Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Dream

Gonna pack up and set aside maternity clothes for you...
reads the text from my midwife friend and my heart does a swooping leap and dive that leaves me a little sick.

I delivered her second baby a week ago yesterday. She is my anchor here, our friendship having grown like a sturdy little tree over the last two years, slowly but steadily, tiny leaves of vulnerability opening up between us over the weeks and months. Her first-born can say "Auntie" now, and then grins with pride, waiting for my reaction. He is mischievous and tow-headed and I love him fiercely. He rolled over on my yellow rug at four months old when she told me, We're going to have another one, after swearing up and down that she only wanted one child. I smiled, unsurprised. And waited another six months with her until they started trying again, consoling her gently when periods came and went. We would laugh, saying ruefully, We know too much, and it's true, we do - it is both agonizing and utterly unremarkable to be an expert in all things obstetrics and women's health and then to be a pawn of fate just like everybody else. It didn't take long. That sturdy toddler is twenty months old now, learned to say "baby" and kiss her belly, not a clue what was coming. She came in at 3 AM, I didn't remember it hurt this fucking much, got in the tub, held my hand, walked and rested and swore, tried to manage her own labor, stopped when I snapped at her, watched her baby's heart rate on the monitor till I turned it away, smiled at me in between contractions, said quietly, just once, Don't leave, and eventually, laughing, pushed for all of fifteen minutes and I wept, tears coursing down my face as I lifted up her second little tow-headed boy.

We were walking in the woods near her house three months ago, the dogs skipping ahead. I want to have a baby, I said. Maybe I'll just do it alone. The words hung there, terrifying and raw. She didn't miss a beat. I think that's great. Then our kids can be little together.

It's not what I pictured. I wanted the guy (or the girl) and the dog and the house and the chickens and the babies. It's not what I got, though. Cheryl Strayed gets it:

"Oh, the dream. The goddamned man + baby dream....
But please remember that the dream you have of finding a long-term romantic partner and having a baby is not just one dream. It's two. The partner dream and the baby dream are so intricately woven that you can be forgiven for thinking they're one. It's lovely if it is rolled up into one. It's more than lovely. It's convenient. It's conventional. It's economically advantageous. It's hella good when it's good.
But it isn't what you have."

* * *

I don't have it all worked out. I still don't know most of the answers to only some of the questions. But I'm starting to think that unconventional and inconvenient might be what I've got. Because I've also got friends like her, helping me along.