on two elderly people.
I could tell the midwife hesitated when typing my answer into her computer chart. I know she wanted to ask, How about your mother’s help? But whether because my family history form showed your death of breast cancer or something was just sensed, she knew not to ask any further questions. The whole ten second encounter made felt like a defeated, helpless little girl.
It’s now been ten years since you died. The 14th of August came and went this year, and while I thought I was going to have a magnificent entry to write to you because of it, I don’t.
I can remember after one year passed, trying to imagine what this many would feel like. Ten years? How will I go ten years with this feeling….with this missing? But I have. We all have. We’ve learned to wrestle and wrangle with it, question it, be angry at it, and attempt acceptance, as if we’re constantly trying to spread and perfect lumpy icing on a cake that simply won’t smooth over quite right.
I’d like to think I’ve eaten my portioned piece already, like it’s since settled into my belly and bones, having become one of the biggest ratios of myself. That’s why on the night that marked you leaving this physical place, I simply crawled into bed extra early and alone, but not because I was sad–I was just ready to be done with the background distraction of ten years ten years, and for the relief of tomorrow to come.
As I fell asleep, I thought about laying in bed with you at home, during those last minutes of your life. I thought about the things Dad said, as Allison and I witnessed what seemed like two separate parts of you, struggling to figure out which way to continue. One wanted to keep you physically here. And the other was slowly stealing your breath, pulling you closer and closer into the unseen energy you now inhabit.
He kept telling you it was okay to let go. He continually gave you the permission you silently needed.
While I can’t explain what it was like to watch you literally leave, I can say I envy the way you were guided onward by Dad. I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.
I was there when you took your last breath out of this world, and you were there when I took my first one into it. Now as I sit here, saying all of this to you, I’m thinking forward to the moment this baby takes his or her first breath of air. For the only thing that truly separates you and I, I’m still able to take into my lungs, while you simply cannot.
I can’t see this essential air. I can’t taste it. I can’t touch it. But it’s a gas that is all around, one that everything–the plants and animals and humans–need to survive.
And just like this invisible air, I know you’re still all around me. And just like I couldn’t live without it, I know I couldn’t live without you, even after all these years. From my first breath, to your last breath, to now–I’ve never known a life without you.
I’ll never have to.