When you leave the hospital without your baby, they give you things. Grief pamphlets. A stillbirth certificate. Non-slip socks. Funeral home recommendations. Hugs.
When you leave the hospital with your baby, they give you other things. Diapers. Onesies. Formula. A little gauze and A&D ointment and a water bottle. This last time we even got a swaddle! All the stuff your baby uses while you're there, you get to take it with you. It's actually quite nice.
You always get a pacifier, too. Those big, rubbery blue ones that look adorable in all the initial photos because they take up half of the baby's face. I love those pacifiers. Your older brother used one those first few weeks. Eventually, we switched to the "Nuk" brand because they are more contoured to the face, which makes them easier for little mouths to retain...which makes for less blind crib searches in the dark...which allows (a few seconds) more rest. And also because, the colors.
Your father returned from the grocery store with some "Nuks" this weekend. He apologized to your brother as he tossed them to me during a feeding.
"Sorry, Dom. They only had the girl ones."
Your little brother has reflux. We have been told that he is a "happy spitter" because despite his stuffy nose and hoarse cry, and while most of his bottles end up on his wardrobe, he is still an incredibly content little guy. Even during the night when your father and I can hear him tossing and turning and grunting and twisting from the heartburn, he never cries. Such a mellow one, and I guess I should have known. He never was the most active thing, even before birth. Of course now I know it was just his temperament. There was no telling me that then.
Sometimes I like to think that you hand-picked him for me. I imagine you walking down some shimmery aisle, and all these adorable faces and souls line the shelves, and you pass a thousand or more. And when you reach him, you curl those beautiful red lips. That one.
The love I have for him is barely containable. Hardly describable. I sit awake with him on my chest at three a.m., and I'm not thinking of the sleep I'm missing or whose turn it is or how wronged I've been in this life. I'm thinking how good it feels when my right arm goes numb under these nine pounds. How heavy the emptiness after I held you, the uncertainty before him. I'm thinking how I love the smell of spit-up on my sixty dollar sweater. How the vase shatters and the food is cold and I'm three hours late and I'm lucky. So grateful that it's hard to breathe.
I guess that's why I'm confused when they ask me, as multiple people have. Was I disappointed?
I always need the clarification after this question. This disappointment. In my baby. In my perfect little boy. Because he was a boy.
I think on some level I understand what they're asking, horrid word choice aside. Because this grief can complicate things, was I hoping for a girl?
And I'd have to say...
I was hoping for him.
I was hoping for the baby I listened to one million times on my couch. The one who kicked me for the first time on December 16th. I wanted the baby who heard my cries at five am when I was sure he had died too. The foot in my ribs for three weeks in the spring and the swell in my favorite tennis shoes. I wanted the face on ten thousand ultrasounds and the heartbeat in my sleep. The baby who earned it with me. Together. This life. This love. I wanted that one.
I can't explain what I felt when he was handed to me. The very best blind date in history? The most perfect first impression? I kept turning him over, taking in every inch. All along it had been him. All along it was him I had hoped for, and when they all left the room with the cameras and the stethoscopes that's exactly what I told him. I lifted him to my cheek and I whispered "it was you".
So I have to laugh when they use that word. As if he were disappointing. Like the forgotten fries or the rain delay. As if he were capable of such an effect.
I keep searching the words for that afternoon, the day I met my second son. This perfect little boy with the massive blue eyes and the pink pacifier, but they escape me. I'm not sure what I felt that day, or that I'll ever feel it again. But I wasn't disappointed. Not even a little.
Not even close.