In one hundred days (projected) I am going to have a baby. A real, alive, wriggling, pruny little baby with little itty bitty hands and those tiny toe nails and the thinnest little human lips on earth. He is going to be a man some day, named for my grandfather and my husband’s grandfather and my father-in-law, and he is going to call me mom. I hope he doesn’t, but he might have Mark’s short legs and my freakishly long arms, which would make him a little like an orangutan, swinging about the earth on his knuckles. Lawd, that’s something to imagine.
Since I have never had a baby before, and since I have next to no idea what to do with an infant, and since I can only barely get myself to work on time Monday through Friday, there is a rather large risk involved with my “raising a child.” I feel like it will be more like “dragging a child behind a carthorse through the dirty water of Revolutionary France.” We shall see.
For instance, Jack isn’t even here yet. (His name is Jack Marshall.) A few mornings ago I was sitting at my desk at work, scheduling a poor, unfortunate man to have his knee replaced with a metal ball and socket. All of a sudden Jack started moving around like I’ve never felt before. I scooted my chair back and stared at my stomach, waiting for it to raise in weird little lumps, that is how wildly he was moving. It sort of amazed me for a minute, and then I got to thinking why would he be moving so much? I only drank one cup of caffeinated coffee, which is not abnormal, and had a piece of toast for breakfast (the only thing I could muster that didn’t raise bile in my throat), so the obvious answer was that Jack was in duress. My brain went down that dark road of my-baby-is-in-peril…he has the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and is choking…he is flailing with both hands and both feet, hitting every corner of my uterus, flashing his body like a five-point star…
I called the OB.
“This is Virginia Evans, dateofbirthblahblah, and this might be the most insane pregnancy question you’ve ever gotten, but I’m a little concerned because my baby – it’s a boy – has been moving A LOT and I’m wondering if it’s possible he is trying to signal me to tell me he isn’t OK. Umm… I’m six months pregnant, almost. And he moves every day, but never this much. I mean, he is going crazy in there. It’s just… odd. Anyway, I’m worried. Please call me back.”
I waited for the return call, happened to be in the bathroom when the nurse called and left me this voicemail:
“Virginia, this is Patblahblahblah and I did get your voicemail. I don’t think there is any reason to be concerned. We are generally pleased to know that the baby is moving around at this point. You know, he is growing day by day and his movements will get stronger. Now if he stops, then you might call us. Have a nice day.”
Talked off the ledge. Mostly, except for that little voice in the back of my head that kept saying for the rest of the afternoon, Pat MIGHT not know what she’s talking about.
Two summers ago when Mark and I were volunteering for Young Life he took a motley assemblage of boys to camp. One of them was a fifteen-year-old with a pretty obvious display of Aspberger’s syndrome. He got made fun of at camp, sure, but that boy had the best week of his life. He had a better week than any other kid there because he got to hike and swim and play volleyball in costume on a team and hang out like any old teenager. We laugh remembering how in every risky situation at camp he would always mutter Jesus Christ, help me, Jesus Christ, help me. Mark stood with him forty feet up in the air on the ropes course for about an hour listening to him repeat the phrase over and over.
I sat down with my journal to pray beside the lit Christmas tree in the morning. After staring at the page for a second, thinking of what I wanted to say, and all I could write was Jesus Christ, help me. In my head I say it in the same accent with which that kid always said it. I was thinking about a lot of things – sad people that I love, Christmastime, how I live far away from several people I’d give anything to live next-door to, how I need help raising a son MAJORLY, a few things that I positively loathe about my personality because I think they’re poisonous but that I can’t quite seem to shake, how badly I hope that Jack has Mark’s spirit and my confidence. That was about as far as that prayer got but I sort of think that might just be the prayer of this new kind of life.