"Does Monkey have a brother or a sister?"
I consider the source, all three some odd feet of him. Jake, the skinny kid from my daughter's pre-school, all eyes, the kid who seems to be carrying a torch for her, still, nearly a year after she said her pre-school goodbyes on her way to discover the bigger world that is kindergarten while he stayed for his final year, prisoner of his inconveniently young age. He noticed me where I was crouching into my chair, awaiting my pickup order in the neighborhood Japanese place while he and his family were wallowing away time having already placed their sit-down order. He asked me first where Monkey was, then something else, and then, finally, THAT question.
His parents, having followed him over to my corner of the universe, now tense preemptively. They are nice enough people, but I can't tell whether they tense because they feel bad for me or because they are afraid I will answer truthfully. I don't know what it is Jake wants to hear either. He might be looking for a validation of a memory he can't explain, or he might just be asking about something just about every other kid he knows has. Or he might remember something, Monkey talking about her soon to be born brother maybe, or maybe about her brother who died. Jake wasn't even four then. Can he really remember? Does he know what death is? I decide, eventually, that it is not my place to introduce him to the concept if he is not, by chance, familiar. Monkey's good friend and the daughter of our close friends didn't know what it was, and was trying, so hard and for so long, to construct an explanation that didn't suck this very much. So I decide it's not my place to educate, and I answer "No."
The truth is, of course, that Monkey has two brothers. A, the baby who died fifteen months less one day ago inside of me, and this new boy now in my belly. Jake's parents glance at my midsection, or maybe I am just paranoid. Either way, I am not about to make an announcement while I await my order. I am simply not in the mood. But it also means my sons, both of them, remain invisible, and my daughter, in her apparent only-childness, remains conspicuous. After the big ultrasound, walking down the street and chatting, me wrapped in my voluntary pregnancy disguise device, aka my big shawl, looking for all the world as a mother and her only child, Monkey, in response to nothing I can any longer remember saying, said with the air of a huge discovery and equal measure of happiness "But mama, you have three children."
Yes, yes I do. As jarring and scary to accept as that simple statement is, in my heart, I very much have three children. In the eyes of my religion, too, religion which allows full burial rites and full rites of grieving for fetuses over 20 weeks gestation, and which, therefore, has to acknowledge my younger son whatever happens with him from now on, I have three children. Even in the eyes of the law I have three-- as of nine days ago, same 20 week dateline, this new baby can no longer be considered a miscarriage. And yet, I know full well people in general don't think like that, they don't understand. Even allowing myself to own this statement is terrifying, for it opens me up, somehow more realistically, more viscerally than before, to having to accept the possibility that things visible might remain the same, that we may lose again.
Medusas, though, medusas understand. Here I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder, wondering how others see me. I can both talk about allowing myself to love this new baby, despite not knowing whether he is coming home, and about not wanting or accepting congratulations because I can not let this part of the guard down, and I can't seem to want to let the people who think pregnancy automatically equals full-term, happy, healthy, live baby off the hook. Here, in the woods, among my snake-haired sisters, I can take these steps I am discovering I need to take-- tentative and contradictory steps into inhabiting this mother of three persona. I need to learn to be her, whatever her visible score is.
So thank you for being here. I am sorry you have a reason to come by. What I learned in the last fifteen months is that we need each other, for sanity checks if nothing else. To rant and to rave, and to listen. To drink, to pour. To sit in silence. Welcome to the woods. Stay a while, will ya? I hope you do.