When I think back to these final days before your birth, I will remember several things: the cayenne pepper I mixed generously into every soup and onto every entree I made; the yoga ball I bounced on while your father put the groceries or laundry or Chunky Monkey away; the quiet powdery snow that came several cold nights in a row, perfect and smooth, leaving one or two new inches for us to discover at dawn; how I stopped dreaming of you, and instead talked with you during the day, the hours coated with my pep-talks, my explanations, all my hopes I knew you were hearing. In the dark hours I would lay on my left side, a pillow between my knees and under your weight, your father wrapped around us both, and he and I would close our eyes, so warm, as the world outside went on and on and on and we waited to enter it with you in our arms, too.
There were also daily walks where I tried my best to coax you, rock you into trusting the air. On a 12’ afternoon I bundled us up and trekked across the snow-covered sidewalks toward the trails surrounding Lake Susan. The water in the bottle I carried eventually formed ice crystals, my corduroys were perhaps a bit too thin, and I came home an hour later with a wind-whipped red in my cheeks that didn’t fade. A few times I slipped on ice patches, and when, on the last quarter mile I circled back to my original boot prints in the snow, I was startled at how small they were, how slight were the marks I left on the earth even while carrying a million moments of your future.
Your father furrowed his brow when I returned through the door, touched my face and took the mittens off my hands. Had it been safe to be gone so long? Were we okay?
We. I haven’t been anywhere without you in nine months, in 41 weeks. And where I’m eager for your birth, for you to meet your father face to face, blink up at your grandparents and aunts and uncles and all the good people who already love you, I might keep you with me, just me, for another month, if it were safe, if we would be okay.
For thirty years I’ve walked alone, my pep-talks for myself, my explanations taken down in a tiny print that only I read, my great hopes gossamer echoes I set floating in internal landscapes only. Solitude brought many things: insight, peace, appreciation. But it never brought the experience of that walk along Lake Susan. How I murmured about all I was seeing, to you. How I noticed the chickadees, pert and yellow on bare branches, for you. How the squeak of my boots on the snow and the pounding of the blood from my heart coalesced, made some music, some lulling melody, for you, until I was singing under that crisp-aired sky, until it was you and me and the birds and the frozen ground and the sky and the snow and the crackling ice and all the space ahead of us we were stepping into. For you, I kept thinking. For you. Look how my life is already changed, how it has already flipped inside out. Which is why I’m unsure what form I will find myself in when you leave.
You could slip from me in hours or a few more days. I do not know. Just as I will never know again in the same way that you are safe, that you are okay: always within reach of my fingers. I will welcome you into the world, this place of frost and softness, and it will become more about trust than I could ever imagine.
These days of cayenne pepper and yoga and easy nights in your father’s arms--they will be clear and beautiful memories, full of aching and outlines and wide-open promises that go on and on and on. They are our memories, yours and mine. They are the song I am singing, for you. For now, they are the way I hold you, the way I whisper into the folds of your skin, the way I kiss your eyelids. They are for you in the way that you have been for me. New and old. So new and ancient. A language as deep as time, as pure as the grip of your hand.