It was chilly when I woke up this morning. 5:05 a.m., dark, quiet save for a gently snoring dog and the dehumidifier’s hum in a nearby room. I lay in bed, listening to the sounds, thinking of a Christmas Eve unlike any other. After all…
I am 36 weeks pregnant, and we are in a pandemic, and my husband is no longer my husband, though he is my friend and my sweet baby’s father.
I walked into the living room, turned the lights on around the window and the ones strung up on the Christmas tree. Only one strand of lights blinks and it’s intermittent, irregular. There is no pattern but those little blips of color wink at me, on and off. I have never had a specific topper, so this year I strung a jellyfish ornament from the highest point. I like it there. I live next to the ocean, anyway.
One of the puppies had gotten sick; there were cold, damp chunks of kibble lying just next to the tree, where I’d left some wrapping paper overnight. Poor sweetie, getting sick all alone. I don’t know who it was; I got down on my knees and cleaned it up.
Last Christmas, I felt the acute longing for a child. We decorated the tree and I was overcome by the lack of homemade ornaments. I had a sadness in my heart that had settled there with aplomb, belonging as a part of me. Nothing more, nothing less; just written into the fabric of my soul.
Now, I move slowly, carrying my child. I have loved this experience. I am considered a high-risk pregnancy because of my age and because of my gestational diabetes, and of course I am living in the same moment as everyone else, with restrictions and limitations. Regardless, this has been a period of time that will remain forever dear to me. To feel my child moving is a marvel. To talk to this little one and know they know my voice is a gift.
I have not had the many complications I hear about, the discomforts which make pregnancy a burden even in its joy. Instead, I have never felt so strong; I have never seen my body in this light of beauty, of generosity. Perhaps because I did not think this would happen for me, these months have been steeped in gratitude. Truly, I have not taken a moment of it for granted.
The last couple of days, though, I lost sight of that to some extent. It is hard not to miss your family, when you love them, when you haven’t seen them in nearly a year, at Christmas. It is hard to not see my mom or my sister while I’m pregnant, to not know when anyone will be able to meet my newborn. And learning in the last couple of days that I will have to wear a mask while laboring and birthing my child, knowing that the little one who will define much of my life from this point forward will meet me for the first time with half my face covered, has saddened me so much. I’ve cried a lot. It’s like the weight of the differences between what I used to imagine and what is actually happening caught up to me.
Yet I know enough to know that I am still incredibly, incredibly lucky. By all accounts, my child is healthy, growing. Strong. I have been absolutely surrounded by love, given creatively and in abundance by my community – local and far-flung – throughout these months. My family and friends have stayed healthy; those who have contracted Covid have recovered.
When I was young, I thought I would be doing this marvelous thing at half the age I am now. But like it has for so many of us, 2020 has made me look at all the things I thought I knew, turned them upside down, and told me to look again, straight at the life I’ve built. I couldn’t have predicted, a year ago, what Christmas would look like now, but I have enormous love in my life, friends who have gone the distance again and again, a safe and warm home, dogs to keep me grounded, nature at every turn.
And sometime in the next several weeks, maybe in days or maybe in a month or more, I will become a mother. It is the thing I have wanted most in my entire life. Yes, the experience will look different from what I thought it might be, but that’s all right. I am changed, too. I am more fortunate than I have any right to be. Everyone – every single one of us – should have such joy.
Tomorrow, I’ll spend my day quietly. I treated myself to a new book, a Maggie Smith novel I read once long ago and found comforting. I have thank-you cards to address. Maybe I’ll take my dogs to the sea. I’ll write to my baby about my last Christmas without them here. There is much to do to prepare.
Merry Christmas, friends. Stay safe. Be well. I am thinking of you.