To the Child I Wasn’t Sure I Wanted

Dear Son,

I am wide awake at 6 AM, which isn’t an unreasonable time for some people but since I was still up at midnight, singing lullabies and scratching your sister’s back then arm then leg then back again while you also wiggled to get comfortable in my belly, I know I could use the sleep. As tired as I am, I have come to savor this pregnancy insomnia. It seems like the only quiet time in my day, which as an introvert, I crave. It’s also the only time I seem to get to spend quiet time aware of only you.

I remember when my girlfriends started aching for second babies. I’d watch them, watching new moms with new babies and I’d see how the very sight of soft, chubby hands and burp cloths draped over shoulders made them turn over inside with anticipation. I knew what they were feeling because I was consumed with that urge, something I called the “Mommy Lonely,” when we were trying so desperately to conceive your sister. That feeling became the norm for me in those days when we found ourselves in a vicious cycle of filling a waste basket in the bathroom with negative pregnancy tests and looking for answers in sterile, white rooms and it hurt down into my bones when another friend would announce her pregnancy or I’d see a woman walking hand-in-hand with her child. It nearly suffocated me at times and once I had Ada in my arms, I didn’t want to ever feel that ache again. I didn’t know if I could survive it.

Motherhood is funny though and I’d still catch myself looking at those new moms, thinking, Really? You’re not ready for another? Ada is almost one or Ada is two now. Isn’t it time to have another baby? Timing. That was my reason for looking, as if bringing another human into the world should be a decision made on when your friends start Round 2. But even your dad, who was still very unsure about the whole baby thing while we were painting your sister’s nursery, started to get that “Mommy Lonely” look in his eyes and was occasionally found sitting quietly at family gatherings or parties with friends, holding the smallest baby in the room as if it was his own. But I just couldn’t make myself want another baby. I couldn’t allow myself to go there to that place of wanting to conceive.

Yet, I’ve always felt you and sometimes, I even tried to ignore you. Try as I might, you were always there in the corner of my mind, waiting for me like we were in a dressing room and I was just trying on bathing suits instead of trying to decide on becoming your mother. I couldn’t ignore you, not really, and I remember the summer after your sister was born, I bought a pair of overhauls that just looked like you, which I know makes absolutely no sense because how could I possibly know someone that doesn’t yet exist? But I did know you. I knew your sister, too. In the Bible, Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for us and I’ve always thought that feeling of knowing you guys was sort of like that; like long before either of you were conceived, a place was being made in my heart for you.

Back in high school, long before we were someone’s mom and dad, when we were just two tan kids trying to find quiet places in the world to kiss and dream of the life we’d build together, I used to talk about how sassy and independent our daughter would be. This sweet, 18-year-old boy (your dad) sitting next to me would just laugh and say he couldn’t wait to meet a girl like that. I think he thought I was daydreaming but I wasn’t. I knew her, knew her deep down in my bones, and that’s what made infertility so shocking. Facing the possibility of never having that girl I had always known and dreamed about was as final feeling as death and she literally haunted me. Once she was here, I realized all of the dark and scary corners of your mind you wander into once you become a parent and have your heart walking around outside of you couldn’t be as terrifying as the possibility of never having that child at all. Maybe this sounds crazy but your sister’s birth felt more like a resurrection; I felt like I had lost her and got her back again. A second baby has always felt like too much to ask of God when your sister’s first moments were like watching Lazarus breathe again.

So even though I’ve always felt you, I couldn’t allow myself to want you. Not the way I wanted your sister, and since mothers love to find new ways to feel guilty, I began a mental checklist of all the ways my heart wouldn’t be big enough for the both of you which made it easier somehow to see chubby baby hands and burp cloths draped over shoulders without the Mommy Lonely setting in.

