Two weekends ago we drove over the mountains to Seattle, where N coached our Ethics Bowl team through their regional match and where I ran around the city with a good friend, thinking that there was something nice about being sheltered by skyscrapers again. The mountain passes between us and the city were slick and snowy, and we passed many fellow travelers who had met with accidents along the way. The ethics bowl team members are five college students, bright and earnest and funny. Someday they will rule the world but right now they seem so new to being adults – full to bursting of promise and potential, but also vulnerable. I’ve never been so aware of the weighty responsibility of driving other people’s children before. We drove very slowly and carefully, and the relief when we made it through the snow and slush was palpable. And maybe we made it safely through because we were careful, or maybe we were just lucky, or maybe it was both.
We’re so damned fragile, we human beings.
My Seattle friend has had a nearly unbelievable run of bad luck over the past two years: separation, divorce proceedings, discovery that her ex was having an affair before the separation, death of her very beloved dog, cancer scare, more ugly divorce proceedings, and, just when things were starting to look up, a really bad bicycle accident that left her with stitches and memory loss and broken bones and teeth. It’s starting to look like the run of bad luck may be over (knock on wood, knock on wood), but I’m still appalled that she had to go through so much all at once. It feels terribly random and unfair; she deserved none of this. It makes me understand how we come to believe in curses and hexes and the anger of gods. And it makes me feel lucky, which is almost funny since I still morph into Grief Girl on occasion, but I am also loved, employed, and lucky enough to be walking around with a belly full of baby.
Last week I found out that I don’t have gestational diabetes. I’m a perfect candidate for it – my grandmother has adult onset diabetes, my weight is well above what it should be, and N and I have both been hitting the after-dinner ice cream pretty hard. But GD is a fickle, unpredictable thing and can affect people who are health-conscious and who have perfect BMIs while leaving people like me alone. I have better health than I deserve, too.
I bounce between fear and happiness these days, trying not to dwell too much on consciously being happy. I still worry about tempting fate, even though fate is perfectly capable of coming down on me like a hammer no matter what I do. The fear is as real as the happiness, though perversely easier to acknowledge. It swells and ebbs in ways that remind my of my early grief, of the moments where I couldn’t move or talk for being so overwhelmed and of the strange moments where my brain would clear enough to finish projects, make dinner, pay bills, and breathe before I was pulled under again. I’ve never slept so poorly in my life, never been so much at the mercy of irrational superstitions, never had to work so hard to talk myself down from panics.
Memories keep rushing back, too. Dot’s kicks reminds me of Teddy’s kicks, her heartbeat seems to sound different on the doppler (I couldn’t tell you why, but I can’t stop comparing it to my memory of Teddy’s heartbeat). My body is shifting and changing to accommodate her in ways that are startlingly familiar. These memories are visceral, felt and tasted and smelled, and they’ve released more tears than I’ve cried in a while. I remember what it was like to be pregnant with Teddy in technicolor and surround sound even though this time is different, and I still miss him, am reminded that I’ll always miss him. This is not his time, and yet part of it is. It’s sweet and sad and sometimes knocks the breath right out of me. I hope Dot doesn’t mind sharing. If she does, some day, I hope I can make it up to her.
But here’s the thing. The grief doesn’t go away, but even with the onslaught of fear and memory, I can’t deny that this pregnancy is helping me to heal. It allows me a different perspective on my loss, new things to hope for, something I can hang on to. I’m so tired of letting things go and of trying to let things go. It’s a blessed relief to hang on to something and know that it’s okay. I’m so damned lucky, and completely undeserving.