I've been thinking about a day over a year ago, when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I'd later lose that pregnancy thirteen weeks in, but mostly when I found out, I was terrified. I mean, I was excited at first, but on the heels of that excitement came the holy-wow-what-on-earth-am-i-doing feeling. They say when you have a baby your life is changed the instant you give birth, and that's true of course, but in a way my life changed then, the first time I found out.
I almost instantly felt eclipsed, like I was disappearing, like I'd never be "me" again. I worried about the baby, about the things he or she would have to go through, about all of the sadness and struggle involved in a normal human life. I worried I wouldn't know how to help, or that the sadness of his/her sadness would overwhelm me beyond my capacity to function. This wasn't an unreasonable fear: incapacitating sadness is something I'm familiar with, and there have been times when I've more or less disappeared, so that wasn't an unreasonable fear, either.
One morning, a few days after I found out I was pregnant, I walked to the train to take it into work. I was feeling overwhelmed and worried and sad and every part of me was focused on my abdomen, where all of this change was radiating from. When I brushed my bag against my belly, I wondered if the baby could feel it.
I boarded the train, and as we crossed the river headed into the city, the song on my iPod talked about walking in the rain, and I remembered it would be my job to show the baby the rain, and somehow this turned everything around. The rain! And the river! And the train! And music! And cats! And every other wonderful thing. I'd be the means of introduction. That was a job I could get behind.
Thinking through that lens, I thought again about that disappearing feeling, and I thought, well, yes, I probably would disappear as I knew myself, but I would appear and loom large for this particular person, this baby, this creature that would be part me and part Sam and part God and part absolutely no one but him/herself, and what a lovely thing that would be, to be someone new entirely.
We reached the other side of the river, and I noticed a girl seated across the way who had a big scar down the front of her chest, but she was clearly lovely and happy and doing fine, and it must have been a long time ago, whatever it was that had caused that scar. I realized it would do no good to worry about what the baby would have to deal with. He or she would deal with a multitude of somethings, but all of those somethings would be meaningful, and even if things were ugly and messy and scary and hard, I was the means to bring him or her here, to Planet Earth, and that was no small thing. No small gift from me, for him or her, for the world.
I try to think about that morning's insights when those fears and feelings resurface, as they do now and then. I lean in, so I'm looking right into Henrietta's eyes, and she smiles back, and it's clear I'm anything but invisible to her. I take her out for a walk and show her the snow, and the little face carved into the tree, and the giant fluffy clouds, and I'm glad it's my job to say, "Henrietta, meet The World; World, meet Henrietta."