The Beginning of You

This is a story about a great many things, but they all hinge on you. One “event” for which the anticipation of, preparation for, was wholly transformative. The aftermath equally, and certainly more actively, profound.

This is the story of you, my son. The most holy of accidents.

Wanting and needing interruption from the humdrum of our menial jobs, after the sobering discovery that four-year degrees do not guarantee occupational success in a recession, we strategically stuffed all of our belongings into a magical traveling contraption and breathed in its bubbling promise—potential.

Like many others of our generation, we gobbled up more education, hoping our intellectual gluttony would separate us from the pack, while actively ignoring our engorged student loan debt.

The magic plucked us from our arctic homeland in the Midwest and planted us knee deep in the South, a world previously only existing in a small, neglected corner of our minds—one of floating stereotypes: BBQ, bourbon, confederate flags, racism.

We followed our future through half-closed doors, prying them open with sheer determination.

I studied, puffing up my brain like an inflatable balloon. He worked, practicing his small talk over the Whole Foods register. We tried to maneuver the puzzle pieces of our lives.

And because we already had no money to speak of, we decided to risk it all by starting our own business: permaculture gardening.

We shared a scooter (you can do this in the South).

We were “figuring it out.”

I flew to Minnesota for Christmas. He stayed in Georgia for work. We reunited passionately over free, flowing champagne–New Year’s Eve.

Five weeks later, we joked. We speculated. We denied. Until one morning I woke up and could not “not know” any longer. I took the most terrifying pee of my life. I waited three dreadful minutes before shoving the positive urine stick in my husband’s sleeping face. He stammered in a hazy stupor.

We bought another test.

We went to the hospital.

They confirmed.

In silence, we got back onto our singular scooter, neither braving to utter the unified thought passing over us: Where’s the baby gonna go?

Where’s the baby gonna go?

This began a succession of sobering questions, each unmasking a new layer in which our lives were utterly unfit to host a child:

“How will I continue graduate school?”

“Who will watch the baby when our whole family lives states away?”

“How the hell are we going to afford this on our next-to-nothing, unstable income?”

Amidst these anxious queries, and a flurry of research papers, I threw up, I napped (often unintentionally), and I laughed and yelled and cried, often simultaneously.

All the while, subtly, without our knowing, this mystery inside me was changing us, creating space where there had not been space before, softening our edges.  We didn’t know yet, darling, how much we needed you. How your little life would raise to the forefront central questions of our subsistence, of what we were really doing here. The beginning of you bolstered us, emboldened us to choose. Catapulted us to a point of decision, extinguishing all luxury of hesitancy.

You were so grandly contrived.

This is not to say there was no struggle, that the reshaping of our lives came without resistance. In fact, I was quite determined to show the world I could still do and be all while pregnant. My grades would not suffer. I would maintain my summer hospital chaplaincy internship at 6-months pregnant, regardless of the weekly overnights and grieving mothers I would regularly encounter. I planned to promptly resume my rigorous course schedule shortly after your birth. You see, I could not fathom the gratification that would come from a life reframed around another. How refreshing it might be for my thoughts to be so occupied by someone other than self. {Marriage was the beginning of this lesson, but it was different. It did not demand all of me in the visceral way of motherhood.}

We then met the unexpected as our routine 20-week-ultrasound appointment rapidly deteriorated into a flurry of panic, hushed whispers, unanswered questions. You were a boy. This joyous news was swallowed up by the roaringthunderingdeafening silence. Cysts detected in your brain. An indication of CPC. Life-threatening.

And everything changed.

You were no longer an abstraction. You were our boy, our baby boy, whose life, health, was not guaranteed. How presumptuous we Americans are to assume otherwise. Nothing else mattered but holding your healthy, whole body in my arms. Knowing you would be okay. Everything else faded into Distance. They were the abstractions. You were more real than it all.

This is when we became parents.

We did everything we could to eliminate unnecessary stress in my life, to create the most hospitable conditions for your arrival. We began to re-think it all: where and how you would enter this world and the life you would inherit when you did. What did we want to be about? Birth, you see, has a weight to it and a way of putting everything else on the scale along side it.

I turned down my summer internship a week before the start date. I began to acknowledge my limitations. I finally allowed myself to be and feel pregnant. What precipitated was most surprising: in letting go of my stringent expectations, something else began to take its place. Desire. Desire to build a life from the ground up, a home made of dirt and seeds, intimately acquainted with Earth’s raw materials. These were themes we had been circling for years, but, until now, had lacked the impetus to commit.

Within weeks our fears were mitigated; the cysts no longer visible. But what was set into motion could not be reversed. The axis of our orbit had permanently shifted.

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