From two weeks ago
Even in the midst of our whiskey-hazed honeymoon, even flying home to Lebanon and resuming our routines here, even on hikes and walks and during car rides and while visiting with Teta, I was already harboring the secret possibility that there was a little seedling making its slow presence known inside me. I have always wanted children in a very abstract, someday sort of way, but from the moment I began to detect suspicions of a microscopic presence somewhere deep within, my desire became immediate and tangible and fierce. It was all new.
I woke up early on a Saturday morning in May, and took the pregnancy test that C had picked up from the pharmacy the night before. And there it was. Confirmation of what I had already known but not allowed myself to believe. We drove in a cloud of surreal disbelief to a morning assignment I had in Byblos, and C made me laugh the whole time as we joked about the improbable timing of it all. Still I couldn’t allow myself to believe it. In the following days and weeks I ran back to the pharmacy and picked up two more tests to confirm the reality of it, but there was the still the constant fear that I’d lose the baby, and that somehow this unexpected promise was beyond the allowance for joy that the universe had allotted to me. I felt undeserving and small.
Now I am in my 17th week, and I can feel the tight knot of the baby in a small raise of my abdomen. I dream about foods that I’ve rarely wanted in the past: pop tarts and cheeseburgers and salty chips and fizzy drinks (the baby’s taste buds I guess) as well as some old favorites like hot sauce on my eggs and jalepenos and roasted vegetables and tart apples and bananas with nut butter in the mornings (foods that our over-lapping taste buds favor). Old constants like dark chocolate and coffee and beets are no longer quite as appealing.
I am in Lebanon; the baby will be born here and have duel citizenship. I am reluctantly learning about new dangers such as toxoplasmosis, which is mainly contracted through unwashed fruits and vegetables. I am told not to eat produce outside the house, and to wash what I prepare in water and vinegar before I eat. I am told that C-sections are more common than natural deliveries here, and that I should be adamant about what I want for my labor and delivery. People also seem to be a lot more cautious about what exercises I should be refraining from, but I know too many pregnant runners and worker-outers back at home to take too much of that advice to heart. I’ve mostly been doing home exercises coupled with long hilly walks, and more recently the occasional run. The hardest part is being so far from my family.
I have a good doctor, I am surrounded by my wonderful in-laws, and Lebanon is a culture where families pitch in with child-care duties when parents need to get back to work. I lie down on my back and play the song that I play for this baby every day, and wait to detect butterfly-wing movements. I bring my tea to the balcony in the morning with my book and read sections out loud to the almost fully developed ears.
Today I walked in the late evening. I detoured around a new stone road being laid in an old town center whose tired buildings crumbled even as new young vines climbed up their walls. This is what I can offer my child: the wonder of existence. An old abandoned path was strewn with weeds sprouting out from the litter. This idea is comforting; even the parts of me that I’d prefer to be rid of are most often the necessary soil for new life.
I don’t have so many answers to offer or lessons to teach. All I sense is that I am given a chance to celebrate, every day. All of it. The struggle of what to pursue next, the ache of loneliness when it comes, the immense love I feel for the people around me, the ironies that hit us, the three little kids who run to the gate to greet me every time I walk past, the anticipation of the future, the lonely neighbor I always need to force myself to talk to, the shock of a cold shower on a hot day, the tedium of sending out applications, the vividness of my pregnant dreams and the return of each morning. I don’t know what to make of everything and I don’t know how to respond to all the questions that surge up inside me. Lately it’s been easier to let them surface and sit awhile…but not to be greedy for answers. Just live inside the unknowns and let life amaze me. I look forward to the perspective that a child will bring, and to living life through those young eyes that grab hold of discovery. When depression tempts its way in, doesn’t the world depend on children to remember the joy?