Rachel Jeffcoat studied English at Oxford University a few light-years ago. These days she works as a freelance writer and editor, in between finger painting and feeding the ducks with her boisterous eighteen-month-old, and spending time with her lovely husband. She loves to read, cook, and write intense love letters to the semicolon. She blogs at http://makealongstoryshort.net
This winter I learned about love-in-waiting.
It’s been about a month since we started telling people about our second pregnancy. All of them said the same thing.
How wonderful! Congratulations! Are you excited?
I didn’t tell a single one of them the truth.
No, I’m not. I’m not excited. Oh gosh, I wish I were.
When I carried my first son – now eighteen months of cannonball energy and toothy grins – I was taken over by the wonder of it, right from the pukey beginnings. I followed his development obsessively. I felt his little presence almost from the start. There was sacredness in it. And since his squalling, two-week-early arrival I have loved him with a white-hot intensity: to his core, to his bones, to the tips of his pudgy fingers.
This time – well, this time has been a long, hard slog. I dropped into a black hole I’d never seen before, soon after the sickness arrived. I knew there was so much to look forward to, but it didn’t resonate with me. I felt like I was at a party of people leading triumphant, glittery lives, and I was the only one sat in pajamas. And everything was an effort: getting out of bed in the morning, making lunch, having a conversation, smiling. Being myself. I lost myself. Where was I?
It was bewildering, and writing it fills me with hot, prickly shame. Not least because I know so many women who would give anything to be in this position, who are heartbroken by its absence. I felt I’d betrayed them. And I imagined my boy or girl to come, waiting excitedly for their greatest mortal adventure. Could they see me, unlovely and unloving? Did they feel unwanted? It made me ache for them, and for me. But I still couldn’t love either of us.
One day I knelt and asked God whether He loved me. I needed some connection with my old self. It was the strongest, warmest ‘yes’ I ever received. I felt it to the tips of my fingers. And I determined that I would act as though I felt the way God did, until I was able to fill the blanks. I wrote a list of my positive qualities and stuck it on my mirror. I read it, mechanically, every morning. I reviewed old blog posts about my first boy in all his breathtaking newness, and told myself that it would happen again, just the same. In some ways it was only love on autopilot. But in other ways – and I felt this quite distinctly – it was spiritual creation. Love-in-waiting.
My dear little thing, I am coming back to myself slowly. Be patient with me, as you’ll have to so often in our life together. I don’t know how long it will take: I am flying by the seat of my pants. But I do know this: one day soon, I will love you with a white-hot intensity. To your core, to your bones, to the tips of your pudgy fingers. Yesterday, I woke up and I was excited.