Beyond the Halfway Point

Emotionally speaking, it’s been a big week here. We are officially more than halfway through this pregnancy, which comes with a lot of conflicting feelings. On one hand, it’s a relief to know that we’ve made it this far and that everything has been going perfectly. On the other, thirty-eight weeks (the point at which we lost Eleanora) is no longer out of sight, out of mind. It’s a clearly visible finish line that makes my stomach churn the closer I get to it.

I know, rationally, that the thirty-eighth week isn’t cursed. There’s no evil puppet master behind a curtain who’s decided that my babies cannot and will not ever make it beyond that point. But it certainly feels that way. With every passing day, the need to just get him out feels stronger. (He will be delivered prior to thirty-eight weeks, but the panic about that week looming ahead still remains.)

At the same time, I realized this week that I haven’t really been letting myself consider the possibility that my son will get to come home alive. It is very hard for me to picture delivering a baby who is breathing. I can’t envision being able to take that photo that everyone takes of baby’s dad carrying the carseat down the hallway and toward the car. In my mind, I have less than eighteen weeks left. That’s such a sad thought to acknowledge, but it’s also a very real one. I know what it feels like to be wheeled out of the hospital with nothing but a box in my hands. Daniel knows what it feels like to get on an elevator and be greeted by another couple, arriving to deliver their (alive) baby, and be asked whether his baby had just been born, too. He knows what it feels like to just say yes and not offer any more information than that, and then to walk outside and bring the car, with no carseat inside, around to the front of the hospital and then get his wife and that little box loaded into the vehicle and then drive home to an infuriatingly silent house.

Because of all of that, I’ve had a very hard time making any real, tangible preparations for this baby. (Not that there are many to be made. The nursery is still stocked, the highchair is still in its box, the bassinet is still set up, the car seat is still ready to go.) Now that we’re twenty weeks, I’ve realized that, despite my fear and my mind’s insistence that we will just go through it all again, I need to start operating—at least logistically speaking—under the assumption that we will have a baby here at home soon.

So, this week, we jumped in.

I pulled up our hospital packing checklist that I made for Eleanora. I cried when I saw that all the items having to do with bringing a baby home had been erased. On June 9, 2021 at 10:48 p.m. The night before her birthday, just before we went to sleep. I don’t remember doing it, but seeing the original version of that document—the one that believed Eleanora would get to come home with us—hurt like hell. But we restored the document back to that original version so that we can use it for our son. Hopefully, we’ll have to pack for more than just Daniel and me this time.

We cleaned up the nursery, which had become a dumping ground for messes the last few months. It felt really griefy at first to see that room once again looking so pristine, so perfectly ready for a baby. It looks exactly as it did the day before Eleanora died. That was a trigger, too, but also a bit of a relief.

I brought the little woodland-animal-themed bouncer back downstairs and put it back into its spot in the nursery. I made sure the batteries for the music still worked. I got teary-eyed when I heard those songs again. I tried to imagine my son sleeping in that bouncer. I can’t do it yet.

I made a checklist of all the logistical things that need to be done before he arrives, like schedule our maternity pictures, update our registry to include diapers since we gave most of ours away when Eleanora died, decide whether or not to retake the prenatal classes (since we learned SO much from them last time but never got to put any of that knowledge into practice), check the expiration dates on the baby Tylenol and baby lotions that never got opened, etc. I’ve already crossed some of those things off.

We ordered his coming home outfit last night. It’s the same as Eleanora’s, because that was important to both of us, but in a different color. I never got to see my baby girl in her coming home outfit because it instead became her burial outfit. It’s hard for me to imagine getting to see my son in his.

I bought the matching robe for myself to go with his outfit. I tried to envision Daniel taking a picture of me wearing the robe with our son on my shoulder, and me smiling back at the camera. I can almost see it, but when I picture myself in a hospital room with a baby, my smile is hard to see. I mostly see profound grief and tears because that’s all I know.

But in a dream, our little boy visited me, and he was so wonderfully, beautifully alive. It felt so real. I remember looking down at him, and he was smiling up at me. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I remember looking at him, and then looking at Daniel and saying, “He looks just like you.” He had Daniel’s blue-gray eyes and Daniel’s smile. He was so wonderfully, blissfully innocent and unaware of all the pain and tears it took to bring him here. I felt like he was safe, and I finally breathed out for the first time in nine months.

We’re halfway through, but we’ve got a long way to go—temporally, mentally, emotionally, and logistically. In some ways, I want this pregnancy to speed by so that my boy can be in my arms and I can have that big exhale. In others, I want time to slow down. I want to be more present and less panicked with him. I know I’m doing the best I can to balance both excitement and fear. We both are.

I hope and pray every day that this baby will get to be our little Christmas miracle. I hope that he’ll get to come home and see our Christmas lights still up, waiting just for him. I hope that we’ll get to open his presents for him and that he’ll sleep through the entire thing and make us laugh. I hope that we’ll get to go to Starbucks and get hot chocolates for Daniel and me with Eleanora’s names on our cups and then drive our son around to see Christmas lights. I hope that when we say “Happy New Year,” we’ll actually mean it and feel it this time because he will be here, not just in our hopes, but in our home.

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