Paige and I threw a party to celebrate when Sadie officially became Greg and Julianne’s daughter. We decorated my house with pink streamers and showered the little girl with presents and attention. It was so wonderful to see how happy this small little girl made Julianne and Greg. They had always seemed happy enough, but clearly, something had been missing. I know I had felt something missing in my life until we’d had Anna, and again when she was gone. I was glad to know that Julianne and Greg were away from that pain now.
I spent much of the party standing close to Ben, worried that if I wandered too far, I would be completely overcome with sadness. We were supposed to be there too. We were supposed to be done. Anna would have been eight months old, had she survived. She would be sitting up, would have already cut her first tooth. She would likely have been scooting around on the floor, maybe crawling, maybe still working her way there. Things were supposed to be different, I was convinced. It was the day Paige had given birth all over again: my friends were getting to the destination and I was lagging behind. So while I was very happy for Jules, and thrilled to be a part of this amazing day, I was still sad, mourning the fact that I had lost my chance at this.
I put my hand on my ever-increasing belly and reminded myself that my chance wasn’t lost, I was simply in denial about my current condition. Our chance was still coming. We had to wait a little bit longer. Our chance would be here in February, if things continued to progress as planned. Things were normal so far. We saw the doctor every Friday, so that I could be comfortable over the weekend, knowing that it might be harder to get a hold of Dr. Smith on the weekends. We were planning to hold off on bed rest until after Christmas, if I made it that far with no complications. My blood pressure was steady, my cervix was strong, and the baby looked perfect. So there were no complications to speak of yet.
It clearly brought Ben a great deal of joy to play with Sadie. I know he had been devastated, as I had, by the idea that we wouldn’t be able to have children, and now I saw how much he loved kids. He wasn’t afraid to get on the floor with her, wasn’t bothered when she climbed on him. Sadie was a very physical child, and spent much of the party climbing on people or objects.
“There’s a rumor,” Julianne said to me at one point in the party, “that Santa is going to bring her a jungle gym for the backyard.”
“I won’t help you assemble that,” I replied. “I’m no good with tools.”
I couldn’t wait to see Sadie enjoying it, though. She would be adorable. Once the weather was warm enough for her to use it on a regular basis, I would be here with my future child. Nate would be just about walking. It wouldn’t be long before Sadie would have company on her jungle gym, and that would be spectacular to watch.
“Hopefully, Santa brings things fully assembled,” Julianne replied. “Otherwise, Ben might have to come help Greg out. I mean, it was all Greg’s idea, he’s the one who should suffer to put it together.”
“It’ll be Christmas before we know it,” I said suddenly. “It snuck up on me. I can’t believe how much time has passed.”
“I know. Things were so different last year.”
We were all childless this time last year, I thought. Anna hadn’t been born yet, Nate hadn’t been born, and Julianne was on a waiting list. Now Jules and Paige had gotten their children. This would be their first Christmas with Santa, even if the kids were too young to know who Santa was. It would be the first Christmas morning with stacks of toys under the tree, and assembling those toys all afternoon. It would be the first Christmas lamenting the lack of included batteries for those toys. In short, it would be the best Christmas they had ever had. I wished that I could say the same for us.
“Are you guys going to be okay?” Julianne asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’s going to be the worst Christmas we have ever had, I can tell you that much.”
“Let me know if there’s anything we can do to help you guys through this.”
“Go to Ben’s department Christmas party for me.”
“I wish. Except for the bad company at those things, you give them rave reviews. Cocktails, fancy food… I should be so lucky.”
“They’re going to ask, Julianne. They are going to ask where my baby is, why we didn’t bring her, and then they are all going to look uncomfortable while I explain. I can’t deal with that.”
“Then don’t go.”
“Ben won’t miss the party. He knows that his boss doesn’t approve of missing these things, for some reason. If I don’t go, people will ask him where I am, am I home with the baby, and he’ll have to deal with it alone. I would rather present a united front. I can’t send him in there alone. It’s not fair to him.”
“You have to do what’s best for you,” Julianne replied. “If you think you can go in there and be okay in the morning, go for it.”
“What are you telling people about Sadie?”
“You mean, when they say, ‘I didn’t know you had a daughter’?”
I realized the absurdity of what I had asked her. People wouldn’t ask about this toddler that was suddenly in their life. People would know where Sadie had come from.
“Yeah, I guess that would be the question,” I said.
“I try to laugh it off. I say that she’s new, that we only got her recently. I find that I don’t really have to spell it out.”
“Must be nice not to need to spell it out.”
“How much do you really think you’ll have to tell people?”
“If I say that she died, people will ask how. She was so young, how could she have possibly died?”
“I can’t believe people would be that stupid.”
“How many people told you to relax when you couldn’t get pregnant? How many said that maybe you weren’t meant to have a child?”
“Oh, that’s right, people suck.”
“See? People don’t understand the line of propriety anymore.”
“Some people, of course.”
“You’re always going to run into these people. The important thing is to ignore them. They don’t count. The people who count wouldn’t say things like that.”
“I wish it were that easy.”
“Me too.” Julianne squeezed my arm. “You’ll have an okay time at the party. I know you will.”
“I can’t even drink. How am I supposed to have a good time?”
Julianne laughed. “Well, you can think about how much more fun you would be having if I was there.”
“That’s true. It would be a lot better if you were there.”
I would have Ben though. That was even better. Ben had always had a knack for saying what I needed to hear to keep me from falling apart. Yes, I would have to talk about the loss of our daughter, the terrible and painful loss, but Ben would find some way to comfort me afterward. He always had, and I knew that this would be no exception.
I looked at Ben. He sat on the floor with Sadie in his lap, reading a book with her. He did voices for all of the characters in the picture book. Exactly the kind of dad I had always known he would be. The party would be fine, I convinced myself. Look at who I had to help me through it.