Which is to say: I want it, too, the impossible lighter-side book. I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on but that death goes on, too. Your friends may say, "Time heals all wounds." No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better. You'll be yourself again. Your child will still be dead. The frivolous parts of your personality, stubborner than you'd imagined, will grow up through the cracks in your soul.
I loved being pregnant. Whatever hormones had shaken together in my bloodstream, it was an agreeable cocktail. I devoted myself to gestating—I didn't write much but it didn't bother me. Edward cooked and cleaned and tucked me into bed. I rubbed my stomach and loved my husband profoundly. I had the sense that those last months as a twosome were as important as our upcoming months as a threesome: They felt like part of someone's happy childhood. What fun it would be to tell our kid where his parents had spent his gestation and birth. In the spring sheep and lambs, cows and calves, studded the hills, and I regarded them. I felt stupidly, sentimentally mammalian.
After the baby died, I told Edward over and over again that I didn't want to forget any of it: The happiness was real, real as the baby himself, it would be terrible, unforgivable, to forget it. His entire life had turned out to be the 41 weeks and one day of his gestation, and those days were happy. We couldn't pretend that they weren't. It would be like pretending that he himself was a bad thing, something to be regretted, and I didn't. I would have done the whole thing over again even knowing how it would end.
(Would I really? It's a kind of maternal puzzle I can't get at even now: He isn't here, and yet how can I even consider wishing him away? I can't love and regret him both. He isn't here, but now someone else is, this thrilling, splendiferous second baby, and like any mother I can't imagine taking the smallest step from the historical path that led me here, to this one, to such a one.)
If you'd ask me five years ago—let's say five years ago and seven weeks—where I saw myself, five years and seven weeks in the future, I would have not mentioned a husband, children, living in six different countries. I was 35 and had never had a really serious romance. This mostly didn't bother me. I liked living alone. I even liked going to movies alone, and eating in restaurants alone. I would never have called myself single. The word suggests a certain willingness to flirt in bars or take out advertisements for oneself on the Internet: Single people are social in the hopes they won't be single forever. I was a spinster, a woman no one imagined marrying. That suited me. I would be the weird aunt, the oddball friend who bought the great presents and occasionally drank too much and fell asleep on the sofa. Actually, I already was that person.
Then I went to a party in New York thrown by Barnes and Noble, and discovered that the author of that weird illustrated book I'd liked so much was not, as I'd concluded from the work and author photo, a mid-40s balding puffy misanthrope, but a cheerful, floppy-haired 30-ish Englishman. A month later, he came to Boston to work on an art project and called me up. We went out every night for a week. At the end of the week, on our fifth date—which happened to be his 32nd birthday—he asked me very seriously if I wanted children.
We Hear You!