January was a solitary month for me. Ben was working most days, saving his off time for after the baby arrived. Paige was working full time. Julianne was home with the kids, both Nate and Sadie. She had agreed to keep Nate for Paige, since she was home with Sadie anyway. The arrangement wasn’t permanent, but it worked for now.
Julianne brought the kids to my house a couple times a week. I loved it when they came to visit. It was a welcome change in my daily routine. She usually came right before nap time, and Sadie and Nate would sleep in the bed while I got some time out of the bed. When the kids woke up, we would fix them a snack, and then the three of them would return to Julianne’s house to wait for Paige to get home from work.
Without those visits, I probably would have lost my mind. My average day was like the ones after we had lost Anna. I stayed in bed, watching television, rarely venturing out of my room. I returned to my routine of bad morning talk shows, afternoon soap operas, and game shows. I read a lot, and was extremely thankful for my Netflix subscription. But nothing compared to a visit from Jules and the kids.
“How are you feeling?” Julianne asked one day in mid-January.
“Okay. Anxious, I guess. I’m so tired of this bed rest. But Dr. Smith wanted me to play it safe.”
“That’s probably for the best.”
“It is. I would hate to end up second-guessing myself. I know I did a lot after Anna was born. There was no indication that there would be problems with that pregnancy. I wonder now, would my water have broken at twenty-three weeks if I had been in bed? I was still up and around at twenty-three weeks with this pregnancy. I didn’t go to bed rest until thirty-five.”
“And at that point, the baby is fine.”
“Pretty much. But last time I was still working, so I was definitely on my feet a lot more than I am now. I feel like I’ve been on modified bed rest this whole pregnancy, with how lazy I was for so long.”
“Do you really blame yourself?”
I shrugged. “No. Not really. If I’d had any idea that something might have been wrong, I would have done everything necessary to keep her. So I can’t believe that it was anything I did that resulted in her loss.”
“But you’re still very careful this time.”
“I definitely am careful. We’re so excited, so anxious for this little one.”
“We are all so excited to see you guys get there. We can’t wait to meet him. Or her. Why didn’t you find out what you are having?”
Another shrug. “I really don’t want to know. There’s no reason to find out. If it’s a boy, he won’t know that his bedroom is pink, I’m fairly confident about that.”
“Well, then I guess you don’t need to know what you are having.”
“We really don’t.” I looked up at the clock. “We should get going on the snack.”
Julianne and I moved to the kitchen. I took the box of Goldfish crackers out of the cupboard, and Jules pulled the apple juice from the refrigerator. She poured a bit into two sippy cups, then added water to cut the juice. I put a handful of crackers on the table in front of Sadie’s booster seat, and some on the high chair tray. This was the best part of the visit: when the kids woke up and settled down for their snack. I loved watching them share their snacks, passing crackers back and forth from one pudgy hand to the other. Nate and Sadie were already fast friends, and I could not wait until my child could join them.
Julianne retrieved the kids from upstairs, settling them into their spots at the table. Nate babbled his incomprehensible baby talk, while Sadie talked back in her slightly clearer language. I wished they would stay forever. I loved listening to them chatter, loved watching them play.
But when the last cracker had been eaten, I helped Julianne pack the kids up in her car, and then waved good-bye from my driveway. Then I trudged back upstairs and settled back into bed to wait until their next visit.
Ben came home a couple hours later. He sat on the bed next to me, and I snuggled up next to him.
“How was your day?” he asked.
“Very good. Julianne came by with the kids for naps and snacks.”
“That always brightens your day.”
“Yes, it does.”
“How are they doing?”
“They all seem well. The kids are getting so big.”
“Do you spend all your time with them thinking about what could have been?”
I shrugged. “I definitely do a little. I wish Anna were here. I wish she was napping with the other kids. I wish I could sit her down at our table with them, and watch her talk and play with them. She was supposed to be there.”
“Well, I guess she wasn’t supposed to be here, Elise.”
I nodded. “I know. I’m happy to be moving forward with this child, but I definitely still think about her. She would almost be walking now. I can’t even picture her doing that. I can’t picture her looking like a normal healthy baby.”
“She never was a normal healthy baby. She was always sick. I can’t picture her as healthy either.”
“Do you think this baby will be like her?”
“They have the same nose.”
I smiled. “They do. But do you think that they’ll have more in common?”
Ben shrugged. “Will we even know if they do? If this baby is easy going or if it’s high strung, we won’t know which Anna was, and whether they share their disposition. I suppose we might be able to say that if the baby is a difficult eater, they might share that. But even then, it would be something we were guessing at.”
“Do you think we’ll spend the baby’s life wondering about it?”
“I do. I’m sure that we will wonder every day.”
“I wanted things to be different.”
“Of course you did. We both did.”
“This should be Anna’s sibling, not our only child.”
“It gets to be both,” Ben replied. “Lucky little baby, to have such an incredible big sister, and still get all of our attention.”
“It’s the best of both worlds.”
“It’s it though?”
Not for us. For us, it was the worst. We’d lived through the worst case scenario for pregnancy. We were endlessly lucky to be getting this second chance, but not for one second did I forget that we’d already lost everything.
“Do you think we’re going to be those parents?” I asked.
“The super permissive ones. You know, the ones who really do buy a pony, and take monthly trips to Disney, and buy every toy that comes on TV.”
“Is there anything wrong with that?”
I paused. “Well, it’s one way to do things.”
Ben laughed. “Oh, you were so worried that we were going to move into a Disney World hotel for the rest of our lives.”
“I don’t know that I could even handle a yearly trip there, Ben. It’s too much.”
“Don’t you love our child?”
“I’d imagine that we’ll be just right for this baby,” Ben said after a moment. “Not every toy that comes on TV, but some of them. And maybe not a pony, but a puppy would be okay, right?”
“What kind of puppy?”
“Oh, geez. A cute one?” Ben said.
“That seems doable.”
“Oh, good, I love dogs.”
“Wait, I thought this was for the baby.”
“I meant the baby loves dogs. It told me so.”
“Are you guys ganging up on me?”
“We’ll never tell if we are.”
“I don’t know if I’m okay with this.”
“Too late now,” Ben said. “Team Daddy and Baby is already a thing.”
I smiled. “When you put it that way, I don’t see how I can argue.”