For a while past the 15th week I was feeling flutters, faint rumblings of remembrance from my last pregnancy, a fine-tuned awareness that something, someone, was moving inside my womb, kicking even, in the fluid within – but not what I could truly call a movement felt.
It was deep in Iceland that I first felt her. In the darkness of a cold night I put my hand on my warm belly to feel a series of nudges under my skin, unmistakeable this time, lasting for a moment before they disappeared again. I inhaled deeply and exhaled with a tear. ‘I will never forget this moment’, I said to her. ‘I love you, so much’.
Every day from then on, I would be rationed a treat of more movement, some days more than others. Like broodily waiting for a lover to call, the arrival of a jolt plastered a Cheshire Cat smile on my face as I caressed my growing greedy belly with a belief that was starting to become real for the first time, a trust in the normality of pregnancy, kick by kick kicked into me.
Soon my mother’s hand was on my bump for the first time, saying hello to her new grandchild when the sex was still a mystery, though most of the outfits she’d bought were in telltale yellows and pinks spelling out her instinctive hunch. I slept top and tail and woke with my mum’s hand on my foot whilst my hand said good morning to the legs of my own daughter within. On the same family visit I sat dreaming in front of the TV, full of organic chicken and tomatoes and childhood-favourite pierogi ruskie, my satiated belly popping with life like the lid on a pan of popcorn as my other excited hand texted to my midwife back home, ‘this baby is so strong and cheeky!’. The timing of my fingertips’ strokes caressing my new baby curiously met with the sweeping sanding motions on the gravestone of my baby Evan at the other side of the room, the skilled hand of my sister sanding its finishing touches. Such a juxtaposition was not a sight to fear; both motions were the same language of love. Time, in its ever-wondrous healing quality, had brought me to a place of happiness and relief to see Evan’s memorial ready to erect, just as carrying sweet Evan himself to full term last year had brought me more peace with his death than I ever thought imaginable. Now his monument, made by his auntie and etched with the image of I, his mother holding him in her arms, stood proudly emblazoned with the words I wanted any graveyard wanderer to be inspired by:
On a voyage of victory, we learned to love fiercely.
On a third scan we consider to be our last, at the same place as the last two scans of tear-filled relief where we learnt our new baby does not have the rare syndrome Evan had, we happily had our curiosity for the sex fulfilled. We are expecting a daughter – and had further confirmation of her ‘perfect health’ at 20 weeks’ gestation – as we now search for the name we want to give a strong woman.
Now here I sit with a midriff of mounting pride as the scaffolding of ligaments physically tug and pinch, overcome with the magnitude of this blessing in between my grumbles and tiredness. I know that truly understanding the loss of our son last year will be a lifelong journey as we watch our rainbow child emerge into the world and grow from girl into woman, maybe with more siblings. ‘This is a special soul sent to us’ says my part-time cynic, part-time spiritualist partner Matthew as we enjoy his birthday today in a steakhouse. This time last year, I was pregnant with Evan, 12 days past my ‘due date’ awaiting his birth and death. Now as we approach Evan’s first birthday in 9 days, we celebrate many things… all of it to do with one word: Life. In one of my favourite film quotes (from the ‘Poseidon Adventure’), What is up there? Life is up there. And life always matters very much. The life Evan had, the life we have, the life of our new little lady growing centimetre by centimetre in full feisty force.