I have two children. And yet, though I hold no child’s hand, I indeed have both a son and a daughter: a son in heaven, and a daughter in utero, both their existences irrefutable. And I can barely believe I am already entering the third trimester, nearly 30 weeks closer to that glimmering rainbow!
It is strange – I am already a mother, and yet at the same time I am not – in the everyday practical sense of the word, yet. I have already been here, already been to full-term pregnancy and given birth. The paradox is curious: I am revisiting somewhere I have never quite been before.
I am now at a very clear turning point where it feels different than my last pregnancy. Because of the various factors concerning Evan’s ill-fated condition (Potter’s / BRA) last time, I am now physically bigger now than at 43 weeks with Evan. My belly, wider as well as more protruding, sits like a fishbowl housing snug aquatic life soon to burst like the ultimate fairground prize.
Every pregnant woman experiences a delicate oscillation between great joy and fear, but for me, a pregnant woman after loss, the scales tip even more each way as days of confidence get interjected with a day of battling a worry (even despite knowing our baby is healthy). There has been a voice ever since I saw that rainbow sign, that tells me to trust all is fine, but fear has also placed milestones of all kinds from the first week, right to now, that I work through like whack-a-mole.
My bump-size paranoia gradually fades as I check the sequence of post-shower snapshots I take on my phone, the first of which – at 5 weeks’ pregnant – shows my body amusingly board-like. I can hardly remember what it’s like to be so boyishly thin! Time slowly sculpting my midriff into a vast beautiful river of flesh, slathered in argan oil moisturiser every night as I tap to her, chuckle smugly and close my eyes to devour her wiggles, watching whatever image her movement conjures up: a fish wiggling from head to foot, a figure crashing backwards into a bed, a shoulder ramraiding a door, a jerking arm playing the strings of a violin. A frog – who swells in size weekly – attempting to jump through my bellybutton; the indignant striking of a match against my insides; a big tongue moving round inside a mouth. A mini helter-skelter feeling of dropping, raising; the fascination of the subtler, deeper movements that are not so much ‘felt’ but sensed, as if by womanly instinct of that unfathomable inhabitant within. It feels orgasmic. Her rolls and pokes, at once alien and familiar, make a momentary judder like sitting on a water bed in a way I have never felt before. Her dad comes over to kiss her rising rump as I look on enviously and laugh as he gets a well-timed kick in the face. Then a sudden pinch of my bladder that makes me jump – and cautiously entwine my legs as I slowly shift into a new position with fractional stealth like a snake in the grass.
I key my belly like a piano whose notes are played from within, pushing back against my delighted hands; a love song composed over many months, that will culminate in a dancing crescendo cannonballing those two musical instruments happily together, skin to skin in a scene I visualise almost every night.
And then the funny quirks of pregnancy. Getting up too quickly and pausing for a few seconds as my ligaments catch up. My hoarse voice, my continually popping ears, the sharp grumble of my sacroiliac joint, and the tiredness in the evening that drops upon me suddenly as if by a lever. To my dismay, tooth decay – despite ultra oral vigilance. And some days my stomach decides to be a bubbling cauldron emanating all-over queasiness sending me helplessly horizontal catching my breath like a shored salmon. All of these pithy incidentals are confetti laughingly tossed and brushed away from the happy couple: the flourishing passenger inside the mothership, both growing to discover each other more each day.
She has no nursery being wallpapered and the shopping list is second priority to the importance of more precious gifts, just as those I gave her brother: exquisite daily nourishment of the finest food I can get… as well as juicy blushing steak and oven-nursed chicken falling off the bone, I bring duck, venison, seabass, pigeon; adorned with copious in-season leek, spinach wilted with the pan’s hot breath, carrots sliced into golden coins; wild black, red and brown rice; a sprinkle of arame seaweed; a sugary cordial with many meals as a releasing waft of mild but satisfying decadence. Lovingly boiled broths; iron-rich eggs oozing their centres into sea salt; a consecutive line-up of deep red tomatoes insatiably bitten into raw; and a daily spoon of coconut oil that doesn’t taste any less grim as when I started it 10 weeks ago. Pomegranates breaking open like a case of red jewels; butter-drenched kippers and grilled sprats eaten brain and all; home-fermented kefir; our morning wheat to our nightly banana. All flushed down by as much water I can remember to drink and the lowest amount of caffeine my guilt can take: xylitol-sweetened tea that gets creamier all the time, falling down my throat in a beige tide of soul-soothing. And after it all, a well chosen treat usually no more necessary than a small chocolate, enough to clean both happy palettes of a well-dined couple.
Amidst the joys of being pregnant again, it has also brought a new type of tear in my eye for Evan. The same week we bought a car seat for our new baby, was the same week Evan’s gravestone went up. To see the stone finally in place unexpectedly brought a fresh torrent of tears, a strange satisfying release like a refreshing shower of rain over a wearied war-torn landscape. But I wanted to cry, I needed to feel my head throb as I poked dried floral sprigs into his flower pot. I just wept in love for my son, with a new feeling of moving into an acceptance of a whole child of mine being gone for good, dead to this world as we know it. In those tears I didn’t appreciate my new baby any less, nor does our new baby replace the loss. I am starting to feel what I didn’t quite understand before: just how a mother can cry for her child whilst being fully grateful for another.
In the months following the loss I was eager to console myself that Evan’s soul could come back to me, and this thought fed into my desire to get pregnant again as soon as I could, open to the idea of Evan’s soul returning and fantasised even of having twins. The reality is that I was grieving Evan. Now, I do not doubt that Evan’s soul has moved on somewhere, even could come back to me, now, or in the future. But the path of souls is beyond our imperfectly human comprehension, we can never really know. Becoming pregnant again has solidified the loss – the death – and therefore the life – of Evan, a unique personality I will never know, never regain in the physical form as Evan. This allows Evan to exist in his own right. I cry for that, and that’s ok. I would rather proudly bear this wound, if that is how to mark the fact he lived. The wound will change shade and shape and texture through the rest of my life as I grow to interpret this loss in different ways.
What a journey, and yet it’s only just beginning. Already I am spying into the horizon of the future, where sadness – but pride – for Evan, and happiness for our new offspring, will co-exist nonchalantly like a cat and dog who have grown up together, sunbathing side by side on a patio.
For now, I tell myself it’s ok to wish for the full health of our new child, to trust and to believe everything can be ok, for us to enjoy silly jokes again and revel in the pleasurable miracle of new life bulging at my rounded sides as we plan the year’s projects feasibly around the new arrival. Our same midwife helps maintain our confidence in normality, as we plan another birth at home and have long talks that put ‘professional’ and ‘patient’ on equal par, a privilege in pregnancy I wish all women could have. Less than 3 months are left, time rocketing by but never quick enough to meet this precious new gift; a creature in winter hibernation ready to flower in the spring, a rainbow we are dancing towards, to finally cradle our pot of gold in our arms.