Yesterday morning Tori crawled into bed with me declaring she needed cuddles. Before long we both got up and dressed, filled our bellies, and headed off to meet my friend Annie at the Wissahickon to go for a morning hike.
It’s been unusually hot here in Philly – 86 degrees on Saturday – so we were quickly bathed in sweat, but it was a good sweat, the kind you want when you work out. The trail was particularly beautiful on Sunday, the path covered with fallen leaves in amazing colors highlighted by the cloudy day. Some of the reds of the fallen leaves practically glowed. It was gorgeous.
After three miles, we made it back to our cars and drove to a nearby Agricultural High School. We’d brought some sliced apples and carrots to feed the horses pastured outside. Tori is crazy about horses, as am I, and the horses are well used to visitors and willingly accept head rubs in exchange for a snack. We divided the snacks up between the eight or so horses, including a foal born at the start of the summer, but ran out quickly. The foal announced his displeasure at this fact by nipping my arm.
We drove home, stopping briefly at a grocery store to restock Tori’s lunch food for the week, and grab some potatoes for dinner. Once home we relaxed. I read a book and Tori played some video games, pressed into my side as she did so, still clingy after my long trip away.
Eventually I cooked dinner, got Tori ready for bed, and tucked her in with tickles and lullabies.
In other words, it was a perfectly ordinary Sunday.
This was exactly the kind of day I’d hoped for when I began trying to get pregnant eleven years ago. I had no idea it would take four years the first time we ditched the condom. I’m not sure, frankly, if I’d known what the road ahead had entailed, I would have done it. But then, that’s the nature of faith, isn’t it? We can’t see the road ahead, but we move forward anyway.
October is a sad month for me. Nine years ago, I was pregnant with Nicholas and Zachary. Nine years ago I’d shaken off my sadness about not having a girl and had finally fallen madly in love with my boys. Nine years ago I was just beginning to register for my baby shower, having successfully made it into my third trimester of pregnancy.
But nine years ago, I was incredibly sick. My legs were swollen and tight with fluid, and I was nauseous nearly all the time, often severely so. I was incredibly exhausted; showering required a nap afterwards. I was still trying to work, although I felt awful all the time. At lunch I would lie down on my left side for an hour trying to ease the strain on my heart.
And of course, nine years ago, at the end of October, we got the news that one twin had passed away. Nine years ago my blood pressure soared, my weight went up a dozen pounds in a week, and my urine was full of protein, so much so it turned the little stick test completely black.
Nine years ago, at the end of October, I was admitted to the hospital. I was told my son and I would both die if the pregnancy wasn’t terminated. I still remember Charlie’s tears at the news; I couldn’t cry, not yet.
Last night Tori and I spent about an hour looking at Halloween costumes. She’s decided to be Neru – a Japanese vocaloid – which is not exactly the sort of costume you find at Target. I’m trying to figure out if we can fake it with stuff from the new Goodwill that opened in our neighborhood (I’ve recently changed my mind about shopping at Goodwill; they got some inaccurate bad press, but once again I believe we can support our community by shopping and donating at Goodwill).
But I also remembered that Halloween nine years ago. I’d been home from the hospital only a day or two when Halloween hit, but foolishly insisted I sit on the porch and distribute candy to the trick-or-treating kids of our neighborhood. It was torture, and eventually I went back inside because I couldn’t stop my tears.
It was then, finally, I found the willingness to cry. And the tears are still here, nine years later. I still love my sons, and miss them every day. I will for the rest of my life, I imagine, although the pain is far less acute now.
Like I said, October is hard.
I still miss you, Nicholas and Zachary. I hope you’re safe.