It’s late October. The foliage has passed peak, and license plates from Arizona, the Carolinas, and New Jersey occupy the southbound lanes. The Green Mountain Forest floors glow with golds, browns, and reds, splashed with verdant greens of shrubs finally free of the canopy, taking in the last rays of sunlight that shine down mid-afternoon. The rain falls sporadically and has yet to turn cold; the wind howls around the mountains, stirring up dried goldenrod and shaking dead trees loose from riverbanks. I was not sure what this October was going to bring. So far, it’s been a heady mixture of love, music, inescapable fear, and beauty.
The little one is growing well inside me, occasionally making herself visible through my ever-expanding body. Our doctor caught her literally punching my bladder on the ultrasound; a funny enough scene if you can ignore your internal organs being used as speedbags. Her heart rate and accelerations are great, her weight is on point; my fluid levels measure well, and my blood pressure is a little high – not to anyone’s surprise.
As a contrast to the good news, this was one of those weeks where reality dropped down in the seat next to you and demanded attention.
Amidst a week of napping for three minutes each time I blinked and complete lack of productivity, I came home from work early one day. I had tried all my coping skills but was unable to calm myself, incapable of backing off from the swirling terror I fought so hard to compartmentalize daily. Tuesday just was not my day to win that fight. I couldn’t stop thinking that Oscar had never known the fall. Oscar, beautiful and perfect, never saw that rainbow canvas. I cried harder than I had in weeks. I pressed my hand to every shiver and bulge of my belly, terrified that this baby will never know an earthside winter. The time I’ve been dreading most – this baby reaching the gestational age we lost Oscar, 35 weeks and 3 days – hurtles closer, an off-kilter antique missile that may (or may not) explode with the slightest (or complete lack) of impact.
I am 33 weeks and counting the days, the kicks, and the Braxton-Hicks.
I am exhausted not just by most movement, but by the wild slingshotting between emotions. I feel like an interplanetary traveler, catching the edges of orbits only to use it to propel to the next, leapfrogging across the universe, with no oxygen in the frozen air to catch my breath.
Today I awoke from another recurrence of a dream where I had given birth and we had swaddled the baby and put her down, only to not be able to find them again, though we searched and searched. I had every intention of being at work by 8:00. I had a difficult time moving through the fog in my mind, and ended up at work a few minutes past 9:00. I had a surprisingly productive day, happily punctuated with two lovely events.
First, the maternity photos that a beautiful friend had gifted us were ready.
Hawthorne and I texted as we scrolled through from our respective locations, absolutely thrilled with the pictures. The famous New England foliage shining on the mountains under Oscar blue skies was an unexpected bloom of joy against a day shrouded in gray. There were some where I felt like I looked like a linebacker, balancing my pronounced curves on legs carved from tree trunks and set in pine green Doc Martens, but mostly I felt like a warrior fertility goddess – round belly prominently displayed, not an ounce of doubt, strong as the rockbeds of the range. My amazingly handsome Hawthorne, their own strength evident in every shot, holding the heartbeat of the life inside under their hands. We got pictures with Oscar, the carved silver on his tiny urn catching the morning sunlight, his crown a perfect match to the birch trees on the hill.
Today was also the day my coworkers threw me a baby shower.
I had been dreading this, more than slightly; it was the day following my work shower last summer when Oscar passed. I was in a new office with newer coworkers, but they didn’t miss a beat. We were honored with favorite foods (and yes, there were cupcakes) and gifts that were both practical and touching. The whole team decorated onesies with everything from rainbows to flowers to the logos of my Boston sports teams, including a Patriots insignia drawn by a Giants fan. It was a celebration, one I hadn’t known I had needed.
This morning, while trying to leave for work, Hawthorne had told me that it feels like it’s time to find our joy and celebrate more, even as we hold space for Oscar and our grief. They’re right, and all of the events and feelings of today epitomized that balance. I feel as if I’ve been somehow just granted permission to celebrate both my children. As this transitory fall season ebbs and gives way to colder days and longer nights, my wife, friends, and coworkers remind me that there is always room for sunlight, and there is time to look for rainbows