I cried the day I found out I was expecting him. Can I say that without sounding callous and unkind? I don’t cry much, but I certainly did that day. Pregnancy is rough around here in the best of times; the edge of sanity was not a good place to start the nine months afresh. I had my reasons to cry, but callous and unkind still come to mind when I remember myself on the couch that day. No way around it.
I cried all that day; can I say that without sounding like I blame him? Because I don’t. And cliché though it sounds, I wouldn’t give him back. No, not for all the sleep and time and tight abs in the world. I don’t even like to hand him over to the other kids or his dad for too long – my arms miss his weight (which is substantial). But I cried when I found out I was expecting him because the bearing part of my life was past and my body was my own again after a decade and a half of expansion and contraction, with all its accompanying pain and ache and leakage. I was done with all that, only it turns out I wasn’t. Four months after his birth I am still adjusting to the undoing.
Having shown myself so callous to find he was headed my way in the first place, it seems indecent, unearned to say that I cried when they told me about his heart, Two days old and he had already staked full claim on my heart. Just a quick test before you check out, the nurse said. Nothing to worry about.
I didn’t worry, not until they brought him back and said we wouldn’t be going home just yet after all. The cardiologist who came later to explain was unnerved by the incongruence of my reasoned questioning and my endless tears. “I don’t normally cry,” I told him, trying to ease the tension. “Usually I have to drag the tears out with a suction hose.” He nodded awkwardly and looked away. There is just no easing a situation like that. Hormones will out, and that bundle of flesh and blood and nerves I had created, and which had so recently torn itself from myself, was still tethered tightly to my soul. My heart was writhing and contracting for his heart, and taking the rest of me with it.
I’m telling you about his heart because it’s ok for the time being. Maybe I would tell you even if it wasn’t, but I doubt I could tell you so soon. I don’t adjust that quickly.
He was born on Tuesday and we brought him home on Friday to a temporary apartment – the second temporary in as many months. We’d been moving by degrees since June and in the muggy heat of August, fresh from an upended world, I came home to an apartment full of furniture that was not mine, bedding that smelled wrong, a laundry basket for the baby to sleep in. The second week of August, when he was six days old, we moved across the country. In some respects I am still moving. I keep calling east “west.”
I rarely cry these days, but I am wary. Watchful. Tight. They tell me his heart is holding, but I watch more closely with him than the others. I watch more closely all around me; I’ve turned clinically nearsighted; extremes are magnified to the ripping point. There is something unsettling in living a more viscerally aware life, but I will say it: there is also something beautiful. I am more likely to grab hold of the older kids as they head out the door, less likely to mind the mess. The good with the bad? Does the good always have to come with some bad? The ground I inhabit no longer feels stable. The slightest things can topple me, knock me flat. But I’m starting to hear some music in the movement. Did it always make this music? Not just the screech of tectonics cracking and grating, but some subtle melody; a sound, maybe, that couldn’t make it through my sense of security. Sometimes when the music ebbs and soars I feel the urge to sway. One day it will lift me right out of this seat, and not just to run for the door. One day, maybe, I will dance right on the faultline.
For now I hold on tight and listen and watch. That is the best I have to offer.