The truth is, I get your sister. God gave her to me because she is 100%, undiluted me. She is creativity and energy and determination unleashed and I can see already the struggle she has to harness those things instead of being tortured by them. I know it because I live it, too. Sometimes I think I am her mother because no one else would have been as patient and intuitive to raise her and sometimes I think God thought I deserved a dose of my own medicine. Either way, as I watch her force her way through life (which is exactly why I nearly went crazy through infertility because my body wouldn’t do what she wanted and she was demanding even then) I often feel like we were put together to guide each other through life. There’s this passage from The Double Image by Anne Sexton that describes it better than I can:

I, who was never quite sure
about being a girl, needed another
life, another image to remind me.
And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure
nor soothe it. I made you to find me.
 
I think your sister and I hold on to each other like maps, like we have the answers for each other on how
to get where we’re going, but it’s different with you. While your sister and I struggle trying to know each
other to know ourselves, I think you will bring an easiness to our lives that will soothe our restless souls.
Without sounding like an old hippie talking about the color of your aura, I can only say your spirit is
gentle in a way hers isn’t. In a way mine isn’t.
 
I said I knew your sister and I was right. This is what I know about you:
 
You are an old-soul. You are patient like your dad. Kind.
 
I catch myself listening to “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynard a lot these days. I don’t know why but it
settles us both. I think you must be soulful and I imagine us playing songs for each other, talking about
what the lyrics mean to us, the way I do with your Uncle Josh.
 
Everything about you feels like summer. I keep having these visions of you with your feet in creek water,
poking rocks with sticks and this morning I woke up after I dreamed of us sitting in the grass, eating a
tomato straight out of the garden that we were sharing with a turtle in a cardboard box. It’s why I picked
the name Elijah Finn for you, because you remind me of these old illustrations of Huckleberry Finn that
were hanging in the bedroom I shared with my brother at my grandpa’s house when we were kids. (It was
either that or Huckleberry, which your dad really wanted,but with a last name like Hervey, we thought
we’d save you some playground grief.)
 
I have a feeling you’ll be what brings me back into the moment, teaching me (and Ada) to savor
everything, instead of living like hummingbirds.
 
You are reasonable and able to see why people are the way they are without judgement. You get that from
your dad, too. He sees the best in everyone, even when the best isn’t obvious. How could I know this about
you though? Because you’ve been so gentle and patient with me as I’ve wrapped my mind around
becoming your mother. We never tried to get pregnant, you just came to us quietly and gently and that’s
how I’ve felt your presence all along, quiet and gentle. Waiting for me, not desperate to find your way out
the way your sister did.
 
Like I said, I know these things about you because God was preparing a place for you in my heart all
along.
 
And even though I wasn’t sure I wanted another baby, or rather the heartache of trying to have another
baby, I know in my heart you’re the baby I need. The son I need. You are my summer love, the very thing
that will keep me sipping on life like it’s something to be bottled up and savored. The dark-haired boy I’ll
sit in the grass with, eating tomatoes warm from the sunshine and being so absorbed in the moment that
I will have forgotten all about the winter. My sweet boy, my Elijah Finn, you are the summer my wild
heart so desperately needs.
 
 

5 Responses to “To the Child I Wasn’t Sure I Wanted”

  1. Mom February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Beautiful.

  2. Jessica Miller February 5, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    I love this…every single word. It always amazes me when someone who doesn’t know my soul can capture the emotion and struggle that all women go through when trying to become a mommy. Your words are like butter- real and utterly without substitute. God has given you such a rhythm for words- your work always manages to leave me thinking that the world is this beautiful and kind place despite all the bad. Write on friend.

    I literally cannot wait to read and fall in love with your novel.

  3. Mimi Moore February 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    oh. my. gosh. amanda. I fought back the tears the first time I read it, but I couldn’t hold them back the second and third times I read it. You are amazing! your writing talent is even more amazing! I am at a lack for words about how very much your gift impresses me. I love to read your written thoughts over and over again. Thank you for sharing that beautiful tribute to Elijah Finn. —AND congratulations!!!!

  4. Pat VonSick February 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Amanda,

    Elijah Finn is a wonderful name. Congratulations!

  5. Kayla Anderson February 6, 2014 at 1:13 am #

    oooooh I love this.

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